Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
This is what's left of Molly's car. She's OK. She feels like she's gone a few rounds with Ali, but it could have been worse.
This kid can't catch a break. She was in bad shape last year, hospitalized twice, but she fought back, got on her feet and last week she started a new job, her first since November.
But it was a temp job so that's gone now. It'll be a few weeks before she can work again. And we'll need to find another car.
But you know, things could have been worse.
Things could have been a lot worse.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
In it he identifies the two big lessons Reagan knew:
1. The president's job is not to run the country; it is to lead the nation.
2. In that business, words are more important than deeds.
I think Reagan's policies, particularly in Central America, were wrong, but I can't deny that he gave the nation hope and pride after the dismal 70's. And this is one of the reasons people rallied behind Bush after his megaphone moment at Ground Zero. He looked and sounded like a leader.
Unfortunately for us, Bush surrounded himself with a bunch of sycophants rather than people who were competent.
That could still happen with Obama, of course, but I don't think it will. Bush has a lot of emotional baggage that's made him a disastrous president. Obama seems to be pretty comfortable in his own skin and that confidence will, I think, serve us well.
But Hillary doesn't get it. Neither do the people who insist that Obama's nothing but words. He's inspiring people, and making them believe in a better future. As for those who think this is a cult of personality, Obama always reminds us that the change is not him, the change is in us.
I know people I love and respect who want Hillary to be president. And I agree with them that Hillary would probably govern extremely well. But lead? I'm not feeling it.
As always, I could be wrong.
But if you agree that maybe, just maybe, we might be in the presence of an exceptional leader, why not send Obama a little love.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I'm with WC Fields on this - I like kids if they're cooked right and, although I'm no giant Star Wars fan, the combination of the two seems to be the perfect palette cleanser for all the political posts I've been throwing up lately.
Monday, February 25, 2008
"Sen. Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on the Internet and in the media to question his patriotism."
On March 15, Market Street Books in Chapel Hill will host Peepfest 2008. I don't know how long they've been doing this. Frankly, I wasn't aware of Peepfest until they asked me to judge their Peep Parody album cover contest. (If you're interested, see my post below or go here for more info.)
I was happy to oblige because, unlike those vacuous celebrities who don't use the product they shill for, I am a bona fide peeps lover. Don't ask me why because I'd rather not explore my fascination with all things peep. I don't have a sweet tooth, but peeps, man I love me some peeps.
So screw politics. Let your peep flag fly. If you're in the neighborhood, come out to Market Street Books on March 15 and celebrate our little yellow friend.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Which should surprise no one once you know something about Roger Stone, the group's founder and comedic brain trust.
If Stone was just another member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, I'd let it go. I mean, we all have whackos in the attic, don't we.
But Stone isn't some lone pudge with a grudge, pounding away on his iMac. No, Stone is a real Republican operative, often appearing on Tucker Carlson's show and recently interviewed by The Weekly Standard.
For those too sane to follow such arcane bushwa, Bill Kristol is the editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the neocons who pushed for the Iraq War. Conservatively speaking, Kristol is publicly wrong four to eight times a week which means Kristol is wrong almost as often as his fellow columnist at the New York Times, the wrongest man who ever lived, David Brooks.
(As a side note, when Kristol was given that chunk of choice Op-Ed real estate, some loyal readers wondered if Times editor Bill Keller had suffered a head wound.)
But, back to Stone. He started his political career at the impressionable age of 19, working for Nixon's CREEP. That's right, when other 19-year-olds were getting shot at in Nixon's protracted war in SE Asia, Stone was working for Nixon's re-election. Another GOP chickenhawk. Huh. Turn over a rock ...
Since his auspicious beginning with CREEP, Stone has worked for Reagan, Bob Dole, and Arlen Specter's campaigns. Stone was also one of the street thugs hired by James Baker to stop Florida's recount in 2000. Last year, New York Republicans hired him to work their campaign against Elliot Spitzer. Stone set a new low, even for Republicans, by making threatening, anonymous, late night calls to Spitzer's 83-year-old dad. Nice.
So what's this swell guy doing in this election?
He's going after Hillary with Citizens United Not Timid, a 527 with all the sophisticated political humor we've come to expect from the right wing.
The Weekly Standard gushes that Stone is "trying to tap into deep-seated sentiments about Clinton that pundits and rival candidates can't articulate." Pundits and rival candidates who are deeply afraid of women, that is.
Did I mention Tucker Carlson and Bill Kristol? Yeah, I thought I did.
Stone's filing for this hi-larious 527 says the group's function is “To educate the public about the importance of moral character and integtiry [sic] in those who hold public office.”
Wow. The guy who's worked for the GOP since Nixon doesn't know how to spell integrity.
Dr. Freud, please pick up the white courtesy phone.
God, as they say, is indeed in the details.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Hillary on Obama's theft-in-plain-sight of a friend's words:
"If your candidacy is going to be about words then they should be your own words...Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox."
I wonder, do you think she wrote that line herself?
From what I saw, I thought Hillary did a good job last night. The end, where she talked about times that test us was touching and revealed an empathy I thought was genuine. I want more of that Hillary and less of this other nonsense, please.
As for that picture up there. That's Hillary describing why she thinks our current president is such an asshole.
See, we agree on almost everything. Just less of the bullshit, please. That's all I ask.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I can hear H. L. Mencken getting a good laugh. In the post below I said that John McCain was the only presidential candidate who inspired an ugly action figure.
Here, alas, are Senators Clinton and Obama. Hil looks pretty good, I admit. A little butch maybe, but she has a nice smile. But WTF is it with Obama's noggin? It's tiny. And the ears aren't nearly big enough.
The same people who created these action figures also make a must-have for the perv on your Christmas list. It's not a presidential candidate, but she's gotten more coverage on Fox News than anyone running for office.
It's Britney, in her most famous web appearance.
Britney! Now with kung fu cooter action!
I am speechless.
It appears that McCain, the only candidate who has been made into a really ugly action figure, says he did not have sexual relations with that woman. He just had the normal lobbyist/senator relationship where no one gets screwed but us.
But that didn't stop the NY Times from running the story on the front page, with the implication that Big John and Miss Vicki were doing the naked lambada in the back of the Straight Talk Express. Immediately, Fox News dropped their outrage over Michelle Obama's lack of sufficient pride in America and drummed up their umbrage over this vicious assault on McCain.
I wish they had been this apoplectic over the trashing of another war hero, John Kerry, but there's only so much umbrage to go around over at Fox and it just wasn't Kerry's turn.
Jesus, how bad is this going to get?
I hate politics.
For those who are as tired as I am of the news, here's a tip. I've been downloading podcasts of old radio shows and then playing them in my car during my commute. Last night I listened to Burns and Allen and Gracie is as funny as I remembered.
This morning I listened to The Last Wish, an episode from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe. While I couldn't shake the echoes of Nick Danger, Third Eye, out my head, it was better than what NPR was peddling. And from the looks of that list, I'll be able to make it all the way to November without being exposed to any more faux exposes.
Jesus, I hate politics.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Here's your opportunity. On Saturday, March 15, Market Street Books in Chapel Hill is sponsoring a contest for The First Annual PEEP PARODY ALBUM COVER CONTEST.
The deadline is March 8 and, being paper-obsessed Luddites, they want hard copies of your Peep Art, not electronic files. The album cover art should be 12x12, about the size of those flat things your parents used to roll dope on.
The winner will be announced at PeepFest '08 on March 15. For more info about PeepFest '08 go here.
Send your entry to Market Street Books, Letters Community Center, 610 Market St. Chapel Hill 27516.
I happen to know one of the judges can be bribed.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
He killed thousands of innocent people without cause, outlawed music, tapped the phones of his enemies, and threw poets into jail without trial.
I don't know why Jesse Helms didn't love this guy. Maybe it was the free education and health care.
But here's something no one talks about, and that was Fidel's love of weed, ganja, smoke, doobies, dope and chronic.
I told this story in Beneath A Panamanian Moon, and it was based on a real incident. I knew a man named Choppo who had fought with Fidel in the mountains of Cuba. Choppo had on his wall an 8x10 of himself and Fidel firing up a massive baton. When I asked Choppo about El Presidente he said, "Fidel was a good man, but then he got caught up in politics."
There's a lesson for us all, I think, in this election year.
Often, people speculate how different history would be if we'd taken up Ho Chi Minh's offer of friendship in the late 40's, or if Hitler had been a successful painter, or if Fidel had made it to the major leagues. Interesting questions, all.
But I wonder how different things would have been if Castro had embraced his stoner self. Would Cuba now be known for righteous herb? Would international flights land at Havana every day at 4:20? Would desperate people be swimming that 90-mile stretch from Florida to Cuba instead of the other way around? Would Cuba, even now, be a place of peace and prosperity, with young woman rolling spliffs on their thighs instead of Montecristo Cubanos?
All we can do is wonder and dream of a Cuba that could have been.
Maybe soon we'll lift this fekakta embargo that has done nothing except hurt the Cuban people and I'll be able to go to that beautiful island to research the sequel to Panamanian Moon.
I think, in Fidel's honor, I'll call it Havana Smoke.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
While I was in Asheville this weekend, we went to Malaprop's, the local independent. I got two in this spot with Dusty Rhoades' Safe and Sound and Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde. What you can't see is Lee Child's Bad Luck and Trouble. Daniel Silva's friends must have been there earlier.
Here's one new book I didn't see, proving only that the buyers of Malaprop's are discerning readers, unwilling to inflict this fiction on their customers.
It was a great weekend, with a chance to connect with people from my distant past, and a chance to escape the day in and day out troubles that stalk our little house like hungry bill collectors.
More on all of this later, but for now we work.
Topic for discussion: Do you turn books face out? Do you move them to the front table? Do you press them on strangers as if you were a disinterested bystander? What's the most blatant thing you've done to sell a book?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
And she shouldn't be smooching our Savior with cracked and chapped lips. Get Lookin' Good lip balm so when she plants one on JC He'll say, "Jumpin' Me, your lips are so soft and dreamy!"
Happy Valentine's Day, Planeteers.
I'm taking some time off in the mountains. Play nice and we'll see you next week.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Specifically, is America ready for a black president? I've noticed something surprising about this question. White people say yes, America is ready. Black people say no, America is still too racist to elect a black man to the White House. While this certainly isn't scientific, I haven't heard anyone suggest they couldn't support Obama because of his race. His inexperience and vague promises, yes, but not his skin color.
On the other hand, I've not heard one black person speak optimistically about Obama's chances.
And I wonder which is right? And why this split? Are white Americans deluded about how far we've progressed? Or are black Americans so used to seeing racism that they think it's more pervasive than it is?
About 15 years ago, I saw a list of the 100 things that could happen to a white person and we would never think it's because of our race. Things like being denied a loan, or passed over for a promotion, or being stopped by a cop. All those things could happen to me, a white man, and I'd never think it was because of my race. But if I was a black man, of course I'd think of it, even briefly.
If we elect McCain or Hillary, will white America realize that racism is more virulent than we thought? And what will it mean to blacks' preconceptions if Obama is elected?
Interesting. As usual, I have no answers, only questions. Feel free to jump in.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
For those of you who are too sane to follow side-show politics too closely (which is much like following an incontinent Clydesdale too closely), a reporter on MSNBC, David Schuster, said something impolitic about the Clintons and their daughter.
When asked what he thought about Hillary sending Chelsea out to lunch with superdelegates, Schuster suggested that Chelsea Clinton was “sort of being pimped out” by the campaign.
Ouch. But you know what he meant and I know what he meant and I suspect Bill and Hillary know what he meant. If they don't, they should ask Chelsea.
Schuster has apologized and MSNBC suspended him indefinitely, but that's not enough for Hillary. She wants David's head.
“Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half-hearted apology is sufficient,” Clinton wrote to NBC.
This morning I heard that Hillary supporters are trying to shut down a radio program called The Stephanie Miller Show. Because the show is too far right like Hannity or Limbaugh? No, Stephanie Miller is a liberal. Fox calls her show far left. She calls her show "a Mensa meeting with fart jokes." But Miller is supporting Barak Obama instead of Hillary.
Apparently, that bit of apostasy has enraged the Hillarites and they're calling the show's sponsors and stations demanding the show be pulled.
This is my Democratic party? Firing a reporter over a stupid comment? Trying to shut down a radio show because the host supports another candidate?
As I've asked before in a similar context, who are these people?
I suspect Hillary is purposely trying to draw attention away from her lackluster campaign, which lost its manager last weekend. But these other people sound like Republicans.
This is the final straw for me. If Hillary is our candidate in November, I will control my gag reflex and vote for her, but I will not work for her. Not like I did in 2004. Those thick-ankled Hillarites can walk Durham's tough Democratic precincts themselves.
I suggest they carry pepper spray.
Monday, February 11, 2008
A few months after our first dog, Spike died, Jenny was able to get another pup. Spike had filled our house with such joy that we couldn't imagine not having a canine pal hanging around, complicating our lives.
She adopted this little puppy and we named him Boomer. He quickly grew into his name.
I can't say that Boomer's always been a good dog, but he's been an interesting one, a puppy born with a cat's sense of entitlement.
Only terrorists are more destructive than Boomer was as a pup. He ate a bike seat, the throttle off a riding mower, the kitchen tile, and those are just the highlights.
But when my father died and I was packing to fly south, Boomer jumped on the bed and did something he'd never done before. He pressed the top of his head against my chest and held it there, giving me what comfort he could in the only way he knew.
Boomer has always had a sweet nature and he's inspired love from children and smiles from strangers.
He's had a good life but he can no longer stand on his own. He's tired, I know. Tired of not feeling good, and tired of the daily humiliation that comes from being old and infirm.
We've held off for as long as we could, until we thought it was selfish of us not to let him go.
Boomer is leaving us tonight. To say that we'll miss him shows only how poor words can be.
Boomer 1992 - 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
To call this charity a colony of vultures would be doing a disservice to vultures.
For those of you who may have missed the editorial in the New York Times, or the findings of Henry Waxman's investigation, I feel compelled to pass this advice along.
If you get an envelope from the Coaltion to Salute America's Heroes or the Help Hospitalized Veterans, shred it. Yes, these people sound like they're all about helping veterans, but the truth, according to the Times, is they're more about helping themselves.
If scum had a face, it would look remarkably like Roger Chapin's, the founder of both charities. His self-congratulatory bio at HHV says our selfless hero is "...a veteran of the U. S. Army Finance Corps." In GI lingo, that makes him a REMF, which stands for Rear Echelon ... well, I'll let you fill in the rest. The bio goes on to say, "Roger has founded a number of organizations that have benefited veterans as well as society at large."
If veterans and society at large are primarily Mr. and Mrs. Chapin, then indeed, his charities have benefitted them quite handsomely, according to the Times:
"...Mr. Chapin gave himself and his wife $1.5 million in salary, bonuses and pension contributions over those three years, including more than $560,000 in 2006. The charities also reimbursed the Chapins more than $340,000 for meals, hotels, entertainment and other expenses, and paid for a $440,000 condominium and a $17,000 golf-club membership.
And what did the soldiers get? Try almost $18.8 million in “charitable” phone cards sent to troops overseas in 2006 — not to let them call their families, but rather to call up a stateside business that sells sports scores."
God damn. This makes me so angry I can't even conjure up a decent joke. As regular readers know, I have great respect for men and women who put themselves in danger for our sake. To find people like the Chapins feeding on their pain and sacrifice is almost more than I can bear.
When asked in testimony why his charities weren't more transparent, he said, “we’d all be out of business. Nobody would donate. It would dry up.”
That's the least we can hope for. I was thinking more along the lines of a long, painful and disfiguring illness.
That would be great. The guy with an approval rating lower than ebola running for president? Please, God, let this be true.
Now, I won't vote for McCain for two reasons. One, he's a Republican and I'd rather put my hand in a wood chipper than put the GOP in charge of anything bigger than a lemonade stand.
The second reason? This:
I don't know him, but I'm sure John McCain is a great guy. He's an Annapolis graduate. Unlike some politicians I could name, his son is on active duty. He once put Jenny's brother in hack in flight school, which can only be to his credit. And as a well-connected POW, the North Vietnamese offered to let him go. McCain said no, he would stay as long as the other POWs stayed. That takes bigger balls than I've seen on anyone since Margaret Thatcher.
But as much as admire him, he's not my guy. I'm a liberal, he's a conservative. I don't agree with him about health care, the war, abortion and a whole host of other issues. Even his approach to campaign finance reform, which I'm all for, I think infringed on free speech. Just my opinion.
And all those people who worship Reagan as the epitome of conservatism, the same Reagan who ran up deficits, passed an amnesty bill for immigrants, and two of the largest tax increases in history, revile McCain because he's not conservative enough. Which leads me to ask that same old question:
Who are these people?
There's a guy here in North Carolina named Bob who runs a conservative blog called Confederate Yankee. I don't agree with Bob on much, but I think his heart's in the right place. He tries to keep news outlets honest, an admirable endeavor. I wish he'd focus his attention on some of the crap spewed by Fox News, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and others, but hey, it's his blog and he can do what he wants with it.
Yesterday Bob said he would hold his nose and support McCain. Here are some of the comments the uber-patriots left:
"McCain served US better in the Hanoi Hilton than in the US Senate. He should
go back there and serve US better, again."
"Screw him, and any other cheapshot chickenhawker. "
Ann Coulter says she'll vote for Hillary before McCain? James Dobson threatens a third party if he doesn't get someone with Goebbels-like credentials? Rush Limbaugh might actually stop molesting underage Dominicans long enough to campaign against his party's nomination?
Who are these people?
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Now that their dad has withdrawn from the race, the five Romney sons who were serving their country by working on their father's campaign are now free to enlist.
The main money guy had read Syd Fields' book, watched The Sting twice and decided he knew everything there is to know about screenwriting. I found myself teaching story craft to this pig-headed moron once a week and it was exhausting.
To quote from a few dozen bad movies, I'm too old for this shit. I have other projects, like scratching my ass, that are more rewarding. Yes, I will miss the money. Yes, there was the promise of future film projects that would have been more satisfying, but the prospect of working with this jerk on anything more creative than matchbook copy was making my soul shrivel like a raisin in the sun.
I had to move on.
Life is far too short to spend in the company of assholes.
So, I wonder, why does God make so many of them?
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Regular readers may recall the nadir of this blog, a time when I gave up hope. I had been made hard and cynical by six years of George Bush, a Republican Congress who excelled in nothing more than looting our country's treasure and birthright, and a media, smug and complacent, covering the news the way pigeons cover the statues in the park.
I asked you not to vote. I suggested it was a sucker's game, a way to keep us sheep, with the false illusion that we held our own destiny.
I believe, I hope, I was wrong. In two days, those who live in Super Tuesday states will have an opportunity to light a new way for the nation and once again make us a place of optimism instead of fear, and courage instead of cowardly suspicion and self-entitlement.
We live in a dangerous world, it's true, but we don't defeat our enemy by becoming more like them. We defeat our enemy by being better than them, by holding fast to the principles of our fathers - freedom, justice, duty, honor and sacrifice.
I believe that Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and yes, even Ronald Reagan transformed this nation with a message of optimism. Armed with this optimism, Americans can do anything. United after 9/11, we would even now be freeing ourselves from the bondage of oil, we would have sacrificed to make this nation economically strong, and we would have enlisted to vanquish our enemies. But because we had no leadership there was no call to duty, to sacrifice. And we squandered this opportunity as callously as we've squandered our children's lives and fortune.
Today, and I don't say this lightly, I believe I have seen a man who can bring us real change, real leadership, and real opportunity. You policy geeks can learn about his ideas at his web site, but it's not the details of policy that define a leader, it's his vision. It's his call to our better natures. And if any of the things Obama says ring true with your life, and he articulates for you our common destination, I ask you to do something I urged you not to do in 2006.
I ask you to vote.
We can reverse the disastrous course we've been on for almost eight years. We can bring our nation together to face the awsome challenges. And we can do it without betraying our heritage of a brave and free people. We can do these things and again claim the moral high ground, a country the world can look up to rather than fear, a country that is indeed that shining city on the hill.
I know we can do this.
I know we can.
All we have to say is yes. Yes we can.
I leave you with Jenny's favorite political video of a few years back. Enjoy.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Speaking of advertising, here's one from the golden days of GOP dreams, the days when men were men and women were here to serve.
I remember this ad, and I remember my mother's response to it. It was a prefeminist suggestion that this wife slip a bit of cyanide into that hubby's coffee. You go, Mom.
As one of our Mad Men forefathers said (I think it was Ogilvy, but it could have been Bill Bernbach), your consumer isn't stupid, she's your wife.
If there's ever been a constant that runs through my career as a copywriter, it is my respect for the consumer's intelligence. I believe advertising can be smart. I believe advertising can be engaging. I believe you can speak to people and say something true about their life, even if it's something small.
And I hope I've carried those beliefs into this place. I'll let you be the judge.
Tomorrow, a new reason to believe, and an appeal to all my readers who live in Super Tuesday states.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Just before New Year's, a legend in the ad business died. Most of you have never heard his name, but all of you should remember his commercials.
Phil Dusenberry was the creative head of BBDO, that's Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, the agency Fred Allen said sounded like a trunk fallling down stairs. Phil was the guy who gave us those terrific Pepsi spots of the 80's, including the classic with Michael J. Fox and the memorable one that turned Michael Jackson into a human torch. That inspired the book, Then We Set His Hair On Fire: Insights and Accidents From A Hall of Fame Career in Advertising.
He also gave us Morning In America for Ronald Reagan's re-election, but the spot was so good I won't hold that against him.
And right after 9/11, he created the Miracle in New York commercials, inviting people to visit the greatest city in the world.
I won't hold the mayor against him, either.
I just wanted to raise a glass to a great practitioner of the art of hokum. He made it look easy.