Little luxuries.

I’ll say this for durable goods: There’s nothing like a brand-new major appliance to take your mind off your troubles, especially when it’s linked to the one activity that can always make me feel competent and in control — banishing dirt and clutter. Sears delivered our new washer today, a Bosch high-efficiency model. It uses about a tablespoon of water per load, and no more electricity than can be generated by a single stroke of a butterfly’s wings. The clothes are spun so thoroughly they come out practically dry. If I could, I’d move it into the living room and watch the clothes go ’round, which is more entertaining than the HGTV show I watched on the elliptical at the gym yesterday morning.

It reminded me of when we bought our first house, and got a brand-new washer and dryer. It was the first time I’d ever lived in a place where I didn’t have to shlep my laundry somewhere else, and along with the dishwasher, nothing before or since made me feel so rich, virtually overnight. All those nights spent in the Solar Sudser on Broadway in Fort Wayne left a mark — the dirty kids who would walk up to you and cough in your face, or the attendant with trichotillomania who would talk on the phone for hours, narrating events in her life, which lurched from crisis to crisis as she yanked her bald spot bigger and bigger. I’d sit there with my book and try to let the white noise of the swish swish swish do its job, but it could never compete with the cigarette smoke and the yelling and everything else. To do one’s own laundry, in one’s own basement, while you got something else done, too? Sheer luxury.

The delivery man was Croatian. Someday I’ll be able to hear an intriguing accent and refrain from doing an impromptu interview with its owner, but that day hasn’t arrived. Besides, when someone says they’re from “the good part” of Croatia, don’t you want to know which part that is? (It’s the part where the war wasn’t.) So what brings you to Detroit? The fact your homeland is entirely run by thugs? And how is that different from Detroit? Ha ha ha ha ha. Enjoy your new washer, you parody of a bored housewife, you.

Well, that may all change sooner than we think. Today’s the day we find out if the household can continue to afford detergent, and if so, for how long. I intend to be in my weightlifting class at the time. Good wishes appreciated, but our fate is already sealed. We just don’t know what it is yet.

Bloggage to take your mind off it all:

Those Brits really know how to write a headline, or at least a subhed: The worst christmas party injuries I see in my surgery / The comedy stuff, such as plucking shards of photocopier glass from revellers backsides, happens when the surgery is closed. Now that’s something to read.

Gay penguin soap operas. A good story, actually.

The Iraqi who graciously offered his shoes to our president? Is a folk hero.

My admiration for Roger Ebert’s blog grows with every entry. Today, one for you parents out there, likely to be the only ones who’ve seen a Tru3D movie (unless you really are a Hannah Montana fan, in which case I will back away slowly).

Off to wash away my worries. I’m doing darks.

Posted at 8:12 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

57 responses to “Little luxuries.”

  1. Mindy said on December 16, 2008 at 8:29 am

    I hope your high efficiency washer proves to be one worth having. The one I bought several years ago, the Whirlpool Calypso proved to be such a piece of junk that it earned the nickname of Collapse-Oh from appliance repairmen across the country. It did a marvelous job on whites, though. I miss that about it. Everything with a grease stain had to be rewashed many times. When it died I got a Maytag that does a lovely job hogging water and producing clean clothes.

    The laundromat got to be such a drag that we bought a used apartment sized laundry pair as soon as we could afford it. The washer was from the late 50s and the dryer was ten years newer. Lots of memories with those as well, mostly involving my multi-tasking husband filling the washer at the sink and then going off to make the most of those few minutes. One day I came home from work to find the living room furniture floating. Another time the elderly landlord downstairs phoned to ask if a pipe in our kitchen had burst. Ah, memories.

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  2. coozledad said on December 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Roger’s post about reading would make a nice supplemental for a high school survey course in American lit. Or if you attended the college I did, it could net you three sophomore credit hours.

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  3. MichaelG said on December 16, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I’ve got my fingers crossed, Nancy. What a horrible thing to go through.

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  4. Julie Robinson said on December 16, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Ebert’s otherwise fine essay is NSFW due to a topless Betty Page photo. I’m sure that just increased the traffic. Due to a weird combination of astigmatism and double vision I could never really see anything in 3D. Or through a microscope, though my high school biology teacher never believed me.

    Our family’s income came from the newspaper world from 1981-2007 and it was an exciting ride that spanned the glory days to the gory days. After a very attractive offer from the Indy Star, the DH decided to exit for the non-profit world. In the last three months Indy has gone through two rounds of layoffs. There but for the grace of God…

    The “good part of Croatia” sounds like when our daughter told us she was going to live and work in Bangkok’s slums for a week, but no worries, because it was a grade A slum. Very reassuring.

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  5. nancy said on December 16, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Sorry, guys. I should have flagged the Ebert thing, but maybe that says something about Bettie. She looks so happy and natural in her skin she doesn’t even read as nude to me. Just…Bettie.

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  6. Kirk said on December 16, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Yeah, now that I looked, if the company decides to downsize, they can go back and prove that I looked at a nekkid woman on my company-issued computer.

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  7. Connie said on December 16, 2008 at 9:23 am

    A similar penguin story from the Central Park zoo resulted in the lovely kid’s picture book, “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson. This story about two male penguins hatching an egg and raising a chick has been one of the most challenged books in American public libraries in recent years. Because it promotes the gay agenda you know.

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  8. Kirk said on December 16, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I keep meaning to ask one of my gay friends if I might have a peek at that agenda. I would guess it’s tastefully bound and in a lovely typeface.

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  9. nancy said on December 16, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Psst, Kirk: It exists. Tell no one until you get the secret handshake.

    UPDATE: A fuller version.

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  10. Kirk said on December 16, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Great stuff.

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  11. Danny said on December 16, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Yeah, FTA:

    “A number of Iraqis said they were dismayed by what Mr. Zaidi had done. Ahmad Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening Council in Anbar Province, a group of tribal leaders that started a wave of popular opposition to fighters linked to Al Qaeda, condemned the move.”

    Listen, anyone who thinks that is is okay for a nation’s leader to be assaulted on foreign soil is a looney at best and a savage at worst. Period.

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  12. coozledad said on December 16, 2008 at 10:19 am

    You should be happy, Danny, they’re torturing the guy, per your definition of freedom. I wonder if Bush is having films made of it so he can entertain his guests in the Chancellory-er-White House.

    Serves him right, for wanting to rid his country of Iranian influence. The coward.

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  13. alex said on December 16, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Oh, the outrage, Danny. Why this is almost as bad as sluts wearing white bridal gowns. And store clerks who diss Christmas with their “happy holidays” shit. Off with their heads too.

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  14. coozledad said on December 16, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Authoritarian cultism. Never goes out of fashion with them, does it?
    Bush is pursuing the “Don’t leave it just halfway fucked” policy over there as over here, and the only people who don’t get it are his 26 percenters.
    People who live in mud huts, tatoo their faces and cook over dung fires have an infinitely more sophisticated understanding of monumental immorality than the National Review readership.
    It’s clear who the savages are.

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  15. Sue said on December 16, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I guess the blogs I read are mostly written by journalists, because I’ve done this twice in the last week alone, but at any rate I’ll give you the offer I gave to the others (who also don’t have a donation jar, hint hint): I’ll do my part by sending you a bag of groceries consisting of Wisconsin cheese and Door County wine. Maybe even a Racine kringle, although I’ve never seen the attraction, but they do travel better than those damn cream puffs. Send me an address and give me your preferences.

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  16. nancy said on December 16, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Thanks, Sue, but for now, give the cheese to your food bank. The newsroom is safe from layoffs for now, that being defined as “a few months, we hope.” Fingers crossed all around.

    Others in the building, not so lucky.

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  17. whitebeard said on December 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    As Nancy says “Others in the building, not so lucky.” On the news pages side, copy editors became proofreaders, so goodbye to proofreaders; copy editors and graphic designers became pagination masters, so goodbye to compositors; in the end two composing room people sent off the news pages, but even before I retired in 2004 I could send directly to the platemaking machines from the news room. Ah, progress?

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  18. vince said on December 16, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    You really should set up a PayPal donation opportunity on your site. I know of other blogs which have them, in addition the Google Ads, and they recoup site expenses more from donations than the ads.

    And no, it’s not setting yourself up as a charity or making yourself out as a hard luck case.

    It would allow us to pay for a worthy service.

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  19. moe99 said on December 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    George Packer has an article in this week’s New Yorker, Official Stories, which may go a long way to explaining the source of the Iraqi’s anger and frustration:

    In the past few days, two official documents on Iraq and the war on terror have come out: a bipartisan inquiry by the Senate Armed Services committee into treatment of detainees, and a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Reading through the executive summary of the first and highlights of the second gave me a distinct feeling of nausea—a sense of being dragged back down into an extremely unpleasant experience in which I’d been immersed for years and that I’d only recently started to leave behind.

    No chance. A few sentences into each document and it was real and vivid all over again: the official lies and deceptions buried under acronyms and jargon; the headlong folly of arrogant policymakers; the fateful decisions made in the shadows or on the fly, and the years of terrible consequences.

    These two documents bring very old news; there’s nothing remarkable about their main conclusions. The nausea I felt came from having seen and heard almost all of it before. The Senate inquiry finds that the humiliation and cruelty inflicted on prisoners at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib followed from directives that originated in the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The Inspector General’s report (which, at 513 pages, contains far more revealing detail than the declassified version of the Senate inquiry) establishes that the U.S. government was completely unprepared for the reconstruction of Iraq, owing to the almost criminal negligence of those responsible, and that the years since the invasion have been marked by bureaucratic confusion and incompetent execution, with private contractors playing a large role in the disaster. In both narratives, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld are the prime culprits, heading a large cast of failed officials, along with a few quiet dissidents. Both documents show, without quite saying so, that years of official statements amount to a long string of lies.

    Throwing shoes in a sense is benign in that the weapon of choice does not cause serious injury (usually in the Middle East soft shoes are worn, not hiking boots) but given the shame attached to showing someone the sole of your foot, it has siginificant emotional and psychological consequences. It’s like giving the finger used to be here in the US before common custom debased the effect. And Bush has been known to give the finger. So, I think that given the mendacity and the corruption and the greed that have completely impoverished the country of Iraq, the gesture is completely understandable and that Danny is overreacting for all the wrong reasons….But I repeat myself.

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  20. brian stouder said on December 16, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    I agree with Vince.

    Aside from that, Bettie Page naked is just good stuff (talkin’ old fashioned naked, not S&M naked!) – and NOW I have to find those 3-D classes!

    I think her look is so alluring because she is an idealized “every girl” – and not a cartooney Pamela Anderson Big-boob Barbie

    And Danny is right – we don’t need to cheer when Presidents of the United States get objects thrown at them

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  21. Danny said on December 16, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I’d go even further. I don’t think that Ahmedinajab should have things thrown at him when he visits here. It’s just wrong to assault leaders of other countries on foreign soil.

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  22. nancy said on December 16, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Danny: Simplify, simplify. How about, “It’s wrong to assault people.”

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  23. CrazyCatLady said on December 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I love Bettie Page. I admired her beauty, her ability to sew really cool costumes and her beautiful hair. But most of all, I admired her as a woman who was both sexy and innocent, devilish yet naive. My hubby collects Bettie items. I never felt jealous or threatened by this 50’s pin-up. She was like the Girl Next Door. She was an icon of a bygone era of ‘spicy’, not pornographic, photos. And always was that smile that said ‘I’m having fun!’ I even was thinking of a tattoo of her- the only woman I would ever consider permanently inking. She is grace, she is art and most of all, she was a spirit and a survivor. And she will be an American icon that will endure the ages.

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  24. Danny said on December 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Danny: Simplify, simplify. How about, “It’s wrong to assault people.”

    Aw, gee-whiz, Mom. But all the cool kids are doing it.

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  25. Dorothy said on December 16, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    In about a month I’m going to have a new house and all new appliances. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop skipping through the house and looking at and touching everything for at least a week. I’m so freakin’ tired of apartment living.

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  26. Gasman said on December 16, 2008 at 1:48 pm


    I guess I was left off the e-mail list for getting THEIR agenda.

    Several years back I had a gay colleague who struck up a conversation with me about the relative merits of cotton sheets with various levels of thread count. I looked at him and said, “You know, this is the first time in my life that I, or indeed possibly any other straight guy in the history of the world has ever truly considered the “thread count” of anything.”

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  27. Danny said on December 16, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    No, you’re wrong here too. Thread count counts.

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  28. Catherine said on December 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    It’s important to respect the office, no matter how one feels about its occupant. I think the shoe per se crossed that line, in a way that verbal protest wouldn’t have. So, I kind of /choke/ agree with Danny. However, the president has said it’s all good, freedom of expression, a symbol of how far the country has come, blah blah, so maybe we all should let it go.

    And, what vince and Sue said about the tip jar. I’ll start the bidding: $10 in there, every time I agree with Danny.

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  29. Dorothy said on December 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I agree with Danny on two things today – the President thingy, and the importance of thread count. Once you sleep on sheets with a thread count of 250 or less (shudder), and then try the 400 thread count (or higher), you’ll know the difference. And you’ll appreciate the higher count so very much.

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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 16, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Nice Thoreau shout-out, Nancy. May i add:

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  31. paddyo' said on December 16, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I thought 300, 400 thread counts were something. Then my (rather) new girlfriend spoke of ONE-THOUSAND thread counts and I got a little light-headed.

    Gotta say, they are something . . . like the softest, lightest, thinnest BLANKET you’ve ever tucked yourself under.

    Did the Romans have 1,000-count sheets?

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  32. Sue said on December 16, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Popping in again (feeling chatty today):
    Don’t think of it as a tip/donation jar, think of it as a subscription.
    Thread count doesn’t matter if there is even a molecule of polyester involved. Make sure you read that while imagining a snooty voice.
    Forget Thoreau today – it’s Jane Austen’s birthday. You youngsters can all read P&P; I’m going with Persuasion.

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  33. Dorothy said on December 16, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    I have a copy of Persuasion in a box in storage, Sue. When I get the house all settled and boxes opened up, I might search for that and make it my first new read in the new house!

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  34. del said on December 16, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    As for the cuts at the papers, and across our economy, here’s a song for us all.

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  35. Dexter said on December 16, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Pollyanna speaks:

    from Wiki: “IBM Pollyanna Principle…understood as a statement of extreme optimism, that machines should do all the hard work, freeing people to think (hence the reference to Pollyanna), or as a cynical statement, suggesting that most of the world’s major problems result from machines that fail to work, and people who fail to think.”

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  36. MichaelG said on December 16, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    President Truman (you grossly underestimate him, Brian) had a very clear understanding of the difference between the Office of the President of the US and the man who occupied it. He didn’t much care about what people wrote or thought about Harry Truman but he was fiercely protective of the office. This leads to the way I feel about the shoe throwing incident. George Bush is beyond contempt and deserves all the rotten eggs people can throw. However, that was the President of the United States, good or poor, having demeaned the office or not, at that presser in Bag City and I don’t like people throwing stuff at him.

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  37. Dexter said on December 16, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    ok…I hate to disrupt the festivities…but I have to, since this was a hot-topic here at NNC a while back. I tell ya…it really pissed me off. I believed in colonoscopies…now, can any of us? Is there a doctor in the house?

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  38. joodyb said on December 16, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    dexter, i view that nyt story in the same light as the Madoff outrage/hysteria: if you’ve been getting a 15 percent return on your investments for five years running, you are extremely lucky &/or someone’s cooking the books. there are no guarantees. the promises of medical technology and screening should be taken with a boulder of salt.

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  39. basset said on December 16, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    My son went to the same high school as Betty Page about sixty years later, Hume-Fogg in Nashville. None of the teachers looked like her as of last school year, though.

    Nice bosom. Wonder what kind of washing machine she had?

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  40. Dexter said on December 16, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    basset…I never heard of Betty Page until her death, or maybe I did and it never registered with me. I see that she was big news, but while I remember where I was when I heard that Jayne Mansfield was beheaded and Marilyn OD’d…this woman flew over my radar.

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  41. Dexter said on December 16, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Laundromat Memories
    Cigarettes, little kids running amok, bright lights with a few humming and blinking, vending machines with Tide and some odd-ball brand of bleach-detergent, never making change because Dad had a small tackle box filled with dimes and quarters, helping Dad load the baskets into the Studebaker, more clouds of cigarette smoke wafting in the air, a little ancient man with a dual-bill hunting cap and wool gloves stomping in to warm up, then abruptly leaving to get where he went, and a very thin woman , very stylish with curled hair and perfect makeup, black eyeglass frames, many gold bracelets, who always seemed to be there when we were, and always puffing away on a long cigarette.
    When I delivered Journal-Gazettes , our drop-off station was across the street from a diner-laundromat combo. A bakery delivered fresh trays of cinnamon rolls and donuts at 4:45 AM and the diner opened at 6:00 AM, so those trays were right there, stacked on a laundry folding-table for 45 minutes before the owner showed up to start the coffee in the diner. We paperboys would sometimes help ourselves to a few rolls and leave quarters and nickels on the wax paper for the owner…he never complained.

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  42. MarkH said on December 16, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Completely OT:

    I have wondered this before, but the subject matter changes so fast around here, I get sidetracked and forget to ask. Maybe this has been asked and answered many times previously on this blog, but I haven’t seen it.

    So, Nancy, inquiring minds want to know:

    Both being from the same general area in Ohio, what IS the relationship between Alan Derringer and Rick Derringer?

    BTW, congrats on Alan dodging the layoff bullet, for the time being, of course. But, good news.

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  43. nancy said on December 16, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Both being from the same general area in Ohio, what IS the relationship between Alan Derringer and Rick Derringer?

    Twins. Separated at birth. Of course I got the brother who doesn’t get royalty checks.

    Truth: No relation, says Alan. Rick’s birth name was Zehringer. He probably changed it because he thought Derringer sounded more rock’n’roll, and Junior Walker already had a claim on “Shotgun.”

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  44. MarkH said on December 16, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Um, yeah, I should have remembered that, about Rick’s name change. At the OSU campus radio station we played the s*** out of Edgar Winter and Derringer in the early 70s and it comes back to me now.

    And wouldn’t those royalty checks come in handy today, not to mention the ones from old fogey appearances in on-line stock broker commercials.

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  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 16, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    For the “not a dime’s worth of difference” crew — — which actually makes me think that, politics and parties aside, there are certain imponderables that don’t change from administration to administration (like getting the briefing on ).

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  46. MarkH said on December 16, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Ha! Area 51, right.

    Did you all know ( or maybe I learned it here) that Google Earth has a flight simulator program? You can choose a light plane, or a figher jet for equipment and “fly” over anywhere in the world? Yes, YOU can land a plane at Area 51!

    Or, at it’s designated alleged succesor, the White Sands Range just southeat of Moab, Utah. The photos don’t show much there, though, and it’s not to be confused with the White Sands in New Mexico.

    Get a good quality joy stick (keyboard controls work ok, too), go to Google Earth and find your favorite location. Hit Ctl-Alt-A, have fun. Pilot Joe will love it.

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  47. joodyb said on December 16, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    i forgot to say, nancy, i am reveling in fresh durable goods as well, having historically replaced washer&dryer simultaneously after suffering shot solenoids for a humiliating duration. we took the occasion to reconfigure the laundryroom. the only time i can remember being more in the zone domestically was in my treehouse.

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  48. Dexter said on December 16, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    I guess welfare is the opposite of royalty checks. Once my unemployment compensation ran out so I went to apply for food stamps. I got eight dollars worth of food stamps. We had three kids. I got called back to work the next week. Amazing timing. I actually bought corn meal and flour and beans with the $8. Sounds like “Pioneer Days”, eh? 1983. That is all the “welfare” we ever received.

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  49. basset said on December 17, 2008 at 1:05 am

    IIRC Rick does have a twin or maybe just a brother, Randy, who was in the McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy”) with him… and they’re from Union City, Indiana.

    Jayne Mansfield… you might still be able to find a copy of a really interesting travel book, “Unauthorized America.” Among other historic locations, i.e. Charles Manson’s boyhood home and so forth, they show the stretch of highway where Jayne Mansfield died in a car wreck, down on the Mississippi coast somewhere.

    Obligatory Beatles connections: George Harrison was once photographed with Jayne Mansfield. The red Les Paul he played on “Let It Be” once belonged to Rick Derringer, who traded it to a music store in NYC, where Eric Clapton bought it and later gave it to George.

    I am a positive fount of worthless information tonight.

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  50. Dexter said on December 17, 2008 at 1:12 am

    The flight slim is awesome! For some reason Firefox blocked it so I downloaded while using the IE browser…it takes a few minutes for the entire download, btw. So far I flew over my house and then flew over NYC and looked at some isolated photos of the Roosevelt Island tram. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time flying all over Europe tomorrow. Thanks, MarkH.

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  51. Dave said on December 17, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Rick Zehringer does have a brother, not twin, who did too much in the way of, ah, recreational activities and, the last I knew, was living pretty much a reclusive sort of existence in Lima, OH. But, that goes back a few years and might not be true today.

    Knew their father, who Rick always spoke highly of during his heyday, I recall reading a Rolling Stone interview in the 70’s. His father’s view of the rock n’ roll world was a little less.

    I believe the the McCoy’s bass player, or perhaps, he was the drummer, was running a pizza shop in Winchester, IN.

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  52. MarkH said on December 17, 2008 at 4:32 am

    basset –

    I stand corrected on the McCoys’ roots. A Cincinnati DJ had said they were from Ohio when Hang On Sloopy was big while I was in high school. So it made sense that when I got to Ohio State, I learned it was the (un)official OSU song. Although Wiki says it’s the official rock song of the state of Ohio.

    That’s some six degrees of separation on the red Les Paul!

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  53. MichaelG said on December 17, 2008 at 8:59 am

    The McCoys – wow. One afternoon in college I was playing house with the landlord’s daughter when himself came calling to inquire after the whereabouts of his rent money. Poor girl was a bit spooked. “Hang on Sloopy” was playing at the time. From that day her nick-name was “Sloopy”.

    Dexter, I can’t believe you never heard of Betty Page.

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  54. Kirk said on December 17, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Please forgive the copy editor in me, but her name was Bettie Page.

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  55. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 17, 2008 at 9:57 am

    An interesting angle on how we’ve been here before, between media eras, out of an essay in the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik

    “Samuel Johnson arrived in London in March of 1737, at the age of twenty-seven. He was escaping from a failed effort to run a country school, along with his prize pupil, a twenty-year-old would-be actor named David Garrick. Although Garrick made his way to the stage, and to stardom, in short order, Johnson had no luck in his dream, of becoming a London writer and wit, for a very long time. He had the misfortune to have arrived in London in a time not unlike this one, with the old-media dispensation in crisis and the new media barely paying. The practice of aristocratic patronage, in which big shots paid to be flattered by their favorite writers, was ebbing, and the new, middle-class arrangement, where plays and novels could command real money from publishers, was not yet in place. The only way to make a living was to publish, for starvation wages, in the few magazines that had come into existence. Johnson worked as a miscellaneous journalist, carrying his clips around and begging for assignments.”

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  56. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 17, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Wow — it just is marvelous writing, let alone compelling reading —

    His was a hungry man’s hard-hearted view of life, more like Merle Haggard’s conservatism than like his later friend Edmund Burke’s. The self-classified reformers, Johnson insisted, are in pursuit of only their own narrow interests, not those of the common people. He loved to tell the story of challenging Mrs. Macaulay, “a great republican,” to prove her sincerity about social equality by asking her footman to dine at her table. (“She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.”) Life is hard, and there is little that government can do to make it easier. No one was less paternalistic, or puritanical, about the poor and their pleasures than Johnson: give them all the gin and fairgrounds they want, they have little enough else, God knows. (“Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer.”)

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  57. joodyb said on December 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    That Adam Gopnik got my life! Seriously, what a great job. He is good.

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