A fellow of infinite jest.

Add to the lengthening list of the many business I would not want to be in at the moment this: Funeral homes. Their profit margin — fancy caskets, spare-no-expense funerals — is swirling down the drain with everything else.

It’s the damn boomers, of course, who ruin everything they touch. At Thanksgiving, we had a brief discussion of what we wanted for our last tribute on earth, and neither Alan nor I want a fancy funeral. Frugal Midwesterners we are (soon to be broke Midwesterners), we ask for nothing more than immediate cremation followed by some sort of meaningful dispersal of ashes. (The church of my birth would strenuously object to the scattering part, but I left that building a while back. The thought of my corpse being pumped full of chemicals and laid out for public display grosses me out far more, so that’s that.)

Of course, others have more ambitious plans:

The Royal Shakespeare Company will no longer use the real skull of Polish pianist Andre Tchaikovsky in its performance of Hamlet when it transfers to West End as it is “too distracting for the audience.”

The use of the skull had been kept a carefully guarded secret throughout the play’s four month run in Stratford until leading man David Tennant disclosed that the skull belonged to the late pianist Andre Tchaikovsky – who bequeathed his skull to the RSC for this very purpose.

Andre Tchaikovsky left his skull to the RSC in 1982 after he died of cancer to be used on stage in Hamlet. It took a quarter of a century to happen – and he posthumously appeared as Yorick in the recent production of Hamlet at Stratford.

Tchaikovsky — no word on relation to Pyotr Ilyich — always hated productions where they used a prop for the Yorick scene, his agent said:

“He hated the way it was done. When he saw (Hamlet) with the RSC, he (Andre) said, ‘I am going to leave my skull to the RSC, they really should have a proper skull. It doesn’t work with the plastic thing they have.’ And then we looked at his will, and there it was.”

Back into the prop warehouse for the late pianist; maybe in another 25 years they can bring him out again. If the bigmouth actors can keep their yaps shut, that is.

And so we begin all-bloggage Wednesday here at NN.C. But it’s beefy bloggage:

Remember how I told you you should be reading Roger Ebert’s blog? If you were listening, you already read today’s riposte to critics who accused him of not reviewing “Expelled,” the anti-evolution “documentary.” If not, baste in its sweet, sweet revenge here:

The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics. It isn’t even subtle. Take its treatment of Dawkins, who throughout his interviews with Stein is honest, plain-spoken, and courteous. As Stein goes to interview him for the last time, we see a makeup artist carefully patting on rouge and dusting Dawkins’ face. After he is prepared and composed, after the shine has been taken off his nose, here comes plain, down-to-earth, workaday Ben Stein. So we get the vain Dawkins with his effete makeup, talking to the ordinary Joe.

I have done television interviews for more than 40 years. I have been on both ends of the questions. I have news for you. Everyone is made up before going on television. If they are not, depending on their complexions, they will look sunburned, red-splotched, oily, pale as a fish belly, orange, mottled, ashen, or too dark to be lighted in the same shot with a lighter skin. There is not a person reading this right now who should go on camera without some kind of makeup. Even the obligatory “shocked neighbors” standing in their front yards after a murder usually have some powder brushed on by the camera person. Was Ben Stein wearing makeup? Of course he was. Did he whisper to his camera crew to roll while Dawkins was being made up? Of course he did. Otherwise, no camera operator on earth would have taped that. That incident dramatizes his approach throughout the film. If you want to study Gotcha! moments, start here.

It weighs in at about a million words, each one as sweet as candy. Bon appetit.

How often have you sat through a meeting at your workplace — Six Sigma blah blah blah pursuit of excellence blah blah blah best practices blah blah to the blah — and yearned for something…more? Thought, “the writer’s life for me!” and considered jumping out the window, or maybe walking out the door? If so, let me introduce you to the closest equivalent to a copy desk staff meeting, “The Right Word” blog at the NYT:

Careful readers, including some in the cement industry, are quick to point it out when we confuse cement and concrete.

What’s the difference, you say? Go back to kindergarten, bonehead. From the NYT stylebook:

cement. Use concrete instead to mean the material that forms blocks, walls and roads. One ingredient is cement, the binding agent that is mixed with water, sand and gravel.

You can almost hear the voice of Ben Stein, can’t you? Click through for more exciting hair-splitting over “podium” and “lectern.”

(All snark aside, I do think these distinctions are important, and I recognize the importance, and thanklessness, of the job of maintaining language standards. I only question whether the public gives enough of a fig to make it part of the NYT’s website.)

From the WashPost, a sobering story on how technology makes a better terrorist:

The heavily armed attackers who set out for Mumbai by sea last week navigated with Global Positioning System equipment, according to Indian investigators and police. They carried BlackBerrys, CDs holding high-resolution satellite images like those used for Google Earth maps, and multiple cellphones with switchable SIM cards that would be hard to track. They spoke by satellite telephone. And as television channels broadcast live coverage of the young men carrying out the terrorist attack, TV sets were turned on in the hotel rooms occupied by the gunmen, eyewitnesses recalled.

This is terrorism in the digital age. Emerging details about the 60-hour siege of Mumbai suggest the attackers had made sophisticated use of high technology in planning and carrying out the assault that killed at least 174 people and wounded more than 300. The flood of information about the attacks — on TV, cellphones, the Internet — seized the attention of a terrified city, but it also was exploited by the assailants to direct their fire and cover their origins.

Fascinating story.

If you prefer gunplay more relaxed, less deadly and a whole lot funnier, try this piece on Detroit’s last surviving inside-the-city-limits gun store, written by the Metro Times’ own Detroitblogger John. (I’m reliably told the pseudonym protects an actual reporter for the more smugly self-satisfied of the city’s dailies, and why these excellent little sketches of city life aren’t running there is anybody’s guess, but I’d guess it comes down to the suicidal standards of corporate journalism.)

Anyhoo, some great detail about the dangers of ricochet on the indoor range:

He unconsciously shields his groin with his hand as he talks. “A woman was shooting, and I got hit right on the head of my dick!” he says. “But it didn’t hurt. It just come and fell. So about two, three months later a lady’s down here shooting, the damn bullet ricocheted, hit my damn dick. I said ‘What the hell’s going on here!'”

And finally, what the hell is going on here? General Motors needs $4 billion in cash just to get through the end of the month. Anyone want to buy a nice house in Grosse Pointe? I could probably make you a deal.

Off to whistle past the graveyard. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:55 am in Current events, Detroit life, Movies |
 

65 responses to “A fellow of infinite jest.”

  1. brian stouder said on December 3, 2008 at 10:30 am

    …navigated with Global Positioning System equipment, according to Indian investigators and police. They carried BlackBerrys, CDs holding high-resolution satellite images like those used for Google Earth maps, and multiple cellphones with switchable SIM cards that would be hard to track.

    I noticed that the BlackBerry also played a large role in the stories of the survivors at the Taj; several accounts of setting up ‘networks’ and instantly sharing information and news with each other all across the hotel.

    One thing about hitting the high-end “soft targets” is that the intended victims may have as much electronic crap as the attackers do.

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  2. coozledad said on December 3, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I’ve always thought burial and its attendant rites were flat out nasty-ass. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference in viewing a corpse and having the family share its brains as a farewell snack, like some Pacific islanders.
    Growing up in the south, among rurals, I can’t tell you how many times some crazy aunt hoisted me up to the open casket to kiss a mothballed tribal elder goodbye. And my parents never batted a damn eyebrow. And when I got older and refused to go have a look at what a ‘purty job they done’ on someone, they said I was irreligious. God Damn it if they didn’t get that one right.
    But to be honest, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone jumping all up in the coffin and shaking that thing by the shoulders until its head nearly pops off, screaming and crying the whole time. I honestly believe that’s where theater was born.

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  3. Jason T. said on December 3, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Catholics allow cremation now, Nance, though burial is “strongly preferred.”

    I always thought my maternal grandmother’s preference had a certain piquancy. “Stick a bone up my — and let the dogs drag me away,” she used to say.

    (She was joking, just in case anyone has already started to dial 911.)

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  4. Dorothy said on December 3, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Jason I love your grandmother. She’s my kind of smart ass.

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  5. nancy said on December 3, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I know they allow cremation now, Jason, but they frown on scattering (pagan!!) or keeping the ashes (super pagan!!). I was also tickled by that website — of a schismatic Catholic group — and their plainspokenness:

    The liberalization of the law forbidding cremation is without a doubt a concession to the ever increasing influence of Freemasons and those who refuse the belief in the resurrection of the body. We have now, more than ever before, the obligation of professing our Faith in this important article of the Creed, for it is precisely by opposition to the doctrine of the resurrection of the body that this custom has become commonplace.

    But I should clarify.

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  6. mark said on December 3, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Let’s see, as a potential terrorist intent on racking up a high body count, I now have to factor in the risk that my intended victims are texting away on Blackberrys, helping each other hide. But in India and much of the world, I weigh this new risk against the certainty that none of my victims and none of the hotel security will have access to a low tech Smith & Wesson.

    I think I’d still choose the Taj, where the upscale guest may be “wired and inspired,” over a Motel 7 in east Texas, where the less affluent are likely to be “locked and loaded.”

    Seriously, I think two aspects of this tragedy have recieved less coverage than they deserve: the absence of armed security and the terrorists apparently taking the time to torture their Israeli victims.

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  7. beb said on December 3, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Not that I”m an actor or ever wanted to be an actor but the thought of handling an actual, real dead person’s skull would so gross me out that I couldn’t do it.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that actor, Tennent, Doctor Who?

    Obviously you’ll never sale a newspaper in this town if it contantly saying bad things about Detroit!

    Maybe the owner of the gun range ought to just wear an athletic cup while at work.

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  8. jcburns said on December 3, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I reunited with a couple of TBS buddies Friday at Manuels Tavern, just down the street from home…I mention this because there’s an urn containing the ashes of its legendary founder behind the bar. And yet, the beer is cold and the french fries are tasty.

    Glad to see the Big 3 Guys driving through Ohio in their hybrids, just as I suggested. I’m expecting my kickback from the Ohio Turnpike authority any day now.

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  9. beb said on December 3, 2008 at 11:26 am

    mark,
    the believe that possessing a gun will somehow magically protect you from violent assault is one of those inexplicable naive beliefs. The essence of violance is that it happens so fast that you don’t have time to react. Not to mention that guns — like house keys — are never there when you need them.

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  10. mark said on December 3, 2008 at 11:40 am

    beb-

    Well, if there is no such thing as magic, then I guess you are correct.

    And, of course, the most remarkable thing about the attacks in Bombay is that they happened so fast there was no time to react. It’s not like there were people hiding in their rooms for hours and even days. No, it was a mere blink of an eye from start to finish.

    Finally, I must admit that the number one complaint from trained, professional and well-armed security guards is that their weapons just can’t be found when they are needed.

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  11. brian stouder said on December 3, 2008 at 11:48 am

    As for funerals, the “best” ones I have been to have no oppresive open-box dominating the room, and then people seem freer to talk and laugh and remember stuff. Those scrolling electronic picture frames seem to be “the go” these days, and they strike me as quite pleasant.

    On my day, there should be plenty of cold cuts (baloney, no doubt) on offer, and inexhaustible supplies of icy cold Diet Coke, and that’s it.

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  12. mark said on December 3, 2008 at 11:58 am

    nancy-

    I think I’m with you on the cremation route, but I have a word of advice for you: say your farewells daily, because you won’t want to make a final stop at the funeral home for that purpose, or have loved ones visiting you there.

    Most funeral homes make the cremation process as ghastly as possible, to discourage it. I’d read about this and I was involved in a lot of litigation with funeral homes, but I’d never experienced it first-hand until my uncle died a couple of years ago.

    I went with my cousin to the very reputable mortuary to discus the ceremony. My uncle had specified and paid for a cremation in advance. My cousin asked to see his father- big mistake.

    Uncle Al was in a kind of beat-up cardboard box, in the same bedclothes he’d died in. He looked, well, dead and pretty awful. The whole scene just seemed very undignified and wrong.

    In fairness, once the mortuary knows that you are checking out in ashes, there is no reason to spend a dime making you look pretty or dignified. But they also know the impact of these impromptu viewings helps keep coffins in demand.

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  13. Deggjr said on December 3, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    “Trained, professional, and well-armed security guards…” Heh.
    That comment brings back great memories of my security guard career during the last post-war crippled economy. The guard company’s standards were so high for the minimum wage job I was interviewed with another candidate at the same time. The key question was ‘do you mind not carrying a gun?’. External answer ‘no’, internal answer ‘I insist on not carrying a gun’. The primary client implemented the no gun policy after two incidents.
    In the first incident, a spooked security guard shot up the front of a building. The result was only property damage, no big deal, in fact there was nothing living to hit. In the second incident, two guards had a quick draw contest during the shift change. Fortunately the contest loser, although shot through the chest, lived.
    I’m sure Blackwater has some pretty effective security guards but I doubt they are close to minimum wage. I wouldn’t voluntarily stay at a hotel that felt they needed Blackwater personnel as security guards.
    The minimum wage guys would just add to the death toll.

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  14. John said on December 3, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Well, not every funeral home is like Fisher & Sons.

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  15. Dorothy said on December 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Mark I’m sorry about your Uncle, but honestly I’m glad to hear they had him in a cardboard box. I thought I read or heard somewhere that they put you in a coffin to cremate you. And I always thought “What the hell!??” We want to be cremated, too. I’ll tell our kids to pass on the chance to see us one last time. Just light the match and be done with it. (well, not THEM, but the guy at the crematorium)

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  16. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Favorite funeral home in Defiance?

    Stick and Frye.

    No joke.

    when I die, I have a bunch of music I want played. First off, the second movement of the Brahms Requiem, followed by some Bonnie Raitt, U2, Steely Dan, ending with the Carmina Burana. There will be more.

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  17. mark said on December 3, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    dorothy,

    When they saw the look on my cousin’s face they offered to cremate his dad in a “discount” coffin (factory second? returned?) for $1500. Offer declined.

    A pretty successful lawyer I knew passed on a few years ago. Per his wishes, the widow had him cremated and spread his ashes (surreptitiously) at Augusta National. Years later she told me she had him cremated in a top of the line solid cherry coffin. She had the money and it is what she wanted, so who am I to criticize… But the things we justify in the midst of grief may not represent our best thinking.

    Here’s hoping you always stay close enough to your kids that they won’t need the last (too late) good-bye.

    Speaking of which, I think I’ll see what my parents are doing this weekend.

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  18. Dorothy said on December 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    We are close to them, Mark. In fact I’m close to counting the hours until our son gets home on the 20th for a two week break during his Basic Training. He joined the National Guard. I miss him terribly. But we write to him often. He almost ALWAYS gets mail delivered. He told us in a recent letter that there are several guys who haven’t ever gotten any mail. That just about breaks my heart.

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  19. Julie Robinson said on December 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    As it happens we attended a funeral yesterday for a SIDS baby. I’m grateful there was no open coffin; it was wrenching enough to see its small size.

    Cremation for me too, and who cares about the ashes. Just conclude the memorial service with the John Rutter “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” and serve a good Lutheran potluck afterward.

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  20. LA Mary said on December 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I’ve instructed my children to put me on an ice floe and push me out to sea. Chances are there won’t be any ice floes when I die, though.
    The only funeral with an open coffin I’ve been to that didn’t creep me out was that of my best friend’s brother. He was only 22 when he died, maybe murder, maybe suicide. I don’t know if it was ever determined and there does not seem to be anyone offering to discuss it. Anyway, his siblings all tucked things into his pockets as they walked by the body. A fishing lure, a joint, possibly.

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  21. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Julie, agreed. Open coffin would have been ghastly. The step from vitality to mortality is too great for such a young person. That is very sad.

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  22. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Hey, all of this talk of funerals reminds me of an old Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy.

    Life is a constant battle between the heart and the brain. But guess who wins. The skeleton

    Moe, about music at funerals, we had a discussion a few weeks back on in a music community I contribute to. Somone posted the following:

    “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, ’cause the only time that song will be played in a room that I’m in will be when I’m dead.

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  23. Kirk said on December 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    And all this talk of funerals makes me skip back to the stories of the boob security guards, which reminds me of this story about a real cop in Greenfield, Ohio:

    My ex-brother-in-law, then a teen-ager, had done something to piss off his dad, who made him work on Saturday night in the diner he owned. In came the cop (whose nickname really was “Dizzy”), who proceeded to show off his new “quick-draw” holster. He sat there jawing for a while. Ex-brother-in-law told him a funny story and, as the cop laughed, he spun around on his stool at the counter. As he spun, the holster got caught up under the counter. When he went to unstick it, he managed to fire the gun. The bullet passed through the counter and into Mike’s foot. Just grazed him, but blood all over the place, the cop is crying and it’s a real Barney Fife moment. The cop stayed on the force, eventually promoted to sergeant. Mike doesn’t even limp.

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  24. nancy said on December 3, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I can’t top that, Kirk, but it reminds me of a security guard we had in Fort Wayne, a cheery-but-tubby woman everyone liked. One day she kept complaining of feeling sick and light-headed, and eventually fainted. They took her to the ER across the street, where after a while the problem was diagnosed: A roll of pudge just above her belt line was pressing on the can of mace she had strapped there. It was one of those top-mounted trigger buttons, and while it wasn’t enough to be immediately evident, the pressure was just enough to keep a little cloud of it leaking out and surrounding her with a fog of chemical repellant.

    Most embarrassing you-need-to-lose-weight wake-up call ever.

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  25. Kirk said on December 3, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    That did make me laugh out loud.

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  26. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Constabulary notes from all over. Today, it’s Dayton, OH. Wife shot during sex. Another cautionary tale regarding keeping guns in the house:

    http://www.kirotv.com/video/18195523/index.html

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  27. del said on December 3, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Kirk, I know a Detroit area police detective who shot his hand while reaching into (and fumbling around in) his police locker. It was one of at least two traumatic life events for him. The first was being given the name Adolph.

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  28. Danny said on December 3, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Constabulary notes from all over. Today, it’s Dayton, OH. Wife shot during sex. Another cautionary tale regarding keeping guns in the house:

    Which reminds us all of: “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.”

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  29. coozledad said on December 3, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    One of the cops who used to eat lunch at the bar where I worked told me one of his co-workers got bored during a stakeout and started messing around with the shotgun mounted between the front seats. It blew a huge hole in the roof. It also took a while for his hearing to return.

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  30. MichaelG said on December 3, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Plaxico who?

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  31. Gasman said on December 3, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Nancy,
    Thanks for the Ebert link; I really like the way that guy writes. His review of Ben Stein’s new movie is priceless.

    Ben Stein is an idiot. He would have us believe that all of science – or better yet, all learning – is merely a grand intellectual smorgasbord from which are free to randomly graze. You don’t like some bit of knowledge which is a bedrock of science? No problem! Merely state that you don’t agree with that “theory,” find a couple of “scientists” who agree with you and move on until you find a dish of knowledge that better suits your tastes.

    Stein might as well advocate selective choices for the periodic table. “You know, I never really trusted #85, Astatine. If you drop the last six letters and add an ‘s’ you get ‘ass.’ It is obviously a smutty, liberal, secularist element.”

    One of the posters on Ebert’s blog said that 99.975% support from the scientific community for Darwin’s basic premise was evidence of academia’s intolerance for competing ideas. You can’t argue with that kind of logic.

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  32. Halloween Jack said on December 3, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    The late Second City director Del Close wanted to have his skull used as Yorick in productions of Hamlet at the Goodman Theater–with the provision that he be given a credit in the cast list–but it turned out to be surprisingly difficult to have a specific skull cleaned and preserved. I guess that it’s one of those bygone arts.

    Ebert’s takedown of Stein is hilarious. I think of Expelled as the sort of movie that wingnuts make, thinking that it’s their version of a Michael Moore documentary (although not possessing any of Moore’s wit); as David Zucker’s An American Carol shows, they really want nothing less than for Moore to have a conservative conversion and make movies for their pet causes.

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  33. brian stouder said on December 3, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I like my polemics served up in a subversive style; understatement is the key.

    Think of the guhvmint employees in Green Acres – Mr Kimball, the Ag Department guy, and Mr Drucker, the postmaster;or, the G-men in North by Northwest; or, for that matter, pretty much all the adults in The Wizard of Oz…

    (another ellipse for the Proprietress!)

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  34. Dexter said on December 3, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    The Chicago Cubs National League Baseball Club assigns a crew ,just before every game starts, to police up ashes that fans dump on the outfield warning track. This ash-scattering is discouraged , forbidden, illegal…but people do it anyway for old Gramps or Uncle Joe who never got to see a World Champion team.
    Mrs. Dexter and I long ago decided on immediate cremation . My wife knew a family here who had a full-viewing funeral, casket very fancy…and THEN burned the remains. Oh well.
    Just don’t let THIS happen to my ashes.
    The Big Lebowski
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpuMAvA8M6g&feature=related

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  35. moe99 said on December 3, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    But what would your epitaph be? Here are some noteworthy ones:
    http://www.alsirat.com/epitaphs/highlites.html

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  36. alex said on December 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Ebert is a good read indeed. One of my fave columns was a subversive takedown of Rush Limbaugh. He made it appear to be all about Howard Stern, whose fart humor he felt wasn’t nearly as worthy of prosecution by the FCC as the offensive things emanating from Limbaugh’s hole.

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  37. Gasman said on December 3, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Stein and those of his ilk have seized upon an accident of the English language to buttress the entire substance of their argument. Because we refer to the “Theory of Evolution,” Stein reasons that anyone may dispute evolution merely by positing an alternate “theory.” That their “theory” has no scientific basis whatsoever bothers Stein not in the least. Stein et al. are clueless as to the meaning of empiricism and blithely ignore its precepts. Yet, he demands equal time for his moronic “scientific” delusions.

    Stein would have us believe that science is merely a belief system that is as subject to debate and differing opinions as are matters of religion and faith. He contends that all is needed is to shout “I disagree” and POOF!, you have rendered a pillar of scientific thought moot. The scientific method does not allow for mere disagreement: it demands actual proof. If you would find fault with any bit of scientific discovery you must either: 1.) find fault with the methodology of a study and in great detail document that supposed fault, or; 2.) provide new a competing study, replete with evidence that will allow for peer review and results that will be replicated by the work of others. Stein does neither. He is so uninformed that he simply seems unable or unwilling to understand what is and is not science.

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  38. Jolene said on December 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Y’know, I heard Ben Stein talking about this movie on a talk show and, based on what he said then, I’m not so sure he believes any of what he said in “Expelled”.

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  39. James said on December 3, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Here’s my take on the whole funeral thing,

    My proudest moment on Jeopardy was getting to tell the story about smuggling my mom’s ashes to Père Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris.

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  40. caliban said on December 3, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Can we lie our ass off? Saxby? He’s sackless. He is a most despicabble liar, even for a Republican. His ads weren’t quite so vile this time. No , they were more vile. There was not a single thing true in any Sackless ad He’s your Republicqan Party, movong on He only talked about victimizing young girls when his opponent had had his daughter abducted. He didn’t morph Jim Martin with Obama, the way he did with Max Cleland, whoo lost three limbs in VietNam when Sackless had other things to worry about.

    He did a riff on Jim Marttin’s daughter being abducted and blamed it on the dad. That’s your Republican Party. Scum of the earth. These people are inexcusable. If Guantanamo stays open, send W.

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  41. Gasman said on December 3, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Stein’s goofball notion is also premised upon our fairly recent journalistic tradition of “fair and balanced” reporting of all issues. This means you have one person representing position “A” and one representing position “B.” When evolution is discussed this way in the media, it gives the impression that there is some sort of parity in the scientific community between the views of Darwin and Stein. To represent the true division among scientists, a panel for the discussion of evolution would require about 10,000 scientists on Darwin’s side of the set and 3.5 on Stein’s. They couldn’t even muster a whole fourth scientist. If a discussion regarding evolution were presented in that fashion, few reasonable people would mistake Stein’s position as legitimate. If you are going to treat evolution in Stein’s disingenuous manner, you might as well do so for pedophilia. “And in this corner, representing the pro-Child Molester position….” Maybe that is the subject of Stein’s next documentary.

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  42. caliban said on December 3, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Ben Stein and the Bush administration trashing the Constitution? Eyewash, Ben Stwin is one of those halfway intelligent idiots. He wants so much to beliieve idiocy, he ends up believing idiocy. The particular idiocy in this instance has to do with the idea Ben Stein thinks he had important information. We hope he didn’t. He’s a third-rate commedian.

    Was he telling W what to do aboutt the ‘hair-on-fire’ presidential briefing? Saxby claims Sarah Palin won it for him.

    Ben Stein is supposed to be smart. Does he have a clue about the Constitution? No duh. Nope. He’a about as smart as Bill O’Reiley. And that’s painfully stupid.

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  43. caliban said on December 3, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Anybody that took part in SwIiftboat ought to have their asses transported to Gitmo. Kerry was pulling a guy out of the river. While that was happening, W was protecting the liquor supplyat the O-Club. Facts-jack. That’s what happened.

    Nobody’s ever served the country better and been treatec more poorly than John Kerry. The felonious nature of the election eas more obvious than the felonious bullshit pulled in sending the election to Scalia in 20000.

    This Obama’s right-center thing from pundints<a on the right is actually sad, if they weren’t some evil spawn of Wormtongue and Screwtape. ( Wasn’t CS Lewis’ satire embodied in embedding the most repugnant slang term for intercourse he could think of ? I mean, when ‘screw’ is used to refer to business dealings, people are talking about the dirt road, with pain, degradation and domination maximized.)

    What’s mystifying is the reaction from the ‘rebranded’ Progressives. I think they feel wounded and betrayed because Gary Kucinich isn’t the newly named World Czar. Maybe Obama could mend offended sensibilities by making Jerry Brown Extraterrestial Emmisary.

    Part of this arises from the overwhelming hatred (h long a tred, it’s a noun, while hate is a verb) for Hillary. One thing I’d like to point out is, where the hell were they when Hillary’s health care plan, possibly but not fatally a long shot, bit the dust in the face of their Silent Majority imitations. The seeds of current tsurris were there and health care was the epicenter.

    So now these do-nothing malcontents want to cause problems? I went to college with these hipper-and-holier-than-thou jerks. Are women’s rights, and human rights, and the Constitution (not to mention the Declaration of Independence) something these Lakoff-worshippers discovered when Liberals stumbled over them, but somehow missed the significance? You didn’t invent the struggle. There was actual head-bashing when you were gleams in you fathers’ eyes.

    So,href=”http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/11/new_era.html”>this makes my day. He’s the guy you voted for. If he does nothing but restore America to some sort of moral authority, he will have accomplished a great deal. As of January 21, 2009, we won;t torture anymore. And thats a transitory verb. Requires an object. Back to a president that speaks American English in actual sentences. Can’t be a bad thing.)

    A word about Hillary. Does anybody think, if she’d had the truth instead of the Stovepipe Gang’s version, she would have voted for the invasion? Senators were fed an even more cooked version than everybody else. When HW was leaving office, he and his surrogates cooked up Somalia. To leave a briar patch. It’s in their genes.

    And another thing, in retrospect, Is there an American that doesn’t know John Kerry was a hero and W was a draft dodger? Everyrything that McCain claimed about repatriating American remains was actually done by John Kerry. The lying by Republicans was spectacular, mostly from guys that ‘had other priorities. They still had to disappear tens of thousands of votes in Ohio to make it work. What Kerry did that was inexcusable was to expose Reagan and BCCI.. That’s why God invented the Google and the Internets, all those tubes.

    I believe gay people ought to be free to do whatever they want, including getting married. I sure as shit believe they ought to have benefits and legal rights. I think, anybody that reads thisThis doesn’t interfere in any way with my faith, which is staunchly Catholic, no matter what some ahole self-promoting Bishop in Colorado might say.. There’s a Catholic idea about the Commonweal. I think Obama gets the idea. Give him a chance.ev. Glenworthy is wagging his little tail. There’s a semi-great Leonard novel that’s all abou trepans and embalming fluids called Pagan Babies.(His Best book, by a mile.) Didn’t Elmore Leonard set out to write semi-greqt novels and made a few milliomn. I may have regaled y’all with tales of this wierdo sitting on a deck chair at the Birmingham Surf Club writing longhand on lawyers pads. We thought he was creepy. We were kids. How could we know he’d sell those books for Stephen King money to Hollywood?

    Things are rarely what they seem. Evolution is most interesting for the rabid opposition its espoused, that, in general, is so ignorant it’s Hitlerian. Making some attempt at connecting Hitler and Darwin is tortured And Hitler’s children like modern neocons cahn’t make a connection. Hitler couldn’t make a connection. I mean, if the International Jewish Conspiracy was outsmarting the Aryan race, how evolved was the Aryan race? QED. The inherent coefficients of not making sense pile up.

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  44. Dorothy said on December 3, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I’m so glad Caliban hangs around here. It sort of balances everything out, doncha think?

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  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Dexter, a useful cautionary video clip — and in yesterday’s NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/03/dining/03lebo.html

    The Dude abides.

    (There is, in fact, a need to think through the little details when you scatter ashes. Oh, the list of things they never mention in seminary that you really REALLY need to know.)

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  46. MarkH said on December 3, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Dorothy, um…no.

    BTW, of COURSE you love Jason’s grandmother; she’s from McKeeesport fer cryin’ out loud! Just like MY McKeesport native Catholic maternal grandmother, she is.

    Also BTW, Dorothy, how was Thanksgiving in the old home town? Were you in Wilkinsburg? When I read you were going there, it brought back a flood of those best childhood holiday memories in Steeltown.

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  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 3, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Customs of the Catalan (the coastal and interior region around Barcelona).

    Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas!

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  48. caliban said on December 3, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Anybody that took part in SwIiftboat ought to have their asses transported to Gitmo. Kerry was pulling a guy out of the river. While that was happening, W was protecting the liquor supplyat the O-Club. Facts-jack. That’s what happened.

    Nobody’s ever served the country better and been treatec more poorly than John Kerry. The felonious nature of the election eas more obvious than the felonious bullshit pulled in sending the election to Scalia in 20000.

    This Obama’s right-center thing from pundints<a on the right is actually sad, if they weren’t some evil spawn of Wormtongue and Screwtape. ( Wasn’t CS Lewis’ satire embodied in embedding the most repugnant slang term for intercourse he could think of ? I mean, when ‘screw’ is used to refer to business dealings, people are talking about the dirt road, with pain, degradation and domination maximized.)

    What’s mystifying is the reaction from the ‘rebranded’ Progressives. I think they feel wounded and betrayed because Gary Kucinich isn’t the newly named World Czar. Maybe Obama could mend offended sensibilities by making Jerry Brown Extraterrestial Emmisary.

    Part of this arises from the overwhelming hatred (h long a tred, it’s a noun, while hate is a verb) for Hillary. One thing I’d like to point out is, where the hell were they when Hillary’s health care plan, possibly but not fatally a long shot, bit the dust in the face of their Silent Majority imitations. The seeds of current tsurris were there and health care was the epicenter.

    So now these do-nothing malcontents want to cause problems? I went to college with these hipper-and-holier-than-thou jerks. Are women’s rights, and human rights, and the Constitution (not to mention the Declaration of Independence) something these Lakoff-worshippers discovered when Liberals stumbled over them, but somehow missed the significance? You didn’t invent the struggle. There was actual head-bashing when you were gleams in you fathers’ eyes.

    So,href=”http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/11/new_era.html”>this makes my day. He’s the guy you voted for. If he does nothing but restore America to some sort of moral authority, he will have accomplished a great deal. As of January 21, 2009, we won;t torture anymore. And thats a transitory verb. Requires an object. Back to a president that speaks American English in actual sentences. Can’t be a bad thing.)

    A word about Hillary. Does anybody think, if she’d had the truth instead of the Stovepipe Gang’s version, she would have voted for the invasion? Senators were fed an even more cooked version than everybody else. When HW was leaving office, he and his surrogates cooked up Somalia. To leave a briar patch. It’s in their genes.

    And another thing, in retrospect, Is there an American that doesn’t know John Kerry was a hero and W was a draft dodger? Everyrything that McCain claimed about repatriating American remains was actually done by John Kerry. The lying by Republicans was spectacular, mostly from guys that ‘had other priorities. They still had to disappear tens of thousands of votes in Ohio to make it work. What Kerry did that was inexcusable was to expose Reagan and BCCI.. That’s why God invented the Google and the Internets, all those tubes.

    I believe gay people ought to be free to do whatever they want, including getting married. I sure as shit believe they ought to have benefits and legal rights. I think, anybody that reads thisThis doesn’t interfere in any way with my faith, which is staunchly Catholic, no matter what some ahole self-promoting Bishop in Colorado might say.. There’s a Catholic idea about the Commonweal. I think Obama gets the idea. Give him a chance.ev. Glenworthy is wagging his little tail. There’s a semi-great Leonard novel that’s all abou trepans and embalming fluids called Pagan Babies.(His Best book, by a mile.) Didn’t Elmore Leonard set out to write semi-greqt novels and made a few milliomn. I may have regaled y’all with tales of this wierdo sitting on a deck chair at the Birmingham Surf Club writing longhand on lawyers pads. We thought he was creepy. We were kids. How could we know he’d sell those books for Stephen King money to Hollywood?

    Things are rarely what they seem. Evolution is most interesting for the rabid opposition its espoused, that, in general, is so ignorant it’s Hitlerian. Making some attempt at connecting Hitler and Darwin is tortured And Hitler’s children like modern neocons cahn’t make a connection. Hitler couldn’t make a connection. I mean, if the International Jewish Conspiracy was outsmarting the Aryan race, how evolved was the Aryan race? QED. The inherent coefficients of not making sense pile up.

    You all despise Kerry You let him risk
    his liife, and he didn’t have to. He could have bern a legacy like W.. Were you there? actually saved somenbdy’s life. When he could have died. But you have some shit.He exposed Reaagan and his machine as a bunch or Consitulionql Rriminqls. If you think Olly North is a hero for raping nuns. sleep well.

    Someome will find you.

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  49. Dexter said on December 3, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    MM-Jeff, yeah, I saw that story about The Dude. I have had a few Black Russians but probably only a couple White Russians in my youth.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I just watched the most enjoyable hour of television. “Spectacle” with host Elvis Costello interviewing Sir Elton John. It was on Sundance Channel. Next week Lou Reed visits.
    Tonight the show closed with the very first duet by Elton and Elvis, David Ackles’ “Down River”.
    It’s easy to give a great review for a show when two of your fave musicians of the past 40 years are on together. It was sweet.

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  50. Joe Kobiela said on December 3, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    All this talk about death got me to thinking, I hope all of you have signed your donor cards. I have had the pleasure of transporting transplant teams in the past, and believe me they can harvest just about anything from the old body. Please if you haven’t done so make it a priority to sign a donor card and let your family know your wishes.
    Thanks,
    Pilot Joe

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  51. alex said on December 3, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Gasman, Stein makes me think he’s more of a demagogue who gets off on talking down to fools rather than a true believer in his own bullshit, but even so I’m amazed to see someone so narcissistic hitching his star to a piece of crap this odious. It’s befuddling.

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  52. Gasman said on December 3, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Whether or not Stein is a true believer in ID or not, he is still an idiot. On this planet, there is effectively no scientific debate as to the status of natural selection as operative fact in and amongst all living organisms. None. Zip. Nada. Niente. There is debate as to the logistics of natural selection and how it has been expressed throughout time, but none regarding its existence. Stein and the ID crowd fault Darwin for not bringing his theory into full flowering existence in one single point of genesis (pun intended). That it did not spring forth fully formed, in their eyes, is evidence of its deficiency. How many scientific discoveries could pass that test? What meaningful scientific knowledge has not been confirmed, refined, and added to by the work of subsequent scientists?

    The decline of science and math curriculum in American schools has a direct correlation to the activist involvement of willfully ignorant, right wing, religious zealots at the school board level. They dumb down curricula because some topics offend their delicate sensibilities. They see inconvenient truths to be threats to their provincial world views.

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  53. Dexter said on December 4, 2008 at 12:59 am

    As Pilot Joe wrote, sign a donor card and carry it prominently so when the medics open your wallet ( if you die away from home unexpectedly) it is RIGHT THERE. I have carried one since they started using them.

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  54. moe99 said on December 4, 2008 at 1:06 am

    My donor intentions are on my driver’s license.

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  55. Denice said on December 4, 2008 at 1:39 am

    My mom died around Christmas last year. She hated funerals and loathed all the religious crap about death. She was cremated shortly after giving bone and skin tissue for Gift Of Life. The next summer we had a family picnic/party at Mom’s favorite metro park, and spread some of her ashes there. It was a good way to say good-bye. The funny part was we threw some ashes in the wind and it blew back into our faces. I tease my daughter that she breathed in Grandma. Sick but funny.

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  56. John c said on December 4, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Wow. Lot to chew on today and I’m getting in late. Let’s see.
    I’m Catholic and like the idea of burial, but more from the symbolic standpoint of becoming fertilizer. And all the fancy crap nixes that. My great grandfather and namesake had his ashes scattered off of Point Judith Lighthouse in Rhode Island, which already was one of my favorite places before I even knew that.
    India … I’m a reasonable gun control guy – which means the NRA would call me a radical. But you just can’t argue with the fact that, if there were some people in the hotel who had guns and knew how to use them, there would have been a lot less people killed.
    Evolution … flipping back to the Catholic thing … my faith is a shaky thing, more like a desperate plea. That means somewhere in there I believe in “intelligent design,” I guess. But it’s my belief and I wouldn’t teach it in a school science class. The whole idea with the faith thing is, you can’t prove it. You can’t understand it. It is bigger than you. All these creationist folks want to deny that, and turn it into something else. Meanwhile, the facts are the facts.

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  57. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 4, 2008 at 8:15 am

    If God can resurrect William Tyndale and Mary Dyer and Thomas More from ashes and scattered dust, my choice of cremation isn’t going to present an insuperable challenge for the Ancient of Days.

    Oh, and Ben Stein is an idiot. One of the smartest idiots around, but it’s not like that’s unusual. And if i cared a whit for the ID movement, i’d suggest to him that he’s set his cause back by his transparently tendentious little presentation, but sold a bunch of DVDs with him in knickers on the cover. Good for your agent’s cut, but what about your cause, dude? What about actually convincing anyone you have a point? He doesn’t even really try, just set a bunch of feral cats among the pigeons, but at any rate has given me a whole bunch of chances to explain to semi-well-intentioned Christians why Godwin’s Law actually has something to do with the Gospel, or at least how to present it usefully.

    Idiot.

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  58. basset said on December 4, 2008 at 8:29 am

    I was most disappointed to learn the local medical school wouldn’t accept my corpse… tried to book that trip in advance & found they won’t take anyone over 200 pounds. ah well.

    I do have a donor card (in Tenn. it’s on your driver’s license) and a living will, agree with Joe on that.

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  59. brian stouder said on December 4, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Speaking of “Expelled”/hucksterism/junk science, I thought fer SURE one of our resident Buckeyes would mention this story, which has been on the wires the past few days – about a deal between the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum (run by a guy with the Dickensonian name “Ham”)

    http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20081202/NEWS01/812020317

    an excerpt (with emphasis added) –

    “They seem like diametrically opposed institutions,” said Dr. James Leach, a Cincinnati radiologist who e-mailed zoo officials about his concerns. “The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city’s treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock.” Zoo officials said they considered the promotion – dubbed “Two Great Attractions, One Great Deal” – a marketing deal no different than cross-promotions they do with the Cincinnati Reds and other institutions.Instead, they found themselves mired in a heated debate between creationists and evolutionists over the origins of mankind. Thanks to the Internet, the opposition needed only a few days to organize a worldwide e-mail campaign and to set up a zoo boycott through blogs and a Facebook page.

    and a kicker

    “When we partner with the Reds, we don’t get these kinds of e-mails,” Yelton [a spokesman for the Cincinnati Zoo]said. “It’s pretty clear this is more of a distraction.”

    Hahahahahahahahaha!!!

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  60. Kirk said on December 4, 2008 at 9:11 am

    A friend of mine is a dental hygienist in Cincinnati, home of the Creation Museum. A patient once asked her about wisdom teeth and their apparent uselessness. As my friend began to explain how their usefulness had declined and vanished through the process of evolution, the patient cried, “You believe in evolution!?!?!?”

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  61. moe99 said on December 4, 2008 at 9:32 am

    To respond to John c: If you buy one of those fancy caskets, your body is not going to fertilize anything. You have to be buried in a plain, wood casket with no embalming chemicals to do the earth any good. I’m not sure how many funeral services offer that these days.

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  62. Rana said on December 4, 2008 at 10:31 am

    John C, moe99 – the concept is “green burial” – and I mostly find their argument persuasive, though part of me would rather be rendered into dry ashes (the only human remains I’ve seen, personally, except for skeletons in the lab or mummies in the museum).

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  63. Denice said on December 5, 2008 at 12:10 am

    As a nurse, I have seen people die. I am not fearful or even shocked by the dead. I just am used to being around death and dying. I don’t consider it gross or unnatural. Many aren’t comfortable with death, but it is waiting for us all.

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  64. Ricardo said on December 5, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    My ex made friends with a female neighbor back in the late 70s when we were all young. She was sort of a gold digger and was dating a guy that owned the biggest pawn shop in Fullerton, CA. He and his brother inherited all of the property from the original owner, I guess, because they worked for him and he didn’t have any heirs. One time the neighbor asked us to come up to her boyfriend’s big house for a Halloween party. Yup, we were the only guests. Since he was Phil Spectorish, it was very uncomfortable to be there.

    A couple of years later Mr Pawnshop ditched the gold digger and got married to someone else. Naturally, because he was so weird, they soon divorced. Soon after that his ex-wife and her lawyer came into the pawnshop to inventory everything and claim half by California law. His participation in the inventory was to pull out a gun from behind the counter and shoot both of them. Since he didn’t kill them, he was back in a few years to open up an old fashioned hippy store in Fullerton, kind of like the ones you used to find on Telegraph Ave in Berkley, just south of UC Berkley. Of course, his scheme of shooting everyone backfired because then his ex-wife got everything in the pawn shop.

    A friend of mine opened up a used guitar music store in downtown Fullerton about a half-block north of pawn shop site. He went over to the auction when they liquidated the pawn shop and bought some of the cheap guitars for his store. He told me that Mr Pawnshop came in one day and stood in front of each instrument he’d bought and stared at it for a couple of minutes before leaving. He knew which ones were once his.

    To me, the cool thing about the story is that about a half-block on the other side of the pawn shop on Harbor Blvd (same street Disneyland is on) sits the old shop that was Leo Fender’s Radio Repair Shop in the 1940s, the same place that launched Fender Guitars. Last time I was around there, it was a vintage jukebox repair shop.

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