Ginger for the gloom.

Eight-thirty in the morning, looks like another all-day rain, and if you’re shopping for Murk, well, we’re selling Murk today, cheap. I just raised the blinds all the way, and I can still hardly see across the room. The earth needs its rest this time of year, and we shouldn’t argue. We should all go back to bed, but that’s not the way the world works. Whimper all you want. No one is listening.

I’m thinking I’m going to make gingerbread later today. Not for gingerbread houses, but Nick Malgieri’s basic gingerbread, a tea cake that goes great with applesauce. Recipe’s in one of his books and not online, where the archive is cluttered with gingerbread men and cookies and other Christmas-y stuff. I should get with the program, but I choose not to.

What a great discussion you guys had yesterday about the Fuqua School. Like Kim, the era of Massive Resistance was mainly unknown to me, too, and the principal’s we-wuz-robbed letter on the school website is laughable. The psychology of racism — or any other shameful matter — is interesting to me. For years here in the Grosse Pointes, a system of institutionalized racism carried out by real-estate agents effectively kept the area not just white, but the right kind of white. There was a story about it in a 1960 edition of Time magazine, on the web but only fully available to subscribers, or you can read a summation at the bottom of this story by yours truly. Private investigators were employed by something called the Grosse Pointe Property Owners Association to vet potential homebuyers:

The three-page questionnaire, scaled on the basis of “points” (highest score: 100), grades would-be home owners on such qualities as descent, way of life (American?), occupation (Typical of his own race?), swarthiness (Very? Medium? Slightly? Not at all?), accent (Pronounced? Medium? Slight? None?), name (Typically American?), repute, education, dress (Neat or slovenly? Conservative or flashy?), status of occupation (sufficient eminence may offset poor grades in other respects). Religion is not scored, but weighed in the balance by a three-man Grosse Pointe screening committee. All prospects are handicapped on an ethnic and racial basis: Jews, for example, must score a minimum of 85 points, Italians 75, Greeks 65, Poles 55; Negroes and Orientals do not count.

The Time story went on to note that the Pointes were already home to several of the Detroit area’s more prominent Italian-American gangsters; maybe they squeaked through on the “sufficient eminence” clause. And in 1960, the system had its defenders:

The questionnaire and scoreboard, says Grosse Pointe Realtor Paul Maxon, “have been very successful, have kept property values up, and are approved by at least 95% of the people out here.” The whole idea of the system is to keep out people who tend toward “cliqueishness,” “Old World customs,” and “clannishness,” e.g., “an Italian fruit vendor.” Furthermore, real estate men point out that Grosse Pointe has a number of Polish, Greek and Southern European people scattered throughout the suburbs. Says Realtor Maxon: “I am sure Albert Einstein would have been accepted here.”

This was 50 years ago, and the Realtor’s comments are true today, although I’d hope the percentage of approving residents has fallen. But there are still many who would, in their heart of hearts, love to see some sort of screening system that would guarantee them better neighbors, like one of those infamous New York City co-op board that pokes through all your financial statements and club memberships before granting you the privilege of buying an apartment.

But racism persists, here and everywhere, sometimes in shocking displays. The local newspaper will sometimes note, in crime stories, that “the 16-year-old juvenile, a Detroit resident, was released to his 32-year-old mother.” A story last year about a teenage girl, “a Detroit resident,” who stole a car at knifepoint from another girl her age, a Grosse Pointer, outside her father’s office, was illustrative. Of course they didn’t need to note that the thief was black and the victim white, but just in case the reader was particularly dumb, the reporter quoted extensively from the thief’s written statement, a tragedy detailed in run-on sentences, misspelled words, and incorrect declension of the verb “to be.” I’m sure many readers had a yuk over that one.

Running a little late on time here, so let’s hop to the bloggage:

A sneakily seductive essay from Salon in which the author details his term selling high-end housewares in Los Angeles, naming names all the way through:

Bridget Fonda, who had married film composer Danny Elfman and had stopped appearing in movies, shopped there compulsively. I have vivid memories of loading cumbersome decorative pots into the trunk of Elfman’s Maserati. Zach de La Rocha, the former frontman of Rage Against the Machine, apparently had a lot of time on his hands, too, because he drove his cool Mercedes over all the time and drank coffee at the cafe attached to the store by himself. He looked desperately bored and was always alone. Nicole Richie was not alone when she came to the cafe, nor was Kevin Costner. Victoria Beckham wore her sunglasses indoors, throughout lunch. David Schwimmer came a few times, alone, and was precisely as bitter and patronizing as you’d expect him to be. Gary Oldman was completely banal, just a middle-aged man shopping for furniture with his impossibly gorgeous 20-something lady friend.

But that’s not what makes it. It’s the sly observations on how you sell to these folks.

Damn security cameras! Why we need tabloids in the world.

How do you hold a job with the same company for 65 years? A retiring 83-year-old offers some tips:

“You do the best you can,” Simler says. If you can’t get something done today, she continues, make sure to finish it tomorrow. Don’t give up. Enjoy the people you work with. And if you find a job you like, keep it.

Words to live by. Whether it’s murky or sunny where you are, I hope your Wednesday is a good one.

Posted at 9:53 am in Current events |

50 responses to “Ginger for the gloom.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 14, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Our homeowners association annual meeting, an agony which I continue to chair out of sheer fear of what/who would jump in with boots on if I quit, included just last year an exchange, which began with fence heights, but was shifted by one of our older and more well-manicured (personal & lawn) residents to landscaping, and a none-too-subtle statement that they really needed to invest a bit more in their shrubbery.

    The target of the comment boldly, and pretty calmly shot back “well, some of us can’t afford to spend $2,000 every year on lawn care services & new plantings,” to which the senior resident even more eerily calmly replied “perhaps you shouldn’t have purchased in a neighborhood where you can’t keep up your property.”

    Since I don’t do gavels, I just sang out from the chair “The covenants & village ordinances are pretty clear, and mandatory lawn care and unearthly even green lawns are not required, so let’s return to the subject at hand.” There was more I’d like to have said, but the newer, younger family said it for me — the next week, they set out two pink flamingos, kept ’em up for a month just to make their point, then retired them to the garage.

    Yes, it’s gotten more covert, but the desire to live in homogeneous enclaves is alive and well.

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  2. Bitter Scribe said on December 14, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Now that I’m back to commuting after a long stretch of working at home, the worst part about a rainy-day commute is all the SUV drivers who think they’re invulnerable, swooping in front of you and blinding you with spray on the way to their next accident.

    When I worked at a community newspaper, people would sometimes bitch when we failed to identify a crime suspect by race (i.e., as black). They thought it was political correctness, or something.

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  3. coozledad said on December 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Who wouldn’t be charged after sex on the subway? I’ll bet they were pumped.

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  4. Randy said on December 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

    As the Vancouver rioters’ court appearances commence, here is my favorites of the wayward kids, taken from Canadian Press:

    On Dec. 14, Sophie Laboissonniere, the Miss Congeniality of this year’s Miss Coastal Vancouver pageant appears in court on break and enter and participating in a riot charges. She is alleged to be one of the mob who looted a London Drugs store.

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  5. Sue said on December 14, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Here’s some extra bloggage. I’m still stewing about this.
    It’s bad enough that this woman was chosen because she was going to bring a ‘chamber of commerce’ mentality to the Department of Natural Resources. It’s ridiculous that she decides that a good way to validate herself is to go hunting for the first time in her life. But it’s absolutely the height of cluelessness to think that that validation would come – in a state where hunters really know their stuff – by proudly showing the world that you’ve just shot Bambi and you’re too stupid to know it.

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  6. Deborah said on December 14, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Pulling your pants down on that ratty platform surface is just gross. Eeeewwwwwww.

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  7. alex said on December 14, 2011 at 10:50 am

    My neighbors generally do a good job of maintenance and landscaping, but those who have lawn services are always kvetching about those who don’t. I think it doesn’t stem from any genuine concern but rather simply a need to show off and put others down. One such pompous ass once told me that if I couldn’t afford to fix a ding on my vehicle then I couldn’t afford to own it, to which I replied that it costs the same to fix a ding whether the car is a beater or brand new, and it’s a big waste of time and money either way unless you’re so shallow that you think anyone besides you gives a damn. That’s probably how I would have dealt with Mr. and Mrs. Chemlawn if I’d been on that community association board.

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  8. coozledad said on December 14, 2011 at 10:57 am

    What racist whites will never be able to wrap their heads around is the hundred degrees of whiteness that makes some whites whiter and leaves everyone else functionally black when it comes time to pick the vegetables.
    My Republican uncle Red used the captive audience of holiday dinners to make the case that the Nazis were fighting for “white freedom”. My father, who lost a brother to the German war machine, was coward enough to sit and nod in agreement instead of obeying the better angels of his nature and picking up a piece of furniture to knock Red’s dwindling dental complement onto the dining table.
    What both of them failed to realize is that any state whose views they supported wouldn’t have them. Had the Nazis won, Red and his nest of speech-impaired pinkies would have been shipped to holding pens in South Carolina to await their designation as road gang workers or eunuchs for Erwin Rommel.
    And that’s the only area of agreement I have with Nazis.

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  9. nancy said on December 14, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Alex, in my world, I wouldn’t even allow lawn services in your neighborhood. (Alex lives on a small lake.) The chemicals run into the water and cause far more harm than good. It makes me insane when people insist on Chemlawn standards next to a living body of water. If it’s that fucking important, move to a golf course.

    Alan did a story years ago about Sylvan Lake, a manmade one in NE Indiana. Residents there were dealing with their aquatic weeds by dumping gallons of weed-killer off the end of their docks. They deserved the mess that place became.

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  10. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2011 at 10:59 am

    After all the talk about racism and discrimination yesterday, have any of you had a chance to read a column by Gene Marks of Forbes? While admitting he is a middle-class white male who has never faced the challenges of racism and discrimination, he proceeds to go all in with a column titled “If I Were a Poor Black Child.”

    Naturally, Mr. Marks sees himself excelling, taking advantage of all the great tools and books available, etc.

    It’s even more tone deaf than I’m making it sound. Generally, I’m pretty much against any white guy trying to talk with authority about being black, Hispanic, Asian, female, etc. You’re not and you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.

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  11. Mark P said on December 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Jeff, check out this response:

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  12. nancy said on December 14, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Gene Marks needs to read “A Hope in the Unseen” and rethink how easy all those suggestions he makes really are.

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  13. Bitter Scribe said on December 14, 2011 at 11:37 am

    In “The Corner,” David Simon has a passage where he deals sarcastically with just this sort of argument. Yes, if we grew up in a Baltimore ghetto, of course we would have done all our homework, gotten good grades and risen above our circumstances, because, in Simon’s closing line: “We were not born to be niggers.”

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  14. Connie said on December 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    My husband quotes neighbor/his walking partner, who is quoting local weather person: “It’s going to rain for 24 hours and if it were snow it would be ten feet deep.” With all the cookie baking supplies tucked in the cupboards a couple of snow days might be nice.

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  15. Linda said on December 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    “The whole idea of the system is to keep out people who tend toward ‘cliqueishness,’ ‘Old World customs,’ and “clannishness”

    Hee. Because when the whitest people do it, it’s not clannish OR cliqueish.

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  16. Heather said on December 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Off-topic, but as we’ve discussed Callista Gingrich’s unique look here before, I thought I’d post Robin Givhan’s deconstruction of her style:

    I loved the Salon story about the furniture store. A reminder that it’s all about lifestyle, not need.

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  17. Sue said on December 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    This is what I think of whenever I think of the possibility of Callista in the White House, I just can’t help it:

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  18. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I hate to be an ass, but when I see photos of Mrs. Gingrich III, I simply cannot picture her ever having sex. There’s such a plasticene shine to her. She seems like the kind of woman who would evoke the Madeline Kahn character in “Young Frankenstein,” so perfectly made up and coiffed that she never allowed her fiance to even touch her. I find her deeply creepy and not simply because she is the wife of a pompous horse’s patoot.

    Then again, I have to remember that Calista was bouncing around the boudoir with the married Newticles for SIX fucking years. Presumably, she allowed herself to become disheveled then, right?

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  19. coozledad said on December 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Jeff Borden: Newt doesn’t lay a hand on her. He just climbs in the PVC underoos and offers her some engraved earpick from Tiffany’s.
    “I know I’m just an invented person, my queen of eternal night, but I’ll give you an empire if you..”
    “If I what, you carbuncle?”
    “If you’ll let me be your Ottoman.”

    Just speculation of course. Any exchange of fluids between those two is forbidden by the Biological Weapons Convention.

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  20. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I’m not sure which coupling I find more disturbing–the subway pair, or Calista and the Newticles. Ew, ew, ew.

    Somehow one can guess that Newt and Calista are lifetime customers of Chemlawn.

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  21. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I’m fairly certain Calista uses Chemlawn products on her hair.

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  22. beb said on December 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    All this time I thought Danny Elfman was married to Jenna Elfman. According to wikipedia she’s his neice by marriage.

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  23. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    That really slays me, Jeff.

    For all the snark, though, I don’t think Calista’s outfits are any different than the average goth with a dog collar, purple hair, and black lips. They both pronounce the wearer’s woundedness, and act as armor to keep anyone from getting close. Besides, being Mrs. Newticle can’t be much fun; it’s no wonder she favors Tiffany’s.

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  24. Suzanne said on December 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    “And if you find a job you like, keep it.” The biggest downer for the day. I had a job I liked, and would have loved to have kept, but the place no longer exists and I’ve not, after 3 years, found anything even close in likability. Proving, once again, that much of life is sheer luck, and if ya ain’t got it, ya ain’t got it, I think.

    Cooze #8 “What both of them failed to realize is that any state whose views they supported wouldn’t have them” Isn’t that the way it always is? The people at the bottom think if they support those at the top, they will be brought along for the ride, but never are. I see that now with the slipping ever downward middle class fighting for the super rich, thinking the money will filter down to them because of all their help. It won’t.

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  25. Brandon said on December 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    “Had the Nazis won, Red and his nest of speech-impaired pinkies would have been shipped to holding pens in South Carolina to await their designation as road gang workers or eunuchs for Erwin Rommel.”–Coozledad

    Seeing neo-Nazis on TV, especially burly face-tattooed ones, I wonder what the original Nazis would have thought of them if they somehow went back in time. Probably they’d be regarded as deviants who were mocking Nazism.

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  26. moe99 said on December 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    CNN has Tim G featured on its front page today:

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  27. alex said on December 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Nance at 9–

    The neighbor to my immediate east does Chemlawn and bitches up a storm when algae and duckweed take over the lake, then she complains about association dues going up to pay for all the damned chemicals needed to clear the water.

    This is the same one who used to bug me all the time about how I needed to get rid of my trees and get my lawn sprayed to make it look like hers. She’s kind of a Calista Gingrich. At age 50 she wrecked the marriage of a 77-year-old and ended up with his house.

    On edit: Miss Giggy is saying that only two other columns were found by the newspaper to contain plagiarism. I seem to recall it was, what, like 38?

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  28. Little Bird said on December 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    The discussion about the Newticles, while funny, is likely to give me nightmares. That I have, however fleetingly, considered the sex life of THAT particular couple is going to leave scars.

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  29. Brandon said on December 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    This is the same one who used to bug me all the time about how I needed to get rid of my trees and get my lawn sprayed to make it look like hers. She’s kind of a Calista Gingrich. At age 50 she wrecked the marriage of a 77-year-old and ended up with his house.–Alex

    I’d tell her to bug off!

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  30. Sue said on December 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Moe at 26:
    A book? I’ll bet every word is his very own. Nancy, get to work.

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  31. Kirk said on December 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    As I told Nancy a few weeks ago, I recently ran across that book by Lying Hypocrite Dipshit Plagiarist Goeglein in a bookstore. Resisting the urge to deface and/or mutilate it (which would fly in the face of my belief in the First Amendment), I took out a piece of note paper, wrote “The author is a lying plagiarist” on it, inserted it into the book and replaced the book on the shelf. Made me feel slightly better.

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  32. MaryRC said on December 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    While I enjoyed Robin Givhan’s article on Callista, I don’t think that Robin and I have the same definition of “noblesse oblige” as used in her last sentence:

    “Mrs. Gingrich’s … style implies a social hierarchy that, far from exuding empathy, reflects the haughty airs of noblesse oblige.”

    I always thought that “noblesse oblige” meant that if you are noble (or imagine you are) you must behave nobly, i.e. if you are in a privileged position, you must behave generously and responsibly to those who don’t have your privileges.

    Apparently Callista once looked like a real person:

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  33. Bitter Scribe said on December 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    MaryRC: You’re right. It means “nobility has obligations.”

    That’s the worst interpretation of French since one of my reporters wrote that a TV gig provided the coup de grâce to someone’s career. I had to inform her that that phrase means “death blow.”

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  34. Kirk said on December 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    It’s why reporters should stick to English, which itself is enough to trip them up now and then.

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  35. alex said on December 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Callista — from fresh to frozen. I think her face must be full of Botox.

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  36. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    She was kind of a cute young woman, though sitting next to an ogre like Newticles would probably make Quasimodo look handsome.

    I don’t move in particularly upscale circles, but can someone tell me if there is a class of people where someone like Calista fits in? I’ve certainly met a few ladies with hair helmets as impressive as Calista’s, but they tended to be pampered dowagers who were 40 years her senior. Where do women in their mid-40s who dress and wear their hair and makeup like that congregate?

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  37. Kirk said on December 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    That’s the whole point, Jeff. They don’t want you to know.

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  38. Dexter said on December 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Jeff MM One: This is some fodder for your last post yesterday.
    The late Dr. Harry Tiebout’s writings opened my eyes instantly, and though I haven’t had success in trying to explain what his message was when I try to help alcoholics, maybe it’ll work for you.

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  39. Jeff Borden said on December 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    They’ve succeeded, Kirk, not that I’d want to hang around with such folks. If I were in the company of Calista, I fear my inner-6-year-old would just want to go up and muss her hair, assuming it is movable, of course.

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  40. Jolene said on December 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I don’t think the normal-looking Callista is Callista. The shape of her face Is too different, and it appears that she has brown eyes. More likely, it’s one of Newt’s grown daughters. He has two from his first marriage. This girl’s eyes look a bit like his.

    I think this use of noblesse oblige is OK. Very often, it’s used to imply a kind of paternalism rather than genuine caring. From Wilkipeia:
    The phrase is sometimes used derisively, in the sense of condescending or hypocritical social responsibility.

    Since Givhan contrasts empathy with noblesse oblige, I think it’s this idea of condescension that she is aiming for. Still, since she has confused some of her readers, she still might have done better to stick to English.

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  41. Jolene said on December 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Dexter, psych professionals refer to people who have both psychological and substance abuse problems as having co-occurring disorders. Might be something of interest to you at this site.

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  42. Dorothy said on December 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    You’re my hero, Kirk (from comment #31)!

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  43. brian stouder said on December 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Ditto to Dorothy. That CNN article that Moe pointed to was a pile of steaming garbage; “puffery” is one thing, but it is not unreasonable to expect an article on CNN’s website to be – TRUTHFUL – is it?

    As Alex points out, the thing reports that their were TWO instances of plagiarism?

    Talk about “telling tales”…

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  44. del said on December 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Can’t you see what’s happening Jeff B? Calista is a siren. You’re protesting her lack of sexual allure a bit too much.

    Be forewarned, if you imagine her having sex once more, or touching her helmet hair or the like once more, your face will turn to stone, like hers – a Medusa too, that one. Be careful, my friend.

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  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Dexter & Jolene, just got home from middle school holiday concert, will read soonest.

    As for Callista re Del’s thought,

    (And looking at their respective chins, I don’t think the young woman in the 1997 shot with Newt is Bisek. The chin is all wrong along with the other points made. I don’t doubt the amount of botulism toxin injected into the current Mrs. G’s face, but that’s just not her.)

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  46. Little Bird said on December 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Del, that was cruel!!!

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  47. nancy said on December 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Jeez, CNN:

    Goeglein had written a weekly column for the paper and after the plagiarism was first discovered, editor Jerry Hubartt said they found instances of plagiarism in two other columns from Goeglein.

    The columns were occasional, not weekly. It’s Kerry Hubartt, not Jerry. The plagiarized-column count topped out at something like 27, not two.

    Oh, well. Nobody’s perfect.

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  48. del said on December 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Once, at a party past midnight, I got into a heated argument with a maddening Republican activist woman. She was well coiffed – the party was hosted by her hair stylist. Her commentary was so ill informed. So damn self-satisfied. I was livid. Then, my feelings changed and I started feeling a bit more (like Cooze mentioned upthread about the subway people) charged and pumped. I immediately fled the party.

    I am reminded of this Italian movie (Swept Away).

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  49. Julie Robinson said on December 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    CNN also got the N-S editor’s first name wrong; it’s Kerry, not Jerry.

    Just caught the last part of Baba Wawa’s interview with Herman Cain. Herman is laboring under the delusion that he will be offered a cabinet post in the next Republican administration. His choice? Secretary of Defense. Watch out, Uzbecki-becki-becki-stan!

    Barbara closed the interview by praising his singing voice, so he obliged her with a weird rendition of Amazing Grace. She’s a wily one, that Babs.

    Edit: Nance scooped me!

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  50. cosmo panzini said on December 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    On vacation for a few weeks, and haven’t read your blog for a while, so it’s very reassuring to see that you’re on the case regarding rampant and continuing racism in the country. I feel a little left out, though. OK, a newspaper tells its readers a girl of 16 is turned over to her mother, who is 32, that’s racist, right? Or a quote in said paper contains an improper form of “to be”. (They are quoting, after all.) And that’s racist too, right? OK, I’m with you, but I need some help here. Maybe a handbook would be good for these cases. In it, all things that could possibly offend anyone’s sensibilities about race would be laid out, and don’t forget, offensive writings and utterances change by the day, so it would have to be updated often in order to help us poor heedless, clueless white folks as much as possible. Also, an appendix could be included suggesting how much guilt we should feel for each offense. Boy, now we’re getting somewhere.

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