March 31, 2005

A day of passings

Fred Korematsu, the plaintiff in the Japanese Interment case from WW2, died today at age 86.

Posted by Steve at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

The Dog Ate My Post

Quick question for all y'all: What with one thing and another, I never did get around to writing the last two installments of Fear and Loathing in Disneyworld. What do you think? Should I finish up the series or just let it die?

If there's an interest out there, I'd be happy to sputter a bit more. Otherwise, I won't bother.

Let me know.

Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 05:57 PM | Comments (13)

April Fool's Blogging

I won't be doing much of it tomorrow. I'll be off from work, but instead of sitting around the house in fuzzy pink slippers and eating bon-bons, I've got a board meeting at the kids' school in the morning and must spend much time running about after that (with any luck, getting in a spot of garden work as well).

Later, I've got to go to a reception for us new Vestry members at Church. Now there's an April Fool's joke for you! It's not so much like a fox being put in charge of the henhouse as it is like Stevie Wonder being put in charge of piloting a commercial airliner.

We Vestry newbies are also going to be spending all day Saturday at a retreat at the National Cathedral, no doubt learning the secret handshakes and receiving our Junior Illuminati lapel pins. (If I find out any coo-el stuff, like which planet the Trilateral Commission is going to for Intergalactic Spring Fling Week this year, I'll be sure to pass it along. Of course, then I'll have to kill you.)

Posted by Robert at 05:47 PM | Comments (1)

I've Got A Baaad Feeling About This

JP II receives last rites. Yes, I know this doesn't absolutely mean the end is near, but from what I've seen it's a pretty good bet that the poor man doesn't have long to go.

Posted by Robert at 05:27 PM | Comments (2)

Another Musickal Milestone

(P.D.Q. Bach. Image courtesy of Theo. Presser Company)

I know, I know, you're all so wrapped up in Haydn's birthday that nothing else seems to matter. Well lest we forget, April 1 also is the birthday of P.D.Q. Bach, the last and least of the post-Johann Sebastian generation of Bachs. His bio has these encouraging words to say:

P.D.Q. Bach once said that his illustrious father gave him no training in music whatsoever, and it is one of the few things he said that we can believe without reservation.

Heh. Here's a list of the P.D.Q. albums currently out there. I've got three or four of the earlier ones but haven't heard much of the more recent stuff. Perhaps a fitting tribute to P.D.Q.'s birthday might be to listen to the Missa Hilarious. Who can forget the moving "Angus Dei"?

Angus Dei! Angus Dei!
I have to make it through the week as best as I know how.
Angus Dei! Angus Dei!
I see her every Sunday morning, she's my sacred cow....

I will say one thing in all seriousness: P.D.Q.'s "biographer" Peter Schickele is an extremely talented (if insane) musician and scholar. You will learn more about classical and other kinds of music from listening to one episode of his very entertaining radio program Schickele Mix than you will plowing through any number of dry texts. (I was going to say something snarky also about the classical music radio show of Dr. Karl Haas, known in my circle as "Dr. Slurpee", but I see he recently died. Pace.)

Posted by Robert at 03:36 PM | Comments (2)

Liveblogging the Goldstein/Ardolino Report---The Merchants of Death

Intended for mature audiences, only.

Nice touch.

Rats, the feed is dropping. I'm using the wireless laptop and it's cutting apart.

The "Glenn Reynolds Polka" is classic.

Glenn is on and they are talking about Schiavo, and the divisions between social conservatives and libertarians, and the whole bizarre counter-twisting of this issue with the politics of death penalty, abortion, and the GWOT. My sense of why this got so intense was the timing of it right around Easter. It is a good example of creeping Willisism.

Bush's poll ratings: the slide I think is being driven more by the spike in gas prices than the Schiavo debate, but that's just me, Mr. Vegas.

"Randall Terry is Al Sharpton with a worse tailor." Nice.

I'm on hold---I'm going to ask them about blogs and the coming Supreme Court nomination battles.

I've lost the feed again.

"Penelope Cruz Nanobot for President"?

Cool--didn't fall into Chris Farley mode Glenn, remember when you linked that thing on Kerry? That was awesome!

His answer was that he thought we'd see blogs having more influence at the state and local level, but I've got a hunch given the number of law professors who are Mahatma bloggers that this is going to twist the nomination process in a way we haven't seen before.

Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities is on, but I've got to run to the store to get milk.

Posted by Steve at 03:07 PM | Comments (10)

An Eco-Friendly Doomsday Weapon

Heh, heh. It's the Solar Death Ray. And Ace? Better watch yourself.

Yips! to Bill McCabe.

Posted by Robert at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Free the SNOHOS!

In a major victory for political correctness and a boon to the ever-oppressed Laplandic wimmin of direct vendor street level entrepreneurship, football players at Snohomish High School will no longer be able to wear t-shirts that say "SNOHOS."


Vice Principal Robynn Harrington told Patrick the shirt "didn't seem appropriate" for school and that he needed to cover it up. Patrick said that when he protested, Harrington called in another vice principal to confirm that the shirt violated the school dress code, which prohibits any display of words, pictures or references to alcohol, tobacco, weapons, guns or sexual innuendo.

Frustrated, Patrick said he walked out of the office and returned to class. When he was called back by a security officer the next period and was again told to cover up the shirt, Patrick said he lost his temper and used "a few choice words."
He got a one-day suspension for dress-code violation and sexual harassment and a second day for "gross insubordination."

Patrick's father, Barry Patrick, regrets that his son lost his temper with a school official. But he also can't believe his son was suspended for adding an "s" to a common abbreviation.

How much are you willing to bet that the other Vice Principal she consulted had the last name of "Glasscock"?

Which of course means the creation of the "FREE THE SNOHOS" campaign.

Personally, I think we should start an internet groundswell to buy every kid at Snohomish High School a "SNO BALLS" T-shirt:

sno balls.jpeg

We'll leave the final word to that great revolutionary leader of the proletariat, Twinkie the Kid:

free the snohos.jpg

I hate asshat administrators, and they deserve all the derision that will be heaped on their narrow shoulders and shiny Sears suits.

Yips from Robbo: They've already come for the Snohos. You and I, Steve-O, know who they'll be coming for next.

Posted by Steve at 02:19 PM | Comments (1)

Paglia Watch

A while back I noted that I was interested in Camille Paglia's new book on the proper study of poetry, Break, Blow, Burn. Now the reviews are starting to role in. Stefan Beck at The New Criterion points to this enthusiastic piece by Clive James in which he nails the reason I've always respected Paglia so much as a scholar, despite her occasional wilder outbursts on political issues:

She flies as high as you can go, in fact, without getting into the airless space of literary theory and cultural studies. Not that she has ever regarded those activities as elevated. She has always regarded them, with good reason, as examples of humanism's perverse gift for attacking itself, and for providing the academic world with a haven for tenured mediocrity. This book is the latest shot in her campaign to save culture from theory. It thus squares well with another of her aims, to rescue feminism from its unwise ideological allegiances. So in the first instance ''Break, Blow, Burn'' is about poetry, and in the second it is about Camille Paglia.

One measure of her quality as a commentator is that those two subjects are not in the reverse order. In view of her wide knowledge, her expressive gifts, her crackling personality and the inherent credibility problems posed by looking too much at her ease on top of a pair of Jimmy Choos, it is remarkable how good Paglia can be at not putting herself first. From this book you could doubt several aspects of her taste in poetry. But you couldn't doubt her love of it. She is humble enough to be enthralled by it; enthralled enough to be inspired; and inspired enough to write the sinuous and finely shaded prose that proves how a single poem can get the whole of her attention. From a woman who sometimes gives the impression that she finds reticence a big ask, this is a sure index of her subject's importance to her, and one quite likely to be infectious.

On the other hand, The Derb dislikes her effort intensely:

Reading this book was like flipping through one of those pretentious, absurd catalogs you get when visiting an exhibition of the sillier kind of fashionable art. I even had a fleeting suspicion that the whole thing might be a spoof - a send-up of ponderous academic over-interpretation. No, the author is in earnest. Paglia has opened a window into the precious, self-referential little world of literary theorizing.

For this poetry lover, it was a glimpse of Hell. And what is burning in that hell is our poetry, for a thousand years the greatest glory of the English-speaking people, but now dead, smothered under the horrid rotten mass of literary academicism. We must have done something very terrible to have our birthright taken from us, to see it suffocated in dust like this.

You'd almost think they were reviewing two different books, wouldn't you? Obviously, I'm going to have to lay my hooks on the thing and see for myself.

Posted by Robert at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

Thank God We Can Be Sure She's Not Suffering Now

Terri Schiavo, R.I.P.

An ugly, tragic business all around. At least there is some mercy that it is over.

Posted by Robert at 12:14 PM | Comments (2)

Don't Panic!

Peggy Noonan (mmmm.....Peggy) writes from an undisclosed tropical location to warn again that Hurricane Hillary is on her way and Republicans had better not kid themselves that she's going to take a sudden left turn and veer into the Yucatan instead.

Peggy counsels neither denial nor despair but preparation. And what is the GOP equivalent of boarded up windows, hordes of canned goods and bottled water and a portable generator?

Can a Republican beat her? Sure. She'll have to make mistakes, and she will. And he (it will be a he; it's not Condi, because the presidency is not an entry-level political office) will have to be someone who stands for big, serious and solidly conservative things, and really means it, which will mark a nice contrast with Mrs. Clinton, who believes only in herself. He will also have to be able to do the delicate dance of running against a woman without seeming scared, patronizing, nervous or macho. It isn't going to be easy. But it's doable.

Yes, but who? I know it's still three and three-quarters years' off, but the time to start making preparations is while it's still sunny outside. GOP aspirants would do well to start stocking up on batteries and toilet paper right now.

Posted by Robert at 12:08 PM | Comments (5)

Happy Birthday, Poppa!


Today is (sort of) the birthday of one of my absolute favorite composers, Franz Joseph Haydn, born (almost) this day in 1732. Perhaps I should let him explain. Haydn said to his first biographer Dies:

I was born on 1 April, and that is the date found in my father's Hausbuch - but my brother Michael maintains I was born on the 31st of March because he doesn't want it said that I came into the world as an April fool.

There you have in a nutshell, I think, Haydn’s personality – good-natured, humorous and with just a touch of self-mockery. This is part of the reason for his immense popularity in his own time. The other part is the accessibility of his music on so many levels. Just about anybody with the slightest shred of musical ability could (and still can) get something out of it (Haydn always sought to pitch his music to the level of sophistication he thought his audience could handle). And yet such towering giants as Mozart and Beethoven – whose native geniuses were probably a bit superior to Haydn’s - also worshipped the man.

I play a lot of Haydn’s keyboard music myself and it reflects these twin strains as well. While it can on occasion be serious (as in his E minor sonata No. 53, for example), most of it is lively, chatty and pleasant, in addition to being well-crafted. Sometimes it is funny: The final movement of his 1794/95 C major sonata (No. 60, I think) contains a running joke where the music takes a wrong turn into a horrible dischord, tries the same dischord again an octave higher, hesitates for a second and then goes back to the beginning of the passage to start over. At the same time, that accessibility I mentioned is also present: Most of Haydn’s keyboard pieces are not technically demanding, unlike Mozart’s (which requires effortless perfection) and Beethoven’s (which demands a lot of pounding). Instead, the amateur hack (I refer to myself) can sit down and actually enjoy making the music instead of fretting about technique.

At the moment, I am listening to Haydn’s Symphony No. 85, one of six so-called “Paris” symphonies he composed in 1785-86. This one is known as “La Reine de France” because it was a favorite of Marie Antoinette. Allow me to transcribe a story from the liner notes of my CD (a Sony Classical performance featuring Tafelmusik under the direction of Bruno Weil) regarding this piece and Antoinette’s later pre-murder imprisonment in the Temple:

Another of those who came to the Temple was Lepitre, a young professor who became a member of the provincial Commune on December 2nd, 1792. With him on duty one morning was Toulan, a man who did all he could to make life more bearable for the royal family. There was a harpsichord by the door of Madame Elizabeth’s room, which he tried to play, only to find it was badly out of tune. Marie Antoinette came up to him: “I should be glad to use that instrument, so I can continue my daughter’s lessons, but it is impossible in its present condition, and I have not succeeded in getting it tuned.” Lepitre and Toulan sent out a message, and the harpsichord was tuned the same evening.

As we were looking through the small collection of music that day, upon the instrument we found a piece called La Reine de France. “Times have changed,” said Her Majesty, and we could not restrain our tears.”

Poor woman. (But that’s a topic for a different day.)

There are lots and lots of good sources on Haydn. Probably the best biography I've read is Haydn – His Life and Music, by H.C. Robbins-Landon and David Wyn Jones. For detailed technical discussions of his music (and that of Mozart and Beethoven, for that matter), Charles Rosen is an excellent author. And here is a nifty all-Haydn website that I recently discovered.

As I say, Happy Birthday, Poppa!

UPDATE: Waterfall at A Sort of Notebook (who has named her piano, something I have not done) has a nice tribute that dwells on that critical point in Haydn's career when it suddenly dawned on him what being a castrato actually entailed. (He didn't do it.) Also, Michael Blowhard has some excellent thoughts on Haydn's character and provides a tantalizing snippet of an essay by Terry Teachout that explores why Haydn has not been as appreciated down the years as he deserves. (Alas, subscription required to view the entire essay.)

Yips! to Lynn S. for putting me on to these pieces.

Posted by Robert at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

Happy Anniversary, You Bastards!

The Crack Young Staff of The Hatemonger's Quarterly are celebrating their first "weblogging" anniversary.

If you aren't already stopping by THQ HQ for your daily dose of malum in se, all we can say is that you really need to start doing so. Virtually every installment is brimming with well-turned, hilariously evil snarkiness. Indeed, if we "linked" every "post" put up by the CYS that caused us to start spouting coffee through our noses, we'd look like cyberstalkers. Dripping, messy cyberstalkers at that.

Thus, hearty congratulations to "Chip" and all the rest of the CYS from the Llamas! We can't wait to hear about the party! Yip! Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

To Serve And Protect

Our friend the WSK sent this article in from the Meadville (Pa.) Tribune. Money quote:

The majority of “guard llamas” — as opposed to guard dogs — in the United States are patrolling western ranches. But the gawky pack animals also are earning their keep protecting sheep on farms in the East.

Llamas run toward coyotes, kicking and placing themselves between the coyotes and the flock, experts say. Dogs and coyotes have been injured and killed by llamas.

Bad boys! Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when we yip for you?

Posted by Robert at 09:26 AM | Comments (3)

March 30, 2005


That's right--Sarah Michelle Geller, today's selection for an honorable mention as a Flash in the Pan Nineties Babe. Breakthrough career move: Buffy as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Best attributes: great body, superb physical conditioning. Drawbacks-typecast as a vampire killer, capable of only one expression. Last movie of note: Cruel Intentions, the re-make of Dangerous Liasons. A pretty tedious movie although it had its moments, such as the "kissing cousins" shower scene. So far, she has not hit any of the three indicators of a career on the ropes (movies on the estrogen channels, feature in the Renowned Literary Magazine a/k/a Playboy, lesbian experimentation) but she is getting pressure on the last one from Jennifer Beals. Her publicist made some sympathetic non-committal noises, saying neither "yes" nor "no."--Can't be seen as anti-gay lest the Lavender Mafia shut her career down but it looks like her career is in limbo.

Posted by LMC at 09:10 PM | Comments (3)

Quick Musickal Note

I am currently listening to what must be the fastest performance of Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave Overture I've ever heard, courtesy of my newfound classical music radio refuge.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the Monty Python sketch where the space alien blancmanges turn everyone into Scotsmen and send them scurrying north.

Posted by Robert at 05:21 PM | Comments (1)

My Eyes! They Burn!

Kate, holding forth over at Outside the Beltway, is gut-blogging. Click if you dare. Welder's goggles highly recommended.

YIPS from Steve: For the love of all that is holy, NO!

That is the coldest, lowest blow I've ever seen.

Conan the Flabarian, indeed.

Posted by Robert at 04:52 PM | Comments (2)

Beer Me, Barliman

Following up on yesterday's gratuitous Tolkien post that mentioned both miruovor and Old Winyards, I got wondering if anyone had done any research about what the wine of Middle Earth, and specifically Old Winyards, might taste like.

So far, no joy. I'm guessing there really isn't that much to go on. Old Winyards is noted as a strong wine coming out of the Southfarthing and evidently takes a while to mature, since when Bilbo vanishes on his 111th birthday and a case is given to Rory Brandybuck, it is mentioned that the wine had been laid down by Bilbo's father Bungo, who had died some 75 years before. Other than that, not much is said about it that I can recall.

Still, perhaps some clues can be put together and intelligent guesses made. After all, somebody out there took the time to concoct a theory and a recipe for the beer at the Prancing Pony.

Needless to say, if you know a good source about the wine question, please send it along.

Posted by Robert at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

Man, dressed as shark, bites dog

You got to love when real life imitates schlock tee vee.

Posted by Steve at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Much better than a cigar

Cassandra presents....gun porn.

Because, you know, sometimes an artillery piece is just an artillery piece....

Posted by Steve at 03:12 PM | Comments (1)

Gratuitous Llama Tourist Advice

You are Here.

Yes, Spring has definitely returned to Your Nation's Capital and with it have come the returning flocks of tourons.

I've often tried to give some pointers to such visitors about the etiquette of riding the District's Metro system. However, judging from their behavior, they must all be on package tours from the Bizarro World, since they tend to do exactly the opposite of what I suggest.

Thus, this year I am going to try some reverse psychology. (Ut-bay on't-day ell-tay em-thay!) Therefore, I present to you:

Robbo the Llama-Butcher's Top Ten Dee Cee Metro Hints

10. Metro escalators are specially designed so that you and your friends can stand side-by-side. A lot of money went into getting the width right. Take advantage of it.

9. Prizes are given for the best imitation of the automated "Please stand clear of the doors, thank you," voice. Keep trying - you could be the next winner!

8. Every local commuter keeps a running tab in their head on how many stops it is to get to the Smithsonian. Feel free to ask as often as you like - they'll keep track so you don't have to!

7. Don't believe those signs that say you can't exit a Metro parking lot without a SmarTrip card. Just tool on up to the gate and wait. It'll open. Trust me.

6. Metro trains travel both above and below ground but a surprising number of local residents are unaware of this. Be sure to remind them whenever your train enters or exits a tunnel.

5. Everybody wants to know about Mary-Jo's hysterectomy.

4. For national security reasons, do not begin fishing around in your purse or pocket for your fare card until you reach the turnstile. Cards readied in hand before you get there will be confiscated by the WMATA Transit Police.

3. Scrambling in or out of a car before the doors slam shut is the only excitement most local commuters get in our otherwise boring days. Don't make it any less challenging by getting out of the way or moving your luggage.

2. Fare card machines will not accept any currency larger than a nickel. Be sure to get plenty of change before attempting to purchase a card.

1. There's always room for one more person!

Well, hope this helps! Good luck and welcome to Washington!

UPDATE from Steve: Ohmigod! Mary-Jo had a hysterectomy? Those bastards!

Posted by Robert at 01:33 PM | Comments (4)

Oh Baby!

Here's the details for tomorrow's version of the Jeff Goldstein/Bill Ardolino radio show, complete with call in numbers.

Now's my chance to impersonate Gordon the Cranky Neocon and spread panic and disorder throughout the blogosphere!

Posted by Steve at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

Celebrating the Go-Gos

Or maybe the Bangles, I never could keep them straight.

Either way, it's Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities doing what he does so well....

(Key phrase: " Wore leather bondage pants on Jeopardy")

Posted by Steve at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

This sounds about right

If Rusty's hypothesis is correct, this is about right.

Posted by Steve at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)

More Sci-Fi Babe Polling

JohnL has his latest Sci-Fi Babe Poll up over at TexasBestGrok. This week, it's the lovely ladies of Andromeda, a Gene Roddenberry series I have never seen and which John himself calls obscure.

I must say that the names of the characters involved, Andromeda Ascendant, Doyle (or at least the actress who plays her, Brandy Ledford), Beka Valentine and Trance Gemini, make this show sound like something you'd stumble across on Cinemax late at night.

As usual, vote early and often. And be sure to check out John's Gallery of Winners for the results from previous polls.

Posted by Robert at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

Happy Seward's Folly Day!

(Mt. McKinley at sunrise. Image courtesy of Alaska.Net.)

On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William Seward agreed to purchase Alaska from the Russians for seven million dollars.

I've been to Alaska three or four times, going to Katmai National Park to fish. The first thing that impresses itself on you about the state is its gigantic proportions. Everything is so goddam.....big and far away from everything else that you are put completely out of your reckoning.

The second thing that impresses itself on you is the beauty of the place. The southern part of the state - from Juneau on around to the Aleutians, looks like the Pacific Northwest on steroids.

The third thing that impresses itself on you is that once you are clear of the big city (Anchorage) you really are out in the bush. This came home to me as we tried to share the Brooks River with the local Kodiak Bear population. It can be a tricky thing. You would be amazed at how quickly and quietly a thousand pound bear can appear out of the scrub while you're trying to cast a fly. You'd be even more amazed at how fast you can wade to the other side of the river and get up the bank when this happens.

UPDATE: This past weekend I was chatting with someone from Oregon about the beauties of the Pacific Coast and mentioned that I thought Mt. McKinley (yes, Mt. McKinley, dammit) was around 20,000 ft tall. She could not believe it. Well, thanks to the marvels of the Internet, I see that the exact figure is 20,320 ft. Ha! You got that? Ha! Ha!

Oh, and if you're like my cousin and have been seduced by the dulcet tones of the Cylon-like Bimini GPS navigational system, McKinley's coordinates are 63° 07' N, 151° 01' W. If you ever decide to go, I'd strongly recommend writing this down on a piece of paper, lest Bimini take advantage of your complete reliance on her to lead you into an ambush.

UPDATE: I tried to send a comment to Jimmie congratulating him on the musical scoop (see the trackback below) but I done got Spam Karma'd. Evidently, the spam police don't like yipping.

Posted by Robert at 11:15 AM | Comments (5)

So Johnnie says to St. Peter.....

Johnnie Cochran kicked the bucket, blowing the curve on the Dead Pool for those who had the Pope, Rehnquist, and Schiavo as your big picks for March.

Which makes me wonder: do you think it was some confused Terminator hired by the Borg sent back in time to kill all of Zefram Cochran's ancestors?

Yips! from Robbo: "If I am late, you must open the Gate...."

Posted by Steve at 10:26 AM | Comments (4)

Plotting annual migrations via the web

Via a neighbor, I found this website which allows bloggers to track the progress of various migratory animals and insects on the journey north.

Way cool.

But of course, it makes me pine for a similar site to track the migratory progress Macroglossius lunarius commonus. I mean, it's spring, so shouldn't it be time for the Moonbats to be descending upon their ancestral breeding grounds in Washington?

UPDATE from Steve: Here's what I'm talking about! Bill?

Posted by Steve at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

So who is the beyatch now, Rusty?

Google News has dropped the Jawa Report as being a peddler of hate.

See, this is just plain wrong: they just peddle the love, it's just the Superman bizzaro world kind....

Posted by Steve at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)

Who woulda thunk it?

Geez, Robbo does a post on infidelity, linking to the Divas posting on skankonomics, and we get the biggest daily traffic in 6 weeks......

I've been grading the past two days, and I have about two weeks of phone messages to go through on my office phone, but after that, I feel a blog-jag coming on.....a veritable blogging bender.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Steve at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

Spasibo, Tovarich! May I Please Have Another?

Insert your own KGB Babe fantasy here.

Yips! to Annika.

Posted by Robert at 09:15 AM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2005


The best site on the Internet for biting Party of Five commentary is here, courtesy of one Spex Kowalski. Spex manged to knock out four full seasons of episode-by-episode commentary before the experience simply became too much. Go and read it, but keep the beverages away from your computer screen.

YIPS from Steve: There shall be no Party of Five mocking on the LLamas! Is nothing sacred?!?

I mean, for goodness sakes, every playgroup I've taken my kids to has at least three Owens, Julias, Baileys, or Charlies. No Claudias though---maybe because she was such a precocious nitwit.

Posted by LMC at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)


Today we feature another refugee from that over-rated series, Party of Five: Jennifer Love Hewitt. Breakthrough career move:POF where she played Bailey's skank. Best attributes: tight figure, big chest. What has she done since then? Damn little. Perusal of the "Love" website yielded an upcoming movie on the Oxygen channel and a photo spread in the March issue of MAXIM magazine. I always considered the indicia of a starlet career on the skids to be: (1) movies on the estrogen channels (Lifetime and Oxygen); (2) photo shoots in the Renowned Literary Magazine a/k/a Playboy or similar publications; (3) suggestions of lesbian experimentation. Here in JLH, we have two out of three and in the same eight week period to boot. Next movie prediction: she will star as the Russian submarine commander in the Oxygen Channel re-make of K-19: the Widowmaker. Denise Richards will play the executive officer.

Yips! from Robbo: Mhehehehe.... I recently saw an ad for some made for tee vee movie on one of those channels starring Melissa Gilbert (aka Laura Ingells) and Lindsay Wagner (aka The Bionic Woman). Make of that what you will - "Flash in the Pan 70's Babes" - literally, in the case of Gilbert. Last I heard of her she had been elected president of the Screen Actors Guild after a Bush/Gore 2000-like recount, beating out Valerie "Rhoda Morgenstern" Harper. As for Lindsay, well, she has unfortunately descended to one of the lower circles of acting hell, flogging mattresses in tee vee commercials.

Posted by LMC at 09:28 PM | Comments (4)

Joey, Do You Like Posts About....Gladiators?

No, but really, this is cool: De Imperatoribus Romanis, a compendium of everything you've always wanted to know about the Roman Emperors from the establisment of the Principate by Octavian after the Battle of Actium in 31 BC (in which he put the kybosh on Marc Antony) all the way up until the fall of Constantine XI Palaeologus before the gates of Constantinople, as he vainly sought to protect the city from the invading Ottomans in 1453 AD. (By the way, this is a very good history of the siege and conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed II. When I first realized that the Eastern Roman Empire officially came to an end a mere 40 years prior to Columbus's first voyage of discovery and was, in fact, one of the primary motivations for it, I got seriously massive shudders about the connectivety of history.)

A quick flip through the Julio-Claudians indicates some fair and balanced assessments, with the authors taking pains to differentiate between what we know and what we think. The entry on Caligula reminds me of a professor from the University of Texas (whose name escapes me) who used to come and give lectures at our JCL meetings when I was in high school. He was a Brit, a tall man with rather wild eyes and would get up on stage and say, almost spit, "Caligula....wasn't.... really..... crazy!!" We young thugs thought it endlessly funny to bug out our eyes and mockingly imitate the man. So much for Classical Education.

Yips! to Lynn S at Reflections in D minor.

UPDATE: Fer cryin' out loud, via TC Leather Penguin I find that using "B.C." and "A.D." now appears to be verboten among the P.C. crowd. Very well, just to cover the bases, the Battle of Actium would have been in the year 722 Ab Urbe Condita. If you can keep counting that way after Rome ceased to be part of the Empire, Constantinople would have fallen in the year 2206 AUC.

Posted by Robert at 05:10 PM | Comments (6)

Somebody Must Have Been Nipping At The Miruvor

To have thought up an idea like this. Why? Why on earth?

Yips! to Ith. (And don't forget her upcoming Gathering of the Blogs.)

Posted by Robert at 03:49 PM | Comments (4)

Congrats, Mom, You've Been Linked!


Last week I noted a post by the ALN Girl in Chicago regarding the underappreciated humor of Henry James. Not being a savant myself (I admit that I am intimidated by the amount of sheer hard work that goes into reading James), I invited Mom to drop off some comments, she being the bona fide HJ scholar in the family. Mom immediately took the bait.

Well ALN's OGIC has a follow-up post today citing Mom's supporting comments, together with those of several other writers. That's pretty neat. I'm sure, Mom, you'll want to nip over and check out the thoughts of your fellow James the Humorist enthusiasts.

Also, in updating the original post, I added an illustration of a Penguin Classics edition of James' novel What Maisie Knew, featuring a detail from one of my favorite paintings by John Singer Sargent. I remarked that it was serendipitous that Penguin had chosen this particular painting. However, Mom later informed me that there was more to it than that, in that James was an early champion of Sargent's work. (Mom tried to write a follow up comment about this, but her computer crashed. Hopefully, she'll do so again.)

Next thing you know, Mom's going to set up her own blog. I have the perfect suggestion for a title: Prism! Where Is That Baby? [I know this is Wilde, not James. It's a long-standing family joke, however.]

Yip! Yip!

UPDATE: Wodehouse fans are especially encouraged to check out what Lance Mannion has to say about the gunneggshun (as Fitzgerald might say) between James and some of Plum's more Bohemian creations.

Posted by Robert at 02:23 PM | Comments (4)

How You Doin'?

Someone googled in here a while ago looking for "blog swingers".

S'funny. From time to time I've discussed the concept of infidelity with some of my married male friends. We typically go through all of the obviously correct reasons of love, morality and philosophy as to why this is such a bad idea, but eventually, we always seem to get down to a really practical objection as well:

Who the hell has the energy for that sort of thing? By the time I get done with a full day of work, I've got just about enough reserve left to get myself home, help put the Llama-ettes down and actually spend some time with the Missus before dozing off over a book after the first three or four paragraphs. The idea of having to lavish attention on someone else - even if it were with the full connivance of the Missus - frankly drains me.

However, I used to have an idea for a baby-swapping party. As people come in, they place their baby's pacifier in a big bowl by the front door. At the end of the evening, they draw a pacifier at random from the bowl and take home whichever baby goes with it. This used to occur to me most often when one of my own was cooking off and had to be dealt with. I'm happy to say that they're all old enough now that "go away" is an acceptable parental command, so I no longer have to take on somebody else's burden in order to get rid of mine.

Speaking of swinging, the Demystifying Divas - Kathy, Silk, Feisty Christina and Sadie - today tackle the issue of whether men respect women who put out too soon.

Um, that'd be no. The trouble is that men often don't even think of this until after the fact when it is, of course, too late from the woman's point of view.

Posted by Robert at 02:01 PM | Comments (8)

Forget The "Axis Of Evil"

Now it's The Arc of Tyranny. Will Franklin has some thoughts on the dangers of this crescent of villainy and Dubya's efforts to take it on via the Bush Doctrine. Go and read.

Yips! to Dr. Rusty.

Posted by Robert at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

Yikes! It's Stephen Sondheim Posting!

Terry Teachout's Girl in Chicago posts about her new-found pleasure in the work of Stephen Sondheim, in honor of Sondheim's 75th birthday last week.

I don't even pretend to know very much about Sondheim myself, except for two things that I know very well:

First, I have always loved A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Part of this is owing to some of the snappy numbers, but part of it also is owing to the show's tribute to the ancient Roman comedies of Terrence and, particularly, Plautus, using stock Roman comic characters and even lifting a couple of their names - Pseudolus and Miles Gloriosus - directly from the titles of plays by Plautus. (As befitting their parts in the show, Pseudolus means, roughly, "the lying slave" while Miles Gloriosus means "the braggart soldier".) Such a hat tip across the ages, especially when as cleverly done as it is here, makes me smile.

Second, while I have never seen A Little Night Music, I have seen and heard several cabaret performances of Send In The Clowns. There is something about this song that brings out the absolute worst excesses of sappiness in such singers and makes me want to grab a pair of scissors and rupture my own eardrums with them.

But that's just me.

Posted by Robert at 09:50 AM | Comments (3)

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM)

A week or two ago, I was fretting because the five year old had failed her school eye exam and had to go off to the opthomologist for further tests. (I fretted because I am blind as a bat and was worried that the gel had inhereted my rotten eyesight.)

Well, the good news is that there is really nothing wrong with her eyes. Her vision itself is just fine. Apparently, she has a very slight case of intermittent strabismus in one eye. This is a condition that causes the eye to wander a bit, thereby generating occasional double vision - which apparently is what raised the red flag at the school eye exam. The doctor said that at this point it is so slight that he does not believe we need to do anything about it - no patches or special glasses, for example. He'll have a look at her again in six months or so and reevaluate her then.

While the Missus and the gels were at the opthamologist, she asked him about the three year old's habit of crossing her eyes and whether this was anything to worry about medically. "No," replied the doc, "she's just doing that to be annoying."

NOISY TOY WAR UPDATE: I have to confess that when I got home yesterday, I borrowed the seven year old's new toy and spent some time roaming the house saying, "By your command" and "Intruder alert! Intruder alert! The human must be destroyed......" The question is - if I enjoy playing with the thing myself, does this undercut my causa belli against my sister for introducing it into my house?

Posted by Robert at 08:57 AM | Comments (1)

March 28, 2005


In the most risky move yet for this insightful series, Marisa Tomei is today's feature. Breakthrough movie: My Cousin Vinny. Most recent movie of note: In the Bedroom. Best attributes: dark hair, dark eyes, and a boatload of class. My Cousin Vinny got her an Oscar but her career has been fairly quiet since then. Unless she gets decent scripts, it will stay that way. If Jennifer Beals made the mistake of calling her to do the lip-lock on that series of hers that few have seen on Showtime, Marisa would leave her with two broken arms.

Posted by LMC at 09:48 PM | Comments (3)

The tragedy being visited on us all

No, I'm not talking Terri Schaivo or the bombings in Beruit or T-Rex McNuggets, or the Stalag 13 moment in Iraq: I mean of course the impending release of the remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler.

longest yard.jpeg

Just say no

The original The Longest Yard is one of the greatest truly bad movies of all time, and to desecrate it as such...............oh, it's giving me the hee-bee jeebies.

Now THAT is a crime against humanity indeed, and something Congress needs to step in to pass emergency legislation to prevent.

Screw the federalism and separation of powers arguments, mon! We MUST STOP SANDLER'S MURDER OF AN AMERIKAN ICON!


I think that's something we can all agree on.

Posted by Steve at 05:50 PM | Comments (2)

A very deep breath......

Hey, I'm alive. Really.

The past two weeks have been downright nuts. Week before last, I was out in Oakland from Wednesday to Sunday for a conference. I was on the program committtee which meant I was the person who put together the panels in a particular area (for me it was Politics and History). So, I felt duty-bound to attend all the panels which kind of wiped me out. I did make it across the Bay one night to do an alumnae function, which are always fun, but other than that it was just work and more work.

The work was all focused in around last week---on Wednesday I did a lecture for the Supreme Court Historical Society on Thomas Jefferson and the Indian Removal cases, which was a high stakes enterprise as the lecture was in the courtroom itself. Fears were running high that I would do a Chris Farley and knock over the lectern and boot in the front row: as it was, I pulled it off, hit my time frame exactly (45 minutes), and didn't otherwise make an arse of myself. On the whole it was an extremely cool experience, if not the most nervous I've been in my entire life. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on one's perspective) CSPAN didn't pick it up. Maybe next time.

What was funny about the evening was the confluence of people at the reception: we had about a dozen students come up, plus my folks, plus colleagues from the business, Historical Society types, Court types, and a couple of knucklehead friends from undergrad days. Needless to say, the knucklehead college friends found my current students, and much information was traded back and forth. I know this as a student greeted me in passing in the hall this morning with "Good morning, Professor Bucketbutt."

Ah, that's what friends are for.

The most bizarre/surreal moment of the entire evening though had to be being outed as a blogger to my Mom in the ceremonial east conference room at the Court. I've never told my folks about the blog, not because we write anything too racy or inappropriate, or that I use the LLamas as a platform to vent about my family, it's just that it was an exercise that was easier to perform without having to explain the whole concept to them. So, my old college roomate not only passed on one of my nicknames (and lawhd gawd knows what else) to the students, but he let slip about the LLamas to my Mom.

At least the second was accidental.

Long and short of it is that I'm behind the curve, blog-wise. I've not only been not writing but I haven't been reading. I have no idea what's the issue du jour, who INDC Bill is mad at and why, what abominations Rusty is using the image of Princess Lea towards.....

So be gentle with me, okay?

Yips! from Robbo: Alas, I was supposed to be one of those knucklehead undergrad friends in attendance on Wednesday evening, but my flight back from the hinterlands did not get into Dee Cee in time. Father Justice, he is a hard taskmaster. Glad to see Steve-O's back and in one piece.

Posted by Steve at 03:53 PM | Comments (4)

Of Course, You Know This Means War......

My sister sent the newly seven year old Llama-ette a National Geographic Voice Changer for her birthday.

Thanks a lot, sis.

We start pricing air horns for my niece tomorrow morning. [Insert evil laugh here.]

Posted by Robert at 02:38 PM | Comments (5)

"I'll Stand Downstream While Jim Wrestles the Man-Eating Tiger To The Ground."

(Image courtesy of Snunk Pet)

Today is the birthday of Marlin Perkins, born this day in 1905.

The Boomer generation sometime talk of their collective memory of watching Howdy Doody when they were kids. I think there must a similar cultural commonality in Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom for those of us who are a bit younger, especially those of us who caught it in syndication.

I'm forty now, but I can still plainly remember watching Marlin and Jim Fowler every Saturday evening at 6:00 or 6:30. Back in those days, when I felt like I was going to be seven forever, it seemed my parents always went out on Saturday night. (How well I understand why, now.) We kids would watch Wild Kingdom and eat our dinners while waiting for the babysitter to show up. Even now, I can taste the spaghettios and Handy Andy soda water, with Eskimo Pie for afters.

In one of our first experiences in learning to be tee vee critics, my brother, sister and I got very good at identifying what you might call the Gratuitous Manly Marlin shots - Marlin sticking his head out the side of a chopper to walkie-talkie somebody, Marlin looking noble and concerned beside the big fellah bull elephant just collared and tagged, Marlin judiciously considering how to go about getting a grip on the deadly-poisonous snake from behind. But we were quick to notice also that, for all Marlin's posing, it was usually poor old Jim who did the dirty work. (Hence the title of this post, which is also a long-standing family joke.)

Posted by Robert at 02:15 PM | Comments (14)

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - Outdoor Division

This weekend, the Llama-ettes and I got out into the garden for the first time this season in order clean things up a bit in anticipation of the spring growth.

Here's a question for all you green-thumb types: There is a particular kind of weed, a low-growing, expansive plant. It has lots of spade-shaped, highly textured leaves of a half-inch or so and produces stalks of about five or six inches with tiny pinkish-purple flowers. Does anyone know what this is?

Whatever its name, I consider this blasted weed to be one of Nature's low blows: The fact that it continues to grow all winter is bad enough. The fact that it flowers in the winter is positively iniquitous. In an equitable world, once the garden goes dormant, one ought to be able to ignore it for the season and not have to plunge one's hands into freezing cold mud in order to keep the place from being overrun with weeds before spring even starts.


Here's the bastard:
The Purple Deadnettle. Apparently, they're members of the mint family. That figures. Here are some more pictures. And here is a recommendation on when it's best to zap them (which, apparently, is right about now).

Yips! to Mixolydian Don who put me on the deadnettle track.

Posted by Robert at 10:54 AM | Comments (7)

Why I Love The Blogsphere, Reason #532,421

I've got relatively little to say today, but if you're looking for some of the best and brightest, go on over to Sheila's place and just start scrolling. She's got good things to say about Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery (which I, too, think is a fine, fine film) as well as Jaime Foxx's fantastic performance in Ray, which I've been raving about since I saw it last October.

(Sheila is also on a Middlemarch kick. I've never read it myself, but I dated a girl in high school who was such a huge fan that it seemed she carried the book around with her our entire junior and senior years. She eventually wound up as a college English professor specializing in, well, 19th Century novelists, so let that be a lesson to you.)

Then, nip on over to The Charlock's Shade to remind yourself just why you've missed the voice of Enoch Soames, Esq., so much. Today it's Tennyson Blogging.

Posted by Robert at 10:39 AM | Comments (5)

If Llamas Were Meant To Fly........

INDCent Bill has a short but highly enthusiastic review of the new IMAX movie "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag".

I've heard similar raves about this movie and really want to see it myself despite the fact that, owing to my profound fear of flying, my palms are beginning to sweat just typing this entry.

Bill jokes that you should bring a barf bag. In my case, that might not be such a bad idea......

Posted by Robert at 09:46 AM | Comments (1)


We Llamabutchers are now within 500 hits of the 200K mark. If normal traffic patterns hold, we ought to make it some time late this afternoon or this evening.

Let me just take this opportunity thank each and every one of you who come round the shop, whether it's once in a blue moon or several times a day. Sure, I probably would do this even if our entire readership consisted - as it did when we started out - of Mom and Steve-O's collection of alternate personalities, but it is nice to know that we're being read by other folks as well.

So thanks again and remember, if you're our 200,000th hit, you may be eligible for a full day's supply of Rice-O-Roni, the San Francisco treat!

Yip! Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)

Easter Round-Up

I hope everyone (who wanted to, that is) had a very Happy Easter.

I'm pleased to say that ushering wasn't anywhere near as bad as I had feared. Everyone behaved themselves quite well and I had no occasion to either glare, confiscate cell phones or wang people over the backs of their heads with the collection plate.

After Church, we tooled down to my Godparents' place outside of Fredericksburg. We had lunch with them and a couple of their friends, including the artistic director of the Fredericksburg Music Festival. She turned out to be way cool from a musical standpoint - a professional harpist herself, she seems to have met and known an awful lot of the big guns in the world of professional classical music.

One thing for those of you who are especially fond of Baroque music - I've long been a fan of the English Concert and have many recordings of them under the direction of Trevor Pinnock. Well apparently, Pinnock recently stepped down and the EC now has been taken over by the violinist Andrew Manze. My table companion saw them in concert in New York over the winter and tells me they have burst out to new heights - They opened their concert with Mozart's Eine kleine Nacthmusick and despite that piece's status as hackneyed, past-mark-of-mouth-warhorse, their performance left her amazed and delighted.

Anyhoo, my new friend has promised to send me some recent CD's of the English Concert's work under Manze. If so, I'll let you know what I think.

Posted by Robert at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2005


Today's honorable mention: Denise Richards, the soon-to-be ex-of Charlie Sheen. Breakthrough movie: Starship Troopers. Best role: Bond Gal. Most recent decent role: the White She-Devil in Undercover Brother. Best attributes: big lips, blue eyes, and a body that could stop a bus-all on full display in the December 2004 edition of the Renowned Literary Magazine a/k/a Playboy. Best indication that career is on the skids: the aforementioned feature in the Renowned Literary Magazine. Denise has not shown any great degree of range as an actress and her career is likely to head south when gravity takes its relentless toll on that bus-stoppin' body of hers.

Posted by LMC at 02:51 PM | Comments (3)

March 26, 2005

Random Saturday Morning Observations, Part III

We had our Church Easter egg hunt this morning. It started promptly at 11:00 AM. By approximately 11:13 AM, several acres of lawn and shrubbery had been swept absolutely clean.

If only we could harness the awesome hoovering power of small children for some practical purpose - such as cleaning up their rooms.

Oh, well.

Posted by Robert at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)


Today's special: Neve Campbell. Breakthrough career move-the much over-rated touchy feely series Party of Five. Movies: Scream, The Craft, and Wild Things. Most memorable scene on the large or small sceen: the pool lip-lock with Denise Richards, a sure sign of a career on the skids. While those sorts of things are guaranteed to rivet the attention of the male of the species, they are truly acts of career desperation. Last seen going off into the sunset with a suitcase full of cash. Second choice for Jennifer Beals if Sarah Michelle Geller continues to play hard to get?

Posted by LMC at 02:02 PM | Comments (4)

Random Saturday Morning Observations - Part II

One of my family's very favorite comedy albums is The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. Many of the jokes and expressions Newhart uses have entered the family lexicon. (Newhart is probably second to the cast of Fawlty Towers in terms of numbers in this respect.)

One of the routines Newhart does on this album is called "The Kruschev Landing". His premise is that when Kruschev made his historic visit to the United States back in whenever it was, he actually landed a day early so the television producers could rehearse the whole thing. In his sketch, Newhart plays the television producer overseeing the rehearsal, communicating via headset with an underling named Jerry.

At one point, they're trying to work out the choreography of a little girl meeting Kruschev at the door of the airplane with some flowers. The girl gets away from her handlers and starts running up the ramp to the plane. In rising exaspiration, Newhart says, "Jerry, the flower girl's running up the ramp....Somebody tell Kruschev he's going to bang the kid with th-...he banged the kid with the door!"

"He banged the kid with the door," has become shorthand in our family for any accident that is completely foreseeable and yet somehow utterly unstoppable.

As I was sitting in the kitchen reading the paper a while ago, I noticed the five year old heading into the bathroom. She had her Easter Egg Hunt dress on, but had not tied off the ties in the back - they were left dangling. I knew what was coming, but somehow could not prevent the obvious sequel. A few minutes later, I heard, "Daddy, I got my dress in the potty!"

Sigh. She banged the kid with the door!

Posted by Robert at 09:29 AM | Comments (1)

Random Saturday Morning Observations - Part I

Y'know, the more I look at the comic strip Frazz, the more I'm convinced that its creator, Jef Mallett, is really Calvin & Hobbes' Bill Watterson drawing again under an alias.

Just saying.

Posted by Robert at 09:09 AM | Comments (3)

Homey, Don't Go There!

Someone googled in this evening on "Steve-O Porn".

Um....Don't. Just....don't. Trust me on this.

The only more, em, disturbing image that comes immediately to mind is "Robbo Porn". And by the time you get there, well, you'd probably best swallow that whole bottle of pills in one gulp and get it over with. Know what I mean?

Posted by Robert at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

He Is Arisen!

I don't want to get too Christy Minstrel on you or anything, but the fact of the matter is that Enoch Soames, Esq., is back!

Lawdy! Lawdy! I knew I shouldn't flush him from the blogroll!

Posted by Robert at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2005

The Way To Daddy's Heart Is Through His Green Thumb

This evening, the following exchange occured between me and the seven year old:

Self: Oh, Kate - could you give me a hand in the garden tomorrow afternoon?

Llama-ette: The garden? Alllllllriiiiiight!!!!!!!!

Heh. That's me gel.

Posted by Robert at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

Class Will Tell

I always thought Harrison Ford and Sean Connery worked pretty well together in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But this evening, I had a revelation regarding the range of their respective talents:

As I've known for a while, Sean Connery, seconded by Sam Elliot Neill (note to self - check dyslexia medication), made a pretty good Russian U-Boat skipper in The Hunt for Red October.

This evening, I saw Harrison Ford, seconded by Liam Neeson, attempt to portray a Russian U-Boat skipper in K-119: The Widowmaker.

Comrade Ford, the Party no longer requires your services. Dasvedanya!.....(Click)

Posted by Robert at 11:37 PM | Comments (2)

Holy Week Post

(Rembrandt, The Three Crosses)

My Church did its Passion Play last Sunday. The eldest Llama-ette had the role of the donkey Jesus rode (or in this case, walked beside) into Jerusalem. While I could not resist joking about her being typecast for the role, I did at least manage to restrain myself from doing so within earshot of her.

After the rather disorganized rehearsal we went through Saturday afternoon, I really was not expecting very much on Sunday morning. However, I was pleasantly surprised and, I must say, quite moved by the performance.

The play was done outside with scene changes being effected by moving from one part of the Church grounds to another, with various backdrops raised to denote different settings: The gates of Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Garden, Golgotha and so on. It was a dreary, misty day, which fit well with the solemnity of the story. But what really made it go was the way the kids stepped up to their parts. Jesus was played by a boy with very large blue eyes. He had actually memorized his lines and spoke them with a very gentle, deliberate delivery that reenforced their weight. A girl played Judas. She had a naturally gloomy countenance and was dressed in dark robes. To see her standing in the Garden of Gethsemane, brooding on her treachery, was quite chilling. There were a couple of brash young boys playing the centurions, who were obviously quite proud of their cloaks and swords. And a little girl with big, dark eyes played Peter - both her claims and denials of loyalty to Jesus were delivered in exactly the same manner of child-like earnestness, saying to me something about human spiritual frailty. And watching the faces of the crowd of other disciples, townsfolk and Pharisees, I couldn't help thinking of the studies in expression that one often sees filling in the corners and behind the main action in medieval painting and glasswork.

Somehow, someway, the kids weren't just kids going through the motions. By whatever combination of their effort and my imagination, they became their characters. In short, at least to me, the whole production was really, well, transcendant.

I must say that this has not been one of my more successful Lenten seasons (by that, I mean one in which I've been able to properly center and focus in preparation for Easter). Part of it certainly has to do with the fact that Lent is so early this year. I simply wasn't ready for Ash Wednesday right at the beginning of February, and I've felt off balance ever since. And as I grumbled yesterday, I don't think Easter is going to be the joyous event it ought to be. (This isn't just because of the C&E crowd. Even if they all behave like lambs, the mere fact that I have to usher means that I miss out on participating in much of the service.) Given all that, moments like those last Sunday when I have felt I've been able to break through have been all the more rewarding.

Speaking of such things, I've been trying to figure out all day how to respond to this post by Dean Esmay about the relationship between Jews and Christians. Dean is usually a very level-headed guy, but here I think he makes some vast overgeneralizations about Christian understanding of, respect for and potential reaction to Jewish law and tradition (which basically says that we Christians are all heretical loonies). Sure, there is anti-Semitic ignorance, condescension and hostility out there. But Dean tars so many of us with those brushes that I am, frankly, rather offended. Furthermore, I find his suggestion that "most of the Jewish Community" itself views Christians as a solid block of Inquisition-spouting, Holocaust-pushing, turn-or-burn goons capable of coming after them at the drop of a hat, to be quite sad. If that is the prevelant feeling, then evidently there is much to be learned on both sides of the, ah, Testimental Divide.

Yips! to our pal Lintenfiniel Jen, who also was puzzled by Dean's outburst and gives a pretty nifty summary of the Christian belief of Jesus' role in fulfilling both the Old and New Covenant. (I like her "incorrect or incomplete" comparison.)

Posted by Robert at 04:47 PM | Comments (8)

Being William Shatner

Via Ace, we have the William Shatner Fame Audit!

The auditors face a pretty daunting task:

We've wanted to audit William Shatner for a while, but here's the problem: which William Shatner? Shatner, the early charmer with a talent for frantic paranoia, as evidenced by his sweaty, twitchy star turn in the famous 1963 Twilight Zone episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"? Or Breakout Shatner, the dashing J. Tiberius Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise? Or Late-Kirk Shatner, with his smirk, his corset, his boner, his wandering eye?

Or how about Kitsch Shatner, when he gamely slid across car hoods as T.J. Hooker, with Adrian Zmed and Heather Locklear in tow? Or Shatner Redux, in the early, good Star Trek movies, screaming skyward, shaking his fists, the corset only slightly more generous, the toupee only slightly askew, giving us the most immortal of immortal quotes: "Khaaaaaaaan!"

Or Ironic Shatner, spoofing himself in Airplane II? Or Literary Shatner, cashing in with a series of TekWar books? Or Wink-Wink Shatner, crooning in Priceline commercials? Or how about the early, earnest Singing Shatner, be-bopping through Tambourine Man? Or the latter, I-get-it-now Shatner, duetting with Ben Folds? Or Buoyant Shatner, now appearing on Boston Legal? Now winning an Emmy! Now winning a Golden Globe!

Go read the rest. All fooling aside, I think they make an extremely valid point about Shatner's career and image.

Just a couple of quibbles with the quoted passage: The "early, good" Star Trek movies? Wrath of Khan was a masterpiece of space opera, but Star Treks I & III were abyssmal. (Just to round it out, Star Treks IV & VI were half-way decent. Star Trek V was lame.) As for "Ironic Shatner", I think he went down with the ship: Airplane II was a horrible movie.

Oh, and here's a little something for the "Light Fuse, Step Back" File: I recently ran through the early Star Wars movies again and came to this conclusion - If I had to choose between the universes of Star Wars and Star Trek, well, George Lucas would get a photon torpedo spread right up his backside.

Posted by Robert at 02:30 PM | Comments (4)

Where's Waldo?

Sorry, folks, I don't know where Steve-O is either.

Posted by Robert at 02:12 PM | Comments (1)

Dallas Redux

Hollywood Hawk Lawren K. Mills brings word that Dallas is coming to the big screen.

This is gonna be interesting.....

We used to watch the series pretty faithfully back in the 80's and in particular revelled in the obvious fun Larry Hagman had in portraying J.R. Indeed, my brother's impersonation of him saying, "Well, naah, Bob" at inopportune moments was sufficiently infuriating for me to slug him on several occasions. And my mother used to refer to Linda Gray as "Lizard Woman" for the fact that she never completely shut her mouth and always looked as if she were going to shoot out her tongue and pick off a fly.

It may sound dopey, but when I went through a bout of homesickness my first semester at college in Connecticut, it was rather comforting to watch the show. Even though Dallas and San Antonio are about 400 miles apart and in completely different regions of the state, there was enough Texas commonality to sooth my nerves.

Of course, the series eventually jumped the shark. Personally, I thought it never really recovered from the untimely death of Jim "Jock Ewing" Davis. By the time they got to the Pam/Bobby "It was a dream" business, the writers had all but conceded defeat. (Although, in the Silver Lining Department, that particular fiasco set up one of the funniest series closers of all times - the last episode of Newhart.)

A few years ago, the Missus and I watched a Dallas Reunion made-for-tee-vee movie. We had hoped that the movie would recapture some of the exuberance of the series - the lavish helpings of lust and greed, the Texas-style go-go villainy and so on. Instead, it turned out to be the most bizarre thing we'd ever seen - a few of the original cast, all of them looking old and tired, rattling around nearly empty sets like shadows of themselves. The experience left us with a rather....creepy feeling, like we'd just caught sight of the Flying Dutchman.

The article Lawren links doesn't say much about casting for the movie, but here's a suggestion: the role of Jock should go to Tommy Lee Jones.

Posted by Robert at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

LLama Public Service Announcement

The Tasty Bits Mail Sack (TM) has been overflowing with missives asking the same question: What can I do for Tim Worstall's birthday on Sunday?

Well, ask no more, because Tim has got the answer: Help him fleece his sponsor! Go on over for all the details.

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Posted by Robert at 10:59 AM | Comments (1)

Step Away From The Photoshop

Sadie evidently has not been keeping up with her medication. And the spooky part is that the voices in her head are telling her that she.....likes it.

Posted by Robert at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

Random Commuter Thought

There is a house along my drive to the metro whose occupants have stubbornly kept a Kerry/Edwards sign planted in its front yard all winter. This morning, I noticed that this sign had disappeared and been replaced by a for-sale sign.

What are the odds that these folks have finally decided to move to Canada?

Posted by Robert at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2005


A few observations on “Terri’s Law” passed by Congress last weekend in response to some of the subsequent pronouncements by talking heads who should know better:

1. The law is constitutional. Article III of the Constitution vests the judicial power of the Untied States in a “supreme court” and such “inferior courts” as Congress may establish from time to time. The lower federal courts are created by Congress and the jurisdiction all federal courts is determined by Congress as part of the system of checks and balances. The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the first lower courts and Congress has tinkered with them ever since in terms of the number of courts and the jurisdiction. The Fourteenth Amendment ensures equal protection for all citizens and the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1871 provide federal remedies for those whose rights have been violated by state actors.

2. The judgments of state courts are not always beyond review by the federal courts. The writ of habeas corpus exists to challenge those unjustly held or punished by state authorities and may not be suspended except in time of war. The Florida court order which triggered the federal legislation literally ordered Michael Schiavo to cause the removal of the feeding tube. It is, in effect, a death sentence, made upon evidence proven by a standard of less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which made review by the federal courts proper. “Terri’s Law” ensured the parents had standing to bring the claim and dispensed with the usual requirement of exhaustion of state remedies

Yips from Robbo: I have stayed right off this subject in part because I have nothing useful to say and in part out of horror at the whole business. But here we have it now - through a terrible combination of circumstances, an innocent woman is being forced by the law to die of thirst. I only pray that she isn't suffering.

Posted by LMC at 10:00 PM | Comments (2)


Today's trip down amnesia lane: Juice Newton: Great hits: such as "Angel of the Morning" and "Queen of Hearts". This Grammy winning singer is still chugging along, married. children, and apparently without the drama associated with so many great vocalists of that era. Whenever I hear "Angel of the Morning" I think of a gal I dated in law school who went on to date Robbo (ever so briefly). Enjoy your trip down memory lane here.

Posted by LMC at 08:03 PM | Comments (2)

Which It's A Gratuitous Llama Book Recommendation, Innit?


I took along with me on my trip A Sailor of King George: The Journals of Captain Frederick Hoffman, RN, 1793-1814. If you're a Patrick O'Brian fan and are interested in some source material, this book is well worth reading. Although Captain Hoffman's understanding of how a paragraph should work is a little unorthodox, occassionally causing the reader a slight touch of whiplash, his prose style is generally both humerous and entertaining and his descriptions of life in the service - primarily on the West Indies Station - is quite fascinating.

Posted by Robert at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

Scots Wha Hey!


Ith is getting warmed up for her Gathering of the Blogs 2005 by designating Friday, April 1, as Scottish Fashion Day. [Insert your own Scotsman wi' ne trew jokes here.] Tartan Day itself will be on April 6 - All the details and whatnot can be found here.

Count me in. At this time last year, I didn't know how to upload images at the Butcher's Shop. This year, I'll be sure to have the ol' clan tartan proudly displayed and will have much to say about single malt whiskey, the Stuart succession, Bobby Burns - the National Poet of Scotland [Ed. -the only poet of Scotland] and other things thistlish. Just one caveat: Llamas do not do haggis.

Hoots! Toots!

Posted by Robert at 05:02 PM | Comments (5)

A Post for Mom

(Image thanks to these folks. YOU figure out who they are.)

UPDATE: I've added this image 1) because Mom mentions this novel in her comment and 2) because Penguin has chosen to illustrate the cover of its edition with a detail from one of my very favorite paintings- John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Arley Boit." Serendipitous, indeed.

My mother is the family Henry James expert, having done her Masters' thesis on him. So if anybody around here would appreciate this, it would be she: Terry Teachout's Girl in Chicago has a post up about James' evil sense of humor.

From what I can see, OGIC illustrates her point well. But I confess that I know next to nothing about James' writing.

Okay, Mom - the floor is yours......

UPDATE: Click on the comments. See what I mean?

Posted by Robert at 03:40 PM | Comments (3)

Inept Spamming Watch

Memo to johnstores000 -at- If you really want us to open your email message to the TastyBits Mail Sack about that "oreder enquiry", at least learn to spell it properly.

That is all.

Posted by Robert at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)

As I was unable to note at the time, being away, March 21 was the anniversary of the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach (born that day in 1685).

Bach has always had a very special influence on me. And I'm not the only one. There is the story of the man who was so infatuated with Bach that he decided he had to go to St. Thomas' Church, Leipzig, and dig up Bach's remains, just so he could see them.

The man makes the trip to Germany and, one night, sneeks into St. Thomas' with pick-axe, shovel and lantern. After a strenuous hour's work, he uncovers Bach's casket. Upon prizing open the lid, the man is astounded to see Bach sitting there, furiously erasing sheet after sheet of music.

As the man stands agape, Bach glances up and says: "Shut the lid, you fool! Can't you see I'm decomposing!"


All fooling aside, go here for a nifty website round up of All Things Johann Sebastian, including this fascinating little piece on some of the issues of historically informed performance, in which the author tries to find some middle ground between the highly polarized proponents and opponents of this movement.

Posted by Robert at 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

So Much For Congress' Need To Protect Scarce Radio Spectrum

If Bill & Jeff are getting their own gig, it's high time to rescind the Telecom Act of 1934 and disband the FCC because there obvioiusly are no more allocation concerns.

So the question is, if I call in, will you boys let me orgle on the air?

Posted by Robert at 01:52 PM | Comments (2)

Curmugeonly Easter Thoughts

I hadn't even been planning to go to Church on Easter this year, but the other day I got a reminder notice that I am, in fact, scheduled to usher the 9:00 AM service (the most heavily attended one at our Church).

I'm gonna go ahead and run up my Purgatory Tab a little here:

Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

I hate the Easter service for the same reason I hate the Christmas one - it brings out all the "C & E" churchgoers who stay away for most of the other 50 weeks of the year. As a result, the place turns into a zoo. It is mobbed with people, most of whom haven't the faintest idea what they're doing. The atmosphere is so noisy, crowded and confused that it completely throws off the solemnity and sense of the service and makes it almost impossible for anyone to really concentrate on worship, which (at least I have always thought) is the whole point of being there in the first place.

The thing that makes it worse is that it's not as if most of these people appear to feel any particular spiritual calling. Half of them are only there out of some vague notion that they "ought to be" left over from their youth. The other half, this being one of the vainer suburbs of Northern Virginia, are there to be seen in all their new Easter frippery.

I know, I know. This ranting runs exactly contrary to the grain of inclusiveness flogged by much of the modern Church. But at the moment, I don't care. These people are pests.

Posted by Robert at 01:38 PM | Comments (13)

Light Fuse. Step Back.

I finally got around to watching Team America: World Police the other evening. was funny. But to me, it wasn't the side-splitting howler that everyone has made it. (For example, the whole "F*ck Yeah!" thing wore pretty thin pretty fast, IMHO.)

I dunno. Perhaps I was just too tired that night. As a matter of fact, I fell asleep about two thirds of the way through. I suppose I'll have to try it again in order to give it a more balanced appraisal.

Posted by Robert at 11:23 AM | Comments (3)

Elf Off!

Lintenfiniel Freakin' Jen links to an interview with the guys who do those Veggie Tales movies and who, apparently, are planning a "tribute" to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings called...wait for it...Lord of the Beans. If I may be so bold as to filch Jen's quote from an interview they did with

CBN: I understand that one of the projects you have planned for the future is called “Lord of the Beans.” I have to warn you that I am an avid Lord of the Rings fan. Could there be any possible connection?

BOB: Connection? I think the names are purely coincidental. I play a character named “Ear-A-Corn” and Jimmy Gourd plays “Leg-O-Lamb”. If those sound familiar, that’s probably a coincidence too.

CBN: What other videos have you got planned for the future?

LARRY: Well, beside, “Lord of the Bean[s],” which is still a ways out (It’ll take us awhile to hop to New Zealand for the filming). ...

(Emphasis added.)

Personally, I have no problem with this whatsoever - We likes send-ups and spoofs. But I have to warn these guys: "Leg-O-Lamb" has been done before - that was the name of the Legolas character in the Harvard Lampoon parody, Bored of the Ring. (Granted, I recollect that is was spelled "Legolam", but I don't know how much protection this would offer if THL unleashed an army of intellectual property orcs.)

And speaking of orcs, what would the PETA Nazis say?

UPDATE: Jen gently points out my utter ignorance of matters Veggie Talish. Heh. But "Bob" still needs to watch his back.

Posted by Robert at 10:50 AM | Comments (6)

I Don't Call It "USELESS TODAY" For Nothing...

As I was perusing my complimentary hotel copy of USA Today on Tuesday, I came across this review of Robert McCrum's biography of P.G. Wodehouse by Dierdre Donahue.

This struck me as odd. McCrum's book has been out a good six months or so and was reviewed last fall by most major papers. Hell, even I've reviewed it. I have no idea how newspapers schedule this sort of thing, but it seemed to me that this article's appearance at this late date was an example of filler on a slow day.

Donahue starts off by establishing her creds as a true Wodehouse fan by praising McCrum for not to falling into the trap of trying to be funny about him. She also vows -out of respect for the Master - to avoid the temptation to imitate Wodehouse's style other reviewers seemingly cannot resist. So far, so good. But then I read this bit:

Wodehouse was enormously popular and well compensated for his books and song lyrics. Beginning in 1902 with the publication of his first novel and ending with the writer's death at 93 on St. Valentine's Day 1975, Wodehouse created an alternative yet enduring universe of bossy aunts, private clubs, country estates and eccentric characters such as the newt-loving "Gussie" Fink-Nottle, the nerve specialist Sir Roderick Glossop, his terrifying daughter, Honoria, and the ever-in-love Pongo Little.

Pongo Little? Pongo Little? No Wodehouse for you, Madam!

All true fans know that it's Bingo Little. He appears in many of the early Bertie and Jeeves short stories, falling in love with a rather large assortment of girls and getting himself in a number of messes from which Jeeves must extricate him. Eventually, Bingo marries Rosie M. Banks, the popular writer of extremely mushy romantic novels, and like most of Wodehouse's newly-married characters, falls off the face of Planet Plum.

The moniker Pongo belongs to Pongo Twistleton, nephew of one Frederick Altemont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham, more generally known as "Uncle Fred". Uncle Fred - who first appears rather later in the Wodehouse chronology - is a sort of senior version of R. Psmith, causing trouble for the sheer hell of it and getting himself out via smooth talking and quick wit. Pongo gets dragged into several of these adventures, very much against his will.

Bertie Wooster mentions Pongo Twistleton once or twice in the course of the Bertie & Jeeves cycle, but I do not recollect that there is any closer contact than that.

(Oh, just as an aside, Pongo's sister Valerie eventually marries Hugo Carmody. The trials and tribulations of their secret engagement are the subject of one of the best of the Blandings Castle novels, Summer Lightning as well as its sequal, Heavy Weather. Some day, when I've nothing better to do, I'm going to sit down and map out all the relationships of Wodehouse's characters to each other.)

Why do I rant like this? Well, because a dumb mistake like the transposition of knicknames suggests to me that the author isn't really a Wodehouse fan, but instead is paying him lip service, probably reading off some copy generated by the publishers of McCrum's book. I know I sound all Holden Caufieldish about it, but I hate this kind of phoniness.

One other thing. Later in the review, the author states: "After World War II, Wodehouse never stepped foot in England." In fact, the expression is "set foot". Doesn't USA Today employ editors?

Posted by Robert at 09:55 AM | Comments (5)

Robbo's Travels

Gooooood Morning, Llamaland, I'm baaaaaaack!

First and foremost, huge Llama Yips go out to Kathy for manning the fort while we Llamas were out and about (or "oot and aboot" as the Scots would say). Orgling's rayther addictive, isn't it Kathy?

Second, I have no earthly idea what is going on in the blogsphere, since I haven't even looked at a computer screen since last weekend. So if I start beating on a horse that is already very much dead, please indulge me.

Third, I have the following travel-related observations to make:

- As long time readers know, I have a real phobia about flying. But, if you have to get on an airplane, Midwest Airlines rocks. For those of you unfamiliar with them, all of Midwest's seats are big n' roomy 1st class jobs - they only stack four across where other airlines would jam five or even six. Also, their whole shtick is customer service, so you don't get the feeling so much that you're being herded into a cattle car by people who don't give a damn and would rather be somewhere else.

Unfortunately, it isn't what it used to be. About eight years ago I flew Midwest out to Omaha for a wedding. In those days, they served complimentary wine and did it so aggressively that I was pretty well buzzed before we'd even cleared Appalachia. They seemed to have knocked that policy off these days. Perhaps it's all for the best.

Of course, the only drawback is that Midwest only flies to half a dozen or so cities. But if you're going to one of them, it's definitely the best way to do it.

- I will never again agree to a "midsized" rental car. Enterprise saddled me with something called a Chevy Aveo. I'd never even heard of these things before, and I could completely understand why when I saw it - it's basically a Geo Metro knock-off. Small, low and frail. Not the sort of thing in which I'd care to take another hundred mile round trip on the Interstate.

- Speaking of driving, I am now of the opinion that police cruisers on the Interstate are detrimental to public safety. This is because they disrupt the normal flow of traffic. Usually, when someone is tooling along at or around the speed limit, other faster drivers will simply pass him. Nothing to it. And everybody is used to it. But when a state trooper is the one doing the tooling, nobody dares to pass. As a result, an enormous bottleneck can form up, with a large number of drivers suddenly finding themselves in very close proximity to each other at high speed and, equally important, in an unfamiliar situation - nobody really knows what anybody else is going to do. It strikes me that when the actions of public safety officials pose a hazard to public safety themselves, then the officials ought to consider changing them.

Just saying.

- Speaking of law enforcement, I had to spend a goodish bit of my time in the local Federal Building. To get through security, I had to present a photo I.D. When I flashed my creds from Father Justice, the guard would ask confidentially, "Are you armed?" Of course, I wasn't and wouldn't want to be. But just being asked was kinda cool.

- Oh, one other thing - Damn the Central Time Zone! How can Letterman be over at 11:30? It ain't natural.

UPDATE: Big Llama Yips! to our Llama Military Correspondent as well. I particularly like his Flash-In-The-Pan Babe series and hope he'll keep submitting them. When do we get to Catherine Bach, aka Daisy Duke?

Posted by Robert at 09:26 AM | Comments (5)

We Have Officially Arrived in Hell...

...and guess what, kids? The handbasket's on fire!

Some doofus gave INDecent Bill and Jeff Goldstein their own radio show.

I confidently predict that said doofus will be halfway through a bottle of Jack by the time the first five minutes are up.

Of course I'll be listening.

Posted by Kathy at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Offbeat News Roundup

More wackos. Running loose worldwide. Enjoy.

Posted by Kathy at 03:56 PM | Comments (2)

So, the Pot Says To the Kettle

"Guess what, bub? You're black."

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders have backed a goal for ambitious cuts in greenhouse gases by 2020 but dropped a longer-term target for 2050, despite support from environment ministers earlier this month.

The 25 ministers agreed that developed nations should pursue cuts of heat-trapping gases of 15-30 percent by 2020 and 60-80 percent by 2050 compared with levels set in the Kyoto Protocol, which uses 1990 as a base in most cases.

But EU heads of state and government omitted the 2050 goal from an agreed statement after a two-day summit in Brussels, the text showed, while keeping the 2020 target.

They said longer-term targets should be considered "in the spirit" of the ministers' decision. "These reduction ranges will have to be viewed in the light of future work on how the objective can be achieved, including the cost-benefit aspect."

Environmentalists said Germany and Austria, traditionally supportive of green causes, had blocked the long-term goal.

"It's always Germany and Austria who are the stronger allies of progressive climate action and then all of a sudden their coal industry has rebelled and they're blocking the rest of the EU," said Greenpeace climate expert Mahi Sideridou.{...}

{my emphasis}

So, it's perfectly all right to blather on about how eeeeevil the U.S. is for not ratifying Kyoto, but when it comes right down to it, Germany and Austria don't want to follow through, either. Because it would hurt their economies.

Short form of all this: Good ol' Gerhard Schroeder is neck-deep in trouble.

Posted by Kathy at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

Tummy Ache

Last night I'm whipping through Conde Nast Traveler again, and I come across an article titled: A Nonstop, Unapologetically High-Calorie Foodie's Tour de France. So, of course, being a foodie, I'm automatically obliged to read the damn thing. (Of course, it's not online yet, but you'll just have to take my word for it. You trust me, right? Ok. Good.)

The premise behind this article is that Traveler sent the author and a friend on a twenty-some-odd-day tour of France's finest restaurants at the same time the actual Tour was occurring last summer. "Nice work if you can get it," you're undoubtedly saying. I thought the same thing as I settled in to read. But I was very, very wrong. After I finished the article, I thought two weeks, being forced to eat slops in a Turkish prison would be a more pleasant and interesting experience.

If you're interested in how I came to this conclusion, read on after the jump.

To define my national culinary preferences, I truly believe the French win. Not by a mile, mind you, but they win nonetheless. I enjoy Italian. I love a plate full of sushi, and sashimi-grade tuna garnished with salmon roe will make me go positively orgasmic. Chinese and Thai are wonderful experiences for the tongue. As are all sorts of curries. In homage to my Polish/German roots, kielbasa with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, to me, is a gustatory delight. Even American food has a place on my favorites list. I fry chicken on a regular basis because, truly, the Colonel has nothing on me. I adore a greasy diner burger. I am truly a person who enjoys the best the world has to offer in terms of food, but I still think the French win. To quote Anthony Bourdain from the introduction to A Cook's Tour:

I wanted magic. When is food magic? What are the common denominators? Certainly, when food is the result of a brilliant and obsessive personal vision, it can take on mystical, magical aspects. At their best, chefs like to consider themselves alchemists, and some of them, particularly the French, have a long and glorious tradition of turning lead into gold. For what is a humble shoulder or shank or strip of gut if not leaden and unlovely, and what is daube of beef Provencale or osso buco---when every bit of flavor and texture has been coaxed gently by skilled hands---but pure gold? And it's not just magic for the person eating. It can be magic for the chef as well, seeing that tough, veiny, uncooked hunk of meat and bone going into the oven, swimming in purplish and not very distinguished red table wine, then seeing it, smelling it, tasting it only a few hours later, the sauce reduced, a hearty, thick, mellowed and wonderful witches' brew---transformed.

It's an understanding of this process that raised the French (and Italians) to the forefront of classical cuisine. It's why we love them---even when we hate them. Few sane persons enjoy French pop music---or even the French much---but they know what to do with every scrap of hoof, snout, entrail, and skin, every bit of vegetable trimming, fish head and bone. Because they grew up with that all-important dictum. Use everything! (And use it well.)

Why is that? Why them and not us?

The answer is, in many ways, to be found elsewhere in the world---in Vietnam, Portugal, Mexico, Morocco---because they had to. It was not---in eighteenth and nineteenth century France---as it is not today in much of the rest of the world, an option whether to use the nasty bits. You had to.

They damn well better have figured out something to do with calf's face, pig's feet, snails, old bread, and all those cheap cuts and trimmings or they'd go broke, starve, never be able to afford the really good stuff for special occasions. Sauces, marinades, stewing, charcuterie, the invention of the quenelle, the sausage, the cured ham, salted fish, confit---these were strategies, the results of necessity and countless experimentation. Coq au Vin? Tough, oversized bird, marinated in red wine and braised long enough enough to be able to be chewed. Pot-au-feu? Broiled tongues, tails, bones, and cheap root vegetables. Pate? Scraps and trimmings and fat, ground up and seasoned and decorated until somebody was interested in putting it in their mouth. Confit de canard? I got no refrigerator and I got no freezer and all these damn duck legs are going bad! Those shrewd and wily French toiled mightily over the years, figuring out ways to make just about everything that grazed, creeped, swam, crawled, or hopped, and every growing thing that poked through soil, rotted on the vine, or hid under the dung into something edible, enjoyable---even magical.

When this food is combined with their service, which anyone who's ever waited tables can tell you is no easy feat to pull off, and their wine, you're not eating a meal, you're experiencing all of the beauty that life has to offer. And it's all on a plate, right in front of you. The French win.

So, a twenty-day tour throughout France, snarfing the best the country has to offer sounds like a great experience, no?


This was, unfortunately for us, the author's, Adam Sachs, dream after reading Waverley Root's book, The Food of France.

{...}Published in 1958, The Food of France isn't a guide in the normal sense. Its maps lack topographical detail. Instead they are annotated with the names of the edible specialities of the area. For instance, the suburbs of Grenoble are labeled ST. MARCELLIN CHEESE, WALNUTS, AND GRATIN DAUPHINOIS, while the nearby city of Vienne is marked FOIE GRAS IN PASTRY and TROUT BRAISED IN PORT. As if these were physical facts of the landscape. As if you could jump in your car and head north on the autoroute from Grenoble, watching a giant gratin recede in the rear view mirror as the rich goose liver pastry and trout of Vienne come into view on the fragrant horizon.

Fifty years on, Root's book is still as clear as consomme and as complex and satisfying as quality cassoulet. The first time I read it, I went through it like a novel. Good reading though it is, I've always wanted to do more with it---specifically to eat my way through its index. So when the editors of Conde Nast Traveler called me to discuss a culinary odyssey in the spirit of the Tour de France, I immediately envisioned Root's division of French cooking into three territories, each named for its signature cooking fat: the Domain of Lard, the Domain of Oil, and the Domain of Butter.

So, with Root's findings firmly in mind and guiding the process, the author and his chef buddy hit the highway in France, starting in Lameloise. Then they begin working their way through the Alps, near to Grenoble, before heading south, southwest, hitting the highlights of Nimes, St. Remy, Tolouse, then abruply heading northwest toward Limoges, and then, somehow, working their way back to Paris. And these, of course, aren't the only places they stopped along the way. Over the same time period of the Tour de France last summer. They even brought bikes along to give their trip an authentic feel.

I wish I didn't have to type out every little bit I'd like to quote, because I'm sure you're wondering what I'm going on about. I'm not going to put you out of your misery, but neither am I going to make this post any longer than it needs to be, so, to try and draw this thing to something near closure, I will say that I cannot believe anyone in their right mind would take this article and use it as vacation planning material. This idea is completely egregious and so not what French cooking is about. It's a typically American idea to race through an entire country's edible delights in twenty some odd days. While I hate to side with the French on anything, but if they decided to bitchslap this guy, I'd be right behind them, handing them the tools they needed for the job.

I mean, honestly, how much foie gras can a reasonable person be expected to consume over a two-week period? These guys were not reasonable. They just wanted to shove everything they could lay their grubby paws on down their gullets and keep on keepin' on. In this race to sample as much as possible, they missed, I believe the real reason people want to go to Provence and sit in a garden to eat a fine meal: that they can chill out and savor the taste of the food. LikeI said above, I believe the French have the food down pat, and it's, in my humble opinion, not something to be gobbled greedily. It's rich stuff. Foie gras, while wonderful, is not something you want to snarf every day of the week. Truffles, while lovely, are also rich and should be consumed every now and again, and not every day, because then you'd lose your appreciation for their rarity. By the end of the article, I hadn't eaten a damn thing, but I was full. Stuffed to the gills full. Well, actually, no, I wasn't. I'm fibbing. I had a full-on craving for foie gras, but it's not like I had any laying around the house, cluttering up the fridge. I had to settle for pineapple upside-down cake, which was more satisfying than, I have to think, their adventures had to have been.

While Sachs does hit the highlights of culinary exhaustion---even he gets weary of foie gras---he and his pal refuse to "bonk," which reportedly is cyclist lingo for running out of energy. Toward the end of the article, despite my foie gras craving, I just felt like shouting, "Surrender! You can't take it anymore! Admit it! A bloody bike race is one thing, but this isn't a bike race! Even the French don't eat like you want to believe they do!" But, no, it was off to sample the delights of yet another three-Michelin-starred restaurant. How bloody arrogant can you be? How can you honestly give the chef the credit they deserve for their creations when all you're doing is eating at one Michelin starred restaurant after another? Comparing apples to apples is one thing, but even though I've never been to France, the stories I love to hear from people who have been are when they found a small, deserted, gem of a brasserie after taking a wrong turn. These are the stories you really want to hear about when someone's talking about France. What did the author miss in his race to sample the best of the best because he was impelled to follow the course some other author said he should follow in a book published almost fifty years ago?

Bleh. I have to think a Turkish prison would have provided more culinary excitement. At least at the prison, you would never know what was going to be served up. Would it be moderately tasty? Would it even be edible? Could something be good in a Turkish prison? These guys, however, wanted only the best.

This whole trip went against the grain of what makes French cooking so sublime: making the most out of what you have before you. Funny that the author completely missed this.

Posted by Kathy at 01:58 PM | Comments (3)

Missing In Action

So, has anyone seen Steve-o?

The only reason I ask is because I'm wondering if we should send out a search party. He was visiting Moonbat Central (read The Bay Area) last week and he hasn't been heard from since. I'm one of those people who can make a mountain out of a molehill in 6.5 seconds flat, so, of course, I'm beginning to get a bit worried. Has he been forcibly abducted and driven off in a VW van to an ashram in the hills outside of Berkeley? Have his captors shoved him into tie-dyed apparel? Is our beloved Steve-o now wearing Birkenstocks, smokin' ganja, and, in a rather stoned manner, is repeatedly flashing the peace sign after rounds of frisbee golf?

The mind reels with the possibilities.

Posted by Kathy at 10:50 AM | Comments (3)


National Review Online has links to the Eleventh Circuit's decision. It is an interesting read for the legal junkies out there, particularly the dissent's dissection of the majority ruling, its treatment of relief under the All Writs Act, and the majority's use of legislative history. The talking heads completely missed the claim for relief under the All Writs Act, concentrating instead on the temporary restraining order angle. The All Writs Act is rarely invoked and almost never comes up. (I have never seen it in a case in which I have been involved despite two years as a law clerk in federal courts and almost twelve years of private practice, much of it in federal courts.) It is an indication that the lawyers on the Schindlers' legal team are not rookies.

Posted by LMC at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

Neocons: Doing Stuff is Job One!

Christopher Hitchens on Paul Wolfowitz:

{...}On the excruciating question of Israel/Palestine, Wolfowitz is not at all the "Likud" fan that his defamers portray. He almost went out of his way to be jeered and hooted at a pro-Israel rally in Washington in the early days of the Bush administration, by telling the gung-ho crowd not to forget the suffering of the Palestinians. He has spoken quite clearly of linkage between the demolition of Arab rejectionism and the demolition of Jewish settlements. I can't exactly say that I know the man, but on the occasions that I have met him I have been very struck by the difference between his manner and the amazing volleys of obloquy and abuse that have been flung at him. (This is made easier, for savants such as Maureen Dowd, by the fact that the first four letters of his surname spell an animal that is known in nursery rhymes to be big and bad. How satirical can one possibly get?) The truth is, he's a bit bleeding heart for my taste, even though I know some very tough Kurdish and Iraqi and Iranian and Lebanese antifascist militants who would welcome him as a blood-brother. No shame in that, I think.

{...}Now even the supreme and magnificent United States is hostage to debts held by others, while poor countries are mired in an even worse debt trap and the U.N.bureaucracy is a sweltering, corrupt banana republic in its own right. Who can guess the way out of these dilemmas? But with the Wolfowitz and even the John Bolton nomination to the United Nations, the Bush administration retains its capacity to startle, mainly because it has redefined the lazy term "conservative" to mean someone who is impatient with the status quo.

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by Kathy at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Sci Fi Babes

One must remember their audience when guest blogging. Now, my audience wouldn't be up for this sort of thing. But this is the Butcher's Shop. Completely different thing. As such, what sort of guest blogger would I be if I forgot to link to Texas Best Grok's weekly Sci Fi Babe poll?

Fox's Foxy Finalists are battling it out. I believe Jessica Alba's publicist is rigging the whole thing, but hey, that's just me, Ms. Cynical.

Posted by Kathy at 11:46 PM | Comments (4)


Jennifer Beals: the doe-eyed brunette from Flashdance. Best line from breakthrough movie: "It sucks" when asked by her date how she liked her lobster. Was in a Frankenstein flick thereafter and then disappeared. Her bio indicates she was in Runaway Jury but I cannot for the life of me place her character. Things must be on the ropes because she is reportedly campaigning for an on-screen lip-lock with Sarah Michelle Geller, a candidate for an honorable mention as a Flash in the Pan Nineties Babe.

Posted by LMC at 08:54 PM | Comments (6)


Whatever happened to The Bangles? I surfed over to the "official site" and it seems the only thing they have booked is a few shows on California. Best songs from breakthrough cassette: "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Angel's Touch." No confirmed sightings in a long time; last seen doing the Bangles Egyptian strut down the street.

Posted by LMC at 08:32 PM | Comments (6)


Sheila would like you to know that she's a snob. And a completely unrepentant one at that.

And I can't blame her one little bit.

Posted by Kathy at 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

It's Good To Have The Keys to the Kingdom

I'm not usually big on link whoring, but it's Tuesday and I'm feeling a wee bit crazy, and the boys OWE ME BIG TIME, so here goes.

I am a member of a select club called the Demystifying Divas. Every Tuesday one of our member chooses a topic related to the battle of the sexes and we set about demystifying the matter for the men in the world. Four different takes on one topic that we all have to deal with. What more could you ask for? Not much in my opinion.

Today, Silk, Sadie, Chrissy and myself tackle the mysteries of flirtation.

Go and read. You'll be better for it.

Posted by Kathy at 12:32 PM | Comments (3)

Discrimination at Harvard!

Oh, good grief.

UPDATE: Rumor has it she's not good at math or science, either.

UPDATE II: Reportedly, she's also prone to cases of the vapors, too. Faints at the drop of a hat. Or whenever Lawrence Summers speaks.

Posted by Kathy at 12:37 AM | Comments (1)

Hi Robbo's Mom

No, there's nothing more to this post than the title.

I just didn't want her to think that we'd forgotten about her.

Posted by Kathy at 12:24 AM | Comments (2)

March 21, 2005

Party Time

The Crack Young Staff of "The Hatemonger's Quarterly" is seeking helpful hints for their 1st Anniversary Party. They're stuck on the theme. Go on over and help them out.

Just a random aside: perhaps if there was a sorority girl in their midst, they wouldn't need to ask for help.

We sorority girls live for party planning.

Posted by Kathy at 04:30 PM | Comments (2)


I missed this one. George Kennan, 101, died last week in Princeton.

If you don't know who George Kennan---or his alter-ego Mr. X---was, you're forgiven. It's one of those obscure things you learn as a political science major (I'm sure Steve-o--Mr. PoliSci Professore---will add his own two cents worth on this one), but hasn't spread much to the mainstream. In 1946, Kennan, who was working at the US Embassy in Moscow sent back to Dee Cee what will forever be referred to as the "Long Telegram." In it, he sounded the first post-war alarm about Stalin's ambitions and behavior, in effect, predicting the Cold War. He proposed what was ultimately to become the linchpin in the U.S.'s policy toward the Soviet Union: containment. He was the one who coined the phrase and the next year, he condensed the "Long Telegram" into an article for Foreign Affairs and published it under the psuedonym "X." If you're interested in reading it, you can find the article here.

In short, he was the guy who came up with the original strategy that helped us to ultimately win the Cold War. He deserves a healthy heaping of gratitude for his foresight.

RIP Mr. X.

Posted by Kathy at 01:29 PM | Comments (1)


Kofi's got a new plan for the UN.

It includes getting countries to live up to their financial commitments to developing nations, expanding the Security Council from 15 seats to 24 and how he wants a new Commission on Human Rights to replace the old one because---in Kofi's words---"{its} capacity to perform its tasks has been undermined by its declining credibility and professionalism.”

I could go forward and backward over this and say how much of it isn't new or won't work, but why waste my breath? We all know this. What I do find interesting in all of this b.s. is that Kofi proposed an actual definition of terrorism.

The report backs the definition of terrorism – an issue so divisive agreement on it has long eluded the world community – as any action “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.”

Hmmmph. Kofi, of course, doesn't say what he would do with that definition or how the UN would be forced to act if the definition were invoked by a UN member, but that he commissioned a fleet of lawyers (God only knows what their price per hour was) to actually try and define terrorism is interesting. It brings to mind another UN-sponsored definition.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

They weaseled out of that one easily enough in regard to Rwanda in 1994. Never mind the 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus that were murdered by the fanatic Hutus; it wasn't genocide as far as the UN was concerned, hence they weren't forced to act, as the Charter demands. Neither did this genocide definition stop what is still happening in Darfur. How easily could the UN weasel out of the terrorism definition, or use it to their own ends? I can see a few loopholes, but I'm not a lawyer. How could it come back to bite member states---like, say, the U.S.---in the behind?

I know there are a few lawyers in the audience. Give it your best shot.

(cross posted at Cake Eater Chronicles)

UPDATE: Peter Fonda offers up his two and a half cents worth on Kofi's reforms.

Posted by Kathy at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

"But We'll Never Use That In Real Life"

Inspired by Mr. Tall Dark and Mysterious and contrary to that familiar high school whine, Margi explains how math can come in handy in real long as it's taught to you in a relevant way.

As for me, well, I was college prep. I wish I'd been able to take consumer math, but alas I was not allowed. Instead, I had to suffer through years worth of algebra, geometry and trigonometry. For the most part, given what I studied in college, it was completely useless. The only thing I've ever used from geometry can be found in this post. Mr. Wright would have been so proud. The rest, however, is long forgotten.

Posted by Kathy at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

Offbeat News Roundup

Wackos. Running loose. All over the world. Enjoy!

  • In a massive change-up from the usual "Virgin Mary Spotted on a Piece of Toast" type of story, we have a turtle which has something slightly different imprinted on his back. The DVD will be appearing shortly at a Blockbuster near you!
  • From London we have a tale of exploding mopeds.
  • Sheep in Eastern Belgium are safe from would-be paramours. Can't say the same for the dogs, though.
  • Don't read this if you just had breakfast.
  • Officers in some backwater town in Massachusetts are determined to bring a criminal to justice.

Posted by Kathy at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2005


Whatever happened to Tea Leone? She has not done anything of note since Deep Impact other than marry Fox Mulder. Last seen on film by the old family beach house in Virginia with her father as the tsunami triggered by the comet is about to wash them away. Missing and presumed lost. Will she turn up frozen in an alien ship at the South Pole? Stay tuned for the next X-Files installment. . . Mmmmm . . . .Tea . . . .

Posted by LMC at 09:11 PM | Comments (3)


Read Andrew McCarthy's piece over at National Review Online. Advance medical directives are important, but are not the end-all, be all, particularly in the case of a husband determined to pull the plug on his wife. MCarthy's piece presents a compelling argument that the appropriate testing has not been done to support a diagnosis of persistant vegetative state. It used to be that we erred on the side of not ending someone's life, as in death penalty cases. Now, they only need to qualify as inconvenient because they are profoundly handicapped, or brain-impaired, or it was a one-night stand with someone who won't return calls . . . So much for the promise "in sickness and in health"

Posted by LMC at 09:02 PM | Comments (1)

Oft Gang Agley Watch

Well, so much for my intentions to blog this weekend. Just too much to do, I'm afraid. Plus, as I mentioned, I'm off on my travels for Uncle Justice in the morning and won't be back until late Wednesday.

Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

I promise to pick up where I left off when I get back.

Yip! Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 08:23 PM | Comments (1)


Who will be on the LMC's List of Flashes in the Pan in the First Decade of the 21st Century five or six years down the pike? So far, the only prediction I am willing to make is Reese Witherspoon. She has not demonstrated much range as an actress and will be consigned to a steady diet of increasingly thin roles. Her attempts for serious acting will be limited to "Not Without My Daughter/Sister/Mother/Grandmother/ Au Pair"-type sagas on the Lifetime Channel. Regrettably, Liv Tyler will probably qualify for an honorable mention, although I could listen to her read aloud instructions for mixing concrete all day long. Ashley Judd and Anna Paquin are my picks as the actresses most likely to endure the test of time from the current crop of starlets. I am sitting on the fence on Natalie Portman whose abs saved the last Star Wars installment. She needs better roles, fast. I am calling for an intervention before she winds up in Julia Ormond/Ally Sheedy status.

Posted by LMC at 08:40 AM | Comments (6)


None other than the great Stevie Nicks. She was on the tube a few months ago in the midst of the latest Britney Spears publicity stunt. I got the distinct impression that this great rock legend considers Britney to be a sleazy parrot with breasts.

Posted by LMC at 08:24 AM | Comments (4)

Next Thing You Know, Wookiees Will Be Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Millenium Falcon

Courtesy of Ith, I give you, my devoted Cake Eater Llamabutcher* readers, "Titanic in Space."

Director George Lucas had a message for fans as he previewed a glimpse of the final tale in the billion-dollar "Star Wars" film franchise: leave the lightsabers at home, but don't forget the tissues.

"It's not like the first one. It's more emotional," said the director of the upcoming space adventure "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," which arrives in theaters May 19.

"I describe it as a 'Titanic' in space. It's a real tearjerker, and it will be received in a way that none of us can expect," he told theater owners at the ShoWest convention.{...}

To: Bobo The Clown George Lucas
From: Me

Re: Revenge of the Sith PR

1. Stop saying idiotic things to promote this film. It's not going to be for grownups. (Or for people with half a brain, for that matter. Or people who have loved the movies since day one. Or the sand people. Or Jedis-in-hiding., etc.) It's not going to be "Titanic in space," because you haven't the talent to make it so. Not that that's saying much. It isn't. But Titanic was better than Episode I and II combined and multiplied by a thousand. And if, on the off chance you actually manage to get it right, well, really, thanks, but no thanks. GAG! My heart, will, indeed, manage to go on without it. Really. I'd rather be strapped into a chair and forced to listen to that song until the Apocalypse than watch Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman get lovey-dovey again.

2. We're all going to go and see it anyway. Because you've suckered us once again. Last time it was Yoda kicking ass. This time it's the wookiee army. You've got us. Stop trying to sell us.

And while I'm at it...

3. You owe me one big ass bottle of Advil for all the times you've made me so frustrated my only option has been to pound my head on my desk. You've give me headaches, Bobo George; cough up the pain medication, eh? It's not like you're poor, what with all of that money hanging out of your pockets. Go and buy me some Advil, damnit.

4. What the hell is a "nerf" anyway? And why would one need to "herd" them?

*Which freakin' blog am I at anyway? This guest blogging thing gets confusing sometimes.

Posted by Kathy at 01:14 AM | Comments (2)

Nutjob Watcher Alert

Nick Coleman's turning the hyperbole up to eleven.


Posted by Kathy at 12:31 AM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2005

"Mixed Prayer Today, Hellfire Tomorrow!"

Sign me up for the hellfire, please.

UPDATE: Andy makes a decent point. He and the husband are thinking along the same wavelength. I heard the same thing from him---everyone's favorite agnostic---earlier today in regard to this story.

Although, he didn't bother with quoting the Bible.

Posted by Kathy at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

Just Justice?

I'm a little late on this one, but Jeff Goldstein is guest bartending over at Martini Boy's place and has posted a thought-provoking piece.

A wee excerpt:

{...}often times the sanctimony we build into our laws eclipses our natural human desire for vengeance -- sometimes to good affect. But by arguing that in all situations our restraint is a sign of our being civilized and deliberate, we are suggesting, implicitly, that we as a society don't have the capacity to draw distinctions between the severity of disparate acts.{...}

Go read.

Posted by Kathy at 01:48 PM | Comments (1)

Bracket Madness

So, did Kansas, Syracuse and LSU ruin anyone else's brackets?

UPDATE: Jonathan has had a somewhat different experience.

{Insert nasty glare here}

Posted by Kathy at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

Anyone Want To Hunt A Rhino?

So, a couple of months ago, the Cake Eater husband---a former frequent flier---recieved an ultimatum from United Airlines: use your miles to buy magazine subscriptions or suffer the indiginity of having spent mucho dinero on airline tickets without receiving anything in return. Since there weren't enough miles in the account to actually, you know, go anywhere, we opted for the subscriptions. The list was decent, but paltry. He opted for Cigar Aficianado and I opted for Vogue (I know. Even I'll admit that choice doesn't sound anything like me. What can I say? Some people love pr0n. I love ads.) and Conde Nast Traveler, which, I have to say, is quite fun, providing you read it with the proper attitude.

In each issue there is a feature titled "Stop Press," which covers some of the more political aspects of traveling. Some of these are actually useful, like the article they produced on the state of the airline industry, but some are examples of the worst of moonbat tendencies, like April's feature (not online yet), "Back in the Crosshairs." The introduction reads:

"Hunting safaris are booming, and after decades of protection, the nearly extinct Black Rhino is once again fair game. Debra A. Klein reports from southern Africa, where hunters and even many conservationists believe that the best way to save endangered wildlife is to kill it."

Yep. You know it's gonna be good, right? Shivers of delight and anticipation run up and down your spine.

To sum up the struggle:

a. the population of certain large game animals has increased since people are no longer allowed to hunt them.
b. some countries in Africa actually make more money from hunting safaris than they do from the photo variety---or any other industry for that matter. Four times as much money, in fact. And certain populations are completely dependent upon these safaris for their livelihood.
c. it's good to thin the herd every now and again, and these quotas that are being established within Namibia and South Africa for the Black Rhino are of a most benign nature, i.e. only males past reproducing age, no females or babies, etc.
d. such an action could keep poaching to a minimum.
e. Some conservationists like this idea, particularly ones located in the countries affected, because it's not only good for the landscape, but it's also good for the people---because, you know, they will be able to eat. Conservationists and wildlife protection groups, located in London and D.C., of course, have gone into alarmist mode, and say it will lead back to the days when the Rhino was hunted solely for its horn (which, according to the article is in high demand as a medicine in China) and nothing else. Of course, according to these conservationists, the African landscape will turn into a benighted place as a result, littered with dead rhinos, the flies swarming over their carcasses.

Overall, it was good bathtime reading last night. But the part that made me laugh loudly enough to make the husband shout from the other room, "What's so funny?" (Surprisingly, our itty-bitty bathroom has quite the echo.) What made me laugh was the author's attempt to make all of this this relevant for their American readership, and I quote:

{...}For many Americans, it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine any benefits from killing wildlife, and images on safari company websites of hunters smiling proudly over slain lions, elephants and cheetahs can seem shocking and cruel. But in Africa, the view is very different: big game can threaten lives and livelihoods, especially when their numbers reach beyond what the environment can accomodate. Large cats such as leopards can decimate a farmer's livestock; an elephant can upend simple homes and trample planted fields.{...}

{Insert much snickering here}

Forgive the language, but no shit, Sherlock. Thanks for the reminder that the steak on your plate in the chi-chi Manhattan restaurant actually has to be raised.

What's really funny, though, is that the author actually seems to forget about human beings actually being at risk from large game, even though she later cites the fact that in Kenya, where there is a complete ban on hunting, fifteen human beings die each year as the result of being trampled by a rogue elephant. The risk to humans from large game is an after-the-fact sort of thing, and is treated as such throughout the article, as are the proposed benefits of hunting. It's all about the animals!

The way Klein treats the subject matter and her audience, well, gosh, it makes one wonder, doesn't it, if, in fact, human beings are actually---gasp--- foie gras to some species? What does one do in such a circumstance? Would a four-inch stilletto work as an adequate defense against a charging rhino? Would that get it to stop?

Posted by Kathy at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

Sticker Shock

Just as an aside about my Disney Blogging, I do hope you guys are enjoying it: That last entry came pretty close to maxing out my Visa (TM) Spousal Eccentricity Indulgence Card. As I dig myself out from under all this debt, it at least will be comforting to know that it was worth the price.

Speaking of which, I hope to have Part IV - which focuses on the adventures of the Llama-ettes and is considerably less acidic than my previous rants - up later this evening or tomorrow.

Posted by Robert at 11:09 AM | Comments (3)

March 18, 2005

Fear and Loathing In Disney World, Part III - How To Be Entertained Within An Inch Of Your Life - Forty Eight Hours On The Ground In The Magic Kingdom

(Part I is nyah. Part II is over nyah.)

At the stillpoint of destruction,
At the center of the fury,
All the angels, all the devils,
All around us, can’t you see?

I come from a Scots background. My great-grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. So by nature I am somewhat resigned to the idea that we’re put on this earth to suffer. This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing: there are times and places where I really don’t mind being, for example, tired, wet, cold and hungry. Indeed, in the proper circumstances such feelings add a certain edge to whatever I am doing. However, I like to pick and choose my suffering when I can. When I find myself tired, wet, cold and hungry owing specifically to the machinations of the agents of a certain Cartoon Mouse, well, I don’t like that so much. Hoots! Toots! Sooofering, indeed.

The high point of our first day in the Magic Kingdom was to be breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle with a selection of Disney Princesses. I’m told by aficionados that our securing of a slot for this particular breakfast – which the Missus achieved by calling at some ungodly hour of the morning on a given date - was a major coup. And indeed, this signal event was the talk of the Butcher’s House for some time -so much so that we were determined not to run any possible risk of missing our seating. To this end, we undertook to follow to the absolute letter all of the guidelines we received from the Mouse High Command regarding our attendance. Among the most stringent instructions we got were those which stated categorically that if we hoped to make our 8:05 AM reservation at Cinderella’s Castle, we had got to be on the 7:00 AM shuttle-bus from the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Cinderella runs a tight ship and brooks no straggling and we feared that, as we like to say in my family, if we’d snoozed, we’d of loozed. Thus, sans coffee and barely awake, we duly saw to it that we all got aboard the 7:00 AM bus.

Well. Tempus fugit I suppose, but not always, because, together with rather a lot of other folks, we were at the front gate to the Magic Kingdom by about 7:15 AM. The problem we found ourselves facing was twofold: For one thing, the gate didn’t even open until 8:00 AM (a detail nobody bothered to mention). For another, despite a whole series of forecasts to the contrary, this was not your typical balmy Florida day. Indeed, the weather seemed to have chased us down from Dee Cee – It was about 50 degrees, with a thick drizzle and a biting wind. The Llama-ettes had raincoats, but we had packed calculating that the temperature was going to be about 20 degrees warmer than it actually was. At the very least, we had figured we would be able to zip right inside and that, after breakfast, we’d be better fortified for dealing with the elements.

As I held my poor, shivering five year old in my arms, I began to seethe – You bastards, with your gonzo bus schedule, this is your fault! You did this to my little girl! Even the Missus, whose opinion of the Magic Kingdom is considerably more favorable than mine, was sufficiently unhappy that she spoke to the attendants loitering on the other side of the gate. But no joy – that mile-wide, inch-deep Customer Service Standard I wrote about yesterday was in full force and effect. “You can’t let us in to get out of the weather?” she asked. Nope – gate doesn’t open until 8. “What should we do in the meantime?” she asked. They simply shrugged.

Eventually, of course, the gate did open. By then, I had become moderately soggy and my caffeine-withdrawal headache was beginning to kick in. “At least,” I thought, “I’ll be able to work off some of my bile by deconstructing this ‘Princess Breakfast’ business in my head.” As we entered Cinderella’s Castle and started climbing a winding stair up to the dining room, I reached out and gave the wall a quick rap. The thud of reinforced plastic was music to my ears – this might be some fun after all.

It’s been a long, long time since I saw Cinderella, but my recollection of the interior of the Prince’s castle was that it was of a fairly modern, sort of stylized 19th Century design. Not so here. For reasons I can’t fathom, Disney decided to combine the place’s famous Mad King Ludwig exterior with a kind of D&Dish Medieval interior, overlayed with some of the Quatrocento design prevalent in Sleeping Beauty and capped off it seemed, with a touch of Elizabethan half-timbering. The juxtaposition of all of this was enough to give any respectable historian or architect conniptions.

Not content to confine its historical bowdlerization to the building itself, Disney also decked out the serving staff in knock-off Colonial Williamsburg Innkeeper costumes and, apparently, commanded them to speak in a vaguely Shakespearian dialogue with American Cockney accents. At least that was the impression I got when our waitress sidled up to the table.

“Good morning, me Lord,” she said, “may I tell thou about the royal breakfast?”

Heh. The effect was like nothing so much as James Whitmore doing his Shakespearian gangster routine in Kiss Me, Kate. I think the waitress realized this, because her delivery was pretty half-hearted to begin with and she eventually dropped the business altogether. (I deny categorically that my incredulous stare had anything to do with her decision.) Listening around the room, though, I noticed that some of the other waiters were much more enthusiastic about their roles, liberally sprinkling their talk with “My Lords” and “My Ladies” and the like. Indeed, they probably were fueled by the audience response: most of the crowd seemed to eat it up. It strikes me as rather droll that as a people, Americans like to pride themselves on their egalitarianism. Yet if you give the average Joe a chance to play King for a Day, he’ll jump on it with both feet.

Anyhoo, after a few minutes, the Princesses started to filter into the room. All of the heavyweights were there – Cinderella, Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty), Snow White and Belle. Mary Poppins also made the list for some reason, although I noticed that none of the more, er, ethnic princess heroines - Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan - were around. (Make of that what you will.) They circulated about the room earning their living – signing books and bags, having their pictures taken, chatting with the kids, etc.

From the moment I first spotted them, something about the Princesses definitely looked to me. I think it was how they all had the same frozen, glittering smile, while at the same time maintaining a uniform level of eye brightness. Indeed, seeing the identical expression on five or six different faces in short order gave me quite a pause. As I type this, I am looking at some of the photos we took of them with the Llama-ettes and am becoming more convinced that this is exactly why they seemed so strange. Indeed, I think I’ve come up with an appropriate name for this phenomenon – the “Stepford Princesses Effect”. I am told by people who know that Disney dictates every single aspect of its characters’ behavior and appearance. Given this, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the Princesses had been drilled intensely in the same Disney Smile Boot Camp. Uncle Walt might have had a uniform standard of pleasantness in mind, but the actual effect, as I say, was slightly unnerving. (I believe this corporate discipline is true offstage as well as on – I’m guessing the Mouse does not permit the woman who played Cinderella to kick back with a pack of smokes and a bottle of Jim Beam when she’s off duty, much as I would think she’d earned it.)

Speaking of training, here’s another thing I noticed. We had meals not just with the Princesses, but with several sets of full-costumed characters as well (Pluto and Goofy at dinner and Pooh and his friends at lunch, to be exact). In each of the latter cases, I had thought I could simply slide into the background and let the Llama-ettes get all the attention. But in each case, those characters zeroed in on me, putting their arms around my neck and patting my head in an apparent effort to tease me for trying to avoid getting involved. (The other adults in our party thought this was extremely amusing. Emphasis on “the other”.) Not so the Princesses. They didn’t lay a hand on me or any other adult in the room, so far as I could tell, and barely even acknowledged our existence. More’s the pity, too. A couple of them were pretty decent looking. Ol’ Dad might be writing a somewhat more charitable review if they’d have at least given him a wink.

After breakfast, we toddled back downstairs. (The food, incidentally, was the best I had the whole time there. But breakfast is a meal that is pretty hard to botch.) On the ground floor, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother was seated in a large chair. She was a rotund and slightly breathless woman and seemed the most human of all the actresses, actually displaying some emotion and interacting with the adults. I suppose Disney figures it doesn’t have as much to worry about with her in terms of character reputation.

The ground floor of the Castle, incidentally, is a kind of staging area for those whose reservation times have come up. When we walked down, many people were standing about the room waiting for their tables. Periodically, a woman dressed as a herald would appear and say, “The Royal Party of Smith (for example), your table awaits!” I suggested to the Missus that, given all the apparent claimants to the throne, Cinderella’s Castle must be in a constant state of civil war. “Shut up,” she replied.

As we came back outside, the sky had stopped messing about with drizzle and settled down to some genuine rain. Unlike the Llama-ettes, I did not have a raincoat, only a sweater, and soon got pretty wet. (Disney sells transparent plastic ponchos with large pictures of Mickey on them, but I refused point blank to wear one. Eventually, however, I was persuaded to buy a brown baseball-style hat with a modest Disney logo on it.) Trudging about, I was aware of one thing for which I could feel some gratitude - because of the lousy weather, there were relatively few people at the park. As a result, we got to nip around to a great many rides without having to wait too long for them. (I’ll give the details about the rides in the next installment, which will deal primarily with the adventures of the Llama-ettes.) Nonetheless, by mid-afternoon we had all had about enough. The rain, which had never let up all day, was turning into a first-class downpour. My shoes – the only pair I had brought - were positively water-logged. All I could think about was getting back to the hotel, taking a nice, long, hot shower and then sitting down to a big meal. The shower went fine, although I had to put my cold, wet shoes back on in order to go down to dinner. Thus, as you can imagine, I was already pretty crabby when I discovered that The Animal Kingdom Serengeti Communal Dining Hall was buffet only. D’oh!

Unlike the day before, the weather on our second morning in the Magic Kingdom was beautiful, with clear skies and gentle breezes. But at Disney, this is a detriment rather than a bonus because it brings out the mob. Attractions with lines of five minutes or so the previous day now required one to wait for half an hour or more. (Keep in mind, too, that once you got on to them none of the rides actually lasted more than about two minutes.) Indeed, just physically moving about the place was more difficult owing to the sheer numbers of people milling around. And it’s not just people. Disney rents strollers for babies and toddlers which cause significant additional congestion. At one point, trying to make my way through Toon Town, I actually experienced something very much akin to gridlock – there was simply no place to move. (Fortunately, it was still moderately cool – 65 or so. I don’t even want to speculate about what the place must be like in the depths of summer. Just imagining the idea of being caught in a squash of sweaty humanity with no chance of escape and temperatures approaching triple digits makes me claustrophobically ill.)

As a result of this crowding, I didn’t wind up doing very much that day other than standing about. However, this gave me a chance to do a little people watching. I’m not going to indulge in flings at particular socio-economic groups, but let’s just say that there was quite a, em, cross-section on display. “Two of everything” might be the best way to sum it up.

At one point, I sat for some time beside Minnie Mouse’s House and listened intently to the people passing by. Despite all the advertising hype about the Joys of Mouseland, most of them did not seem especially happy to me. Many were griping about something (the long lines, the cost, the transportation system – in fact the sort of thing I’ve been yapping about here) or else frantically scurrying around, trying to find lost companions, potties or a place to eat. Some seemed just plain bewildered, as if they didn’t really understand what they were doing there.

This is where my ultimate questioning of the “magic” part of “Magic Kingdom” kicks in. Where is this magic? Show me this magic! The Missus says that it comes the first time you visit the place as a little kid. You don’t notice all the bad things, but instead are happily and innocently overwhelmed by the spectacle – the characters, the rides, the bright displays, and so on. And the fondness you have for the memories you create on that first visit arm you against all the slings and arrows you recognize when you go back to the place later as an adult. She also says that I can’t possibly understand this since I never went as a kid but instead was brainwashed into despising the place by my parents.

The Missus probably has a point (I hate when that happens) about residual childhood memories. But isn’t there a passage in the Bible somewhere that says “when I was a child, I thought as a child,” the corollary being that once the speaker – Paul, I believe - became an adult he, well, grew up? One need not be long out of adolescence to see at a glance that the Mouse’s Empire is an elaborate scam - a fraud and a cheat, the sole purpose of which is to hoover its guests’ wallets. (To give one example, do Mickey’s minions deal with the long lines for all the rides by trying to find ways to expand capacity? Nooooooooo. Instead, they came up with a system of “Fast Passes” which, if you’re willing to shell out some extra bucks, lets you cut.) On top of this, for all the hoo-hah about magic and memories and getting to hug Cinderella, the truth is that Disney treats its customers downright brutally. Everything is on Uncle Walt’s terms, the food, the lodging, the transportation and the entertainment. As I said previously, the corporate slogan may just as well be “Do It Our Way Or Screw You”. (I’m not just making this up, by the way. I know several people who have done legal or consulting work with Disney. All of them say the same thing – that every iota of Disney World’s existence is rule by an iron fist, that customer profiling is taken to almost insane levels in order to maximized profitability and that the corporate culture there is among the most cutthroat imaginable.) Rather than indulging in moon-eyed sentimentality, it seems to me that adults ought to stand up against this behavior. Yet they don’t and Disney continues to act this way because it can – because the market continues to clamor for its services. That the place should remain so maddeningly popular with such a large part of the populace in the face of all of this says as much to me about how people think they deserve to be treated as it does about their taste in entertainment.

Second, and I know the Stuffiness Police are going to bust my chops for saying this, childhood memories are important – but real ones are better than fake ones. Indeed, despite what Certain People think, I have lots of treasured moments tucked away in my own brain, some of which might indeed be labeled “magical”. But none of them involve getting a hug from some guy in a donkey costume who gets paid minimum wage to pretend he’s my best friend.

I’m not suggesting that everyone who goes to Disney World should be marked for life with a scarlet “M”. What I am suggesting is that it simply isn’t worth the enormous trouble, expense and indignity. Almost anybody has the tools for a quality vacation experience much closer to home. We, for example, have a petting zoo near our house with a far more interesting selection of animals than Disney’s Animal Lodge. We also have several amusement parks nearby that have far better rides than Disney (more on that later). And there are plenty of authentic events, sites and attractions round about here to provide fond memories to young minds. Best of all, none of these are operated with the same level of naked rapacity and contempt for their customers as is Mickey’s Empire.

Refresh my memory. We went all the way to Florida why, exactly?

Next time – Chapter IV – Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM), or No, They’re Not My Children

Posted by Robert at 11:42 PM | Comments (4)


Jennifer Jason Leigh. Breakthrough flick: Single White Female. Most memorable scene of breakthrough movie: performs oral sex on boyfriend of roommate Bridget Fonda, masquerading as BF. Boyfriend moans roommate's name, JJL identifies herself, finishes him off, and then kills him. Most recent movie of note Road to Perdition. Last seen perusing the roommate ads, looking for a rent-controlled apartment with a hip NYC address.

UPDATE: Mrs. LMC, the Final Authority on All Matters of Popular Culture in the LMC household, reminded me of JJL's role in Fast Times at Ridgmont High as the good girl who went way bad. I should have remembered the movie better, particularly since it featured the music of the incomparable Go-Gos. This again goes to show that whenever I think I spend too much time in front of the boob tube, it is not nearly enough.

Posted by LMC at 06:54 PM | Comments (3)


Next up in this award-winning series: Molly Ringwald. Best attributes: "girl next door" air about her, red hair, no substance abuse issues. Breakthrough flick: Sixteen Candles. Last serious appearance in film: mini-series of Stephen King's The Stand. Rumored to have had a short-lived TV pilot last year.

Posted by LMC at 10:17 AM | Comments (11)

March 17, 2005

Postal Alert

It's going to be a crazy couple days around the Butcher's House. The oldest Llama-ette turns seven tomorrow, which means we're in birthday party mode. Also, we have become embroiled in our Church's Palm Sunday childrens' play. And on top of all that, I'm out o' here on bidness Monday through Wednesday, which I need to get ready for.

I'm going to try very hard to finish up my Disney series before the Missus breaks all my knuckles and, of course, I'd like to wallow in some Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) about the birthday celebration and all, but I don't know how much more posting I'll be able to squeeze in aside from that.

Also, I forget exactly when Steve-O will be getting back so I don't know how much posting he's going to do.

The point is that I just wanted to remind both our Llama Military Correspondent and Kathy that we haven't changed the locks on the joint yet, so they should feel free to come on in and hang out if and when they feel the urge.

Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 06:01 PM | Comments (0)

Book Him!

I figured somebody might whip this one at my head, but I was hoping I wouldn't have my literary fraudulence exposed by Chan. (CHAAAAAAAAAN!!!!)

Here goes anyway:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

I confess I still don't know what this means. Didn't Madonna put out a book with steel-plate covers a while back? That might withstand the flames......

UPDATE: Sheila provides a logical explanation and exposes the fact that I haven't read Fahrenheit since high school. Going on her take, I'd say the KJV Bible if it was for Humanity as a whole and probably Milton's Paradise Lost if it was just for my own selfish ends.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Oh, sure, lots of 'em. I'm a crush-oriented kinda guy. As an example, P.G. Wodehouse wrote any number of romantic comedies featuring very attractive young heroines, just about all of whom I instantly fell for.

The last book you bought was...?

Lessee......The last ones I bought must have been Francis Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe: The French and Indian War (which I read and loved), coupled with Fred Anderson's Crucible of War : The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (which I haven't tackled yet). The last one I was given was Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, which I thought okay but not his best.

The last book you read was...?

Well, I just finished Wolfe's A Man In Full, which, despite my quibbling over editorial arcana, I quite enjoyed.

What are you currently reading?

Figuring I couldn't possibly concentrate on it in Disney World, I'm still working on Christoph Wolff's Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. Bach is just about to take up his new post in Leipzig.

I need to start on something else as well. I've got Chernow's bio of Hamilton and McCullough's bio of Adams in the on-deck circle, as well as that debate between Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright about the nature of Christ that was supposed to be my Lenten reading (ha ha). But I also feel the need for something lighter. The Missus picked up a copy of Tom Clancy's Executive Orders for a dollar somewhere and, as ashamed as I am to say it, I sometimes like to wallow in his stuff.

Five books you would take to a desert island...

Hmmm....I've never been good at Desert Island Discs and its relatives. But this time it doesn't say these have to be the only five......

1. The Sword of Honor Trilogy, Evelyn Waugh. (Yes, it's three books, but I don't care.)
2. Goodbye To All That, Robert Graves.
3. Emma, Jane Austen (Sppllttth!! to you, Kathy!)
4. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (Massive cheating here, I know.)
5. All The Trouble In The World, P.J. O'Rourke. (Just to keep a healthy perspective on things.)

Who are you passing this stick on to and why?

The Colossus. Just to give him an easy cut n' paste post, since we seem to have so much in common.......

Posted by Robert at 03:32 PM | Comments (6)

Ach! Sssss! Nasty! Wicked! Tricksy! False!

The Lord of the Rings Musical.

The mind boggles. "You say po-TAY-to, I say fishes - let's call the whole thing off!"

Yips! to Lintenfiniel Jen.

Posted by Robert at 02:42 PM | Comments (4)

Today Me Name Is Seamus O'Llama

Message to Sadie: My Dear, You worry me sometimes.

(As a matter of fact, I've always found the Disneyfication (there's that word again!) of St. Patrick's Day to be rather irritating. The Llama-ettes were carrying on about catching leprechauns this morning, as if they were cute n'cuddly little things. The truth is that, like Cupid, the Easter Bunny and Halloween spooks, they have a much darker and violent pedigree. Patrick O'Brian wrote a short story - found in the collection The Rendezvous - and Other Stories about a man who stumbles across one of their treasure hordes with ghastly, if elegantly understated, results.)

Way back when in law school, I had a small role in a school production of John Synge's Playboy of the Western World. There is a raw poetry to the way Irish peasants speak (or at least used to) that Synge tried to capture in his texts, a prolific use of metaphor and simile coupled with a particular wild syntax that I could not begin to describe. Once you get used to it, it is really quite beautiful, both to speak and to hear. Alas, as we performed in front of a student audience, I had the distinct impression that about nine tenths of what we were saying went rocketing right over their heads (at least until about three quarters of the way through). This wasn't entirely their fault, since it was probably the first exposure to Synge most of them ever had. Also, we were just a bunch of amateur hacks - this was a pretty ambitious attempt on the part of the theatre professor who staged it. I'm not sure we measured up to what he had been hoping to accomplish.

Synge wrote about the world of the western Irish (County Cork) peasant around the turn of the 20th Century. Oddly enough, prior to reading him, I had long been a fan of the Irish R.M. stories by E. O. Sommerville and Martin Ross, whose works were set in exactly the same time and place. Synge tried to paint a stark, gritty, "realistic" peasant's eye view of things (thus enraging certain sections of his audience, who rioted upon the premier of the play in Dublin). Sommerville and Ross, on the other hand, wrote comic pieces from the viewpoint of the Anglo-Irish gentry. Despite coming at it from completely different angles, there is a great deal of similarity in their portrayals of this world.

(Before you ask, no, I don't much care for the Peter Bowles television adaptation of The Irish R.M. The stories are first-person narratives spoken by Major Yeats. As with the case with Bertie Wooster, half the humor is the way in which he goes about telling them. It is impossible to translate this to the screen.)

UPDATE: The O'Brian story I was thinking of is called "The Happy Despatch". Very chillling.

Posted by Robert at 02:25 PM | Comments (4)

Fear And Loathing In Disney World, Part II - The Mouse's Lair

(Go here for Part I.)

My encounter with the Mouse began in earnest as we pulled up in front of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the venue chosen for our two night stay while we explored Mickey’s Dark Dominion. As it turns out, at least in this case, “dark” is pretty much the literal truth. Here is a picture of the main lobby of the Lodge:

(Image found at All Seasons Travel.)

It was actually a good deal dimmer than this photo makes it look. Every time I crossed it, I had to stop myself from automatically putting my arms out in front of me for fear of running into someone or something. Indeed, when I went down to the bar in the evening to read after the Llama-ettes had gone to bed, I felt uncannily like Frodo trying to make his way through the tunnel at Cirith Ungol. Perhaps the effect would have been pleasing after an afternoon of the full glare of the Florida summer sun. But as it was, particularly on a rainy March day, the gloom of the place was downright palpable. (Insert your own Heart of Darkness joke here.)

As a matter of fact, the Lodge reminded me of nothing so much as a set from King Kong. If only Jessica Lange had been chained to one of the pillars wearing suitably tattered bush clothing, it would have been considerably more appealling. As it was, the place contained nothing but gawping tourons - none of whom I'd have cared to see in sacrificial victim costume. Ah, well. "Look on my face - my name is Might Have Been."

The other notable thing about the lobby was the endless Paul Simon-ish African “theme” music piped into it. It wasn’t very long before you had the entire set of tracks memorized. How the people who actually work there day-to-day managed to put up with it is beyond me. I suppose it could have been much worse – had we stayed in the Magic Kingdom, I’m sure we would have been “Small World After All”-ed to death.

Once we made it to our room, I suddenly realized the Prime Directive in Disney World architectural planning: Big Show In Front/ Stack ‘Em In Like Cordwood Behind. Honestly, the room was smaller than those of many Holiday Inns I’ve encountered and I could easily touch the ceiling in the bathroom. And the décor! Paging the Fab Five! The whole thing was done in a color scheme of yellow and brown – which suggested nothing to me other than dirt and grunge and cast a gloom that wasn’t that much less Cimmerian than that of the lobby. Incomprehensibly, the bedspreads were a checkerboard of bright colors – blues, reds and greens – that spent all their time shouting at the walls. The walls, which were also tricked out in some faux-African gewgaws of brown, black and white, shouted right back at them.

“Savvy” Disney-goers will tell you that if you stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the trick is to get a room that faces the “savannah”. If you do so, they say, you’ll be in for a real treat because you’ll get to see all sorts of Wild African Animals in Neat-O Native Habitat! Indeed, here's what Uncle Walt himself has to say on the subject:

It's a Hotel adventure in the making. Here, most balconies overlook a picturesque savannah where giraffe, zebra and other exotic animals roam about a spacious wildlife reserve. Handcrafted furnishings and African décor welcome you to a world of comfort complete with all the beauty of nature...and all the magic of Disney.

Well…..not really. It does beat staring at the parking lot, I suppose. But what Disney calls a “picturesque savannah” I call “a series of moderate sized pens with some grass and a few trees in them”. The fact of the matter is that the landscaping doesn’t hold a candle to the average modern zoo, and is barely comparable to our local petting park (where, I might add, one can see the animals a good deal closer - and more cheaply).

On our first afternoon, the Missus and the Llama-ettes scurried off to the pool. I stayed behind to take my book out on the balcony for a little post-drive detox. When I first looked at the “savannah”, the only animals present were a black hornbill (about the size of a turkey) and a few of those nasty gray African vultures. As the afternoon wore on, I began to see a pattern – periodically, the gamekeepers would shoo a couple different animals into the paddock. So I did indeed see a few beasts – some gazelle, a few fill-in-the-blank-bok and some African cattle that look like regulation heiffers who’ve taken horn-enhancement steroids. Most entertaining were a trio of giraffes that appeared from time to time.

The reason the giraffes were entertaining is that they had apparently sized up exactly what was going on. There were several baskets set high up in trees scattered around the paddock. At feeding time, the gamekeepers would drive a pick-up full of food into the pen and fill the baskets with leafy branches. I think the idea was to spread the giraffes around among the trees so that the lodgers could get a good look at them. But the giraffes knew better: when they saw the pick-up coming, they would saunter over to the gate. As the driver stopped to close the gate behind him, the giraffes would start helping themselves to snacks right out of the pick-up’s bed (aided and abetted, I might add, by the gamekeeper sitting in back). They would then follow the truck back to the gate. Heh. Watching the actual animals doing a “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” about the authenticity of their “picturesque savannah” environment delighted my curmudgeonly sensibilities.

Speaking of feeding, we got to the Lodge around lunchtime. It boasts two restaurants and a bar, none of which was open. “Oh,” it was explained with false chirpiness, “everyone is either out in the park or asleep at this time of day. But the snack bar is open!” (This was the first direct example I came across of Disney’s ruling philosophy regarding the accomodation of its guests: “Do It Our Way Or Screw You.” That example was to be repeated many times over the course of our visit. The concept of “Customer Satisfaction” at the House of Mouse is a mile wide and an inch deep.) Anyhoo, the snack bar proved to be a nasty cafeteria-style enclave down in the basement that wouldn’t have passed muster in the average Student Union. Not that the average student could have afforded it, however. When you get to Disney, it’s frightening how fast you start automatically thinking of prices in $50 increments.

One night we did eat in one of the restaurants, but it proved to be a buffet-only place. We hates buffets, the only purpose of which (in accordance with the Mouse’s philosophy of Volume! Volume! Volume!) is to move the maximum number of people through the place with the minimum expenditure of resources and personnel. The food, I might add, was of a type I recognized from long experience of professional dinners and conferences – easy to prepare in bulk and relatively tasteless - and which is, I strongly suspect, not that far removed from what you might find in a military chow hall. I also had a couple glasses of wine from the purported South African wine list. I forget the name on the label, but it billed itself as a “Gamekeeper’s Reserve” Cabernet. I must say that, considering the circumstances, it wasn’t too bad. However, it would have been much more appropriate to charge $9.50 for the entire bottle rather than for each glass of the stuff.

Overall, the thing that surprised me most about the Animal Kingdom Lodge was its relatively mild attempt to expose guests to the cultural joys of pan-African Utopianism. You know, the sort of “The Peoples of the Serengeti have lived in blissful harmony with Nature for thousands of generations and our Gift Shoppe has been laid out in an authentic recreation of a typical village in order to reflect the Wisdom of their ways! – Buy things and You Too will be Enlightened” stuff. There certainly was some of this, but not really as much as I expected and most of it very mild at that. I mean, apart from the overall architecture, the lobby music and the pith helmets and khaki shorts worn by the concierge staff, we might have been at almost any ordinary (poor quality and outrageously priced) hotel. Then again, as I mentioned, it was pretty damn dark in the Lodge. Perhaps there were lots of little signs posted about to illustrate how all of Africa is One Big Happy Family. But if so, I didn't see them.

The primary place I did spot this sort of thing was in the restaurant, which featured weird-assed shaped tables (made, I think, to represent horizontal cuts from those large hard-wood trees you used to see full of baboons on Wild Kingdom all the time). Its drinks menu had a bit of hoo-haw about, well, the Wisdom of the Peoples of the Serengeti as reflected in their Communal Dining Experience. Geh. In fact, this looked to me like cheap cover for squashing us all into one giant dining hall. Also, the menu almost got political at one point: One of the featured South African wines on the list was something that carried a “Diversity" label which was meant, I suppose, as some kind of tribute to the triumph of the ANC but, at least to my mind, actually suggested the pouring of the dregs of a variety of different bottles into one large vat and rebottling it. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Needless to say, I didn't touch it.

I also noted a spasmodic attempt at cultural enlightenment on the kiddies’ placemats. Among other things, they had a handy-dandy vocabulary of useful Xhosa terms. I don’t speak a word of any African language, but I immediately spotted a good bit of old-fashioned Pidgin English. Car, for example, was rendered as “moto”. Cat became “Ikitu”. (Here I’m guessing there’s not much of a tradition of domesticated cats among wandering tribal herdsmen. Dogs, yes. Cats, no). And so on. As with all the other examples of Disneyfied Africanism I encountered, this was just hokey enough to be mildly irritating but not so much that I felt inclined to do anything more than, well, save it for snarking purposes here.

As I say, I was surprised that Disney's foray into Potemkin Africanism (how's that for coining a phrase?) was as mild as it proved to be. On reflection, though, I really should not have been. After all, people come to the place to be entertained, not indoctrinated. Give ‘em the standard package of rides and entertainment dressed up with a few gewgaws and some animals and sprinkled with the "Disney Magic" (whatever the hell that actually is) and they’ll happily empty their wallets. And that, after all, is what Disney is after to begin with. Why go any further?

For this, I suppose, I should be grateful. Of course, that's a little like saying, "Yes, the Japanese made me march across the length of Bataan, but at least they didn't beat me on the way." But you see what I mean.

Next Time - Fear and Loathing In Disney World, Part III – How To Be Entertained Within An Inch Of Your Life: 48 Hours On The Ground In The Magic Kingdom.

Posted by Robert at 12:51 PM | Comments (3)

Wait For It.....

Busy morning. There are times when I wish I could blog about what I do for Father Justice but there are waaaaay too many issues of confidentiality and politics to even consider it.

Suffice to say, I really like my job. And considering how flat-out bored I was with my prior practice, this is doubly gratifying.

Anyhoo, I've got my next installment of Fear and Loathing in Disney World almost teed up and hope to get it out to y'all around lunchtime.

Yip! at you in a bit......

Posted by Robert at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005


Mwahahaha.....Udolpho hits "Garry" right in the chest with both barrels.

First shell:

His sensibility evokes NPR at its most earnest, a very mannered "isn't that obvious?" conformity that embodies the editorial we. There is real wit at work here – sometimes even a joke with a punchline – but it's so plainly self-blind that after a few strips it starts to wear thin.

Second shell:

The main weakness – aside from Trudeau's insularity – is of course the Trudeau drawing hand. Or claw, as one imagines it to be from the evidence of the crummy, inflexible stylization Trudeau leans on for the Doonesbury look.

Ouch. Go read the rest. It pretty much covers what I've thought of Doonesbury for years.

Yips! to Ace.

Posted by Robert at 04:11 PM | Comments (2)

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) -Outdoor Division


The Primavera of Pompeii, one of my favorite Classical Images.
Link courtesy of A. Suski

A sure sign that Spring is in the air: Our old friend Chan the Bookish Gardener is garden blogging again. Nip on over and check out her link to (an) Unofficial Henry Mitchell website, as well as her tribute to black dianthus.

As a matter of fact, I had quite a pleasant surprise this week. Two years ago, my sister gave me some tulip bulbs for Christmas, which I planted in a little patch bordering our front walk. Their first Spring, they were spectacular, a sea of pale pink. Last year? Nothing. Nada. Zip. This year, however, they (or a fair percentage of them) seem to be back. At least they're growing. Whether they flower remains to be seen.

I am officially starting to get excited about gardening again.

Posted by Robert at 03:25 PM | Comments (1)

Apples and Trees

Rocket Ted is having a Gratuitous Domestic Moment (TM) about family traits.

I, on the other hand, am concerned about some of my own.

As it happens, I literally cannot see clearly past the end of my nose. I've worn glasses (now contacts) since third grade.

Well, this week, the five year old spectacularly failed her school vision test. I hope, I hope what happened was that she simply wasn't paying attention (a distinct possibility). I'm bolstered in this hope by the fact that a month or two ago, the pediatrician did not notice anything especially out of order. In any case, we've got to cart her off to the opthamologist to check things out.

Sigh. I sincerely hope that neither she nor the other two Llama-ettes inherited my appalling vision. (Actually, I'm not worried about the seven year old. That girl has the eyes of an eagle.) Somehow, the idea of that sweet, sweet face having to be bespectacled makes me quite sad.

Posted by Robert at 03:01 PM | Comments (1)

Def Llama Jam Fizzizzle, Yo, Yo, Yo

Heh. If you haven't seen it before, check out Gizoogle, the site that, er, adds some flava to yo search. Here's us.

Yips! for the tip to my pal Marjorie the Unclimber, who's got a slightly spooky new self-portrait up on her site. (I'm strongly resisting the urge to make Sauron jokes about it.)

Posted by Robert at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

Marmite Not

Heh. It looks as if The Colossus is calling Derb out over the subject of a certain British foodstuff.

Butter knives at ten paces, Gentlemen?

(N.B. - No, I've never tried it. I am solidly Anglophilic about many things, but fully recognize that there are some aspects of British cuisine that are just better left alone.)

Posted by Robert at 01:18 PM | Comments (1)


Jordana found a dead brown recluse spider yesterday. In her post, she mentions her family's experience with scorpions in Arizona as well.

Brrrrrrr!!!! (Sound of excessive shuddering)

Growing up in South Texas, I had to deal with scorpions, too. They are the nastiest, most purely eviiiil looking creatures God ever saw fit to put on the planet.


We'd find one in the house about every six months or so. One night, one stung my sister on the hand as she was sleeping. She reflexively threw up her hand and the damn thing landed on her face, where it stung her again.

Another night, just as I was coming up the stairs to go to bed, I saw one glide into my room. I immediately went back downstairs and found a flashlight and a golf club. After some poking around, I discovered it nestled under the sheets on one side of my bed. I'd have never seen it, as I always climbed into bed from the other side. Once I discovered it, I pounded it so hard with the 3-iron that I woke up the whole house.


Yes, I was stung once, too. I was standing outside and felt like I'd been stung by a bee on my calf. I looked down and the thing was crawling up my pants leg. Gave me some moves Michael Jackson couldn't touch, I can assure you.

Double Brrrrrr!!!!!

Posted by Robert at 11:18 AM | Comments (7)

Here....Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! (Click)

Jonah has an article on a proposal being mulled in Wisconsin to let people shoot feral cats because they (the cats) are taking out such a large percentage of the local bird population.

I'm sorry but I find this story to be quite amusing, in part because of the whole Granny/Tweety/Sylvester image that Jonah conjures up, but also because of his larger point about how pure anthropomorphic emotionalism infects so much of the environmental debate. Call it the "Bambi Effect". Go ahead - it's been done many times before.

Posted by Robert at 10:59 AM | Comments (2)

More Wolfe Whistling

In connection with reading A Man In Full, I was musing yesterday about Tom Wolfe and classical music. Today I find myself musing about Wolfe and classical history.

For those of you who haven't read it, a key theme of the book, which is set in modern Atlanta, is the philosophy of the Roman Stoics. In explaining their background to Charlie Croker, Conrad - the "messenger" of the Stoic virtues - states that Nero reigned in 95 A.D. and that he was succeeded by Domitian.

I hope I'm not being a complete dork about it, but I love classical history and this is wrong on both counts. Nero was the last of the so-called Julio-Claudian emperors (after Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius), members of the family of Augustus who inherited his powers and fashioned them into a true Imperial office. Nero became Emperor in 54 A.D. and eventually killed himself in 68 A.D.

The sudden power vacuum caused a crisis in Roman Imperial politics as several factional rivals attempted to seize the throne. In quick succession between 68 and 69 A.D., Galba, Otho and Vitellius grabbed power, either to be assassinated or kill themselves in short order.

Finally, still in 69 A.D., Vespasian, a hard-headed military commander who had campaigned extensively in the East, seized the throne. With strong military backing, he had no rivals to speak of. Also, he had no interest in the decadent ways into which Roman society had fallen and, in effect, made respectibility fashionable again. He ruled peacefully for 10 years until his death. Vespasian was succeeded by his elder son Titus, who ruled for only two years on his own, although he had assisted Vespasian for some time prior to that.

It was on Titus' death in 81 A.D. that he was succeeded by his brother Domitian. Domitian's rule was a train-wreck, a reprise of the worst aspects of Nero's reign. He was eventually assassinated in 96 A.D.

(By the way, for you fans of the movie Gladiator, after another couple of pretenders came and went in short order, Domitian was eventually succeeded by Nerva, the first of Gibbon's five "Good Emperors". He, in turn, was succeeded by Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and, finally, Marcus Aurelius. Commodus did succeed Aurelius and was, purportedly, killed by a hired gladiator, but he ruled for 12 years before his enemies got to him.)

Wolfe uses a Greek-born philosopher named Epictetus as his primary source of Stoic wisdom. I don't know enough about classical philosophy to say whether Wolfe's extensive quotations are accurate or not. But according to some quick research, Epictetus lived from 55 A.D. to 135 A.D. Obviously, he would not have had anything to do with Nero, but he was, in fact, exiled by Domitian in 89 A.D. for his beliefs.

Wolfe also mentions two other classical figures specifically in connection with Nero's reign. One is a certain Agrippinus, a Stoic, who refused to make a fool of himself by participating in some entertainments commanded by Nero. The other is Florus, a historian, who, according to Wolfe, Agrippinus upbraids for even considering bowing to the Imperial command. Well, the bit about Agrippinus appears to check out. But the only historian named Florus I can find wrote a Cliffnotes version of the works of Livy during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 A.D.).

So why do I bring this up? Well, the glaring error about Roman Imperial succession leapt right out at me when I read it. This had the effect of making me suspicious about the other assertions Wolfe made about classical history and philosophy. Some quick research suggests that Wolfe has, in fact, mangled things a bit.

Of course, A Man In Full is a work of fiction. Artistic license and all that. But it seems to me that Wolfe's message would be more effective if, when he relies on what one might call gen-u-ine facts, he gets them right. When I become aware of this kind of fudging, especially when it involves such easily checkable facts, it tends to dampen my enjoyment of the rest of what the author is trying to say.

Okay.....maybe I am a dork.

Posted by Robert at 09:28 AM | Comments (10)

I'm off to Moonbat Central

I'm heading out to the airport in about two hours for an afternoon flight to the left coast. So if you are in an airport today and see large bands of men in pressed jeans or khakis, new sneakers, pens sticking out of the pocket, and bad comb-overs, acting like a bunch of silver back gorillas at grooming time, my best advice is run in the other direction. Lest you be subjected to forty-five minute discourses on preference falsification among pygmy shuffleboard player voters in idaho, and how it's really just awful that Smirky McChimp Hitler is just ruining Amerika's reputation in the world, evidenced by the treatment of the waiters at that little tratoria in Tuscany that was just downright rude to us, even after we apologized for all the zionist-influence in Amerikan society.......

Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to this meeting because there's a good bunch of folks who go who are interested in American political development. The Western Political Science Association meeting is fun because the environment is good for putting out new ideas and questions and getting solid feedback on your work. It's definitely casual, like the Southern PSA meeting, except unlike the Southern, the drinking doesn't begin until the evening, whereas at the Southern it starts at lunch and goes downhill from there. (It doesn't help that the Southern is usually in either New Orleans or Savannah). The Midwestern meeting is every spring in Chicago, and while Chicago is a fabulous place to visit for conventions, the meeting's culture is very cold, with folks reguarly getting into food fights at panels over whose chi-square is bigger. (Not literally food fights, a qualification one couldn't make about the Southern though). At the Western, it's hard to eat alone---people are very good about inviting folks along, which goes a long way to fostering the environment of the meeting.

I'm bringing the laptop (and the digital camera), but blogging will be non-existent (unless something huge happens, what with it being the anniversary of the war starting and my being in the mating grounds of desmoda lunaris).

So I'll leave you in Robbo's refreshed hooves, confident in the knowledge that we never asked Kathy to return the keys to the LLama Clubhouse. So you never know what will happen...

Posted by Steve at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005


This rocks. Camille Paglia is putting out a new book of what she considers to be some of the World's best poetry. Today's Telegraph carries a modified version of her introduction to the book.

I have always enjoyed Paglia's writing for its incredible energy and exacting standards. Occasionally she goes 'round the bend on political topics but I can't recall ever having read one of her more academic pieces without having found myself agreeing with a substantial amount of what she has to say. And when she gets her axe out, it is wise for the objects of her criticism to run for it. An example of her thoughts on poetry and its analysis:

Artists are makers, not just mouthers of slippery discourse. Poets are fabricators and engineers, pursuing a craft analogous to cabinetry or bridge building. I maintain that the text emphatically exists as an object; it is not just a mist of ephemeral subjectivities. Every reading is partial, but that does not absolve us from the quest for meaning, which defines us as a species. In writing about a poem, I try to listen to it and find a language and tone that mesh with its own idiom. We live in a time increasingly indifferent to literary style, from the slack prose of once august newspapers to pedestrian translations of the Bible. The internet (which I champion and to which I have extensively contributed) has increased verbal fluency but not quality, at least in its rushed, patchy genres of e-mail and blog. Good writing comes from good reading. All literary criticism should be accessible to the general reader. Criticism at its best is re-creative, not spirit-killing. Technical analysis of a poem is like breaking down a car engine, which has to be reassembled to run again. Theorists childishly smash up their subjects and leave the disjecta membra like litter.


Yips! (again) to Beautifully Atrocious Jeff.

Posted by Robert at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)

Red Meat.....We Crave Sustenance!*

"Good Things," as Martha would say. Courtesy of Whole Foods.

I had forgotten, but thanks to Jon at Misplaced Keys, I am reminded that today is the Third Annual Eat An Animal for PETA Day. Go check out Jon's moosey contribution to the cause.

I suppose the reason the day slipped my mind is that to me "Eat an Animal Day" is the equivalent of "Breath Oxygen Day" or "Put One Foot In Front Of The Other To Walk Day". I mean, well opposed to what?

Durn, now I'm all hungry. And it's still a couple hours till dinner.....

(*As always, the floor is open for identifying the quote.)

UPDATE: Quote successfully identified. Also, thanks to Beautifully Atrocious Jeff, my appetite has been temporarily suppressed. What is "pleather" anyway? Or do I want to know?

UPDATE DEUX: Yow! Kevin at Wizbang has got again.

Posted by Robert at 04:48 PM | Comments (7)

A-hole Bingo

Ann Althouse relates an incident at the University of Wisconsin about a seminar square-off between a professor and a student. The professor (and several witnesses) claims the student was being disruptive in class. The student claims he's being persecuted for having a "belief system....inconsistent with" the professor's "conformist liberal views". The whole thing seems to have been turned over to a dean for sorting out.

As Ann correctly states, it's impossible to know from the article she cites what really happened. But based on my own experience, I've got a hunch the student was being a jerk. Ann asks some interesting questions regarding the accomodation of student ideological bents in the academic setting, but from what I've seen the problem is usually more one of ego than politics. Indeed, unlike Ann, I can easily conceive of a student who ideologically agrees with the professor and yet somehow is disruptive. There are just some students who don't know when the hell to shut up - this goes for both conservatives and liberals.

We used to play a game in law school called A-hole Bingo with just such a set of students in mind. Someone would generate Bingo cards with random student names on them. In class, if one of the students on your card volunteered an answer or observation, you marked off his or her name. In order to win the game, once you got the requisite up, down or diagonal row, you had to volunteer a comment to the professor yourself, somehow incorporating the word "bingo" into it.

The genesis of the game was a set of three especially talkative and combative students in the class known behind their backs as the Three Amigos. If you were lucky enough to get all three of their names on your card on a given day, you were almost sure to win. The Amigos were well known for going off on inane tangents, arguing petty points and just generally being, well, pains in the class. There was no common ideological bent among them - they were all simply abrasive loudmouths. In three years of close observation, I saw each of them get on the nerves of professors of all political stripe, from the staunchly conservative to the flaming liberal. I don't know that any of them ever had to speak to a dean, but all of them got the occasional rocket from the podium when they'd gone too far.

Posted by Robert at 03:21 PM | Comments (8)

All-Star Tee Vee Theme Songs

RetroCrush has got his list of Top 25 Tee Vee Theme Songs posted, along with the remaining 75 that round out his top 100 project.

I'm willing to go along with his choice for No. 1. It's always been one of my favorites. As for other songs that made and/or didn't make the list, I'm sure you've got a world of comment. Have at it.

One thing - I'm also glad the Monkees' theme made the list for purely nostalgic reasons. When I was a kid, I used to play a game with my mother in which we'd substitute other animals in the lyric, trying to top each other. So we would sing things like,

Hey, Hey, we're the Hippopotomuses!

Hey, Hey, we're the Orangutans!

Hey, Hey, we're the Three-Toed Tree Sloths!

and so on.

Yips! to Jonathan Last at Galley Slaves.

Posted by Robert at 01:32 PM | Comments (6)

Fear and Loathing In Disney World, Part I - Slouching Toward Kissimmee

We hates I-95.

Forty-eight hours later, that’s still the alpha and omega of my thoughts regarding our drive to Florida and back. Adding up the 900 miles each way between the Butcher’s House and the In-Laws and the 300 mile round trip from their place to the Den of the Mouse and back, I easily put in a solid 2100 miles of roadwork last week. According to a quick squint at the handy-dandy Rand-McNally map in the basement, in a straight line this would have put me into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles or San Francisco. And I’m still feeling the after-effects of the sheer physical strain: my forearms are so pumped up, they look like Popeye’s. My wrists are still as sore as Pee Wee Herman’s in a peep show. And even as I write, my thumbs are still completely numb.

If you count the Dee Cee Beltway as part of it, I live only a few miles off I-95. So do my In-laws. This means that the vast majority of the drive is spent on this One. Bloody. Belt. Of. Asphalt. And the worst part of it isn’t the distance itself. No, as seasoned travelers of the East Coast know, anyone unfortunate enough to have to travel south of Dee Cee gets the short end of the stick both in terms of natural and man-made geography. This is one of the most bloody boring stretches of highway known to Man.

We take I-95 up to Maine every summer. Headed in that direction, there is almost always something to occupy one’s attention (apart from a couple hours dead time on the Jersey Turnpike. Sorry, Gordon.) The states are small, coming and going so quickly that one barely has time to stop grumbling about one toll-booth before coming to the next. (This is especially true of “sneeze and you missed it, but that’ll be $3.50 anyway” Delaware.) The highway runs directly through several major cities, including Baltimore with its Death Star trench-like Ft. McHenry Tunnel and, of course, New York, where I always take the Cross-Bronx Expressway for that certain touch o’ adventure. But even more interesting are the natural landmarks like the big rivers – the Susquehanna, the Delaware, the Hudson and the Connecticut – and the gradual change from the lazy hills of the mid-Atlantic to the starker, glacier-plowed granite landscape of New England.

Such is not the case headed south. Each state is several hundred miles across. You get tired of South Carolina long before South Carolina is ready to release you. As for cities and population centers? Fuggedaboudit! Once one leaves Dee Cee, and assuming one takes the Richmond/Petersburg bypass, the only city I-95 actually goes through on the way is Jacksonville, Florida. And no offense to its citizens, but, well, it really isn’t much to look at. So much for political geography. Unfortunately, Nature offers no better distractions. Once across the James River at Richmond, you won’t see another significant body of water until you hit Lake Marion, about midway across South Carolina. Topographically, things are even worse – the road wanders through the hills about the fall line for a while in Virginia, but once past Richmond, settles firmly in the coastal zone with nothing but endless rolling farms and woodland. Once you get well into South Carolina, it flattens out altogether on the true coastal plain, staying flattened all the way to Miami. It’s true that the flora changes as one passes from the Temperate to the Sub-Tropical region, but the only practical effect is that the endless acres of slash-pine are gradually replaced by endless acres of palmetto scrub. Woop-di-freakin-doo.

Of course, with a car full of small kids, we realistically could not think about doing the whole trip in one day. The Llama-ettes are good travelers, but not that good. So we split up the trip, stopping outside Savannah on the way down and near Florence, South Carolina coming back. Not so many years ago, there were not that many places to stop on I-95 unless one was a trucker or a biker. These days, though, there has been an explosion of construction and the landscape is now dotted with oases. The typical layout is a cluster of two or three hotels – Holiday Inn, various subsidiaries of Marriott and Hyatt and so forth – with a couple of “family friendly” restaurants like Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Shoney’s, plus an attendant collection of fast food joints and gas stations. There is not that much to say about them except that they are typically clean, safe and accommodating – and at this time of year booked absolutely solid as often as not. We had to try three different places when we hit Savannah before we finally found a room. And even at the place we stopped in dinky little Florence, we only managed to nab the last available room about 30 seconds before someone else came in.

Personally, I don’t mind this aspect of long-distance travel, particularly in the South and Midwest. The folks who work in these places are usually quite friendly (like the manager of the Shoney’s on Saturday night who chatted up my five year old about the Minnie Mouse cap she was wearing), if not always competent. (At one of the hotels we were first given the key to a room already occupied by someone else. And at a Mickey-D’s outside of Brunswick, GA, a busboy kept trying to sweep the floor right under my feet while I was eating in order, as he put it, to give me a “healthy dining environment”). Also, it has to be said that for all the frou-frou restaurants I’ve been to in my puff and all the fauncy food and drink I’ve tasted, after six solid hours of driving on a totally empty stomach, a bacon cheeseburger and cup of coffee from Cracker Barrel is, to me, the absolute apex of comfort food.

(Oh, I should say just a word or two about South of the Border here. As I noted a while back, I've had issues with Pedro's I-95 billboard campaign for many years. Suffice to say that Pedro no longer has any kind of psychological hold on me, as a car-full of hyperactive Llama-ettes has proved to be a successful counter-irritant. But more on that later in the series.)

This was the first time I’ve done any extensive driving in Florida (pronounced “Flahr-uh-duh” by many of the Snowbirds), but everything Dave Barry has ever written about the experience came flooding back into my mind. Here you had it all – flat, straight as a tape measure highways just crying out for triple-digit speed from the more hot-blooded of the drivers; mile wide Caddies driven by pairs of apparently disembodied hands and puttering along at 45 MPH; gangs of bikers who all insist on staying packed together in shoals, thus giving other drivers all the inconvenience of having to maneuver around an 18-wheeler sized block of real estate with the added bonus of having to worry about 10 or 15 different lunatics’ worth of bad driving decisions and sudden lane changes. But in fact, the most frustrating part was getting through Jacksonville. Lots and lots of congestion, construction and confusion there. No wonder they have sniper problems. Crawling north on Saturday, my day’s timetable already blown before I’d even gotten out of the state, I wouldn’t have minded taking a few pot-shots myself.

This was also my first experience with the Florida Turnpike. Until last week, I didn’t know there was a Florida Turnpike. It starts at Miami and cuts up through the center of the state, stopping God-knows-where. This road is even flatter and straighter than I-95, if that is possible. And at least on the 150-odd mile stretch between Okeechobee and Kissimmee, practically devoid of any signs of Humanity.

Rolling off the Turnpike on Tuesday, our last hurdle before entering the Den of the Mouse was the slouch, as it were, through Kissimmee itself. I remember that a few years ago, this town ran a series of national tee vee ads touting itself as the ideal place to stay in Central Florida for all your family vacation needs – conveniently located near Disney, Orlando and many other pleasure spots!

Forget about it. Kissimmee is a dump. A dive. A remora attached to the Mouse’s underside and feeding off the crumbs that dribble out of his giant maw. The place is extremely dirty and is jammed to the Plimsoll mark with very cheap and shabby hotels, fast food joints, souvenir stands and – those icons of seediness – putt-putt golf courses. I expect one would not have to look too far to find a mini go-cart track as well. It, too, was mobbed, both with cars and with a surprising number of people just milling about along the roadside. What they were doing, I cannot imagine. Looking for mini go-cart tracks, perhaps. But even this had an end. After crawling along the main drag bumper to bumper and through seemingly interminable road repair, now incessantly bombarded by the Llama-ettes with queries of whether we were at Disney yet, I suddenly noticed that we had passed into a region where all the traffic and street light poles were painted purple. Seeing this, I knew then that our long quest had come to an end and that the gates of the Black Land were near indeed. I knew that, at long last, it was time to face what lay beyond.......

Next time – Fear and Loathing In Disney World, Part II – Mickey’s Lair

Posted by Robert at 12:31 PM | Comments (3)

Attention Tom Wolfe Fans!

I am currently reading A Man In Full for the first time. An excellently cruel and horrifying story centered on the upper echelons of Atlanta society (with an agonizing secondary plot set in the East Bay near Oakland), it is much more polished and better developed than his more recent My Name Is Charlotte Simmons.

The primary reason I bring it up, though, is a curiously, well, clunky passage that caught my attention. At one point in the story, a subplot involving two of the characters brings them to a concert of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Wolfe's description of its performance of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony bears all the marks of an author who either doesn't know or doesn't give a damn about music. Maybe one can dismiss the sentiment as being simply that of Wolfe's unpleasant, Philistine characters, but it's difficult to do so - in the passage, the point of view of the narrative flips around among the two of them and the omniscient narrator, yet the lack of any real spark of musicality in the description of the performance remains constant. And what caps it off is Wolfe's inclusion of a reference to a piano in the performance of the piece. Last time I checked, there is no piano part in Beethoven's Sixth. (If nothing else, this also strikes me as an example of pretty sloppy editing.)

Now, I don't bring this up to snark about it. Rayther, I'm doing a little bit of blegging: I can't recall having read Wolfe deal with classical music in any other book or essay of his that I've read, either in his own voice or through one of his characters. (Radical Chic is about Lenny Bernstein, of course, but it centers on his hosting a cocktail party for the Black Panthers. It's been a long while since I read it, but I do not remember that music itself enters into the story.) If anybody out there does know of such material, I'd appreciate a yip. I'd like to compare the passages to see if I can find any pattern to them.

Posted by Robert at 09:04 AM | Comments (3)

March 14, 2005

A Blog Is Born

Long time Butcher's Shop commentor Tee Bee has taken the plunge and started a new blog: The Guide to Midwestern Culture. I love this sort of thing - another note added to the music of the Blogsphere. Go on over and offer suitable words and gestures of encouragement.

Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 05:20 PM | Comments (1)

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)

(Image courtesy of Goldberg)

Today is the birthday of Georg Philipp Telemann, born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1681. Here is a biographical sketch of his very busy and successful life. Of note is the interesting way in which his life constantly crossed the paths of those of Bach and Handel, both of whom admired his work.

When I was a kid, I didn't much like Telemann's music compared to that of Bach. Part of it was that Telemann's more improvisational style grated on my Bach-inspired notions of what sensible Baroque chamber music should sound like. But I believe that a good deal of my bias was owing to the fact that I only had access to a very few recordings of Telemann's works and those were of rather heavy-handed performances from the 50's and 60's. You can do that to Bach and his music will take it. You can't do that to Telemann - it makes his work unappealing.

I know I will ignite the wrath of a fair portion of the professional musical community by saying so, but it strikes me that not many composers' reputations have benefited from the Period Instrument Movement more than has Telemann's. For one thing, the past forty or fifty years has witnessed a concerted effort to uncover and catalogue his vast output of music, playing (so to speak) right into the hands of Baroque specialists eager for fresh meat. For another, to me his music comes alive when given what one might call the cat-gut treatment. What I remember as plodding and dull now sparkles and soars as it is performed by groups such as Musica Antiqua Koln , Camerata Koln and others. Historically speaking, these people may be completely off-base, as many conventional musicians argue. But if the CD's I have of Telemann's music are wrong, I don't want to be right.

Those of you who play the keyboard may also be interested in this - Telemann's 36 Fantasies for Keyboard. They are very short and easy pieces to play, but are also most satisfying.

Posted by Robert at 03:48 PM | Comments (1)

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) Goes Pro

Hey, Moms and Dads! Kids driving you up the wall? Don't know what to do about it? Well here's the latest fad in "parenting" fresh from the NYTimes: Parent Coaches.

The lead exhibit in this article is one Lisa D'Annolfo Levey of Woburn, Massachusetts, mother of two boisterous young boys. Here's a sample of how she deals with their hyperactive foam-swordplay:

"Forrest, how about you come up and hug Skylar instead of whacking him in the head?" Ms. Levey implored. "This is stressing me out, guys. You can sword, but I'm feeling compromised here."

Can anybody tell me what's wrong with this approach? Can anybody even tell me what the hell she's saying? Anybody? Bueller?......Bueller?....

A bit further down, Ms. Levey displays some shockingly delusional ignorance of how green the grass really is on the other side of the fence:

"There's a piece of grieving for me that I don't have girls," she told her coach. "For me, I'd be reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and drinking tea, and that's not what they are going to do."

You think that's how it works with daughters, Ms. Levey? As the father of three of 'em, I've got one word for you: AAAAAAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

According to the article, there seem to be legions of parents out there who apparently can't or won't trust common sense unless it is doled out to them by someone they're paying for it. And of course, where there is a demand, supply will always materialize. This parent coaching thing seems to be quite a racket. Let me just say here and now that I will offer my own services to any parent needing some advice - 30 bucks per question per child in the ol' tipjar and a quick email to the TastyBits Mail Sack (TM) and I'll gladly talk you down. Want an example? Here's another of Ms. Levey's "issues":

"My older son is, I would say, off-the-charts physical," Ms. Levey said, "and I needed to find a way to say I really don't enjoy playing football all that much, I don't want to read Captain Underpants, I really don't want to look through your Lego catalog."

Madam, the word you're looking for here is, "No".

That'll be 30 bucks, please.

Yips! to Jimmie at the Sundries Shack.

UPDATE: In answer to my own question in the comments, I present your one-stop shopping spot for all things Captain Underpants. Still a mystery to me, but apparently quite popular. Speaking of kiddies and comic crime-fighting, you may be interested to know that I've got my Mojo Jojo voice down cold.

Posted by Robert at 02:35 PM | Comments (9)

God Help Us All.....

The blood-red sunrise you might have seen this morning, together with the reports you might have heard concerning an unusual spike in the number of births of two-headed calves, are subject to a ready explanation: Yesterday I was elected to the Vestry of my Church.

Several readers have asked what the function is of the Vestry in the Episcopal Church. Well, here's a handy-dandy Palie Vocabulary Sheet that will help fill you in. Basically, the Vestry serves as the governing and policy-making body of the Parish. Not to orgle about it, but this is a pretty big deal.

I am still very surprised that I was even nominated, much less elected, feeling as I do that I am hidiously unqualified for the position. I also was surprised at the demographics of the elections as a whole. There are fifteen lay members of the Vestry altogether, who serve three year terms in staggered classes of five. In past years, there have generally been one or two "young people" on the Vestry who, although the Church tries to discourage it, were generally viewed as representatives of the interests of the younger crowd. The majority of the members were typically much older and more established. This year seems to have been different. Five slots were filled in yesterday's elections and all of the candidates for them were roughly my age. It strikes me that this is going to change the profile of the Vestry as a whole pretty significantly.

Given the convulsions the Episcopal Church is going through and is likely to continue to experience over the next few years, this should be an interesting ride. If nothing else, this new position gives me the opportunity to actually try and do something about shaping the course my Parish takes, rather than just sitting on the sidelines and snarking about it. Which also makes me wonder a bit. The local clergy are all quite liberal, (as is about half of the congregation) and there is a standing joke about the iron-fisted way in which our Rector rules the Parish. My traditionalist bent is pretty well known. I have to believe that if the Rector had wanted my nomination quashed, he could have done so pretty easily. Why he didn't is what makes me wonder. Perhaps there is some Machiavellian undercurrent, perhaps not. If so, I'll be sure to report it. If not, I'll be sure to make one up.

Posted by Robert at 12:00 PM | Comments (7)

Fear and Loathing In Disneyworld - Prologue

As you can tell by now, I am back from my travels to central Florida and Uncle Walt's Cultural Reeducation Camp. We got in yesterday around lunchtime. It is almost exactly 900 miles doorstep to doorstep between the Butcher's House and the In-Laws' place, where we stayed when not tramping around Barad-Mickey.

I sat down last night to compose the first of my essays about the trip, titled as I proposed last week, Slouching Toward Kissimmee. I wanted to put down some of the impressions I picked up while slogging through some 2100 miles of drive time last week. When I finished, it seemed a pretty good piece. But upon rereading it this morning, I realized that I had simply churned out a 3000 word screed on how much I hate I-95. Evidently, I still need some time to de-jangle before I can say anything both coherent and interesting.

So in the meantime, just to limber up the ol' bean and get back into the flow, I'll confine myself to non-Disney related posting today.

Three things about how things went here while I was out:

1. As soon as I left, the TTLB Ecosystem launched us into Playful Primate status. As soon as I'm back, we're back down to Large Mammalian rank. Don't think I don't notice these things.

2. Thanks much to our own LMC for jumping in - and many apologies to Mrs. LMC for giving him a new toy to play with!

3. Message to Kathy: Neener, neener, neeeeeeener!

Yip! Yip!

YIPS from Steve:

Kath calls it "">admirable restraint" but I've got another word for it.....


Anyhoo, I'll confess I was sweating bullets having the Cake Eater guest blog for the week, what with all those pics of the LLamas, Bradley Whitford, Susan Sarandon, and Mary Steenburgen playing leather Twister(TM) lying around the Tree Fort. I thought for sure Kath would blow our cover, but I guess letting her play "CJ" in our nightly round of naughty jammy readings of old West Wing scripts was the secret to her silence...... (you know, such as tonight's very special episode, Leo's been naughty and accidently nuked Taiwan, and now needs to be punished)

Posted by Robert at 10:14 AM | Comments (6)

Trailer Trash

What better way to get back into the swing of things than damming out of hand movies I haven't even seen?

We took the older Llama-ettes to see Robots last Friday. Meh. I don't really have anything to say about it except that no one at Pixar is going to lose any sleep over its release.

What grabbed my attention instead was what my five year old calls the "pregews". First of all, I finally saw the trailer for the new Star Wars movie. Frankly, it was coo-el. But then again, so were the trailers for the last two episodes. I tell you truly that I believe the movie itself is going to be just as big a disappointment as they were. I don't know how the Lucas Ego is going to trash it. I just know that it will.

But what really got to me was this abomination:


This is completely, utterly, horribly wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Damn near everyone in the blogsphere has given me grief for defending the cheesy old Battlestar Galactica series against the predations of the updated BSG, but this is an entirely different case. You do not screw around with a classic:


How Tim Burton ever conceived of the notion that Johnny Depp would have a prayer of successfully filling Gene Wilder's shoes I cannot begin to imagine. And judging from the clips I saw, the rest of the movie built around this idea is equally repulsive. I'm nailing my flag to the mast on this one - there are some places one simply should not go and this is one of them. And there is no power in Heaven or on Earth that can convince me that I'm mistaken.

UPDATE: Aha! Steve at Secure Liberty jumps on a point that I almost addressed, that of faithfulness to the original Roald Dahl book, which Steve says Tim Burton is going for. Having never read the book, I couldn't say, nor would proof that this is the case cause me to change my mind about his movie. I still think it is going to be awful. Frankly, I've nothing against Johnny Depp. But I am deeply suspicious of the quality of most of the stuff coming out of Hollywood these days. And I think Tim Burton is vastly overrated by many people, including himself. My guess is that Wilder's Willy Wonka* is going to maintain its classic standing long after Depps' is relegated to the bargain bin at Blockbuster.

(*Of course, I know nothing about how faithful the Wilder version of the film is to the book either. But this doesn't matter much to me. Some day, if you're very good, I'll explain what I call Robbo's Wizard of Oz Principle, that is, the exception to my general damnation of screenplay treatments of literature which explains how in certain very specific circumstances a movie may be enjoyable in spite of - or even because of - the liberties it takes with the book on which it is based.)

UPDATE DEUX: Judging from all the Willy Wonka commentary, my work is done on that front. So, from the Someone-With-Waaaay-Too-Much-Time-On-His-Hands File, here's a link to a second-by-second breakdown of the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith trailer.

Yips! to Kevin over at Naked Villiany, who also poses an interesting question regarding what political bumper stickers might be found on the back of Darth Vader's T.I.E. fighter.

YIPS from Steve: At the risk of being contentious I'm going to have to go and say that the original Willy Wonka hasn't stood the test of time. It's dated, the music stinks in a bad wucka-wucka early seventies sort of way, the costumes are horrible, but most of all the acting stinks. I'm sorry, but that's my perspective. The problem is that it's told as Willy Wonka's story, when the story is really about Charlie. How they balderized the scene at the core of the story---how Charlie finds the money in the snowbank, the whole tension as he finds the golden ticket, in the story it's gut-wrenchingly beautiful. In the movie, hey look---dancing fireplugs! Whoa, bad acid trip, man!

Now granted, the Oompah-Loompahs rule, if anything just for our collective fantasy of seeing O-Dub getting rolled away like Veruca Salt. Still, Sheila's right: Tim Burton is on top of his game, and if anyone can bring Dahl to film it would be him.

But then again, I prefer the story to the movie in the Wizard of Oz, so I might be the statistical outlier here.

Posted by Robert at 09:12 AM | Comments (13)

Random Commuter Thoughts...

Note to Lexus ad-copy writers: Allow me to point out that one cannot properly use the expression "so unique" to describe an object. Either a thing is unique or it is not. There is no such thing as a comparative degree of uniqueness, any more than there is of pregnancy or death.

I realize that the rules of marketing, which state that such expressions appeal to the rubes on whom you're flogging your product, trump the rules of grammar. But I feel the point should be made nonetheless.

That is all.

(Heh. Miss me?)

Posted by Robert at 09:05 AM | Comments (1)

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night

So, now that you've got that stuck in your heads, it's time for me to say goodbye.

{Insert the cheers of the masses here}

I've had a great time playing in Steve and Rob's sandbox this week, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Thanks to the boys for trusting me with said sandbox, and to the LMC for helping me to construct a neato fort---with flags sticking out the top and everything. I had a great time, but, dude, you still can't have my dump truck.

Robbo should be back at the keyboard sometime tomorrow, making numerous comparisons between Michael Eisner and the Dark Lord Sauron. (Or is it Saruman? I can never keep all this Tolkein crap straight.) I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath, in fact. I know I am. I can't wait to read all about it.

On the off chance that I've converted a few of you over to the dark side that is Cake Eating, you can find me over at the Cake Eater Chronicles most days of the week, and perhaps, if I'm feeling particularly naughty, twice on Sundays.

Posted by Kathy at 12:33 AM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2005

Who's Watching the Nutjob Watchers?

Why, I am, of course. And I'm laughing my fine wide arse off, too.

Some of you might remember who Nick Coleman is. No one's going to be mad at you if you don't. But just to refresh your memory he's a columnist with the Strib who apparently has an axe to grind with bloggers in general, and the Powerline guys in particular. Remember Nick? He reportedly "knows stuff" because he's a "reporter." That bloggers are, in his opinion, and this is just off the top of my head, "vicious and vacuous."

Yeah. That guy.

Well, anyway, Nick recently got himself a job on the radio. On the Twin Cities Air America affiliate. As part of his radio schtick, he wants ewerywone to be wery, wery quiet. He's hunting wocal bwoggers.

{...}Earlier this week he sent a “secret agent” (who apparently works under cover as the producer on his radio show) to “infiltrate” (also known as not introducing yourself) the “61st Minute” event at the Marriott. And last night agent double-o-moonbat also apparently “infiltrated” Keegan’s. Since the place is open to the public and was quite a bustling place yesterday, I had assumed the non-bloggers there were something we call "customers." Now I know better. They were all spies. Welcome to a little slice of Coleman's paranoia.

This is not normal behavior. Walking into public establishments observing things and reporting about what you saw is usually done under the name “reporting,” even if it’s half-assed and crappy reporting a la Nick Coleman. But no. In Nick’s advanced delusional state, he’s a spymaster exposing the “right wing noise machine” by "infiltrating" our secret (though well-publicized) gatherings.{...}

Go read Doug's whole post and make sure to follow the links. It gets weirder. And funnier, if you ask me. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried and generally fiction is not a problem area for me, ya dig?

Posted by Kathy at 03:53 PM | Comments (2)

Tacky Schmacky

While I'm of the general opinion that no one in their right mind should ever wear rabbit fur because it's the poor woman's fur---and it shows---PETA's opposition to JLo's new Sweetface collection, which apparently uses it liberally, is enough to make me want to buy a rabbit trimmed jacket for myself.

{...}"J.Lo knows what animals who are killed for their skins endure," the Web site reads. "PETA has contacted her with letters and videos no less than a dozen times. Lopez may try to convince her fans that her rabbit-trimmed jackets are a must-have, but what she won't tell you is that bunnies killed for fur coats scream as they are skinned alive!"

Yep. I'll buy Thumper's pelt. Just to piss PETA off.

Of course, I'm diametrically opposed to supporting anything JLo does, so I will only buy said jacket when it hits the consignment store, so none of my money actually goes to her, while I get a bargain in the meantime.

And I'll just hang it in my closet. I won't actually wear it.

Because that would just be tacky.

And don't forget that March 15th is the THIRD ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL EAT AN ANIMAL FOR PETA DAY. Make sure to hit the grocery store today so you have steaks in the freezer for Tuesday's dinner.

Mmmmmm. Cow.

Posted by Kathy at 02:22 PM | Comments (2)

Quote of The Day

From Paul Johnson's column in Forbes (registration required):

{...}The Congo is only one of scores of failed UN missions in Africa alone. These failures don't seem to be taken very seriously by top UN bureaucrats. For example, Kofi Annan's predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who is criticized in the first report of the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, replied: "I am not saying I am not responsible in this case. There are a lot of things that I am responsible for that were ten times worse than this, such as the genocide in Rwanda."

{my emphasis} Boutros Boutros-Ghali is really showing us where our priorities should be, eh? And admitting fault for Rwanda! It's a two-fer!

Go read Johnson's entire column. It's worth it.

Related aside: does anyone else miss having Boutros Boutros-Ghali as the Secretary General because they enjoyed the way his name rolled off their tongue? Particularly when they were faking a French accent?

Ok, erm...I guess not. I'm weird. I know this.

Posted by Kathy at 01:49 PM | Comments (2)

I Blame Steve and Robert

Yeah, the Llamabutchers may have gone up in the TTLB during my tenure here.

But my blog went down .

I am no longer a large mammal, but have dropped back down to marauding marsupial status. And I am more peeved about this development than I should be, being a blogger who does not, on the whole, concern herself with these sorts of things. It shouldn't rankle. But it does and I don't know which development to beat myself up about: the fact that my blog went down, or the fact that I'm bothered by it.


What's that they say about no good deed going unpunished?

Posted by Kathy at 01:35 PM | Comments (2)

March 11, 2005

Gratuitous Long Distance Posting (TM) - Update

I posted earlier today that I was toying with the idea of making the 15-odd total hours run from South Central Florida to Northern Virginia all in one go tomorrow in order to beat a snowstorm into the region on Sunday. Well, the latest forecast is that the storm will blow through NoVa tomorrow, leaving Sunday a pretty decent day. So instead of one-hopping it, we'll probably split the trip over two days, fetching up somewhere in North Carolina (say, Wilson) or Southern Virginia tomorrow night.

Whether the Llama-ettes survive the trip is a very open-ended question at this point........[Insert sound of frustrated Daddy pounding head against counter-top]

Posted by Robert at 06:53 PM | Comments (1)

LLama Travel Bleg

I'm putting myself at the mercy of the readership here....

Next weekend I'm going to be in sunny downtown Oakland, California for four days attending a conference. (Travel Tip: it's easy to spot the political scientists in the airport, as they are the guys wearing the khaki pants, new sneakers, blue-ish shirt, glasses--the standard professorial Garanimals look)

Anyhoo, I'd appreciate any suggestions for places to eat/things to do etc., as well as the easiest way to get from downtown Oakland across the Bay to SF.


Posted by Steve at 04:45 PM | Comments (9)

More ISU Fan Girl Stuff

After yesterday's posting on Kelly's, I've made a new friend.

His name is Russ, he's from Winterset (and how are those bridges down in Madison County?) and he's down in KC for the tournament and has been posting on his adventures (and basketball, of course) over at Cyclone Nation. You can find his posts here, here and here. He said some kind things about me in his last post, and is having a beer for me today. (Woohoo! Vicarious imbibing! Hot damn!) One can only hope it's a celebratory beer.

I only have one thing to add to this:

{...}if I learned ANYTHING at all during my tenure at ISU, it’s that pessimism should be your natural response to life – well, that and I also learned that if you’re going to feed the ducks on Lake Luverne after bar closing time, they prefer white bread (with the crusts torn off, of course).{...}

You should have also learned, Russ, that no brick has ever come loose from the Campanile.

And it never will happen, either.

UPDATE: Grrrrrrr.

Posted by Kathy at 04:23 PM | Comments (5)

"Help, We're Being Repressed by The Ever Present Capitalist Hegemony!"

The Harvard Crimson has come out against a student owned and operated maid service---despite Harvard's approval of said service---is calling for a student boycott because they believe it will separate the haves and have-nots even further.

{...}Dormaid, founded by Michael E. Kopko ’07, is a cleaning service that allows students to avoid the perennial problem of dingy, smutty, questionably-habitable rooms. But as appealing as the thought of a perpetually tidy room may be, (independent of family visits), Dormaid could potentially mess up as many rooms as it cleans. By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity.

{...}The egalitarian nature of dorm life helps to foster a sense of collegiate camaraderie, an unadulterated respect for peers; it generates a level playing field that encourages learning between people of all upbringings. A service like Dormaid can bring many levels of awkwardness into this picture. For example, do two people sharing a double split the cost? What if one wants the service and the other does not? What if one cannot afford it? Hiring someone to clean dorm rooms is a convenience, but it is also an obvious display of wealth that would establish a perceived, if unspoken, barrier between students of different economic means.

{...}Although Harvard has given its approval, students don’t have to. We urge the student body to boycott Dormaid. Everyone’s certainly busy, but Harvard students shouldn’t choose convenience over healthy relationships with their blockmates. It’s up to each one of us to ensure that our peers feel comfortable on campus, and if that means plugging in a vacuum every two weeks, then so be it.

Quite honestly, I'd always assumed they already had maid service at Harvard.

Learn something new everyday, don't you?

Posted by Kathy at 01:56 PM | Comments (4)

Gratuitous Long Distance Posting (TM)

Hellooooo, Llamaland! Robbo here, transmitting from an undisclosed location near Port St. Lucie, Florida. Although I haven't got back to Ol' Virginny yet, I couldn't resist the opportunity afforded by the In-Laws of taking a quick peek to see how things were going here (the fact that we appear to have vaulted in the TTLB rankings during my absence is, how shall I put it, disturbing to say the least. Sniff.)

Also, I wanted to give you a quick preview of the ideas I'm knocking around for a series of extended posts on my experiences with Der Maus. After five minutes of brain-storming this morning, I currently see it as a five-part series under the general title Fear and Loathing in Disneyworld:

Part I - Slouching Toward Kissimmee - a travelogue of the I-95 roadtrip experience with reflections on Americana.

Part II - Mickey's Lair - Impressions of staying on-site in Uncle Walt's Cultural Reeducation Camp.

Part III - At The Stillpoint of Destruction/ At The Center Of The Fury - or - How To Be Entertained Within An Inch Of Your Life - Forty-eight hours on the ground in the Magic Kingdom.

Part IV - Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - or - No, They're Not My Children - War stories from riding herd over a pack of over-stimulated kiddies.

Part V - Conclusion - On All Things Rodential - A summary of my impressions from this week.

I will just say here that most things were pretty much as I expected them to be. Nonetheless, the kids had fun, the grandparents got to spend a lot of time with them and even the Butcher's Wife was forced to admit that I behaved myself very well. All in all, I think the trip has been a success.

Now comes the hard part. It's about thirteen hours of actual drive time between here and the Butcher's House, not counting stops. The forecast is for a snowstorm moving into Virginia Sunday, so I think I'm going to have to try and do the whole drive tomorrow in order to beat it in. My opinion of the success of the trip may alter somewhat, depending on how the journey home goes.

In the meantime, we're off to see the incredibly annoying Robin Williams in the movie Robots this afternoon. I'll be sure to post a review of it if and when I can.

Thanks again to the LMC and Kathy for holding the fort this week. Regular Robbo Posting probably will return on Monday. Until then, have fun, be good and Yip! Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 08:41 AM | Comments (3)

March 10, 2005

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM)

I've been slacking on this topic, I'm afraid. But heck, there's really nothing at all interesting going on at the Cake Eater Pad, and for some strange reason (er, could it be the fact she refuses to chip out for call waiting and I KEEP GETTING A BUSY SIGNAL? Hmmm. I dunno.) I can't get a hold of my sister to feed me Maggie stories to entertain you all with.

Anyway, Drew's got you covered.

Super Sekrit Message to Steve-o: You need to go over and help them with baby names. They're having issues. {ducking and running}

Posted by Kathy at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)


This does it for me as a guest blogger. I have a busy day tomorrow and drill this weekend so Kathy and Steve will have to hold the fort until Robbo comes back from his battles with Der Mouse at Uncle Walt’s Orlando Re-education Camp and Palace Suites. Steve-O and Robbo, thanks for opportunity to post my rants on obscure topics and thanks to Kathy and our faithful readers for the helpful comments.

Posted by LMC at 09:29 PM | Comments (2)


Karen Allen and Kate Capshaw. at the suggestion of a loyal reader. Karen’s breakthrough flick: Animal House. Best movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Best line from best movie: “Indy, you always know how to show a girl a good time.” Last seen in The Perfect Storm. No radar contact since. Missing and presumed lost.

Kate Capshaw: breakthrough movie: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where she played a ditz who almost became The Sacrificial Blonde. Claim to fame: married Stephen Spielberg. Can anyone remember the last decent movie she was in? Not that she needs the money

UPDATE: faithful reader Cindy has pulled Kate to shore and she is officially off the Flash in the Pan Babes of the Eighties and Nineties. I used to think I watched too much TV now it is apparent I do not watch nearly enough. Karen Allen continues to listed as missing and presumed lost. Has anyone seen Karen? Anyone? Bueller?

Posted by LMC at 09:08 PM | Comments (6)


THE GALS OF FOX & FRIENDS: Beat that pack of aging nags on NBC with a stick. I admit it, I have a dirty little secret. I used to watch the “Today” show and might have even had a thing for Ann Curry. However, the product of that unholy union between Hillary Clinton and Kim Gandy, i.e., Katie Couric, just got on my nerves too much. I tried looking at the bright side but the Parade of the White Breads (Claire Shipment, Jodie Applegate, et al) was too much. Soledad O’Brien helped out for a while but bailed.

I would love to see E.D. Hill a/k/a the Fox Goddess of Fertility, taking on that overpaid and over-rated Perky Katie. I would pay serious money to see Keran Chetry take on Jodie Applegate, especially since Keran attended a costume party dressed as Tomb Raider Lara Croft, right down to the spandex and the pistols. Ann Curry would not last two minutes up against Lauren Green.

Posted by LMC at 08:51 PM | Comments (3)

Poor You

John L. over at Texas Best Grok had some issues with his most recent Sci-Fi Babe polling. Hence, he's asking you to go vote again.

It's the Fox chicas redux. I have no opinion, because, really, despite the rumors you might have heard, I'm not a lesbian. But if I were, well, it'd be Gillian Anderson all the way.

I do believe Bill had some opinion on this one, but I can't be bothered to remember what it is.

Posted by Kathy at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

Just Wondering

Does it make me a lesbian if I write, "Mmmmmm....Peggy"?

Or am I just "being adventurous?"

Posted by Kathy at 06:00 PM | Comments (4)

Most Appropriate Headline Ever

Star Wars Goes To Hell

Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. We knew that a few years ago.

{...}"[The film] {ed.---Episode Three} is much more dark...more emotional. It's much more of a tragedy. My feeling is that it will probably be a PG-13, so it will be the first 'Star Wars' that's a PG-13."

And, gee, here I was expecting an "R" rating.

In true Ron Popeil fashion, ...but wait...there's more!

{...}And that's fine with Lucas. "I could pull it back a little bit, but I don't really want to," he says.

And Lucas says he isn't bothered by the withering reviews critics gave episodes one and two. "Actually, I am very happy," he says. "I'm very pleased with the whole thing."

{Insert sound of Kathy repeatedly slamming her head on her desk here}

Posted by Kathy at 02:31 PM | Comments (10)

Just in Case You Were Wondering

Typos can, indeed, cause diplomatic incidents.

Just more proof that Sudan is a bassackwards sort of place. Not like you needed any more proof, though, right?

Posted by Kathy at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

And In Other Sports News...

MLB Players and Owners are refusing to testify before Congress about steroid use, because it "...violates a player's right to privacy."

Ummm, if memory serves, doesn't MLB have some sort of exemption regarding the anti-trust laws? If so, doesn't this stance seem, well, more than a little stupid? If MLB's reasoning to avoid government intervention in regards to steroids is that they can handle this themselves, wouldn't it be smarter to throw the government a bone in the form of cooperation, rather than flipping them the legal equivalent of the bird?

I'm not denying that testifying before Congress doesn't have any risk attached, but it's not exactly the same thing as testifying before a honest-to-goodness grand jury. It seems as if a compromise could have been reached regarding testimony, but apparently that was too much of a bother. As a result, we will have a brouhaha. Wherein MLB's anti-trust exemption could come into play.

But then again, perhaps I'm expecting intelligence on the part of people who don't seem to possess much in the first place.

Posted by Kathy at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

Sage advice from Ace

Apparently the Israeli army is discriminating against recruits who play Dungeons and Dragons.

Words to live by:

When they came for the Star Trek conventioneers, I said nothing, because I never bothered to pick up even a coversational-level of Klingon.

And when they came for the model railroad enthusiasts, still I kept silent, because I just never felt like dealing with all that glue and cotton-swabs.

And when they came for the massively-multiplayer on-line role-playing gamers, I yet held my tongue, because it's difficult to remain IC ("in character") when you're dealing with horny fourteen-year-old boys who keep asking you "where the whorehouse is" and "Doth thee know of any fair maidens who wisheth to cyber?"

And then when they came for me, no one said anything, because there were no geeks, nerds, dorkwads or gaywads left to cry out.

Or, as the great Justice Louis Brandeis said in the landmark privacy case U.S. Versus Asmodeous, Baalzebul, Jubilex, et al., "What a man chooses to do in the privacy of his own home with graph paper and miniature mind-flayers is no one's business but his own."

Posted by Steve at 01:12 PM | Comments (1)

And They Shall Gather At Kelly's

Ah, it's Tournament Time. The time when the nuttiness that is Iowa State men's basketball truly comes to the fore.

Of course, being good little Iowans, people like to partake in this nuttiness away from their homes, working under the assumption that you do not poison the well out of which you drink. It's one thing to get nutty at home, where everyone will be talking about your antics for months---perhaps years---on end. It's entirely another thing entirely to gather in a bar that has acted as a veritable home away from home for years, and then get crazy. It's safe, it's familiar, yet it's also somewhat dangerous because there's no threat of neighborly scorn to keep you in line. A good time to be had all around, no?

Well, that and they can get some shopping in at the same time.

No doubt, you are wondering what the hell I am talking about. The Big XII tournament begins today at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. We used to call this tourney, "Big Eight's." We can't do that any longer, unfortunately, but it's still an excuse to go to KC to get ripped. Because, most of the time, this tournament is as close as our beloved Cyclones get to the "actual" madness that is March for basketball fans and we feel we must take advantage of the opportunity while we've got the chance. KC is about a five hour drive from Ames, four if you're coming from Des Moines, and every March, right about this time, thousands of Iowa State fans descend upon KC like a swarm of locusts. Some of them, invariably, wind up at Kelly's.

Kelly's is the unofficial Iowa State Bar in Westport. If you want the Mizzou bar, you go here. I have no idea where the other teams' fans do their drinking, but I'm sure they have their own venues, with their own legends, sorted out. It's just the way things work. Kelly's, to be blunt about it, is about two steps up from a dive. It's in Westport, which, in the contrary notion that always seems to surround fine drinking establishments, resides in a dump of a neighborhood. Westport, not to put too fine a point on it, is not someplace you want to get lost late at night. But, if you're with a group of people, who have a. no tickets to the games and b. nothing better to do over a long weekend than scope out a booth early and then sit in said booth for the better part of a weekend, well, this is the place for you. Of course this doesn't mention the fact that you're bound to run into people you knew in school. It's sort of like a mini-homecoming, or VEISHEA, only you don't have to go anywhere near Ames to see these people.

It should be particularly exciting at Kelly's this year. I'm sure the fans are rarin' to go, and there is probably one guy who's is staking out the entrance to Kelly's as I write this, just waiting for the clock to strike eleven, so they can get in there and snag a premium viewing spot. After all, we did knock off Kansas this year---at the Fieldhouse. We got close with Oklahoma and Okie State. It could happen and it's best to scope out prime territory while they've got the chance. Considering the competition, the Clones haven't done too badly for themselves and I'm thinking that they'll make it through Baylor and Texas Tech today and tomorrow, and will then be summarily trounced by Oklahoma (#1 seed and Big XII regular season champion) on Saturday. Some say they're on the bubble for one of the 64 slots that will be awarded come Sunday, but I doubt it, unless by some miracle they manage to win the tournament. But that would mean knocking off the likes of Kansas or Oklahoma State but only after they knocked off Oklahoma. There's Cinderella potential with this team, but not that much Cinderella potential, if you get what I'm saying.

So, it should be interesting. For the next two days anyway. Saturday will, no doubt, be a heartbreaker for all of us ISU fans. But there's plenty of fun to be had in the meantime and I wish I was in KC this weekend, slurping shitty beer at Kelly's with everyone else.

Posted by Kathy at 11:00 AM | Comments (7)


What is your favorite Dan Rather moment? Mine occurred when CBS obtained an on-air interview with then-VP George H.W. Bush. One of the conditions of the interview was that Iran-Contra was off-limits. Lee Atwater, the great GOP Jedi master of his day, correctly pegged Dan as a deal breaker and accordingly prepped Bush 41. When Dan veered into Iran-Contra on the air, H.W. hit back by reminding Dan of the time he abruptly walked off the set when the CBS Evening News was bumped by a tennis match. The exchange left Dan sputtering and gasping for breath. It is one thing to do a taped ambush for 60 Minutes that can be edited to show practically anything you want and quite another to do it for real.

Posted by LMC at 07:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2005


REBECCA DE MORNAY: At the behest of a reader, RD gets an honorable mention as a Flash in the Pan Babe of the Eighties and Nineties. Breakthrough flick: Risky Business in early 80’s. Best line from best Nineties movie: “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”—something to think about for anything considering an au pair. RD keeps coming back so I am not ready to call for an intervention or consign her to Julia Ormond/Ally Sheedy status. However, she has not broken into that level of regular good movies such as the much over-rated Julia Roberts. Discuss.

UPDATE: UPDATE: Mrs. LMC, the final authority on all matters concerning popular culture in the LMC household. reminded me the "hand that rocks the cradle" line actualy belonged to Julianne Moore who had other good ones such as "I need a good doctor. Know of any, Mrs. Mott?" and "Never allow a beautiful woman to be put into a power position in your home."

Posted by LMC at 09:44 PM | Comments (4)


The Go-Gos. The first, and definitive, grrrl band of the 1980’s whose music is forever enshrined in such unforgettable movies as Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The Go-Gos had two LPs/cassettes “Beauty and the Beat” and “Vacation” before the everything flew apart. A few years ago, they attempted a comeback, complete with an appearance on the tiresome “Friday summer concert series” on the Today show (featuring that product of an unholy union between Hillary Clinton and Kim Gandy, i.e., Katie Couric). All of them looked rough with the exception of Belinda Carlisle. Can’t believe I went into work late to watch that crowd of rehab regulars. It was awful. I bought a CD of their greatest hits which I play every now and then to remember the gals in their prime.

Posted by LMC at 09:30 PM | Comments (3)


I went home for lunch and had made the mistake of taking Nyquil (the nighttime version) to help shake off the after-effects of a nasty cold that peaked over the weekend. Unfortunately, I literally went face-down on my desk shortly after I got back to work and stayed down for an hour. Mercifully, no calls, no appointments, and the door was closed. Made the mistake of mentioning it to Mrs. LMC who passed it on to my 76 year mother who in turn, laid attitude on me. There is no escape from The Sisterhood.

Posted by LMC at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)

Now, I like classical music as much as the next person. Or the person after that. It's wonderful stuff to listen to whilst you sit back in your leather club chair and quaff a lovely Amarone and nibble on some lightly smoked gouda. It makes you feel refined and erudite. Conversely, it's great white noise, too, for when there's a jackhammer pounding the concrete outside of your office.

On the whole, I find little fault with classical music. But there is one teensy-weensy problem I do have with it: you can't boogie to it.

Oh, sure you can if you waltz or are able to pull off the intricate steps required of a minuet without it looking like a game of Twister gone horribly wrong, but most people can't. We're hopeless. Dance lessons simply haven't kept up.

Fortunately for those of us who like to boogie a bit, there has been an effort or two made in recent times to try and remedy this problem. The twain have met, and one such piece is this, The Duel of the Fates: The Dance Mix. Someone laid down a dance track and it's fairly boogie-able. Personally, it's not my favorite, but it is one I had handy. You might like it. After all, there's no accounting for taste, is there?

Note about the piece itself: This is from Star Wars: Episode I, and of course was composed by the thief great John Williams. This is yet another piece where Williams has plagiarized taken inspiration from a composer who's been dead for a while and can't fight this massive rip-off, in this case it's Karl Orff's Carmina Burana that Williams' is thieving from paying homage to.

And yes, the only reason I posted this was to drive Robbo nuts on his return. I'm EEEEEEEVIL that way.

Posted by Kathy at 07:00 PM | Comments (1)

Your Jedi Mind Trick of the day....

The evil perfidy of Rove has penetrated into NASA....surely the construction of a Deathstar is a Republican plot to suppress the minority vote in 2008!

UPDATE: I had a student today in the Congress seminar who was responding to a question/challenge from another student stare at her for a couple of seconds, and then say "these are not the droids you seek."

I fell out of my chair, literally. Needless to say, her participation grade for the semester is assured.

Posted by Steve at 06:49 PM | Comments (1)

I blame Kathy and the LMC

tllb march 9.gif

Sheesh, Rob goes away, the guests roll in, and we shoot up in the TLLB.....go figure!

(That, and plus it's going through one of its periodic ratings belches)

Posted by Steve at 03:50 PM | Comments (4)

Somebody needs to ask Sandy Levinson

if showing Gigli: The Director's Cut constitutes torture in violation of the Geneva Convention.

I'm asking because Beautiful Atrocities is en fuego with suggestions to AQ on who to kidnap now that the plot to nab Russell Crowe falls through.

Hint: it includes Ben Affleck and Kelly Ripa.

BTW, can you imagine if Haji got the instructions wrong and tried to kidnap Kurt Russell instead?

I mean, it could produce some interesting moments

(scene shifts to a cave somewhere in Pakistan, farting camel sleeping in the corner, protagonist walks in, sneering, in handcuffs and black leather pants)

bin Laden: PLISSKEN! I thought you were dead!

In the immortal words of that great western neo-Platonist "I pity the fool."

Posted by Steve at 03:11 PM | Comments (4)

Pinch me, slap me, make me write bad checks

The San Francisco Gate:

For those still wringing their hands at what to do about the war on terrorism, here's a revolutionary suggestion: How about what we're already doing? As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This doesn't mean that everything will fall into place perfectly or that challenges don't lie ahead, but, by all accounts, there is reason for encouragement. Lest it be thought that supporting such policies translates automatically into becoming a Republican, think again. It may be difficult for those in the post-Vietnam era to comprehend, but during World War II, the country was unified in a common goal of survival, its differences elsewhere notwithstanding.

Whatever one's reasons for opposing the war in Iraq, to extend that opposition to the wave of freedom enveloping the Muslim world is to place oneself squarely on the wrong side of history. As President Bush recently said, "Freedom is on the march." The question is, are you for it, or against it?

You know this kills them to have to write this. You can measure how well things are going by just looking around campus at the long mopey faces of the other professors.

Speaking of long faces, here's Robert Fisk on the subject:

Have we forgotten 150,000 dead?" he asked referring to the estimates of the number of people killed in the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1989. "Have we forgotten the Western hostages? Have we forgotten the 241 Americans who died in the suicide bombing of 23 October 1983? This democracy, if it comes, will be drenched with blood -- but the blood will be that of the Lebanese who live here, not that of the foreigners who wish to bestow freedom upon them.

Because, like, you know, Arabs don't want to be free. As any Chomsky-ite can tell you from the comfort of tenure that "freedom" is a boor-jshwah notion that is spit upon by truly liberated folk everywhere....

BTW, I'm feeling my case of blogmutes lifting. Things are a lot better today after a pretty crappy couple of days. Thanks for all the Yips!

Posted by Steve at 02:52 PM | Comments (3)

Pajamahadeen Unite!

Lest we forget, Dan Rather's final broadcast is this evening.

It's time to party down!

Rich has some ideas on how to achieve this.

Posted by Kathy at 12:44 PM | Comments (2)

Lileks Must Be Stopped

In Today's Bleat Lileks waxes rhapsodic about mini-mall architecture and the buildings across the street from the crap coffee shop he's sitting in. One in particular that I've spent quite a bit of time visiting.

{...}Anyway, this is a first-ring burb that rose up around Southdale, the nation’s first enclosed shopping mall. The strip mall across the lot originally had that atomic-age appearance I love so much, but of course it was mauled by every subsequent decade, reformed according to whatever stunted idea infected the second-tier architectural firms of the era. Across the street, for example, there's a wretched office tower from the high point of the Age of White Shite; it has all the highlights of the genre, from the bright painted concrete, the accentuated mass on top, the big faux colonnade. It cannot be remodeled; it can only be demolished, and the site strewn with asbestos. (The architectural equivalent of sowing the land with salt.) If I could call down flaming rocks from the skies to bring it low, I would. It bothers me. It's the end of the sixties / start of the 70s incarnate. It looks like the building where Gene Rayburn would get a prostate exam. {...}

Ok, the white building he's talking about is where my wonderful dentist practices her trade.


My dentist is awesome! I love my dentist, and that's saying something, because I loathe having people put their hands in my mouth. I spent eight years in hell because the Holy Triumvirate of my hometown dentist, oral surgeon and orthodontist decreed when I was five that eight years of braces, teeth pulling and the like were needed to fix my mouth. I have a great smile now, but as you might understand, after all this, I hate going anywhere they fiddle with my teeth. But my dentist is cool. She didn't dismiss my issues. She paid attention to them and treated me accordingly. Hence I actually go to see her, instead of avoiding the task. No wonder she's recently been named one of the top 300 dentists in town. She's not only good at her job, but she's great at managing her office, as well.

Why do I make this claim? Well, we don't have dental insurance. For some reason, you can get reasonably priced health insurance if you're self-employed, but dental insurance is another story entirely. It's actually cheaper for me to pay her cash than it is to pay a premium to a dental insurer because, Ahem, she gives me a twenty-five percent discount if I write her a check when she's done cleaning my teeth. That's a better deal than what she has negotiated with the insurers she deals with. She doesn't have to bill an insurer and then have to fight the powers that be to get her money. She's getting her cold hard cash, right there and then, and she rewards me for it. What, in part, allows her to give me this generous discount? Why, the fact she's in an ugly building where the rent is most likely cheaper than in some newfangled, late to mid-90's aesthetically hellish, cookie-cutter building down the road.

Sure the building is godawful. But I go in the back, where the parking is, as do the other patients. We never see the front unless we're driving by. Hence, what the hell does it matter if the building is ugly? We get reasonably priced health-care because the building is ugly. Which is more important, my friend? Aesthetics or the fact that I'm actually going to the dentist because I can afford to go there when both the husband and I are self-employed and dental insurance isn't an option?

Get your priorities in line, James. I've about had it with your aesthetics-only judgment scale. First it was the Ipod business. Now it's this. You're about as predictable as the East German gymnastics judge at the 1976 Olympics.

Posted by Kathy at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

Mother of God

Save us.

YIPS from Steve:
tarantino 10.gif

Posted by Kathy at 12:12 AM | Comments (4)

March 08, 2005


Every now and then, I get contacted by someone who mistakes me for someone they know. In the days before e-mail, this would usually take the form of phone messages from long-lost UGA fraternity brothers blowing through town and the like. One of the quirks of being in Army Reserve is an army e-mail account I have to check several times a day through Army Knowledge Online, the Great Green Machine's web portal. Everyone on active duty, in the National Guard, or the Reserve has an AKO account and their e-mail addresses may be searched through the equivalent of the phone book white pages. This afternoon, this gem came across--

Hi [LMC]!
Just a quick note to say "HI!" and see how you are! A belated CONGRATS on the Red Sox victory this last season. A great win for a great team. Maybe this year for the Cubs? Any word on the impending deployment? . . . .

JCOHO just finished at the hospital system--we did very, very well. It was a lot of hard work since I had to hit the ground running when I came home, but its been a great department and everyone works well together (at least most of the time that is!).

What's new with you? How is Misericordia and your practice? How is your family? Have you given in and bought Maggie a car yet? Come on, open those Confirmation cards you have been hiding for all these years and buy her a nice sports car! How is your dog? My dog has developed hip problems (according to the vet that shouldn't happen to a smaller dog, but she is apparently having problems standing from the prone position). Getting old has it's share of challenges.

I hope you are well and your family is great. HI to them all. I hope we have the chance to work together again soon. . . on this side of the Atlantic!

[long lost friend]

It was too good to pass up so I responded with the following, edited to protect [long lost friend] in the event this should ever come across his senior rater's desk:

[long lost friend] thanks for the update but I have to confess that I did not care who won the World Series because I do not follow baseball that much. There is no Maggie in my life as my wife banned the name of "Margaret" in all of its derivations from use in our home since I dated a string of Margarets and a Gretchen (German for Margaret) prior to marrying my bride. As a result I will not be buying a sports car for Maggie, even if I could afford it. My dog, a two-year old boxer is in good health, thanks for asking. I am sorry to hear about you canine's hip problems and hope that they can be managed without too much discomfort to either man or beast. I am glad to hear that you are in [a medical unit] slated for deployment to the Middle East. Practicing law as a civilian is often stressful, but I will sleep better knowing that I can call for a referral, particularly if we are mobilized.

As you probably guessed, you reached "[LMC]" not ["LNC]" as you probably intended. Check the AKO White Pages and try again. Best regards.

Posted by LMC at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

What the....?

If this is true, the CIA is far more effed up than even I thought possible......

Congrats, Rusty: now I realize that "keeping it real by getting some of that crazy blogads bling" is really a euphamism for "selling my soul to the CIA."

Posted by Steve at 07:58 PM | Comments (1)

I'll be able to use a brillo pad again....

Beautiful Atrocities, at its best.

Posted by Steve at 07:43 PM | Comments (0)

The strange symptoms of "Blogmute"

I've been struck lately by a solid case of blogmutes, the feeling of sitting there staring at the MT screen and just having nothing to say. I think this is caused mainly because it's an incredibly hectic time at work, with much crap-o-la raining down like manna from heaven. I sat through a meeting today with Chai-Rista, and basically did my best Beavis in the back of the room impersonation.

The other two things causing the blogmutes for me are that 1. I'm engaged in a serious jag of the real writing, trying to finish two articles (a longer and a shorter version on the same topic) that I'm going to deliver as a lecture in a setting that's scaring the crap out of me. The subject is on Thomas Jefferson and the Indian Removal cases of the 1830s, and I can only work so much on this topic without having to set it aside, tip my head back, close my eyes, and say "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-Huck!" Anyhoo, there's a chance that CSPAN might carry the whole thing which would be nothing short of hilarious.

The other reason? I'll expound on it later when I feel capable of articulating it clearly. What? That's stopped you in the past?

In the meantime, a hearty YIP! YIP! YIP! to the Cake Eater for doing a fabulous job filling in for Rob, and for the LMC, who is, well, the LMC!

Thanks guys!

Posted by Steve at 03:51 PM | Comments (1)

Gratuitous Classical Music Post

Yeah, Bach's good.

UPDATE: I'm talking Johann Sebastian here, not Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, who was his kid. I think.

Posted by Kathy at 01:50 PM | Comments (2)

A Public Service Announcement

The Cake Eater Husband is a gamer. In his free time he plays MMORPG's---Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games----which, for the uniformed, means the husband logs into whichever game is his favorite this month, adopts a character and then runs around an online fantasy land and kills things as this character. While he's doing this, thousands of other people are doing the same thing, on the same server and he chats and makes friends with them. Pretty dorky, if you ask me, but whatever keeps him from hogging the TV is a good thing, I suppose.

Anyway, in these rareified circles, being called a "llama" is not a good thing. It's a variation on the phrase "lamer," which seems to be a catchall for n00bs ("leet speak" for newbies), cheaters, jerks, etc.

Knowing how hip Robbo and Steve are to these sorts of issues, I felt I should warn them if they were out at the mall and saw some kid walking around in this t-shirt and felt the need to freak out.

Boys, this doesn't mean they want to kill you. It just means whomever is wearing that t-shirt is a. a dork and has no issues with announcing this fact to the world and b. basically has had some issues with some n00b in the past and they feel the need to assuage their angst. No one's ordered a hit on you for p-shopping Nancy Pelosi's head onto Princess Leia's metal bikini clad body.

Although, if I did give that p-shop to the husband to release on certain message boards he frequents, well...


YIPS from Steve: I love it! Someone alert Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities!

But the LLama in the cross-hairs needs to be smoking a cig and wearing sun-glasses, to get the complete Chuck-D Fear of a Black Planet thing going for it.

public enemy.gif

Posted by Kathy at 01:42 PM | Comments (4)

March 07, 2005


Today's honorable mention in the Flash in the Pan Babes of the Eigthties and Nineties: Milla Jovovich. Positively dynamite in The 5th Element . Best was the fight scene in her cabin while the diva was singing an aria. The Messenger was okay. The Resident Evil flicks were marginal and I am glad I saw them for four dollars apiece on cable rather than waste a night out at the movies, with dinner, tickets, munchies, and the superstar fifteen-year old babysitter's meter running at ten dollars an hour. MJ gets an honorable mention because there is still time for an intervention. Discuss.

Posted by LMC at 09:22 PM | Comments (5)


1. You have no right to demand to see the radar calibration at a traffic stop (at least in Virginia) so don't tick off the officer by asking for it.

2. The side of the road is not the place to discuss your concept of your rights with a cop. Traffic stops and domestic calls are the places most likely for officers to be killed or wounded in the line of duty so the officer is likely to be spun up. That is why they wear body armor. Do not give him any reason to question his personal safety. If you have concerns about how a police officer conducts himself, there is a time and a place to take it up with his superiors. In my experience, most police departments are very conscientious about how their officers conduct themselves.

3. Be polite. If you mouth off at a police officer and it is a jailable offense, it is worth 30 days in the crossbar hotel, at least in Virginia.

4. If you want to invoke your right to remain silent, be polite about it. See rule #3. The officer will not take it personally.

5. The police, particularly undercover, are under no obligation to tell the truth. For reasons which escape me, it is a bit of Internet gospel that a narcotics officer has to 'fess up if questioned by a dealer --e.g., "'Yo dude, are you Five-O?". If he says "no" before you sell him that kilo of crack, you are screwed. The Supreme Court has actually written on this one--lying, bluffing, etc. are perfectly permissible. The only execption is when the police are testifying in court.

6. Prostitution stings are not confined to the good-looking super-model police officers. The less than cute crowd gets equal billing and equal results. BTW, stings are not entrapment. Another BTW: these operations are almost always recorded by hidden cameras. A sting in Roanoke about ten years ago ended with the officer and the john in the hotel room. The cop goes into the bathroom which was the signal for the "takedown team" to do its thing. This took about a minute during which the john drops his pants and starts masturbating, presumably to"get in the mood" before the takdown team comes through the door. He entered a "not guilty" plea in general district court, the idiot. The prosecutor shoved a tape into a monitor and pushed "play". When she was finished, the courtroom was a quiet as a cemetary and the john changed his plea as did every other "sting" defendant in the courtroom.

7. If you are sitting in a police car, assume you are being recorded. Those dash-mounted cameras are there for a reason. They come with microphones. They are usually on. You would be amazed at the info the police have gotten by leaving a defendant or two unattended in the back of a police car.

8. The police may question your minor child without you being present. There is no "parent-child" privilege.

9. Your lawyer did not make the facts and is not a magician.

Posted by LMC at 09:10 PM | Comments (6)


Since there seems to be a dearth of posting from Steve-o and the LMC, and I'm recovering from my trip to the Mall of Gomorrah with a nice glass of chardonnay, I thought I'd send you over to Fistful of Fortnights, where the ever magnificent Sadie is hosting the New Blogger's Showcase this week.

Mucho good reading to be had and hey, who knows, you might find a new blog to read when we can't get our acts together around here.

Posted by Kathy at 06:33 PM | Comments (1)

Obligatory Post in Which South Park is Referenced

I'm picturing a lot of Mr. Garrison moments for this guy when he chats with Kofi.

You go to hell! You go to hell and you die!

Good fun all around, no?

Posted by Kathy at 06:23 PM | Comments (2)


So, I get this call on Sunday afternoon. From a sister-in-law whom I never chat with on a regular basis. It seems she's in town. With her sisters and one of my nieces.

And where might they be spending their time during their visit to the Twin Cities?

Why, the Mall of Gomorrah, of course.

I have to go over and visit them today. For the sake of family.

{Insert long, rolling shudder here}

I would rather slit my wrists than go to the Mega Mall. And I'm Catholic and believe suicide is a sin, so what does that tell you about how much I loathe the place?

Alas. The things one must put up with for family.

I should have stories of rampant consumerism to relate when I return from the hinterlands of East Bloomington.

Related side note: this guest blogging thing comes in handy when you need to vent about something you wouldn't want your mother to read! Woohoo!

Posted by Kathy at 01:00 AM | Comments (2)

Milli Vanilli in China

Can lip-synching actually be described as "fake singing" if, by the very nature of the beast that is lip-synching, there is no singing involved?

Girl, you know it's true! oooh, oooh, oooh, I love you!

I hope you have good luck getting that song off your internal playlist.

Posted by Kathy at 12:35 AM | Comments (2)

March 06, 2005

Fierce Creatures

Scott Burgess of The Daily Ablution---who has recently joined Will Collier in filling the empty guest bartender slots over at Martini Boy's place---serves up a wrap-up of the UK's best and brightest Sunday "news" articles.

The sexual proclivities of ducks are among the topics covered.

Run. Don't walk.

You'll be a better, more-educated person for it.

I promise.

Posted by Kathy at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)


Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in the recent juvenile death penalty case makes it necessary to point out the obvious: the Constitution of the United States is not the final repository of all that is good in this world and the role of judges in the federal courts is to interpret and apply the Constitution and laws of the United States, not re-write them.

The Framers of the Constitution knew at the time of the Convention that they could not possibly foresee all of the challenges which would face the new national government in the coming decades. With that in mind, they devised a system by which these challenges could be addressed by the federal government composed of three co-equal branches of goverment with certain minimum rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, was a condition to ratification by several states. The exercise of power by the legislative and executive is subject to the well-known system of checks and balances and faces the regular review of the electorate. Federal judges, once in office, answer to no one except higher courts. The Justices of the Supreme Court answer only to each other.

Over the years the federal judiciary refined a number of doctrines to limit its own power such as standing, ripeness, mootness, and political question. The most important doctrine of all is ascertaining and applying the intent of the framer (concerning the Constitution) or the legislature (in matters of statutory interpretation). The right of the people to govern themselves through the political process is eroded each time a court looks ignores the text and context of a constitutional passage or refuses to acknowledge the Constitution is silent on a particular question and substitutes the judgment of the judge for that of the framer or legislator. No better examples of this are the Supreme Court's jurisprudence concerning abortion, religion, and capital punishment.

It is not my intent to debate here the merits of the arguments on abortion but the Constitution is silent on the matter and nowhere in it is there a basis in its text for divining a right to to abortion, much less a trimester test in Roe v. Wade. In imposing such a ruling, the Court attempted to remove a hot political issue from the political arena and was rewarded with over thirty years of constitutional litigation over questions involving standards of licensing for abortion clinics, minors, parental consent, public funding for abortions, and partial birth abortion. Had the issue been left in the political arena, the states would have eventually worked out the issue to a political resolution where abortion would have been permitted in some states but not in others, subsidized with public finds in some, but not in others, and so forth. With its decision in Roe, the Supreme Court removed this thorny moral and political question from the political branches to the courts which are the least equipped to grapple with it.

Likewise, the First Amendment's establishment clause was meant to bar the federal government from establishing a national church such as the Church of England, not to remove any reference to God in the public square. (Several states had their own state religions well into the nineteenth century.) "The Supremes" gave us the Lemon case some fifty years ago and ever since the federal courts have been dealing with school prayer, graduation prayer, football game prayer, and the annual fights over Christmas displays.

Death penalty jurisprudence has been no better. The Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment" refers to exotic forms of torture and execution such as the rack, burning at the stake, and crucification. Capital punishment was commonly employed at the time of the Constitution's ratification and no exception was made for juveniles. Over the decades, the states reduced the number of crimes for which death could be imposed and a number abolished it altogether. In each of these instances, the people, through their elected representaives, determined the issue. The Supreme Court's most recent foray into the area now has it relying on foreign courts to interpret our own Constitution and in doing so has diminished our ability to govern ourselves.

Anyone interested in delving into these areas in more detail should read Robert Bork's book: The Tempting of America: the Political Seduction of the Law (Free Press 1990).

Posted by LMC at 09:30 AM | Comments (3)


Next up in this soon-to-be award winning series: Ally Sheedy. This brat-packer's breakthrough flick was The Breakfast Club in 1984. The following year, she was in one of my favorites films, St. Elmo's Fire along with other notables such as Demi Moore, Angie McDowell, and Charlie's brother Emilio. St. Elmo's Fire is, IMHO, the definitive first-year-out-of-college classic--I could put names, faces, and places from my college days at W&L to every character and situation in the movie. My favorite: boyfriend and girlfriend date all through college and everyone is waiting for them to get married. Boyfriend cheats on girlfriend regularly, they have spectacular breakup, and she winds up in the sack with his best friend who has carried a crush on her since her first laid eyes on her. Ally's career hit the skids after St. Elmo's Fire, she made a pair of films involving a talking robot (e.g., "Stephanie, nice software!"), and has dropped off the radar scope. Kathy, Maximum Leader, Colossus, has anyone seen Ally? Anyone? Bueller?

Posted by LMC at 07:27 AM | Comments (9)

March 05, 2005

32 ft/sec/sec Never Has Had Greater Meaning

Ladies and Gents, I present to you the Mother of All Beer Bongs.

No commentary on this one because, once again, I'm just stunned at what people will do to fill the hours.

YIPS from Steve: Frankly, I'm blown away by this.

These men need their own chapter in a Jared Diamond book.......this is the perfect example of distributed genius in the population. What these boys have done is as bold as the first wanna-be clerk who thought to himself, "hey, I can shove sticks on this clay and create a whole market niche for Crazy Hammurabi's Mud Brick Shack Office Depot." These boys are right up there with the idiot savants at BU who, standing on the roof of their building in Kenmore Square one night, thought to themselves, "hey, I bet if we can get a couple of yards of surgical tubing and a funnel we can launch water ballons into Fenway Park!"

This has restored my confidence in this generation of college students, who to this point have only impressed me as a group of grade grubbing whiners....

Posted by Kathy at 01:12 PM | Comments (3)

Flash In The Pan Babes: Julia Ormond---The Cake Eater Take

I would have "yipped" at the LMC on his post, rather than starting a whole new one, but for some strange reason, Steve-o did not give me access to anything other than what I have authored.

Hmmmmm. Could it be that trust only goes so far? I wonder.

Anyhoo...Julia is still out there. The Maximum Leader makes an interesting point in the comments about her decreased visibility being due to her habit of playing roles as a "...woman who will be nothing but a curse to men.{...}" Legends of the Fall is one thing, yet, as far as homewrecker female characters, Julia hit her stride with this movie. Julia played her incredibly well, but as someone who read the book, I can tell you she played Smilla exactly as penned, with an extra pinch of obstinate viciousness thrown in for fun. Julia Ormond's Smilla was one of the most interesting female characters of the past ten years. I didn't like Smilla, but she was interesting.

So, knowing this, it makes one wonder what, precisely, does the Maximum Leader want in a female character? Are actresses doomed to career failure if they take roles other than goody-two shoe girls, who wait patiently in the background while the men do all the work?

Posted by Kathy at 01:06 PM | Comments (3)

March 04, 2005

Where the Hoof Hits The Highway

Alright you guys, I'm really off now.

We're staying at the in-laws' place part of the time we're down in Florida. They're all wired up and all, so I may get a chance to peek in from time to time. But no regular posting, of course.

In the meantime, though, mark your calendars for when I get back. I intend to take notes and to do a Fear and Loathing in DisneyWorld type series upon my return. And don't forget to stop in here often for the Delusional Rantings (TM) of Kathy, the LMC, Steve-O and maaaaaybe some other surprises. (Just have to keep checking, wontcha?)

Have fun. Be good. Yip! at you later.........

Posted by Robert at 05:20 PM | Comments (1)


Whatever happened to Julia Ormond, the drop-dead gorgeous brunette who was supposed to The Next Great Thing? She looked great on a horse in Catherine the Great. She ruined the lives of Anthony Hopkins' sons in Legends of the Fall. (The best part of that flick was a scene where she was chatting with a 13 or 14-year old Indian girl being educated by Anthony Hopkins on the family ranch in Montana. At this point in the movie, the son she was engaged to died in the First World War, Ormond had the hots for Brad Pitt, and the last son was the victim of love unrequited by ol' Julia. The teenager told Ormond in a matter of fact tone of voice that she (the teenager) was going to marry Pitts' character. Julia's laugh died in her throat when she realized the Indian gal meant it and, later in the movie, pulled it off-leaving Julia to marry the last brother.) Julia where are you?

Posted by LMC at 03:59 PM | Comments (2)

One Mouse to Rule Them All/ One Mouse To Find Them/ One Mouse To Bring Them All/ and In The Darkness Bind Them

(Barad-Mickey, courtesy of these people)

At some point (I believe it is the chapter "A Shadow of the Past" in The Fellowship of the Ring), Gandalf remarks that many kings and warriors walk in the daylight, even as their spirits are already under the dominion of the Dark Lord.

And so it is.

This morning, as I was getting ready to leave for work, one of our friends stopped by to drop off a couple of those "Insider's Guide to Disney" books.

I have had three separate conversations today with people eager to impart their knowledge of which upgrades to ask for, what times to get in line and the best attractions at each separate theme park.

A colleague from down the hall just asked me to buy him a particular Disney poster while I'm down there in order to augment the collection he keeps in his office.

Truly, the Shadow has grown long.

UPDATE: Truly.

UPDATE DEUX: Speaking of the Mouse of Sauron (get it? Oh, I slay me), Steve at Secure Liberty picks up on an NYTimes article on how Barad-Mickey is planning to pitch its release of the movie The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe without offending a) Christians (by playing down Lewis's Aslan/Christ allegory), b) non-Christians (by playing it up) or c) both (by devising a wobbly compromise that puts everyone's nose out of joint).

I am beginning to have some doubts about this movie. For one thing, it seems time is going to be wasted on portraying the Luftwaffe bombing of London, something that is barely mentioned in the story. For another, it appears the producers are going to play up the battle at the end of the story in an effort to grab the attention of the LOTR zombie fan crowd. And, as the article notes, God only knows what they are going to do in terms of jazzing up all the minor supporting characters, both good and bad, just so that McDonalds can pass out more plastic dolls with its kids' happy meals.

Posted by Robert at 02:08 PM | Comments (2)


Everybody check your Freebie List. If Jessica Alba is on it, you, my friend, are sitting in the fabled catbird seat.

Yips! to INDCent Bill, who even now is furiously scraping the laminate off of his so he can update it.

Posted by Robert at 01:49 PM | Comments (2)

On This Guest-Blogging Business

While I am, of course, delighted that Kathy and the LMC are going to be here while I'm gone, I also felt very strange seeing their inaugural posts today. It's almost as if I was leaving a baby in the charge of a sitter for the very first time.

What happens if I come back and nobody remembers who I am?

Posted by Robert at 01:25 PM | Comments (4)

Gratuitous Pre-Hiatus Musickal Posting (TM)

(Image courtesy of the Probert Encyclopaedia)

Today is the birthday of Antonio Vivaldi, born this day in 1678.

While I enjoy listening to Vivaldi's music, what I had not fully appreciated until quite recently was another debt of gratitude that we all owe to the man. Allow me to explain in a quote:

According to the Obituary, Bach became a strong fugue writer at an early age "through his own applied reflection" on models by Buxtehude, Reinken, and others. And the evidence in both instrumental and vocal examples from well before the Weimar period overwhelmingly supports this view. [Late 18th Century biographer] Forkel's key insight into Bach, however, addresses a more fundamental aspect of musical composition: he writes that Vivaldi's works "taught him how to think musically." Bach transcribed Italian concertos during the mid-Weimar years of 1713-14, exactly when his experimental tendencies were leading him toward forming a genuinely personal style. The fact that Forkel links only Vivaldi's name to the concerto transcriptions suggests the latter's preeminent role for Bach. Further evidence lies in the relatively large number of Vivaldi transcriptions - nine, of which five are based on Vivaldi's concerto collection L'Estro armonico, Op. 3, published in 1711. It is likely, therefore, that Bach himself passed on to his students and family the impression that his experience with Vivaldi's compositions above all "taught him how to think musically." Forkel elaborates on the idea of musical thinking by emphasizing that "order, coherence and proportion" - or better, order/organization, coherence/connection/continuity, and proportion/relation/correlation (the original German terms Ordnung, Zusammenhang and Verhaltins are not easily rendered by single words) - must be brought to bear on musical ideas. Bach, then, recognized in Vivaldi's concertos a concrete compositional system based on musical thinking in terms of order, coherence and proportion - an illuminating though abstract historical definition of Vivaldi's art as exemplified in his concertos.

- Cristoph Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, pp. 170-171.

As it happens, I have Bach's transcriptions of Vivaldi's concertos (as well as those of some other composers) and often play them. But I had not realized before just how critical they were to the development of Bach's own style. Thanks, Tony! And Happy Birthday!

Posted by Robert at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

Wicked Pissah

Ann Althouse picks up on an NYTimes article about the drive to "de-gender" restrooms, both on college campuses and elsewhere.

Been there, done that. (Boy, don't you just hate that expression?) 22 years ago, as a fresher at the Glorious Workers' Soviet of Middletown, I was introduced to the concept of unisex dorm bathrooms. Eh.

The rationale seems to be a bit different these days. Back then, it was all about being equal (i.e., nobody had to slog upstairs to go potty or take a shower). Here, it all seems to be about providing camoflage for what the article helpfully describes as "transsexuals, cross-dressers and those with a fluid, androgynous identity who do not consider themselves completely male or female". The theory seems to be that a cross-dresser is less likely to get beat up by a redneck truck driver if they're both using a restroom that is "all inclusive" instead of men-only. My opinion? Don't bet on it.

Posted by Robert at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Robbo, in this post, asked me to put my money where my mouth was.

Allrighty then.

English Genius

You scored 93% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 83% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!


Posted by Kathy at 12:21 PM | Comments (1)

Stay The Course

Mom's Favorite Columnist argues today that the road to Damascus runs through Beirut and that, contrary to the wisdom of the NY Times crowd, we have an obligation to help the people of the Middle East keep things rolling:

This is no time to listen to the voices of tremulousness, indecision, compromise and fear. If we had listened to them two years ago, we would still be doing oil-for-food, no-fly zones and worthless embargoes. It is our principles that brought us to this moment by way of Afghanistan and Iraq. They need to guide us now -- through Beirut to Damascus.

Read it all.

I haven't had anything original to say about the Cedar Revolution so far, but one thing continues to tickle me. The last time Lebanon got any major media play was in the 80's. In those days, it was all stories about TWA hijackings, marine massacres and the Israelis beating the crap out of everybody. I remember the nightly news being full of images of filth, beggary and overall misery. (It was, of course, All Reagan's Fault.)

Furthermore, the only real word-portrait of the country I had read was P.J. O'Rourke's take in Holidays in Hell, not the most flattering of images.

With these things in my memory, you can imagine how surprised I was when photos of the Cedar Revolution started coming out. Who knew Lebanon was so full of fabulous, well-dressed babes? It was like hearing there were riots in Los Angeles, assuming they were in Watts and suddenly discovering they were, in fact, taking place in Beverly Hills. Go figure.

An utterly superficial observation, I grant you, but amusing to me nonetheless.

Posted by Robert at 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

Light Candle, Continue To Curse Darkness

As I make ready for the long ride to the Disney Gulag, I continue to be mindful of at least one enjoyable aspect of the trip:

Dee Cee - Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 40s. Lows around 30.
Orlando - Partly sunny. Highs in the lower 70s. Lows in the upper 40s.

Dee Cee - Partly cloudy, chance of rain and snow. Highs around 50. Lows around 40.
Orlando - Partly sunny. Highs in the mid 70s. Lows in the mid 50s.

Dee Cee - Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs in the upper 40s. Lows around 30.
Orlando - Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs in the lower 70s. Lows around 50.

Dee Cee - Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs in the lower 40s. Lows around 30.
Orlando - Partly sunny. Highs in the mid 70s. Lows around 50.

Dee Cee - Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 40s.
Orlando - Partly cloudy. Highs in the low 70s.

When I get back, I may not be ready and rested, but at least I'll be tanned. Given the situation, I'll take what I can get.

Posted by Robert at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)


I would like to welcome Kathy the Mystery Guest Blogger and introduce myself. I know Robbo from our law school days and The Butcher's Wife introduced me to the woman who later became Mrs. LMC and the stay at home mom of our 2-year old son and our new daughter. The "military" part of Llama Military Correspondent comes from my active duty time in the Army between college and law school and my Reserve service since. I sadly lack the culture or background to opine on matters of Old Masters or Baroque music and rely on my betters to fill in the blanks. When I am not at home chasing my progeny, I practice law in Virginia Beach, largely commercial litigation and bankruptcy with one or two criminal cases from federal court in the mill. As a result, I have strong opinions on the state of the legal profession and our culture reflected in it.

I am glad to see Rob signed up someone with more extensive blogging experience (mine started yesterday) and look forward to working with you.

Posted by LMC at 09:04 AM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2005

Would The Mystery Guest Blogger Please Sign In?

Ok, put the bottle of prozac down. You don't need it. I promise. Well, you might need some strong booze to handle the shock of it all, but nothing that will alter your brain chemistry that dramatically. A nice single malt might do.

Or some Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you've got it handy.

Then again, if you're reading this blog, you probably don't need your brain chemistry altered at all, it being wacky already.

{Ed.-Off to a great start, I see. Insulting the audience. Way to go, bonehead!}

Anyway, since neither of the two boys who run this site on a regular basis told you to specifically expect my presence during Robbo's absence, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Kathy and you can normally find me blogging up a storm about nothing in particular at the Cake Eater Chronicles. If you're a regular reader of the Llamabutchers, you might know who I am, given the number of links these wonderful, wonderful gentlemen give me on a regular basis, but in case you don't....well, I'm a writer/haus frau who lives in the Twin Cities Province of the People's Republic of Minnesota. I write about anything that interests me. That might be politics. That might be Silly Germans. You never quite know what will trip my trigger. Since Steve told me I could write about whatever I wanted to when I signed up for this gig, well, this seems like a particularly good fit.

In an effort to live up to the heady Cultural Standards of The Llamabutchers in Robbo's absence, I will try to get in at least one gratuitous Bach post. I might have to hit up my sister for tales of little girls run amok, but I'm sure it can be done, my niece being just as amusing as Robbo's gels. As far as Civil War/Revolutionary War book blogging, well, you can forget about it. Ain't gonna happen. What about the rest? you ask. Mother of God! Don't leave us hanging! TELL US! Well, you'll just have to keep checking in to see what the three of us come up with to fill the gaping hole Robbo's trip to Disneyworld has ripped in the fabric of Llama space/time.

I'm looking forward to what I assume shall be an enlightening and fun week (or however long I signed up for this job). I hope you'll enjoy it.

YIPS from Steve: Hey now, the official cheap beer of the LLamabutchers is Carling Black Label! ($12.95 a keg at Nutmeg State Package Store back in the day. By the way, do any other states other than Connecticut refer to their liquor stores as "packies"?)

Posted by Kathy at 11:33 PM | Comments (5)

Queen Meets God

queen meets god.jpeg

Somehow this is even better than Elvis and Nixon.

Posted by Steve at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)


A few days ago, I joined Robbo, Steve-O, and that Cylon-lover Cam at the Metro-Lex Lost LLamas Weekend. Steve provided me the only instruction I can recall from that alcohol-soaked trip, namely don't run off the regular readers, meaning Rob's mother. With that in mind, I will address various areas of interest of personal interest while Robbo is battling Der Mouse at Uncle Walt's Orlando Re-education Camp and Palace Suites. They include: Flash-in-the-Pan Babes from the Eighties and Nineties, Rock Groups from the Graveyard of Forgotten Favorites, Common Misconceptions of Criminal Law, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, and why no one talks about the last Secretary of State.

First up: Flash in the Pan Babes from the Eighties and Nineties: Bridget Fonda. Steve-O and Rob can debate the relative merits of Helen Hunt as the thinking man's strumpet, but did they see Point of No Return? The best scene was BF as an assasin-in-training at a swanky D.C. restaurant wearing a black strapless cocktail dress. Over drinks, she is given a large caliber automatic and an assignment to zap a bad guy across the room. With a tear in her eye, she slips off her shoes, hides the weapon in a menu, nails the bad guys and his minions, and escapes in a hail of gunfire.

Sadly, she has done nothing since Single White Female. Discuss

Posted by LMC at 06:42 PM | Comments (2)


Your humble Llama Military Correspondent has been given the challenge and password to the super-secret Llama Butchers site. Steve-O will provide adult supervision. That is all.

Posted by LMC at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

Warm Up That Linking Finger, Kathy - You're Going To Need It.

Conclusive Proof of the Interconnectedness of All Things, Dept.

Kathy the Cake Eater, in a post I almost felt I could have written, sprayed crumbs all over her monitor yesterday as she ranted about the misuse of basic English in blogging.

Well, Kathy o'l buddy ol' pal, here's your chance to put your money where your mouth is: It's the Commonly Confused Word Test.

My results, achieved while I was chatting with the Missus on the phone about how to get a photo of self scanned into an email file, were as follow:


You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 61% Expert!

You have an extremely good understanding of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level commonly confused English words, getting at least 75% of each of these three levels' questions correct. This is an exceptional score. Remember, these are commonly confused English words, which means most people don't use them properly. You got an extremely respectable score.

Not too shabby. Not outstanding, but not shabby. But that's multi-tasking for you.

Yips! to Kim at the Ramble Strip.

UPDATE: I am completely busted, having just received the following email zinger:

Damn you for doing a stupid test while talking with me. You have just failed Basic Husband Etiquette 101 Part 18 which reads: Never let on to wife that you are doing anything else but hanging on her every word.



Posted by Robert at 05:55 PM | Comments (7)

The Pacific Fleet, Mark Two

Condiblog has an interesting take on recent naval developments in the Pacific. Good thing we have the USS Jimmy Carter on the way!

Posted by Steve at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

Are you secretly Spanish?

This describes half my colleagues on the faculty.

My problem with them (or there problem with me, I guess) is that I'm not so secretly a Hugenot/Sicilian/Irish, the dreaded genetic combo that creates the deviant personality type of HUGSICMICK.

How do you know if you are a HUGSICMICK?

When faced with bureaucratic inanity, do you:

A. Laugh politely and bend in complete meek subservience because that is the prudent thing to do; or


(And no, Liz, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Instruction Committee and Faculty meeting tomorrow!)

Posted by Steve at 04:59 PM | Comments (1)

Mau-Mauing Watch

Eric at Classical Values flags a Philly Inquirer article about a bill under consideration there that would require all current or potential city contractors to examine their corporate histories and disclose any record of past profits from slavery. Among other things, they would have to disclose the names of both slaves and slaveholders involved. Failure to do so or falsification of such affidavits could lead to the loss of their contracts.

"This is a chance to put in place an essential element - corporate disclosure and transparency," [Councilwoman Blondell] Reynolds Brown said at the hearing before Council's Finance Committee earlier this week, where the bill passed unanimously.

"We will arrive at a new era when corporations are able and willing to face their past and make proper amends, whatever they may be, for any egregious wrongdoings," she said.

"Make proper amends," is, of course, the refined way of saying, "Gimme a dollar." I don't think there's really any guess-work involved in whether this is a set up for reparations.

Posted by Robert at 04:54 PM | Comments (2)

The Arab Berlin Wall has come down

Who's the cat that makes the euro-weenies squirm?


Shut yer mouth!

A taste:

Assad's regime knocks off a troublemaker in Lebanon. Big deal. They've done it a gazillion times. But this time the streets are full of demonstrators demanding an end to Syrian occupation.

A suicide bomber kills four Jews. So what's new? But this time the Palestinians decline to celebrate. And some even question whether being a delivery system for plastic explosives is really all life has to offer, even on the West Bank.

Mubarak announces the arrest of an opposition leader. Like, who cares? The jails are full of 'em. But this time Condi Rice cancels her visit and the Egyptian government notices that its annual cheque from Washington is a month late.

Three years ago, those of us in favour of destabilising the Middle East didn't have to be far-sighted geniuses: it was a win/win proposition. As Sam Goldwyn said, I'm sick of the old clichés, bring me some new clichés. The old clichés - Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Islamism, Arafatism - brought us the sewer that led to September 11. The new clichés could hardly be worse. Even if the old thug-for-life had merely been replaced by a new thug-for-life, the latter would come to power in the wake of the cautionary tale of the former.

But some of us - notably US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz - thought things would go a lot better than that. Wolfowitz was right, and so was Bush, and the Left, who were wrong about the Berlin Wall, were wrong again, the only difference being that this time they were joined in the dunce's corner of history by far too many British Tories. No surprise there. The EU's political establishment doesn't trust its own people, so why would they trust anybody else's? Bush trusts the American people, and he's happy to extend the same courtesy to the Iraqi people, the Syrian people, the Iranian people, etc.

Posted by Steve at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

Well, that clears That up

I was beginning to get confused.

Posted by Steve at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Ladies and gentlemen, elvis has left the building

Well, Robbo is heading off soon to Disney Indoctrination Center #2, in the glorious people's fun-tastic worker's paradise of stalag Orlando. To tide you over until we are able to complete the counter-indoctrination (where we'll duct tape Robbo to a steel column here in the basement and force feed him Ding-Dongs, Yoo-hoo, and Lil' Debbie Snack Cakes through a funnel while watching non-stop loops of olde Battlestar Galactica reruns to prevent him from remaining one with the assimilated mauses of Uncle Walt's cult of Merry Doom), we're going to have a number of new features including some guest bloggers who should be firing up soon enough.

Posted by Steve at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

Sass That Hoopy Trailer?

You can check out the new on-line trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy here.

Hmmmmm.......From what I can tell, it looks as if there is some promise. But I'm not waiving my towel just yet. This may just turn out to be yet another example of Vogon screenplay adaptation.

Yips! to Dean.

UPDATE: Jen and Bill wrong me in the comments. As everybody knows, I am, in fact, a very tolerant, non-pre-judgemental kinda guy. As a matter of fact, I already don't like what the movie has done with Marvin's shape and Zaphod's second head is rather hard to make out, and I'm not completely crazy about the casting of Ford, but hey - I haven't dammed it out of hand yet.

Posted by Robert at 02:08 PM | Comments (5)

Go, Nats!

(Photo lifted from ESPN)

UPDATE: Moved up the page with Special Bonus Musical Geek Caption for JohnL: Yes, folks, it's a six-four-three double play, Schoenberg to Webern to Messiaen.

Woo Hoo! The Washington Nationals won their inaugural game yesterday. Granted, a) it's just preseason and b) they beat the Mets, but c'mon!

Posted by Robert at 01:06 PM | Comments (3)

Bite Me!

What Flavour Are You? I taste like Menthol.I taste like Menthol.

I am refreshingly different; some people don't appreciate that. My sharp honesty gets up some people's noses, while others really enjoy it. I am something of an acquired taste. What Flavour Are You?

Ain't it the truth?

Yips! to Ith.

Posted by Robert at 12:59 PM | Comments (5)

I've Got A Woodie!


Big Llama Yips! of thanks to Chai-rista over at Truly Bad Films for honoring us with membership in the inaugural class of winners of the Woodie Award. Be sure to nip over and check out our fellow Woodie recipients as well.

And remember - if you enjoy reading this blog just half as much as we enjoy writing it, then we enjoy it twice as much as you!

Yip! Yip! Yip!

Posted by Robert at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

Sci-Fi Babe Polling Watch

JohnL at TexasBestGrok (thanks for the b-day props, btb) has got his latest poll up, the Battle of Fox's, er, Foxes.

This week, it's a face-off among Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) of the X-Files, Captain Vansen (Kristen Cloke) of Space: Above and Beyond and Max Gueverra (Jessica Alba) of Dark Angel.

Personally, I think I'm going with Agent Scully on this one. I probably wouldn't survive an encounter with her, but then again, I probably wouldn't care.

Speaking of dangerous babes, I see that the results are in from last week's Battle of the BSG Wendy Carlos Impersonators. Boomer crushed Starbuck, taking 74% of the vote. A quick perusal of the Gallery of Winners shows that this is the widest margin of victory to date.

And while we're on the subject of Babe Polling, we hope you've noticed our own little referendum over yonder to the right on the proper classification of Helen Hunt. As regular readers know, I have long considered her to be the Thinking Man's Babe. Others seem to disagree. Let us know what you think.

Posted by Robert at 11:17 AM | Comments (4)

True. True.

Terry at Possumblog brings some excellent words of wisdom: Ten Rules For Good Communication With Your Wife.

Bottom line: You can't win.

Yips! to Jordana.

Posted by Robert at 10:45 AM | Comments (2)

Life With Uncle - Part I

Light start today. I just found out that I have to brief the Big Chiefs this morning on a matter that recently landed on my desk. I had blocked out the week after I get back from my trip to Dear Leader Walt's Cultural Reeducation Camp to power up on it, but apparently the Brass think I'm the expert already.

Facts? Why, I've got them right at my fingertips! Yeah, that's the ticket......(Wonderblog powers - activate! Shape of...a bullet-point summary!)

Back in a bit.

UPDATE: After I successfully assembled all the data, the main meeting was postponed at the very last minute. The old army game: Hurry up and wait.

Posted by Robert at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

Go To Hell, Nancy Soderberg

Taranto TiVo'd an interview last evening on The Daily Show between Jon "I'm So Smarmy I Make Vasoline Seem Viscous" Stewart and former Clintonista Nancy Soderberg, who was on to flog a new book expounding on the eviiiiils of American hegemony.

What she really wound up doing was exposing the black heart of much of the current geopolitical thinking on the Left. Let's go to the highlight reel:

Stewart: But what do you make of--here's my dilemma, if you will. I don't care for the way these guys conduct themselves--and this is just you and I talking, no cameras here [audience laughter]. But boy, when you see the Lebanese take to the streets and all that, and you go, "Oh my God, this is working," and I begin to wonder, is it--is the way that they handled it really--it's sort of like, "Uh, OK, my daddy hits me, but look how tough I'm getting." You know what I mean? Like, you don't like the method, but maybe--wrong analogy, is that, uh--?

Soderberg: Well, I think, you know, as a Democrat, you don't want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, and you don't want them to have progress. But as an American, you hope good things would happen. I think the way to look at it is, they can't credit for every good thing that happens, but they need to be able to manage it. I think what's happening in Lebanon is great, but it's not necessarily directly related to the fact that we went into Iraq militarily.


Stewart: Do you think they're the guys to--do they understand what they've unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, "Here's my plan: I'm going to invade Iraq. We'll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp"--if they hadn't done the whole "nuclear cloud," you know, if they hadn't scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I'd almost--I'd have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.

Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole--

Stewart: This could be unbelievable!

Soderberg:---series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's--

Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He's got, you know, here's--

Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.


Stewart: [Bush's] gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.

Soderberg: Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us.


Go read the whole thing, as they say.

Stewart is at least beginning to hedge his bets. But Soderberg's evident yearning for a Bush foreign policy disaster is just grotesque. And no amount of, "Of course, as an American, I want everything to work out...." rhetoric is going to help.

Posted by Robert at 03:44 PM | Comments (2)

Amazing Race Watch

In answer to numerous inquiries, no I did not see this. (In fact, I've never seen it.) Thanks for all of your thoughts, but I must say that I'm rather miffed - those bastards told me they were going to cut that segment from the show. The guy in the sunglasses looked waaaaay too much like Crazy Joe Divola and it threw off my performance.

Posted by Robert at 03:08 PM | Comments (1) jaw is going to fall off

Just taught four different courses back to back: one hour of HLA Hart's Concept of Law, followed by an hour of congressional elections, followed by an hour of media and politics, followed by an hour of social movements in the law.

I'm now going to put my head down and drool.

I was covering Media and Politics for a colleague who is up in DC for the day (she had to go to court, as in she was attending oral arguments on the ten commandments case). Anyhoo, the subject today was drumroll please blogs, blogging, and new media. My colleague doesn't know that I blog, as I try to keep an even-balanced persona on campus. (Nothing sucks more teaching political science than having students trying to kiss your arse based on their perception of what your ideology is. Stevie no into cult of personality.) It was much fun, and the rumbling tear you heard in the space~time continum was my use of INDC Journal and My Pet Jawa as examples of good blogs.

So Bill and Rusty, prepare for the groupies!

Posted by Steve at 02:48 PM | Comments (2)

Achs! We Hates the New Linesses, Yes We Does! Nasty! Wicked! Tricksy! False!

The profitssssss.....We wants them! We waaaaantssss them!!!!! Gollum! Gollum! Gollum!

Posted by Robert at 02:29 PM | Comments (1)

Llama Blogging Announcement

As it is now a measurable matter of hours before I start my long slog to Barad Mickey, I thought I would take this opportunity to give all y'all the head's up that our very own Llama Military Correspondent will be stepping in to guest blog here in my absence.

I've just been arranging LMC's creds with Louie, the Llama Bouncer. So if and when you hear a strange new yipping sound around here, you'll know he's in the building.

I think you all will have a lot of fun together.

Yip! Yip!

YIPS from Steve: Well, Louie our "business manager" informs me that there is an invitation out there for a guest blogger to come in for the week over here at LLama world. We'll let you know how things pan out....

Posted by Robert at 01:22 PM | Comments (3)

Happy Birthday, Tom Wolfe!

(Image stolen from the Man Himself.)

Today is Tom Wolfe's 75th birthday. I think it safe to say that the man is my absolute favorite contemporary fiction writer. Granted, as I noted in my recent flu-crazed review of My Name Is Charlotte Simmons, I think he lets his crankiness run away with him sometimes, but even then he does it with such a wickedly delicious flare that one doesn't really mind. (His non-fictional social commentary, such as can be found in Hooking Up, often makes my skin crawl, in large part because here he is not making it up.) My very first encounter with Wolfe's work was when someone gave me a copy of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flack-Catchers in high school. I still find his story about Lenny and the Black Panthers to be hysterical.

Wolfe, being a W&L Man, spoke at my law school commencement. So far as I can tell, a great many of the faculty and administration simply didn't realize what they were letting themselves in for. In his speech, Wolfe launched into a full-tilt tirade against out-of-control multi-culti PCism in Academia. The students, most of whom were pretty conservative, ate it up. But the denizens of the stage sat through it in a state of ever-increasing alarum and horror. Heh.

Posted by Robert at 10:02 AM | Comments (2)

Movie Quote Madness

Okay, I've seen this at enough different blogs that I now feel compelled to get in on it, too.

The First Five Movie/TV Quotes that come into your head (must be from different movies/shows).

1. "I speeek good Eeeenglish! I luurhn eet frrrom a booook!" - Manuel (Andrew Sachs) in Fawlty Towers ("The Germans" Episode).

2. "For the love of Pete- It's the Witch and Dopey." - Linda Seton (Kate Hepburn) in Holiday.

3. "Few steps back." - Blondie (Clint Eastwood) from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. [Ed. - Updated. Sorry 'bout the earlier character misidentification. Dyslexia's kicking in again.]

4. "He'll rue the day he came up against the Extreme, baby. I'm talking imminent rue-age." Dusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from Twister.

5. "So anyway, Beethoven was rather glad when he went deaf." - Second Pepper Pot (Graham Chapman) from Monty Python's Flying Circus, Episode 21, "Beethoven's Mynah Bird".

This is actually very easy, since I use these quotes (and others like them) almost all the time in normal conversation.

Yips! to Sheila.

Posted by Robert at 09:36 AM | Comments (6)

March 01, 2005

Getting Carded

Well this is a new one on me.

I got home this evening to find that we had been sent a sympathy card from our vet expressing condolences over our having to put Jeeves to sleep.

The front of the card has a watercolor picture of a cat's footprint surrounded by a vaguely stained-glass looking setting. Underneath, it says, "Sharing your sadness...."

Upon being opened, the card carries on its sympathetic message: "at the difficult decision you made for your gentle friend and companion."


Yes, of course I'm sad we lost the cat, but I have to say that, far from the warm, fuzzy feelings it evidently was supposed to generate, reading this caused me to start sniggering. Perhaps I have a rather jaundiced view of the world, but I've noticed over the years that the line between the meaningful and the absurd can be mighty thin and it doesn't take much to roll right across it.

Flipping over to the back to see if the Hallmark Collective was behind this little effort, I found that it was, in fact, the product of an outfit called Paws To Remember, based somewhere in the wilds of Minnesota. PTR, in turn, seems to be a subsidiary of a company called Stroke of the Heart, Inc., another name that this time caused me to howl with laughter at its hopefully unintended awfulness.

Looking more closely at the bottom of the card's back, I also noticed this smug little announcement: "Printed with vegetable-based ink on recycled paper in the USA. Contains a minimum of 20% post-consumer fiber." Well la-de-da.

It seems perfectly obvious to me that this combination of treacly sentimentality, cluelessness and ever-so-subtle sanctimony is the product of a bunch of hippies. The PTR mission statement says that its goal is to be a resource to help vets communicate and bond better with people who keep pets or other animals. Well, swell. If a simple hand-written note won't do the trick any more, allow me to help move this opus along. I have a few ideas to pitch for cards that might be appropriate to some of the other curve balls that animal-lovers must face.

For Fido's post-operative recovery period:

Understanding your frustration....Don't think of it as an inverted lampshade. Instead, think of it as a karmic centering vessel. Oommmmmmm.......

For run-ins with the local wild fauna:

Here's sniffing at you, kid.......A skunk's scent is just part of Nature's Wonderful Perfume. Besides, you'll get used to it after a while.

For run-ins of another kind and their unexpected consequences:

Who doesn't love kittens? What are you, some kind of jackbooted Republican fascist?

And finally, for that irreversable passage:

A moment of paws to reflect.....Two little snips now will be rewarded by years of comfort and security to come.....

Alternatively, I thought of a slightly edgier version that might be more appropriate for new geldings:

Dude! Sorry about that 'nads thing!

But who says such cards should be confined to only sad or stressful situations? Why not a Happy Events series as well? I'm sure that we Llamas could come up with something in the "Pimp my Orgle" line.

I'll let you know if the hippies go for it.

Posted by Robert at 09:30 PM | Comments (13)

More Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM)

Ye doome of ye commercial classical music station listener is ycomme true: It was only a matter of time before I heard Pachelbel's Canon. We hates Pachelbel's Canon. With all the other beautiful examples of the form readily available, why did the popular culture have to seize on this one?


Anyhoo, my Dad asked me to send along the information on the musical biography I am reading, so here it is:


Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician by Cristoph Wolff.

It is a very, very good book, meticulously linking together all of the genetic, biographical, cultural and educational influences that went into the making of Bach's genious. If you ever wondered just how many Bach family members there were scattered about Thuringia in the 18th Century, all of them working away industriously at their craft (most of them very successfully), this is your source.

Reading serious scholarship about Bach's music always makes me feel somewhat dizzy, rather like reading a scientist's description of quantum physics. There is just so much evidence of superior talent and intellect there that I can well appreciate the plausibility of Douglas Adams' alternate explanation of the origin of the man's music at the end of his Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

Such reading also makes me feel like a bit of an a complete idiot whenever I try to sit down and stumble through Bach's music myself. The last piece I ever seriously studied was the English Suite No. 2 in A minor, and even there I was primarily concerned with performance, not theory. That was something like 22 years ago. These days, when all I do is sight-read, I know full well that I am only "getting" about 1% of Bach's musical thought, the rest of it whizzing right past me as I focus my full attention on just trying to get my ten thumbs to land in the general neighborhood of the keys they're supposed to strike.

Posted by Robert at 03:14 PM | Comments (5)

Cylon Intruder Alert

Lest you think Cylons have to diguise themselves as slinky, lingerie-clad blondes with glowing spines in order to get our attention, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.

I drove out to the Llama Llost Weekend with my semi-cousin Cam. He had recently had a GPS system installed in his car for navigating around DelMarVa in connection with his home-bound patient hospice practice, and was positively smitten with the thing. He calls her Bimini, and the entire way there and back kept relaying to me the information she was spewing out - ETA, miles to go, driving directions, etc.

It all sounds wonderful. But I know the truth: Bimini is a Cylon.

How do I know this? Because I've been travelling the roads between Dee Cee and Lexington, VA for many years. I know just about everything worth knowing about things like the relevant merits of going down Rte. 29 and cutting over at Charlottesville versus taking I-66 all the way out to I-81 at Front Royal. I know the best times to consider coming up Rte. 28 from Remington to Manassas in order to miss the bottleneck at Gainesville. Of course, I can easily navigate around the streets of Metro-Lex itself. And I know the best ways to break the gravitational pull of the Beltway and get out of the Dee Cee area.

Yet for the entire trip, Bimini kept spewing out suggestions that were not quite optimal. Nothing obviously wrong, you understand, just....a bit off. It struck me that she was doing this as a way to test her influence, to see how far into her clutches Cam had fallen.

I noticed this as soon as we left my driveway. Then, when we stopped at a gas station, my growing suspicions suddenly were confirmed: While Cam was busy getting some cokes, Bimini, flat-panel liquid crystal display and all, glared at me. It was a swift, venomous look. I'll never forget it.

As I say, Cam is totally in love with this piece of technology gone bad. It was everything I could do to keep him from taking her every suggestion. At every new one, I had to argue strenuously, promising that I knew better because I'd done the trip so many times. Finally, reluctantly, he would agree. The worst instance was on the way back as we cut over the Blue Ridge via Rockfish Gap on I-64. Bimini did not approve of this and kept offering suggestions for how best to get back on I-81 and continue up the Shenendoah Valley.

I am convinced that she will go on working her seductive influence until Cam is totally beholden to her. Then, at the appointed time, she is going to vector him straight into an ambush.

It makes me wonder how many of her bretheren are out there......

Posted by Robert at 01:45 PM | Comments (9)



I wonder if, right at this moment, Boy Assad is checking into the regulatory requirements for starting an opthamology practice on the Riviera....

Posted by Steve at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

Throwing the Switch

Well, they've gone ahead and done it:

The new format, debuting February 28, features news reports, public affairs programs and newsmagazines with global reach from news sources that include two of the most respected newsgathering organizations in the world: National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Expanding our portfolio of informative and enriching radio offerings, WETA is adding 40 hours of weekly programming that is new to the Washington airwaves, including news reports from every corner of the globe and newsmagazines covering science, health, culture, the arts and humanities, and much more.

What changes? WETA 90.9 FM is no longer a mixed format station that broadcasts classical music, with the exception of The Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts, which continues to be an exclusive service to Washington-area listeners.

Oh, but hey - we all need to move on:

Adopting a new format was not an easy decision for WETA. I know that this change will be difficult for some, but this is the right choice for our diverse, cosmopolitan community and the right choice for WETA. With this format, WETA 90.9 FM presents an exciting new service to Greater Washington.

Join us on this voyage of discovery.

I believe Eric Cartman said it best: Screw you guys, I'm going home.

UPDATE: Heh. The local commercial classical station is already airing "Come on over - we'll never change" ads.

Meanwhile, a long time reader emails:

Dear WETA: I've decided that you are right; it is time
to move on. This has not been easy for me, but I know
you will understand that this is the right thing for
me to do. I am not going to send you any more money
because I am confident that now that you are reaching
out to a broader audience base, you will be receiving
more contributions that you can think what to do with.
So i'll just earmark that little bit of change to buy
myself some more CD's--thanks for enabling me to
broaden MY horizons too.


Posted by Robert at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

Papal Bull

The Nihilist in Golf Pants is tossing his hat in the ring to be the next Pope and provides an eleven-plank platform in support of his candidacy.

Old-fashioned Rite I Episcopalians follow a service that is sort of JV Catholic, so I got a big chuckle out of his positions. Also, although my own parish is so Low Church we ought to hold services in the basement, it's a very conservative form of Low Churchism. So I feel the Nihilist's evident pain. Allow me to toss in a few comments of my own:

11. Intinction mandated as method for receiving communion for those who receive both body and blood. Receiving the sacred blood of Christ should never include getting the backwash of other believers.

Actually, I have to disagree with this one. We use sherry at our Church and - the spiritual aspect of communion aside - a nice full sip does wonders for the ol' constitution, especially if one was up a bit too late the night before and didn't have time to grab some coffee before heading off to the service.

9. Kids will no longer be invited to "gather 'round" the priest for the homily. They are perfectly capable of listening while sitting with their parents.

Hear, hear. Our Rector actually does this for the offeratory and the beginning of communion, shooing the kiddies off after the bread is broken. He also occasionally does it for one of his sermons. As far as I'm concerned, the only time kiddies need to be anywhere near the altar is during the Christmas pageant or the Passion play.

6. Only priests or deacons may give homilies. No homeless advocates, youth counselors, or representatives of other charities. If their message is that important, they can tell the priest and he can convey it.

I am happy to say that this sort of thing does not happen at my Church. The only time the pros relinquish the pulpit is when the Senior Wardens make their annual pledge drive pitch, assuring us that if people don't start coughing up more dosh, the steeple is going to come crashing through the ceiling and wipe us all out.

5. Priests should make the announcement that people who cough or sneeze during mass are excused from the sign of peace. There's nothing worse than sitting next to someone hacking and snotting all over who then wants to touch your hand.

Eh. If and when I ever become Archbishop of Canterbury, I'm going to see to it that passing the peace is cut out of the service altogether. Robbo's 11th Commandment is "Thou shalt keep thy bloody hands to thyself."

3. Choir directors shall keep songs to two verses or less, unless there is the need to fill time where something silent is happening (like when parishioners are receiving communion).
2. Only traditional Catholic songs shall be sung at mass. We are Catholics, not Baptists and especially not crystal worshipping hippies. Patriotic anthems like the Battle Hymn of the Republic or America the Beautiful are encouraged on appropriate holidays.

I don't know enough about the Catholic playlist to comment on this, but the Palie Hymnal - even the 1982 edition - is still chock-a-block with nifty 17th, 18th and 19th Century music that I enjoy stringing out to the fourth verse. When you've got music by Bach, Haydn and others, why stop? One thing that infuriates me at the moment: Our new assistant rector has got into the habit of unleashing the processional and recessional movements of the acolytes right at the beginning of their respective hymns, instead of during the second verse. This means that the Cross often times passes me while I'm still fumbling with pages. It also means that everything is over and done halfway through the hymn. Especially with the recessional, this leaves one standing around on one foot and feeling foolish.

As for musical selections, I have to say that my Rector and musical director are pretty good about this sort of thing. The only time they slip, IMHO, is when they insist on our singing spirituals, which usually happens on what we call "Jazz Sunday", the one before Ash Wednesday. There is nothing more ridiculous than watching a bunch of uptight, well-to-do WASP's trying to do "Go Tell It On The Mountain". It's not who we are. It should not be attempted.

Yips! to Kathy.

Posted by Robert at 09:30 AM | Comments (3)

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - Outdoor Division

The Storm of the Century of the Week wound up dropping maybe four inches of snow at the Butcher's House yesterday. However, it was extremely wet and sticky snow, perfect for snowmen and snowballs.

I just want it place on record here and now - before any ugly rumors to the contrary get started and the Child Protective Services Nazis break down my door - that I did not lob a snowball at my three year old's face. She walked right into the shot.

I will say to her credit that she shook it off well. But she quickly laid out the Revised Rules of Engagement: "You no throw at me, Daddy. I throw at you."

Posted by Robert at 08:38 AM | Comments (1)

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - Update

Thanks much for all the kind words about poor old Jeeves. The Llama-ettes seem to have come through pretty well: The oldest insisted on saying a prayer for him before dinner last night. We all then got into a discussion of whether he could hear it or not, deciding that yes, in fact, he could. We also spent some time calculating out "cat years" as opposed to "people years". This seemed to help the gels put things in perspective - it was easier for them to think of Jeeves as the feline equivalent of an old man.

We're down to one cat now, on whom we're keeping an eye to see how she deals with the loss of her fellow. I wouldn't say that Jenny had any particularly strong bond with Jeeves, but she was used to him and the sudden shake-up might be a bit rough for her. One thing that I think is going to change: The gels are going to focus a lot more attention on her than before. Up till now, only the five year old has really shown that much interest, but I think Jeeves' death has made the other two think more about the whole business of having a pet. Now, as she is so people-friendly that my sister routinely refers to her as "Jenny-Anybody", I think this will all work out just fine.

One thing we don't want to do is to bring in another kitten at this point. If Jenny can deal with being the single family pet for a little while, then we will be all clear to start thinking about a puppy next year.

Posted by Robert at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)
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