It could be worse.

I’ll say this for 8 below zero — when the temperature finally rises to 20 degrees, as it’s forecast to do tomorrow, it’ll be time to go for a walk in shirtsleeves. Nothing like relativity to reset your head. Don’t ever say, “It can’t get any worse.” It can always get worse. (I learned this in the newspaper business, and look what’s happening — it’s getting worse.)

Today, after dropping the carpool off at school, I swung by the lake to see what sunrise looks like over fresh water at minus-8. It looks beautiful, it turns out. There was some sort of light-distortion effect going on, with a second, weaker sunrise in progress a few degrees north of the actual one. I groped in my coat for my camera, and discovered I’d forgotten it. Groped for my camera-equipped phone. Forgot that too. So no picture of this remarkable phenomenon. But it could have been worse — someone could have rear-ended me while I gawked, and I wouldn’t have been able to call for help.

Of course, sometimes it could be worse. Ask all those people standing on the wings in the Hudson River yesterday: Will you be seeking a claim against the airline for the ruination of your shoes? I was reading the accounts of the non-disaster in my daily pile of newsprint, and reflected for the millionth time what a pleasure a well-edited newspaper is. When breaking news is doing so, most editors throw everything into the mix, flood the zone, and to some degree this is what you should do. But every battle needs commanders, and in situations like this, editors are more important than ever. This is one reason I’m not looking forward to the thousand-eyes-on-the-ground future of journalism; it reminds me too much of working for a lousy paper, when the main story went on and on and on with quote after quote after quote, and at some point you just didn’t care about another eyewitness account, you wanted information. I got more from this passage in this story than I did from all the yakking heads on CNN yesterday:

Ditching can be tricky. The first step is to extend the slats and the flaps, the movable surfaces on the front and back edges of the wings that allow the plane to fly more slowly and to descend to just over the water’s surface.

Another step is to hit the “ditching button,” which seals the openings in the plane. One is the intake, where the engines grab air to pressurize and force it into the cabin, essential to high-altitude flight. Another is the valve at the back that lets air out.

When the plane is flying low enough, it will generate its own cushion of air, a phenomenon called “ground effect,” that lets it fly even more slowly.

I have no particular interest in aviation beyond the obvious one of hoping my flight doesn’t crash, but that was interesting. I never knew of the ditching button, and now I do.

Yesterday Wolf Blitzer, that giant dirigible of atomized bullshit, asked a question of one of the passengers. It ran something like this: “Now that you’ve been through this incredible experience, crash-landing in this icy river, going through this rescue, seeing it all, a thought?” (It went on much longer, however, and droned in that Blitzerian way.)

A thought? The passenger said: “Wow.” Somewhere in heaven, Shakespeare weeps.

(The best after-a-near-crash quote I ever read ran something like this: “Two hundred fifty-three people on this airplane, and it wasn’t anybody’s day to die.” And that came from a regular-joe passenger, not a poet. So it’s possible.)

Speaking of regular joes, let’s segue to the bloggage with a Medal of Valor to Roy Edroso, tracking Joe the Plumber’s perambulations through the Middle East. By my count Joe’s handlers have now compared him to Stephen Crane, Ernest Hemingway and now, Roy discovers, Abraham Lincoln. I only wish I were kidding. My thought: Wow.

Via Jezebel comes word that Amy Poehler’s new sitcom will have her playing “a mid-level bureaucrat in an Indiana city parks and recreation department who’s looking to get ahead,” and who “finds her love of the democratic process tested as she faces defensive government workers, selfish residents and real estate developers.” Actually, that could be pretty funny. I know some people who would sign on as technical consultants in a Hoosier minute.

Finally, while I love Anne Hull’s work in the WashPost, I have to say this: Must every visit to rural America only serve to underline what Barack Obama meant when he made that “clinging to guns” comment? Tell me what you think.

I have a phone interview in five minutes. Later!

Posted at 9:32 am in Current events |

65 responses to “It could be worse.”

  1. Kirk said on January 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

    The trend toward such questions as “A thought?” has been going on for a long time, as reporters have become lazier to the point of not even bothering to frame questions. I especially see it in sports, in which the “question” often is “Talk about (whatever).”

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  2. brian stouder said on January 16, 2009 at 10:00 am

    When I followed the links to that story from WaPo’s daily email earlier this morning, it left me sorta depressed, but also sorta happy (it could always be worse, right? Right!) There are glimmers of possibilities in there. If the economy gets better – and sooner or later, it will – then the first guy featured in there says he will swing into support for Obama (and I believe him), and that will be a good thing.

    The article drew me because here in Fort Wayne, the local talk radio lip flapper (and former broadcast partner for the Proprietress) has beat the “Obama is a gun grabber” drum with some passion – although his motives appear more mercenary than true-believing, as one of his main advertisers is a gun store (they have, in recent days, literally shifted directly from dire discussions of how your ‘gun rights’ are about to be taken away – with the owner of the gun store! – into a commercial for the same gun and ammo store!!

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  3. Danny said on January 16, 2009 at 10:02 am

    You guys really need to find home row. Every time you were typing temperatures yesterday, you were accidentally hitting the minus sign. That just doesn’t make sense. I think it is nice outside.

    Oh, and MarkH was calling a 3.8 a significant quake? What a wuss.


    Danny in San Diego.

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  4. Dorothy said on January 16, 2009 at 10:12 am

    One of my two dogs stopped outside the apartment door this morning and just sniffed the air. I could hear him thinking: This is what -13 feels like?!? I scooted back inside with them after they each raised a leg – total of maybe 90 seconds is all I could stand. Then the big guy took a dump by the front door just as I was putting on my boots to go to work. I can’t say I blame him for t hat.

    One more week in the apartment and then we can walk the pups on our THREE ACRES at our NEW HOUSE!! Can’t hardly wait.

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  5. Randy said on January 16, 2009 at 10:27 am

    The WaPo story…

    Obama will recognize (in his voice and cadence) “there is rain on the the scarecrow… there is… blood on the plow…”

    But he’s going to be a bit delayed while he bails out the banks and automakers first. They are so much sexier than the people that put food on the table.

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  6. MichaelG said on January 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Tell me again, where do stereotypes come from?

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  7. LA Mary said on January 16, 2009 at 10:59 am

    3.8? That’s a quakette. I sleep through those.

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  8. alex said on January 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Now Loewer wonders about his place in Obama’s America. […] He understands the cultural chasm between him and Obama’s Ivy League, biracial, global polish.

    As if there were no chasm between this gentleman and a Silver Spoon Republican like McCain? As if his “place in America” would be any different if Obama weren’t president? Why isn’t Obama’s “Ivy League, biracial, global polish” dispiriting to lower-class black America?

    That piece gets off to such a weak start I didn’t bother to finish it.

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  9. Dave K. said on January 16, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I don’t see the “…clinging to guns…” statement exclusively in reports from rural America, but it is definitely one of the most common “anti-Obama” sentiments, even months after the election. Much like the “I’m voting for McCain-Palin because I want to vote for a woman…” sentiment, I think it is just one more excuse for people to oppose Barack Obama without admitting their “No way am I votin’ for a black guy…” racism.

    I saw this in Democrats, union members, men and women whose employment, retirements and health care were seriously at risk after eight years of Bush-Cheney and Co. Sad but true. We all have much work to do, but I really believe we are moving in the right direction.

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  10. nancy said on January 16, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Exactly, Alex. I’m pretty open-minded to the idea that it Takes All Kinds, but I’m automatically inclined to judge this guy as a moron, especially when he says he believes the mailers from the NRA and local gun dealers that said, essentially, COME TO OUR STORE AND BUY ALL OUR GUNS BEFORE THE NEGRO TAKES THEM AWAY. When there was nothing, absolutely nothing, Obama said during the campaign that would lead a reasonable person to that conclusion.

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  11. Rana said on January 16, 2009 at 11:33 am

    This whole “liberals are elitists” thing has long puzzled me, I have to say. I mean, perhaps it goes back to the Progressive era, with all those classically clueless middle-class do-gooders mucking about, but that was also the era of robber barons and the like, so you’d think there’d also be an equivalent narrative of conservative elitism, but as far as I’m aware, there isn’t, at least not today.

    And it’s strange to apply it to someone like Obama in any case. Last time I checked, both Obama and B. Clinton came from pretty ordinary, even struggling families – anything they got in terms of education and privilege they earned. Isn’t that supposed to be the American dream? The whole point of the classic rags-to-riches story? (Now, if you’re talking about the Gores or the Kennedys, then the accusation makes a bit more sense.)

    Yet people born into money like the Bushes are somehow “just folks” – if you follow the logic, what makes people like Obama and Clinton “elitist” is that they worked hard and improved themselves, as opposed to being lazy or stupid and just coasting off Daddy’s money and connections. The implication, therefore, is that “ordinary” Americans are offended by hard work and smarts, instead preferring to celebrate the lazy and stupid.

    Which, if you think about it, is a lot more insulting than the claim that people might turn to either guns or religion in times of stress.

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  12. brian stouder said on January 16, 2009 at 11:39 am

    When there was nothing, absolutely nothing, Obama said during the campaign that would lead a reasonable person to that conclusion.

    Moral Question: which of these two alternatives is more lamentable?

    The guy who is truly “unreasonably” fearful about (fill in the blank)*


    The guy who is out to make a profit off of that rube, directly reinforcing his misapprehensions?

    *fears including, but not limited to, race, gun rights, race, ‘cultural values’, race, The Fate of Liberty, homophobia, race, etc etc. But Consider: personages who are constantly before us become accepted – Bill Cosby, Paul Lynde, Will Smith, Ellen Degeneres, Oprah Winfrey…and when President-elect Obama succeeds in his first term, he will cruise to a second – and then the image (in the popular consciousness) of what a President of the United States looks like will no longer be a middle-aged white man.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on January 16, 2009 at 11:40 am

    -18 when I got up this morn, and that’s actual temp, not wind chill. May I just say, wow.

    Anyone remember “Welcome to New York”, Jim Gaffigan’s short-lived sitcom from a few years back? His character was supposed to be from FW. It was funny but floundered in the ratings. Let’s hope Amy Poehler does better, if it’s any good.

    Dorothy, I hope it’s warmer in a week. I’ve done a couple of those artic moves and they are no fun.

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  14. beb said on January 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

    News comes that painter Andrew Wyeth has died at 91. According to Wikipedia he was homeschooled because of his “frail health.” Apparently he got better. He’s the son of famed artist N. C. Wyeth, and father of successful artist Jamie Wyeth. That’s quite a talented family.

    NBC and MSNBC were all over the airplane ditching yesterday, and proving your point about needing a strong editor. They just went on and on and on about the crash. There was a lot of praise for the captain but I thought the flight crew was giving extremely short shrift for their part on all this. The plane was evacuated in under two minutes (as I recall) and that would have been the responsibility of the flight attendents.

    As for damaged shoes. I also heard that the passengers were told to remove their shoes. Probably to avoid puncturing an inflatable slides or rafts. And they had to leave behind all carry-on luggage. I don’t know if I could abandon my laptop that easily….

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  15. jeff borden said on January 16, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I suppose all political movements, followings, parties, etc. need something to keep them engaged. I will cop to eight years of thoroughly detesting George W. Bush and even more thoroughly loathing the people around him. My intense dismay at the policies this aptly-named group of Mayberry Machiavellians certainly led me to donate to liberal/progressive causes.

    With so little positive to say about the outgoing Republican administration –and with Obama’s early display of overall bipartisanship– there’s been a tendency to create some new issues to keep the base riled and rallied. The bogus threat to the Second Amendment is one issue. The even more ridiculous threat of a return to the Fairness Doctrine is another.

    Another growing rightwing cause –pushed especially hard by the Bill O’Reilly– is blanket immunity for anyone involved in “enhanced interrogations,” aka torture.

    We are broke. Our economy is wobbling. Unemployment may hit double-digits this year. Our infrastructure is crumbling. We still have 130,000 troops in Iraq and don’t really know what will happen when they leave. The Middle East and the Sub-Continent are tinder boxes.

    But, hey, look over there. The colored guy wants to grab your guns and muzzle Rush and Sean!!!

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  16. Gasman said on January 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    When I read some of the comments from the fearful, and fearfully ignorant Southern white folk in Anne Hull’s WaPo piece, the term “cousin fuck” kept springing to mind. I am soooo damn glad that we’ve finally managed to minimize the political influence of this dangerous tribe of simpletons. These excerpts speak volumes:

    Robert Serio, chairman of the local Democratic Party for 30 years, says Obama was viewed as too liberal in Monroe County. “We don’t look at national Democrats as being family-oriented,” says Serio, a lawyer. “The multicultural thing would be something we are opposed to. The homosexual question would have an impact.”

    What precisely is “the homosexual question?” And, who is asking it? We also know that it is a proven fact that liberals don’t have families.

    “You earn your wealth,” Batchelor says. “We’ve had enough handouts from the government. We have second- and third-generation blacks who are living in the projects; they’ll never get out of it. They are taught to live in it.”
    Batchelor says one has to understand the local mind-set. “How can we expect somebody like Obama to do a good job when THEY can’t even handle things around here?” he asks.

    The emphasis added was mine, but it’s pretty clear that it is appropriate.

    Not long after Obama’s comments, Loewer received mailers from the National Rifle Association saying that Obama planned to ban hunting, restrict gun laws and close 90 percent of gun shops. Several nonpartisan fact-checking groups discredited the claims, but the gun dealers Loewer talked to said the NRA had it right.
    “When Obama got elected, I went out and bought a rifle and pistol shells for every weapon I own,” he says. “I bought $400 worth of ammo.”
    Not that Loewer feared Armageddon or a race war; he was stocking up in case the warnings from the NRA and the gun dealers came true.

    From whence cometh this irrational fear of Obama outlawing guns? Why, it cometh from the NRA! There is no arguing with those who are mobilized by such fear mongering, especially since they are armed and eager to shoot.

    He has noticed that blacks around Brinkley — many whose families originally came to this region to pick cotton — have a newly emboldened attitude. He’s heard about people cutting in line at the grocery store or “doing a little victory dance at the Kwik Shop.”
    Loewer shrugs.
    “If he brings us out of this mess we’re in right now, I’ll get out in the street and fist-bump with them,” he says.

    If those uppity blacks would just go back to picking cotton, why, everything would be just fine. But of course, Loewer isn’t racist.

    “Obama has almost no history with the South,” Loewer says…

    Au contraire, Mr. Loewer. I think that Barack Obama can readily draw on about 400 years worth of Southern history with no problem at all.

    These good, God-fearing Christians used to be neighbors of mine. The first place my wife and I called “home” was Denton, Texas, where I was starting graduate school. As far as standards of liberalism go, Denton is somewhat like the San Francisco of the Lone Star State. With two state universities in town, one of them chock full of lesbians (no joke, Texas Women’s University) and the other heavily laden with pinko leaning artists and musicians, Denton was bound to be much more progressive than all but a couple of other places in the state.

    However, I did not restrict my wanderings to within the Denton city limits. In my travels throughout the state I encountered that sickeningly ignorant, fearful brand of hate that is white Southern racism. It was alive and well throughout the ’80s and ‘90s and was positively unreceptive to reason and the truth. White Southerner crackers are quick to employ a very ecumenical brand of hatred that readily targets liberals, queers (“ain’t they the same as liberals?”), blacks (substitute “N” word here), and most of all Yankees, as targets of disdain and scorn. I can’t tell you the number of “The South Will Rise Again!” bumper stickers and Confederate battle flags I saw on a daily basis.

    This ignorant brand of tribalism has been the source of many of the greatest woes our country has ever faced. If they could not be won over by Lincoln, MLK, or LBJ, I find it highly improbable that they will ever accept Barack Obama – no matter what he accomplishes. He is the embodiment of nearly everything that they fear. My greatest hope is that this virulent intolerance appears to be far less pervasive among the younger generation. Maybe, just maybe this scourge will cease to be politically significant within a generation or two.

    But I suppose it could get worse.

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  17. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    “Wolf Blitzer, that giant dirigible of atomized bullshit…”
    Yesterday I had tuned into a Lima, Ohio AM radio station because of a news report I came across, then I left the room .When I returned, Limbaugh was on. That broke the rule, as I refuse to let him speak on my radio. I then unplugged the radio and trashed it. It had been defiled.
    When Wolf Blitzer appears on my TV, the TV must go through an exorcism. He’s not in Limbaugh’s class, yet.
    Now I have to go buy another radio—damn that Limbaugh anyway.

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  18. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    christina’s world, the wyeth we all know well

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  19. Gasman said on January 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I was distracted by my rant, but I feel better now. Dexter reminded me that I needed to thank you for the “giant dirigible of atomized bullshit” moniker. It is my new favorite vituperative epithet with a barnyard connection. A verbal Tintoretto in bovine excrement. Brava!

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  20. MarkH said on January 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Oh, you California people, so la-di-da…

    From my perspective, limited temblor experience that I have, (lesser ones here barely ripple of course), being in THIS building, with the time it lasted, was significant and took me to a newer level, at least. Couple this with the local awareness of USGS warnings that the Teton Fault is WAY overdue for a major 7+ shift, well it was the talk of the town today. That 3.8 is low, lower than I expected, but…

    Perspective, ladies and gentlemen, perspective…

    You, too, DANNY.

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  21. John said on January 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Anyone else catch the curtain call (Gil Grissom’s, not the Prez) last night? I love Larry Fishburne and hope he is given interesting scripts to do well with. Of note, Larry would have a tough time squeezing into Cowboy Curtis’ clothes these days.

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  22. Deborah said on January 16, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I keep a sticky note on my work computer’s desktop that I copy and paste fabulous quotes that I come across. Well these 2 just got included: “that giant dirigible of atomized bullshit” and “A verbal Tintoretto in bovine excrement”
    One of my favorites from my list:
    “… it has the added benefit of being true”, quoting Henry Kisssenger

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  23. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    A word of inspiration…NEVER give up! It took twenty calls over 11 days to Time -Warner, threats and insults, pleas and yelling, but I finally found a tech-rep who knew how to punch in the codes to bring my Sundance Channel back up, just in time for the Sundance Festival reports! Sundance has the best programming, period.

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  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Isn’t that what the ant learned with that darn rubber tree plant?

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  25. MichaelG said on January 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Well, I understand there is a peak in Yellowstone that is scheduled to go all Mt. St. Helens, but 3.8? C’mon, Mark, get a grip.

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  26. brian stouder said on January 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    A saying I always liked was “When there is no alternative, there is no problem”.

    And a Friday tale for you: today at lunch Pam and Grant and Chloe and I went to a nice diner (Shelby was off at a friend’s house) and we had all finished our lunches, and were just getting ready to pay the bill, and I noticed that Grant hadn’t eaten his pickle spear yet – so I asked him if he wanted it. He said ‘nope – you can have it’; so I take a big bite, and as I’m chewing along, it begins to seem that I’m flossing my teeth…and I ended up pulling an exceptionally long strand of greyish brown hair from my mouth.

    I think I said something like – ‘well, this isn’t one of ours’ – and Grant says “That’s why I didn’t want that pickle!”

    Gave us all our laughs of the day! (and a post script: as in every diner, an old feller was in there yapping incessantly with the over-worked, pretty waitress – heedless of her hurried politeness as she moved here and there, keeping drinks full and folks happy. On the drive away from there, I asked Pam not to let me waste my days in diners, pestering [or getting in the hair of] the waitresses!)

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  27. jeff borden said on January 16, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I agree with you up to a point, but I think there are rednecks, racists and yahoos in all 50 states. We’ve had plenty of Aryan Nation-style activity in the Chicago region including a lunatic who gunned down Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Birdsong as he jogged, wounded several yeshiva students in a largely Jewish neighborhood, then killed some Asian students in Indiana. The shooter, a follower of a douche bag named Matthew Hale who actually called himself Pontius Maximus, was a native of Illinois.

    As an aside, when I moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Charlotte, N.C. in 1985, I arrived to find a black man as mayor and a Jew as president of the City Council, which was not something Columbus could claim.

    There are people of good and ill will everywhere, are there not?

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  28. Gasman said on January 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    jeff b.,
    Undoubtedly, narrowness of mind is not exclusive to any one region. Indiana has a special place in the KKK hall of fame. In 1925, over half of the General Assembly and the Governor himself were members of the Klan. There was an incident from a black friend who tried to rent a room from an elderly white woman in Fort Wayne in the early ’80s. He spoke to her on the phone and she seemed excited to have a classical musician take her room. When he showed up and she found out he was black, she pointed a shotgun at him and let it be known that “no nigger was welcome” there.

    Despite the reality of pockets of racial intolerance across the country, Obama won or seriously competed nationwide with the exception of most of the old Confederacy and parts of the West. The South’s intolerance and fear of a black man elevated to power dies hard. They haven’t cornered the market on bigotry, but they still are pretty damn good at it.

    That said, there is a unique quality in the nostalgic view of bigotry throughout the old Confederacy. They seem to foster a fond remembrance of slavery, segregation, and racial violence. It was palpable and one of the reasons we fled Texas at our earliest opportunity.

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  29. LA Mary said on January 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    When I was in my early teens (around 1965 or so) there was a cross burned on the lawn of a black doctor who had been unwise enough to buy a house in the town where I lived. This was in in northern NJ, about 15 miles from NYC.

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  30. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    brian stouder: That stunt would have made great material for Laurel and Hardy…Ollie asking Stan if he wanted the pickle, and the scene playing out just the way you described it, finishing with Ollie’s exasperated gaze straight into the camera. “That’s why I didn’t want it, Ollie.”

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  31. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I know one is supposed to destroy the hard drive of an old computer . One woman told me to “drill holes into it”. The tech at the fix-it shop where I went to pick it up told me to
    “take a hammer to it if it bothers you, but most people just throw them away.” The truth is, I don’t know if I have stuff like bank account #s and my SSAN on there or not, and I want to really cook this thing dead.
    I arrived late to the game…this is my first home computer, it lasted 8 years…any suggestions for destruction?

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  32. alex said on January 16, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Off topic, but here’s some vagus nerve music I just heard:

    These days playing music from my computer through my home audio system, so it sounded pretty awesome.

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  33. jeff borden said on January 16, 2009 at 6:25 pm


    I think you have indeed hit on something, which is the nostalgia for the past and this whole whitewash of the secessionist South. Essentially, the Southern states that seceded were engaging in what today would be defined as treason, yet apologists cast the Confederacy as a place of great honor and nobility, simply wanting to be left alone but forced to engage the invading Yankee hordes.

    It starts with the designation of the Civil War as the War Between the States and, occasionally, the War of Northern Aggression. It continues with the lionization of officers who broke their oath to the Constitution of the United States to fight for their states instead of their nation: Lee, Jackson, Forrest, etc. Those guys are textbook traitors, but they have more statues south of the Mason-Dixon line than Grant or Sherman have north of it. And, of course, it totally ignores the ignoble actions of so many during Reconstruction with the rise of the KKK, which I believe may have been founded by Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    There remains a certain amount of antipathy to the many Northerners who now live in the South. One of the guys I worked with in Charlotte loudly and frequently lamented how all the goddam fucking Yankees were ruining North Carolina. If someone would say it was impossible to find a decent bagel in Charlotte, he’d respond, “Then go back to fucking New York. We like grits.” He had a bumper sticker on his pickup truck that read: “Beautify the South. Put a Yankee on a bus.”

    It wasn’t the racism that made me uncomfortable in my time in Charlotte as much as the overt religiosity. Everything, and I mean everything, had a religious angle. The aforementioned black mayor, Harvey Gantt, who had a degree in urban planning from Harvard, was defeated by an evangelical named Sue Myrick. (She is currently a Congresswoman, elected in the Gingrich revolution of 1994.) She told reporters that while she and her husband were strolling Myrtle Beach, a sudden wind came off the Atlantic and carved an altar of sand. She and her husband fell to their knees in front of this altar and prayed. God told her to run for mayor. And so her political career was launched. No doubt that stirring tale of being anointed by God himself was a significant vote getter.

    I prefer the standard variety sleazy, greedy, grimy, cheating, grabbing, venal, gimme gimme gimme politics of Illinois to the religious weirdness of North Carolina. I’m sure Texas is right up there, too.

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  34. MichaelG said on January 16, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    It’s only January, Brian, and it looks like somebody has earned a stocking full of coal already. But I had to laugh.

    jeff b, you referred to the “Chicago region”. It reminds me that when I was a kid there we had a TV weather individual who insisted on referring to the “Chicagoland area”.

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  35. Gasman said on January 16, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    jeff b.,
    Amen to the hyper-religiosity of the South. I found the mix of racism/piety especially galling.

    Dallas was one of the absolute most stone-cold racist cities in the old Confederacy. It was standard practice to exclude black jurors in cases involving white defendants. It was a practice that continued throughout the ’80s and is now causing one helluva mess in terms of new trials and reversals.

    As a young adult white male, when I interacted with black senior citizens in Texas, I made it a point to be extremely polite. I am sure that many of the people I treated this way had been on the receiving end of many an imperious white male’s insults. I took great care in making sure that I showed them the respect they deserved. For some, I may have been the first adult white male to act respectfully toward them.

    But these were good, God fearing Christians that engaged in that narrow minded behavior, so it was OK.

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  36. Catherine said on January 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    “There are people of good and ill will everywhere, are there not?”

    Well said, jeff b. Progressives lose the moral high ground when the stereotyping starts.

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  37. coozledad said on January 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    jeff borden: You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting Jesus. He’s always up in everybody’s business. I’m beginning to think he does hair, too. The only thing he doesn’t do is higher education. That’s solely the domain of abortionists and wine tasters.
    I’ve witnessed people driving down I-85 while they read from a Bible propped on the steering wheel. I’ve had shop stewards convene a ten minute prayer session on federal property, on federal time, inhibiting me from fulfilling my sworn duty to get out and carry the damned mail. You know what they were praying for? Increased customer satisfaction.
    It wouldn’t surprise me if I encountered a troupe of flagellants in the parking lot of the grocery store, or if I received a summons to county court because aerial photographs determined we didn’t decorate for Christmas.
    But it’s home.

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  38. brian stouder said on January 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Another sign of advancing age: ever since this website came to my attention, I find I have it on in the background as I surf the web (or do the dishes, or what have you)

    It’s a good ol’ fashioned police/fire scanner for Fort Wayne. Right now a fire is occurring in an apartment complex – apparently not a huge one….but it makes me remember when I was 10 or 12, and we had a scanner radio, and all the older folks had ’em, and they always knew what was goin’ down!

    Dexter – regarding fat and skinney: Exactly!

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  39. Deborah said on January 16, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Oh goodie a new quote for my growing list, “You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting Jesus”, thanks Coozledad.

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  40. beb said on January 16, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    There’s no peak in Yellowstone about to go all Mt Helene on us. Rather, all of Yellowstone is a gigantic volcano caldera which blows up ever 100,000 years or so. Last time it blew up — 100,000 years ago.

    MichaelG: There are programs which will multiply reformat and scrub your hard drive. But unless you’re running a criminal enterprise you don’t anything that severe. Just reformat the hard drive once. Short of forensic analysis that will destroy all information on your drive.

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  41. Gasman said on January 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Programming note: tonight is the last installment of Letterman’s “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.” I maintain that it was that recurring skit, with a script written nightly anew by W his own self, that helped the nation realize that the emperor indeed had no clothes. There was no spin, just George at his surreal and incomprehensible best. Thanks, Dave.

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  42. MichaelG said on January 16, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I’ll defer, beb. I was passing along what somebody told me the other day. But I think the basic point seems to be there. Jellystone is on the schedule for a big blow up.

    As far as hard drive disposal goes, I think that was Dexter’s question not mine.

    God help me, I seem to have gotten sucked into watching the endless parade of Chevys at the Barrett-Jackson Auction.

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  43. moe99 said on January 16, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Hell, do what the lead character in The Big Easy did: run your computer under a huge magnet. That should take care of things.

    And speaking of things, I do not think that things can get worse. Macallan Distillery has discontinued “Amber” liqueur. Ambrosia of the gods I tell you. I am bereft, crushed beyond measure. It is as if the Dude could not get Kahlua anymore.

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  44. joodyb said on January 16, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    from the land of sundogs: did it look like this, nancy?

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  45. Linda said on January 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    The anxiety that provokes lots of people to buy guns in the last 30 or so years does not seemed confined to the south or rural areas. I know lots of people for whom their gun or guns serve as a security blanket, a tangible way of warding off evil. I know people in gated communities, who are protected from having neighbors with colored window treatments, who eagerly awaited their chance to get a concealed carry license. And, I repeat, NOTHING dangerous happens where they live. There is just a huge anxiety that people can’t deal with without that talisman.

    It seems like everybody needs their “thing” to ward off modern dangers: some choose to shoot it out with guns, some screen every solid or liquid that they digest so that it is perfectly, organically clean. An obsession with warding off or stockpiling things seems to be a widespread symptom of anxiety. Of course, we laugh at people who choose a security blanket that’s different from ours.

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  46. caliban said on January 16, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Yellowstone is amzing. Lake Powell before we blow the Glen Canyon Dam is even better. Y’all have the luxury of discussing the safest place on the plane. There’s a conversation that every first time flyer had and it always had to do with being near the wings. Apparently, that was a fairly acute surmise. All I meant was, that sucker made an amazing landing.

    I bollocksed that Lindsay Anderson reference a day or two ago. I was just thinking about Malcolm Mc’Dowell. Of course, Brittanica Hotel is the third Mick Travis movie. I’d like to know if anybody ha a clue how he got away from the College showdown.

    Fortunately, my incipient Oldtimers didn’t convince me to include Tank Girl, though, that’s a pretty damn good movie, and if you didn’t think Lori Petty was funny, you have no sense of humor. All of those are. One of the great things about Netflix is the ability to see directors and their favorite actors over several movies.

    Nobody moved a muscle in Chinatown if the director didn’t direct it or the star didn’t insist, and Faye Dunaway didn’t , well, insist.

    Israel is blowing another country to smithereens after choking the life out of them for months. I know the Israeli government cowers before the idea of being swept into the sea, but they’ve got Apache helicopters and phosphorous bombs and they’ve seeded Gaza and the West Bank with bomblets that look like toys. How they should be threatened is with cutting off the military support they’ve used to blow up UN warehouses.

    Everything W says about invading Iraq would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Cheney and Rummy, and W abd Condi, insisted that Saddam was connected to the WTC attacks. Well, anybody that isnt an idiot knows that was fabricated. What people seem to forget is that invading Iraq was proposed to Clinton, by th Project for the New Century in 1998. So, you know, they robbed the 2000 election and made scads of cash

    And meantime, there was the whole idea of the unitary presidency to promote. This eight years was an attempted coup’ but the asholes got their lunch.

    People that pulled this shit are out and out war criminals. Truth and Reconciliation? That’s what Thirld World countries do. Nixon had guys in Banana Republic uniforms playing Hail to the Chief.

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  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 17, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Yeah, Jesus inevitably leads you to racism. That’s why they burn crosses, right? Because it . . . i mean, when the cross is on fire it means . . . well, good practicing Christians always . . . don’t they? That’s what i’ve seen, God-botherers always carrying guns to a Klan rally after Sunday school.

    [Cue Monty Python voice] Now i’ve argued logical rings around you! [end Monty Python voice]

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  48. caliban said on January 17, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Jeff, where do you get Jesus and racism? I got whatever you do to the least of my brethren, which means blowing up Lebanon and Gaza means you moved to the dark side. If it’s those rockets from Gaza, they’re as unguided as they are hopeless. On the other hand, Israel says oops when they blow up UN warehouses, after they’ve run a starvation apartheid regime for 18 months. That’s what they did, and now they’re blowing up hospitals and ambulances and claiming those were errors they regret. Bullshit.

    Israel wants the US to oppose nuclear development in Iran. Israel has nukes because they bought technology from AQ Khan and they partnered up with the old-school white South Africans to steal fissionable material from the United States. That was a natural partnership. Racist Bantustans and all.

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  49. del said on January 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

    joodyb, thanks for that link to the sundogs and moondogs. A thought? Wow.

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  50. basset said on January 17, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I tried a pistol on the last hard drive I had occasion to destroy – set it on the porch rail and shot from about five feet away, just a .38 Special though and all it did was dent the cover. Ended up pounding it apart with a hammer; you might also squirt it full of epoxy or cement or something.

    Back to the inauguration for a minute – some of the women I work with were talking yesterday about wearing pearls on Tuesday in honor of Michelle Obama:

    Being a hetero male with a normal level of lechery, this is not the first image which comes to mind when “pearl necklace” is mentioned.

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  51. Catherine said on January 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I’m succumbing to inauguration fever. I read every word of the Friday WSJ article on the Obama’s decorator (which btw has a great wishlist of green projects) and I’m helplessly drawn to for updates on the dress(es). I may even do the pearls thing.

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  52. Dexter said on January 17, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    All train riders have stories of running to catch the Amtrak or Metra or People Mover (my little Detroit joke there), but Joe Biden had the best solution: be buddy-buddy with the conductor , call him on your cell, and then the train develops two-minute “mechanical problems” . The Acela leaves Wilmington , Senator intact.
    Biden revealed this chicanery today in Wilmington on the Presidential Local, or whatever they call this train.

    Firsts: A water pipe (the cold water) froze even as I had it dripping last night! Today that faucet is running a steady stream. It thawed on it’s own , just as I had readied the big electric heaters to thaw it.

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  53. Rana said on January 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Catherine, I’m also thinking of doing the pearls. I rather like things like that, which can be signals to people in the know, while also being low-key and relatively ordinary. Plus it’s an excuse to wear the pearls, which are rather neglected.

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  54. whitebeard said on January 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Dexter et al. Water line to john froze at 16 below zero, now thawed and heater standing by for tonight. Not enough snow cover on outside wall to block cold arctic winds in Connecticut (I refuse to call chilly wind the Montreal Express as others do).
    Train stories:
    When working for railroad caught wrong train leaving Montreal and conductor stopped train at switch tower so I could board correct train, which also was stopped there to wait for me. Hazards of just showing rail pass and not needing to buy train tickets.
    When working on newspaper story on Montrealer passenger train to be reinstated by Amtrak, rode on second locomotive of freight train following planned route and accidentally kicked piece of board holding dead man’s throttle safety lever down, bringing both locomotives to a halt. But no one got mad at me for kicking out.
    When riding caboose on freight train to Atlantic provinces from Montreal to do story, slept through derailment unharmed because caboose stayed upright on rail. A very sound sleeper.
    When doing newspaper story on Amtrak, got off passenger train in Midwest because freight train had derailed. Watched sadly as passenger train left me on the ground, had my baggage held and took train next day after abysmal hitchhiking attempt (no beards when thumbing a ride in Midwestern states, please).

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  55. brian stouder said on January 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Watching the Obama-Biden presidential train journey from Philly through Wilmington and Baltimore (especially Baltimore) I confess that my Vagus nerve has been pretty active.

    Good God – what wonderful stuff! (C-SPAN allows you to savor the moments themselves, when the nattering on the cable news networks gets too much)

    (and while we’re in a confessional mood, I involuntarily think the same thing as bassett, when the subject of pearl necklaces flit across the screen)

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  56. Dexter said on January 17, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for all the tips on hard drive destruction. I have opted to put it in a vise, don safety goggles, and take a hammer to it.
    My set-up , large harman/kardon speakers and a nice Dell with lots of memory,and a printer, cost me $2200 back in 2001. My new computer, sans printer, was just a fraction of that cost. I only kept the speakers. This is old hat to most everyone, but it is the first time I ever took a computer out of a box and hooked it up and plugged in to the internet…kids always just did it , you know how that works. I was amazed at how freakin’ simple it is, as easy as plugging in a TV. I expected more of a challenge, I guess.

    Well, it’s a slow Saturday, so I’ll tell my little train story.
    I had attended the 1981 ChicagoFest on Navy Pier. Those were fun parties thrown by Mayor Jane Byrne and her Council.
    The next morning I rented a bicycle and rode the lakefront path to Fullerton Avenue. Returning to Navy Pier and the rental trailer, I had a flat tire. I had to push the bike and I was then late for Train 49 out of Union Station.
    A row of city buses was parked, and I asked a driver where the cab stand was…I had to get to the train. He told me to hop in the bus, and he would take me. Byrne had sent buses to Navy Pier to haul people around, gratis. My driver was bored sitting there and was glad to move. He rammed that bus hard, running a red light at Wacker Drive. He did stop once and gave three sailors a ride to the station.
    I was really late and I ran full speed and barely got through the gate before they shut it. A car attendant saw me running and hollered encouragement and left the step down as the train actually began moving. I made it. Another twenty seconds and I would be just another stranded traveller.

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  57. Julie Robinson said on January 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Dexter, I thought our water bill would be ridiculous from running water through the pipes during the icestorm when we were out of the house for almost 6 days. Turns out it was less, because our son wasn’t taking his marathon showers.

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  58. derwood said on January 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Dexter I skimmed the posts but I always remove the drive from box and either keep them because I have data or I beat the living crap out of it until I know the platters are destroyed. I bought an external hard drive shell that I can pop the drive into and access info if I need to.

    Wolf Blitzer and his stuttering uh uh uh uh drives us crazy. I would rather listen to Chris Matthews interrupt people.


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  59. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 18, 2009 at 8:14 am

    We thought our furnace had gone bad on us Friday night, running virtually without a break (ten minutes at a time, maybe two minutes off, then boom-zzzzzmmmmm again). Then we woke to the news that our wide river valleys had held onto the air masses in such a way as to reach 23 below, and hang at it right through to sunrise. I’ve been out in 44 below, but that was well north and west of Ohio. No one in this neighborhood had frozen pipes, but they’re all ten years old and well built — i’m still wondering what we’ll hear around the county. Licking and Muskingum Co’s both set all-time records.

    I’ve been e-mailing with the preacher for Wednesday’s National Prayer Service at the Nat’l Cathedral, and i think y’all will be pleased with the sermon you’re gonna get, everyone from Danny to Caliban. Another great pick from the President-elect. Keep on praying for Obama, and for the Metro on Tuesday and Wednesday!

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  60. basset said on January 18, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Totally unrelated and probably too late to get any response – Pilot Joe mentioned yesterday that he lives in Auburn, Indiana, so I will ask for some local perspective on the Auburn entries in this guide to the local fare of my native land:

    been out of Indiana for quite a few years but I recall the famous fish sandwiches at the Odon Tavern close to forty years ago… will probably pass through Auburn this summer, would be nice to know where I might find the best tenderloin in those parts.

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  61. Dexter said on January 19, 2009 at 2:17 am

    basset, did you own an office supply store in Auburn, Basset’s?
    Your web site indicates Town Tavern still has the giant breaded tenderloins. We used to get them often when I worked for 30 years in Auburn. I see that Cricket’s offers a more diverse menu these days. I drank in there when old man Cricket Blevins still ran the joint and ladies were not allowed to sit at the bar. If you said “fuck” in conversation, it was cool unless a lady was seated at a table. Then, you got one stern admonition, and then if you did it again you got barred, immediately. It was not until the 1980s and Chuck, Sr. owned the place, and old man Cricket was retired to Florida that women were allowed at the bar. It took a lot of rabble-rousing before Chuck, Sr. caved in and allowed it.
    Now Chucky owns it. I guess he calls himself Chuck, but he was always Chucky to us regulars . I have not been in Cricket’s since 1992 when Chuck and Shirley owned it.

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  62. basset said on January 19, 2009 at 7:42 am

    no, I’m from Martin County down SW of Bloomington and have never been to Auburn except for driving through on the interstate a couple of times. one of these days I will stop there and visit the car museums.

    found that tenderloin site just recently. I live in Tennessee and they don’t know what a tenderloin is down here, so year before last when I went to DuQuoin, Ill. for the ARCA race I did a search to see if there were any good ones along the way. Didn’t find any but I did run up on this site:

    so this year just after Christmas I get an automated email saying the site owner’s mailbox is over-full and he has started a Facebook page to handle the traffic:

    the “Tenderloin Trail” was a link from that. only place I’ve been to on there is Nick’s in Bloomington, they make a good one but nothing on the level of the now closed Eddie’s Food & Fuel in Gnaw Bone.

    far as I know the nearest real tenderloin to me, unless I make it myself, is the Hilltop Inn in Evansville.

    meanwhile… a “where’s the best tenderloin” thread on an Indy 500 board, this one’s been going for SEVEN YEARS…

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  63. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 19, 2009 at 9:12 am

    This looks interesting, if you like murder mysteries and you have some history with newspapers —

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  64. joodyb said on January 19, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    basset: no offense, but re your hard drive solution, i’m glad i don’t live next door.

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  65. basset said on January 19, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Met Ted Nugent once, maybe some of it rubbed off on me.

    I live near the edge of the city in a tract-house subdivision with a creek and a pasture behind, nobody in that direction for about three-quarters of a mile… and I shot downward, if I’d missed it would have gone right into the ground.

    every once in awhile we see deer out back. asked the neighbors on each side if they’d have any problem with me shooting one and they said no, go right ahead. I did shoot a coon once which came up into the back yard and nobody even noticed the shot.

    actually I shoulda used my deer rifle on that drive, that woulda killed it.

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