Saturday, December 30, 2006

Getting Better Dreams

Here's a map of Maine, with a big red X over the town of Farmington.

Starting Tuesday, January 16, the Franklin Journal, which has been published in Farmington for a little over 200 years, will have a new editor, and I will have a new job. You'll note that I didn't furnish a link for the Franklin Journal, because it isn't on line. It also isn't owned by a rapacious Wall Street firm that wants only to drag as much money out of the community as possible and is willing to publish a newspaper if necessary. Rather, it's owned by this guy Bill who lives in North Carolina and is happy to have a couple of papers in Maine that make him some money.

The paper comes out on Tuesday and Friday. It's very small -- the Tuesday paper is eight pages and the Friday is 16. It doesn't have room for stories about the war, but even papers that have room for stories about the war would rather run stories about Brittany Spears, so it really doesn't matter much. I'd rather not have the space, and run neither, than have the space and be forced to make the wrong choice.

As it is, the paper runs the news of the local community, news they can't get anywhere else and that they care about. This is back to the days of the entrepenurial small town paper that matters to the people it writes about. This is going to be a blast.

If you check the link above, you'll find that Farmington is a combination of true rural living with some nice collegiate influence -- there are some book stores and funky clothing stores and plenty of other fun places without it being a "college town" to the extent that the locals are overwhelmed. There's a good hospital, lots of places to walk dogs and enough stores that you really don't have to drive the 40 miles down to Auburn unless you want to.

Of course, my email won't change, so in this on-line world of ours, it won't really matter too much that I've changed my physical base of operations. Except that I may change my tone as my daily three-dimensional life goes through changes. And I expect those changes to be for the better.

As for the headline above, I was cleaning out boxes when I came across some quotes I had collected, including one from Bill Walton, who said, "If your dreams aren't coming true, maybe it's time to get yourself some new dreams."

I've just got my same old dreams, but I'm remembering the importance of keeping them from shriveling or worse.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

For the record ....

Destry would like to point out that, when it comes to very young granddaughters, Nellie was not the only ridgeback in the family with a documented history of gentle patience. (No, this photo was not posed, either.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nellie Bly 2000-2006

Right around Halloween, I noticed a lump on Nellie's snout, about a third of the way from her right eye to her nose. I expected it to be soft, like a bug bite or some kind of bruising, but it was hard, just skin over bone, so I got her to the vet as soon as possible. Vets have an ethical need to let you know all your options, but it came down to this:

I said to her, "If you can tell me that, five years from now, she'll be running across a meadow and someone will say 'Cool dog! How'd she get that scar on her face?' then I don't care what it costs."

But she couldn't tell me that. It was an aggressive tumor that was in her nasal cavity, her gums and the roof of her mouth. There were things I could do, but they would be very invasive, very expensive and not at all effective.

Nellie's breeder had the right prescription: Lots of steak, ice cream, pepperoni and love, for as long as she was okay.

So for the past eight weeks, I have spoiled the girl with extra treats and extra affection. And there's nobody I'd rather spoil like that, because she was absolutely appreciative -- she always enjoyed snuggling in under the quilt and watching a football game, or going along for a car ride, even if it was just to the corner store for milk.

This is a picture of Nellie with my granddaughter, Abigail, who is in kindergarten now but was a year and a half old when I was out in the back yard at my mother's, taking pictures, and this happened. It certainly wasn't posed -- I would never have suggested that she sit on the dog. But I knew, as I watched it unfold, that Nell would be cool with it, and she was, as you see. She was patient, gentle and sweet.

I'd say, "patient, gentle and sweet as always" but she was a dog, and very much a dog. When we were out in the fields, she was perfectly prepared to take down a woodchuck or rabbit, though she could never quite catch the latter. With Nell, you never forgot that her forebears hunted lions, and yet there was never a moment when you didn't feel you could utterly trust her with a small child. She was a beautiful, sweet girl.

This past weekend, we went up to Plattsburgh for an early Christmas with the kids. There were four little girls in the house, ranging from 10 years to 9 weeks old, and four dogs. Nellie was cheerful and pleased to be there, accepting love and affection from the kids and being very patient with the youngest of the pups. On our way out of town, we stopped to see my friend Donna, who has a nine-month-old ridgeback, and the three dogs had a good long walk in the brush that included a lot of running and chasing and playing. Nell had a great time and was in good humor throughout.

I always figured that the tumor would eventually interfere with her breathing, and on some mornings, she did snork and strain a bit. But once she was up and about, it eased and she was fine. I expected, however, that the time would come when I'd have to decide that it was becoming too difficult for her to breathe, and that would involve a hard decision. I had the vet on standby and had pre-paid so that, when the moment came, I could get in and out without a lot of dialogue and delay.

But there was no decision. This morning, Nell was in evident pain. Apparently, the thing had grown to a point where it began to press on a nerve, or to force some bones apart to the extent of causing her real agony. She came along obediently enough for our walk, but lagged behind, head down, tail between her legs. I cut things short, brought her home and made the phone call, then took her to the vet's and held her until it was over.

Nellie was only six -- she'd have been seven in February. She was the sweetest, most affectionate dog I've ever known, without ever being silly or servile or obnoxious. She was very much a dog. A great, great dog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Howard gets some pets

I bought Howard some little fish the other day. The idea was that he would eat them, but he doesn't seem particularly interested in food that moves. Meanwhile, the fish immediately ducked under the pieces of slate in the tank, so I took the pieces out and that annoyed Howard, since the glass is slippery to try to walk on. So I finally put some of the slate back, the fish disappeared and Howard went back into his cave. To give you some perspective here, he is about the size of a 50 cent piece these days.

I don't know how long the fish are going to live on whatever crumbs of uneaten turtle food they can scarf up. Their main function, I suspect, will be to make it harder to clean the tank. But perhaps Howard will suddenly develop some prey drive, or maybe if they die he'll decide they are then appropriate food. Maybe little tiny snappers are only supposed to be carrion eaters.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why are the ice caps melting?

Did you ever wonder, when you were in college, about that kid who set his speakers up in the window and blasted his music over the quad? I mean, what happens to an obnoxious kid like that when he grows up?

This. This is what happens to him.

And what is the result? Click on Nellie at

(The cartoon, of course, is by Hilary Price. Great stuff.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is it a civil war? This week in Drawing Conclusions, John Trever and Rex Babin ponder the weighty issue of what to call that disturbance over there in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly goes to Mexico for the inauguration of a president. Keep your head down, Nell!

Comments welcome

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In "Drawing Conclusions" this week, Christo (Bulgaria) and Graff (Norway) look at the man most people believe is behind the murders of a former Russian spy and a journalist critical of Russian policy.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly travels to Ecuador, the latest of several South and Central American countries to use the ballot box as a way to shift their politics markedly leftward.

Comments always welcome.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Don't mind me, folks ...

... I'm just being a grandfather here for a minute.

Hope you also had a good Thanksgiving, either this past week or perhaps last month.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Upon further review ...

Charge dismissed against Texans' Tasered OL Weary

CBS wire reports

HOUSTON -- A misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest against Houston Texans offensive lineman Fred Weary was dismissed Tuesday.

Weary was shot with a Taser and arrested after a traffic stop last week. The case was dismissed because a judge found insufficient evidence to support the charge.

The district attorney's office will continue to investigate the case and there is a possibility other charges could be filed.

"Mr. Weary is very pleased with the dismissal," said his lawyer, Charley Davidson. "But this is one battle in what is an ongoing process. We will be meeting with prosecutors over the next few weeks to show them that the way the two officers set out the events is not accurate."

According to the police report, officers pulled Weary over because his car had a missing license plate after following him because he looked "very suspicious" while driving in an area near Reliant Stadium where police are on alert due to criminal activity.

The police report said Weary pushed an officer away and was shot with a Taser after he stepped toward officers when they ordered him to put his hands on the vehicle.

"I don't think it happened the way they say it happened," Davidson said. "He didn't commit any crime. He didn't deserved to be Tasered twice and he didn't deserve to be arrested."

Davidson said some witnesses have already come forward, but that they are hoping others contact the district attorney's office or the Texans if they saw the event.

"We want to get the word out to passing motorists and anyone else to let us know what you saw," he said. "I think the more information the DA's office gets, the better it is for Mr. Weary."

Davidson said Weary would not comment about the case until the entire matter is resolved.

Weary has appeared in nine games and started six this season at right guard. He did not miss any practice or playing time because of the arrest and was not disciplined by the team.

He has spent his entire five-year career with the Texans after they drafted him in the third round in 2002. He has played in 45 games.


(This photo shows Fred Weary at the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, when
Super Bowl XXXVIII was in Houston. Obviously a desperate criminal!)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Last week, Houston Texans player Fred Weary was followed for six miles by Houston police, who finally pulled him over for an illegal lane change, and then told him he was also guilty of having a missing front license plate. As things progressed, Weary, an offensive lineman who does not have a reputation for misbehavior or a quick temper, ended up being handcuffed, Tasered and booked for resisting arrest.

Note that this occurred at one in the afternoon, not three in the morning. Here's how the Texans' fan blogger, herself an attorney, summed up the event.

And here's an excerpt from a story about the team's reaction:

"I've been with Fred since I got here, and I think so much of him that I'll give him the same kind of support I'd give a member of my family," quarterback David Carr said. "When I heard about it, I was kind of shocked. I thought something had to be wrong. Fred's a good guy. He never says anything bad about anybody."

Like Carr, guard Steve McKinney has been Weary's teammate for five seasons.

"Fred's a good guy," McKinney said. "He's a hard-working guy who keeps quiet. He's not an angry guy at all. He's mild-mannered. I've never known him to have a problem.

"When I heard that he was Tasered and taken into custody, I thought, 'No way. Not Fred.' There's just no way that could happen.

"I don't know the situation, but it's hard to imagine him losing control. In this locker room and on the field, Fred's a model player."

So the question in Houston: Was it an example of "driving while black" or something else?

But check out how the Chronicle asked the question:

What's your take on the Fred Weary taser incident?

The police overreacted.:
Weary was wrong to approach the officer.:
Not enough is known about the situation:

Total Votes: 948

"Not enough is known about the situation"??? Since when did media polls care about THAT sort of thing?

Somebody needs to go have a talk with these people. If instant on-line polls begin to fashion questions that allow for thoughtful, intelligent responses, they're just not going to get the hits they need.

Meanwhile, it would be interesting to know if the 49% voting to suggest the police overreacted are football fans foremost, and how many are also black men who have been carefully taught caution by their parents, like this respondent to the above linked blog summary.

I am a 37 year old African-American that has lived in the Houston area much of my life and I applaud you for this article. The only edit that I'd suggest is to change the title to "Fred Weary's arrest raises concerns about HPD." When I was 16 years old my father taught me what to do when (not if) I was pulled over by HPD to avoid being shot before I turned the ignition for the first time. It's a shame that I'd need to teach the same lesson to my son.

A story to follow -- but, meanwhile, kudos to the Chron for giving readers a chance to vote intelligently rather than simply setting out the torches and pitchforks to see which way the mob would take them.

(The illustration is from a very good, fairly new strip, "Watch Your Head," by Cory Thomas.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Veteran's Day

Here are two comic panels from Yank Magazine, which provided reading material to GIs throughout World War II.

The one of the top, of course, is by PFC Bil Keane, the one on the bottom by Sgt. Al Jaffee.

Just in case you thought Bill Mauldin was the only GI with a pen.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Howard Mosshead

So here's an interesting problem. Turtles are supposed to need these special lights that give them certain nutrients or good rays or whatever. They're called "basking lights" because the turtles climb up out of the water onto their rocks and bask in the warm light.

Except that Howard (who, by the way, is now about the size of a half-dollar) never comes out of the water, and if I were to put a few inches of mud in the bottom of his tank, I'm sure he'd be even happier. I still leave the light on, but I'm starting to think that's not such a good idea.

As anyone who has had tropical fish knows, keeping the lights on encourages algae to grow on the rocks and glass, though not on the fish. But when the critter in the tank is kind of like a rock, well, there's a reason they refer to old snappers as "mossbacks."

So when I clean Howard's tank once a week, I take out the rocks, scrub them and cover them in boiling water in hopes it will discourage the microbes. While this happens, Howard is in a shallow bowl. You have to understand, Howard does not like being handled and I have no particular urge to make him uncomfortable, so I take him out of the tank and put him in the bowl with some water, and then put him back as soon as his little habitat is ready for him.

Only I do pick him up long enough to gently scrub his back with a soft toothbrush and try to take off the algae. If you look at this picture, you'll see a few bits of algae remaining, along with a lot of kind of fuzzy stuff which is the result of him growing ... he sloughs off bits of shell-skin on a fairly constant level.

What you'll also notice is a lot of green on his head. I don't think there's anything I can do about this, because even if his head would stand up to being scrubbed with a toothbrush, I'm sure his little turtle psyche would not recover from the insult to his dignity.

Since I will probably have to use the basking light to keep his water relatively warm through the winter when the rest of the house is somewhat cool, and he will definitely not be crawling out onto the rocks where he might actually dry off from time to time, it's entirely possible that, by spring, Howard will have a nice shock of bright green hair.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This week in Drawing Conclusions, Tom Toles and Jim Morin take a look at the looming elections and the potential for surprise results.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly examines the new report from Britain's Exchequer about the economic cost of global warming.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In case you missed it

“If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy. This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

"I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.

"The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it. These Republicans are afraid to debate veterans who live and breathe the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor.

"Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men. And this time it won’t work because we’re going to stay in their face with the truth and deny them even a sliver of light for their distortions. No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut and run policy in Afghanistan and a stand still and lose strategy in Iraq.”

-- John Kerry

Saturday, October 28, 2006

In lieu of visiting my eldest granddaughter on her 10th birthday, I direct your attention to this thoughtful Op-Ed piece from on the state of children's movies, occasioned by the writer attending "Open Season" with her son.

"The exhaustion of the animated genre is clearly evident, but even more troubling, is the fundamental lack of respect for children's intelligence. If they were any good at organizing, perhaps modern kids might take to the streets, protesting this lack of suitable content. Because it truly feels like a desert out there. Kids want to go to the theatre to see movies, the same as anyone else, but there is so little you can actually bear to take them to."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Science -- and copy editing -- march on

Secrets of the honey bee revealed in genome code
Wed Oct 25, 2006 1:07 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have unraveled the genetic code of the honey bee, uncovering clues about its complex social behavior, heightened sense of smell and African origins.

It is the third insect to have its genome mapped and joins the fruit fly and mosquito in the exclusive club.

The honey bee, or Apis mellifera, evolved more slowly than the other insects but has more genes related to smell.

"In biology and biomedicine, honey bees are used to study many diverse areas, including allergic disease, development, gerontology, neuroscience, social behavior and venom toxicology," said Gene Robinson, director of the University of Illinois Bee Research Facility and one of the leaders of the project.

"The honey bee genome project is ushering in a bright era of bee research for the benefit of agriculture, biological research and human health," he added.

With its highly evolved social structure of tens of thousands of worker bees commanded by Queen Elizabeth, the honey bee genome could also improve the search for genes linked to social behavior.

But the consortium of scientists, who reported the findings in the journal Nature, said a comprehensive analysis of the honey bee and other species will be needed to understand its social life.

Queen Elizabeth has 10 times the lifespan of workers and lays up to 2,000 eggs a day. Despite having tiny brains, honey bees display honed cognitive abilities and learn to associate a flower's color, shape and scent with food, which increases its foraging ability.

(Okay, the illustration was mine. The story, however, belongs to Reuters.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This week, Nellie Bly visits Budapest, where demonstrators found themselves competing for attention this week with memories of a true rebellion.

Meanwhile, in "Drawing Conclusions," Ben Sargent and Stuart Carlson take a look at the major parties and how they are handling election issues.

Comments, as always, welcome.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Everything new is new again

I drove up to Vermont yesterday to meet my granddaughter, Johanna Michelle. (Her other grandfather is named John.) Of course, I took lots of pictures, but this one of her with her mother was clearly the winner.

There are many things I find fascinating about this young woman, but here's the part that struck me most yesterday: When the kids first announced that she was on her way, I was thrilled for them, but expected that most of my own joy and surprise would come from watching of them become parents. As for myself, well, it was to be my fourth grandchild, and I'm getting pretty good at that.

However, as the pregnancy developed, I found myself totally caught up in the "first time" aspects. Younger Son and Wife have a very different approach to things than Older Son and Wife, which -- aside from the addition of wives -- is not different today than 30 years ago when Younger Son came on the scene.

I think most parents with more than one kid have had this experience: During the pregnancy, you tell yourself that you really have to make an effort not to hold the second child up to the standards of the first, but to let that young sibling develop as an individual. And then, when it happens, you realize that all your stern resolutions were pointless -- only The Great Santini could treat two different siblings as if they were the same child. Our two boys share some strong common bonds forged within the family, but they could not be more different as individuals.

Similarly, as the pregnancy progressed, the notion that Johanna was "Number Four" utterly disappeared. By the time she arrived, and really for quite a while before that, I was just as excited as when her eldest cousin Elizabeth was born a decade ago.

And yesterday, I was just as dumfounded in her presence.

I expect you to be, also.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This week, "Drawing Conclusions" looks at Korea's nuclear test but does NOT include a cartoon showing Kim Il-Jong's hair as a mushroom cloud. It wasn't easy to avoid those, but Robert Ariail and Kevin Siers turned in some nice work.

Meanwhile, Nellie takes a look at the Canadian role in Afghanistan, where the Canadians appear to be very much in harm's way.

Comments welcome.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The vast left-wing conspiracy

North Carolina Rep. Charles Taylor is demanding a retraction from a newspaper that published various assertions about him. If his rebuttal is accurate, he's got a pretty good point. But, the merits of his claim aside, this graf in Editor & Publisher's coverage caught my eye:

Bill Sabo, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, called Taylor's demand for a retraction a wise political move. Before Shuler's campaign and other Democrats can "pick this up and start hammering with it," Taylor is turning the table and responding as "a tough, aggressive, independent individual who is being picked on by the liberal media," Sabo said.

The liberal media again! Damn them!

And which liberal media outlet is Taylor threatening to sue? That com-symp rag, The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, editorial cartoonist Jim Borgman clarifies his own record as a liberal, with a blog entry that puts the lie to the conservative claim that those currently going after Congressman Mark Foley were soft on Clinton. (Never mind the difference between hitting on a 16 year old and hitting on a 24 year old, of course.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

This week, Drawing Conclusions looks at the murder of a Russian reporter, and the suspicions that the Russian government was behind the death. Ann Telnaes and Jeff Danziger lend their talents.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly visits Mongolia, where celebrations of the nation's 800th anniversary include an attempt to regulate commercial use of Genghis Khan's name and image.

Feedback, as always, is welcome.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Here's why I moved back East

I've nearly been back in the Northeast longer than I was away; I was at college for four years and in Colorado for 16, and I moved back here in 1987. There are things I miss about Colorado, especially in the muggy days of an East Coast summer or when the dark, cold days of winter refuse to let go.

But this time of year, oh, my, am I glad to be back.

I went up to Plattsburgh and snatched a canoe away from my eldest child a few weeks ago, and this morning I put it into the Hudson River at the spot where the dogs get their drinks during our twice-daily walk. I paddled up stream (being no fool) and, once I was past the bridge over the Interstate, it was quiet and tranquil. After about half a mile, the sound of traffic was just a swishing in the background and I could almost pretend I wasn't in the city.

Mostly, I wanted a quick excursion to see what it would take to get the canoe up and down off the top of the van, how the dogs would react to sitting in the car and seeing me leave by river, and what muscle groups I would rediscover throughout the process.

The dogs do not get to come along. For one thing, they hate water and would be freaked out by the canoe, which is very small to begin with. Also, their combined weight is about 215 pounds and neither one of them is willing to help paddle. The combination of them not wanting to come and me not wanting them to come either, seemed to work out well -- they sat in the van and waited peacefully.

The canoe is small, so that, when I first got in, it wobbled quite a bit, but since I was always taught to kneel in a canoe rather than sit, it was comfortably stable once I was in position. And kneeling also takes a lot of the strain off your paddling muscles, so that went well, too. The only real problem is that my feet and knees aren't quite as flexible as they were 45 years ago when I was learning all this stuff -- I don't know how the voyageurs managed things once they started getting le rheumatiz but I suppose once you load your canoe with all those supplies, the issue of stability kind of takes care of itself one way or the other, no matter how you sit, kneel or stand in it.

I went upstream about a mile and a half and, as I went around a curve, started encountering a headwind, so decided I'd experimented enough. I turned around and sat on the floor of the canoe with the paddle across the thwarts and just let the slow current take me back to the boat launch, sticking the blade in now and then to keep me pointed downstream. Two guys went by in a bass boat, keeping their distance and not going too fast, and a fellow pulled out of his dock, headed for the boat launch to put his boat away for the winter. They were the only other people I saw on the river. I heard some kids playing on the shore at one point, and somebody's dog was barking, but that was balanced by a squirrel chattering away in the woods and a small formation of geese who went honking over, following the river south.

I live about five miles from this spot, and a mile from work. Granted, I'd rather live right on the river and in the middle of nowhere, but they don't publish newspapers in the middle of nowhere. All things consider, I have very little to complain about.

And this time of year, I rarely do.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Too drunk for the hammock

A nice spot by ronniecat. This bear looks awfully young -- I wonder if anyone ID'ed him? We could have a scandal of underage bears being served in Colorado.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

This week, Drawing Conclusions looks at the aftermath of Rep. Mark Foley's resignation from Congress, through pens of Jeff Danziger and Bill Schorr.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly offers students some thoughts about the recent rash of school shootings.

Comments are always welcome.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

What did the president say and how did he say it?

Darrin Bell's "Candorville" is one of the bright spots on the comics page -- smart, funny commentary that has a distinctly progressive point of view but never shrinks from self-criticism.

But he doesn't stop there, and he runs a meeting place called ToonTalk where cartoonists gather for both professional and political exchanges.

And he has a blog at which recently linked to this very revealing 11 minute excerpt of the now-infamous Clinton interview on Faux News. Why infamous? Because they took a segment that ran just under a minute out of context and used it to concoct a smear. Here's a little more, and it's a great performance by Clinton.

Do you have 11 minutes to watch this? Well, what's 11 minutes compared to the past six years and the next two years? You've got 11 minutes.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This week in "Drawing Conclusions," we look at the compromise between the White House and GOP senators on questioning suspected terrorists, through the eyes and pens of Bill Schorr and Kevin Siers.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly visits Thailand to report on a coup in which a Thai general uses an unusual but fascinating metaphor for what he and his co-conspirators have done.

Comments are always welcome.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I think you lost them at "if" ...

(From a NYTimes article about NBC contemplating airing a concert in which Madonna mimicks the Crucifixion with herself the victim.)

Madonna also issued a statement on Thursday saying that the performance was “neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous.”

“Rather,” it went on to say, “it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today, he would be doing the same thing.”

(picture: Madonna confers with Jesus at a popular watering hole.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

And so it's come to this ...

My friend Mike Powers is a musician, a magician and a mathematician. We go back nearly 40 years, and do so every once in awhile by assembling some old reprobates for music and fellowship. It didn't make me feel old when he retired from teaching (math) and started concentrating on his magic -- he started teaching as soon as he graduated, so it's okay that he piled up enough years to retire.

But in an email, he writes: BTW – I’m playing in a rock band. It’s a blast. Our website is As you might surmise, our name is Blackjack 66. It’s difficult getting gigs these days. These blasted DJ’s don’t cost much and people seem to prefer just listening to their favorite tunes. We go over well at VFWs and places with an older crowd that likes to dance. It’s really fun to rock the joint and get everyone dancing.

Consarn it, it's a helluva thing when old rock-and-rollers have to go down to the danged VFW post and play for the old folks to get people who will rock out with them. We used to be the people our parents warned us about. Now we're just our parents.

On the other hand, I've got music from the band's website playing as I write this, and it ain't too bad. Y'know ... for a bunch of old guys ... (actually, it looks suspiciously like the band only includes ONE old guy ... )

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This week in Drawing Conclusions, two cartoonists -- Jim Morin and Jeff Danziger -- take different artistic tacks to the same purpose: Commenting on the way the White House has responded to GOP criticism of its attempts to re-focus Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly goes to Budapest, where what may have been an out-of-context quote from a taped party meeting has sent rioters into the streets.

Feedback is always welcome!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Howard (if that's his name) Eats

Well, about a week after taking up residence here, and I suspect a week after taking up residence anywhere outside an egg, the turtle has eaten. This isn't unusual -- they subsist for a week or two on yolk. But yesterday he snapped at some turtle food and since then has eaten a few pieces, which, for someone his size, is probably enough. I'm always surprised at how rarely reptiles eat, but I suppose if you aren't burning a lot of energy regulating your blood temperature, that makes sense.

I'd try to post a movie of him eating but one of the things I learned in reading about these animals is that they need a place to hide. So I gave him a piece of broken earthenware and now I have the thrill of a pot of water on my kitchen counter with occasionally a foot or the tip of a tail in sight or, on good days, a glimpse of his head. This is not very much like owning a dog.

Ronnie asks if he has a name and he doesn't appear to, but if he did, it would be Howard. That's Howard the Turtle, between Al Hamel and Michelle Finney. They starred on a fondly remembered CBC kids show called Razzle Dazzle. I've mentioned it to Canadians in the past with no particular response, and when I looked it up, I found out why. It was only on the air for about four years and you'd have to be at least 45 to remember it, and 10 years older to have been in its target age.

However, in looking it up, I realized why my friend Chris Morphy and I were so in love with Michelle. All these years, I've assumed she was a young-looking young woman. No, she was our age -- she was 11 the first year the show was on, 12 the second year, and replaced the third year, at which point we quit watching it anyway because we were high school freshmen and had other things we needed to be doing.

The show was a mix of things, including Howard, who was a sock puppet sticking out of a turtle body on a pedestal. The puppeteer who did Howard also did the puppets for The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup, so you have to think Burr Tilstrom rather than Jim Henson.

They showed serials, mostly "The Terrible Ten" which was Australian and since we didn't get to see the show every day, a little confusing -- mostly kids with funny accents running around. And they read viewer mail, and had a segment where they would choose an invention from a viewer and make it. Chris had one that got on the air, a kind of sombrero with a poncho rolled up on the brim so that, if it rained, you could just pull it down. They made it, Michelle modelled it and Chris was supposed to get the prototype in the mail, though I don't know if he ever did. I know it didn't show up right away.

Howard would dress up, as in this picture, or he would come up with some wonderful idea that wouldn't work, or a combination of the two. The only one I remember specifically was the time he bought an island that was going to make him wealthy because it produced so many potatoes. It was called "Potato-Eating Island" but on the map he was given, they just used the initials.

This would have been one of the more sophisticated jokes on Razzle Dazzle. Michelle would groan and say, "That's a real groaner!" but she loved Howard and I think that's why we loved Michelle. She was just what every seventh grade boy wants: A really cute girl who likes really stupid jokes. (Viewers also sent in groaners. The show was very well targeted to our age group.)

I couldn't find any information on whatever happened to Michelle Finney. A few years after Razzle Dazzle went off the air, she had a role in a CBC drama in which she played a young pioneer, and she was competent without blowing everyone out of the water. And I found evidence of a reunion show with Al and Howard in 1978, but that was it.

Anyway, this turtle doesn't seem to have a name, but, if he had a name, it would probably be Howard.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This week, Drawing Conclusions explores the use of fiction in documenting history, specifically the history of 9/11, through the eyes and pens of Mike Peters and Glenn McCoy.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly notes Constitution Day with a report on Thomas Jefferson's insistence that an educated, informed public was the best defense against bad government.

Comments, as always, welcome.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Crikey! This snapping turtle has lightning reaction time and powerful, crushing jaws!

Well, maybe some day. Meanwhile, I'm going to let him hang out in a tank on the kitchen counter through the winter and see how he does. I figure that, by next summer, he'll be about 2/3 the size of a hockey puck and will have gotten to the point where I'd have to invest in real equipment and start to worry about those jaws.

Fortunately, since these guys genuinely operate on a reptilian brain and nothing else, you can't really do much to interfere with their survival instincts. If I put him in a pond where the things that move are edible, he'll be fine. And snapping turtles also eat things that haven't moved in several days. They're not finicky. I also have a pretty good sense of the odds of a hatchling making it through the first week, never mind the first year of life. I don't think I'm going to be significantly messing with his fate.

A number of years ago -- that number being 21 -- I had a girlfriend with a pet snapping turtle named Roland who was about the size of your hand, as long as you were careful and kept him away from your hand. Otherwise, he would be somewhat larger than your hand.

Roland lived in a tank by her back kitchen door, in about three inches of water and gravel. She'd buy feeder goldfish and put them in his water, where they would swim around what appeared to be a large rock. Then there would be a splash but you wouldn't actually see his head move. What you would see was goldfish scales floating in the water and a bit of fishtail hanging out of Roland's mouth.

When it was time to clean his tank, I would hold Roland up between finger and thumb at the very back of his shell while she rinsed out the tank. He would occasionally crane his neck around to see what was holding him and I would marvel at the length and flexibility of that neck, just as I would marvel at his reaction speed when he was fed. Not a comforting combination, and considering that Roland never gave the slightest inclination that he even knew who we were, much less any sense of being nice to the source of his food, I really couldn't see the point. I'm curious to see how this little fellow grows and behaves, but I doubt I'll feel bad about releasing him when the time comes.

Incidentally, in researching the proper care of snapper hatchlings, I found a very detailed web site by someone who really understands reptiles, with specifications about the type of filter and the various light bulbs and calcium supplements and so forth. It was starting to look like it would cost more to keep a turtle than a dog.

Then I found another web site by a woman who apparently keeps turtles in tanks throughout her house. She was a lot more laid back about the process. Roland lived in about the opposite of all the conditions the expert laid out, but it sounded quite a bit like the conditions she discussed.

We're going with the second option.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Just as funny as it was four years ago. However, I have an uncomfortable feeling that, more and more often these days, this conversation takes place in editorial board meetings.

(Foxtrot, by Bill Amends)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This week, Nellie Bly marks five years of reporting with a few anecdotes and a link to a "Best of Nellie Bly" page, featuring a half dozen of her most memorable stories.

Meanwhile, in "Drawing Conclusions," Jim Morin and Ben Sargent take Labor Day as an opportunity to examine the current state of the working class.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Neville Chamberlain in Iraq

(Mother Jones republished Frank Rich's column despite it being part of the NYTimes Select stuff you're supposed to pay for! Shame on them! Here's the column -- judge for yourself how naughty Mother Jones was!)

September 3, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Donald Rumsfeld’s Dance With the Nazis

PRESIDENT BUSH came to Washington vowing to be a uniter, not a divider. Well, you win some and you lose some. But there is one member of his administration who has not broken that promise: Donald Rumsfeld. With indefatigable brio, he has long since united Democrats, Republicans, generals and civilians alike in calling for his scalp.

Last week the man who gave us “stuff happens” and “you go to war with the Army you have” outdid himself. In an instantly infamous address to the American Legion, he likened critics of the Iraq debacle to those who “ridiculed or ignored” the rise of the Nazis in the 1930’s and tried to appease Hitler. Such Americans, he said, suffer from a “moral or intellectual confusion” and fail to recognize the “new type of fascism” represented by terrorists. Presumably he was not only describing the usual array of “Defeatocrats” but also the first President Bush, who had already been implicitly tarred as an appeaser by Tony Snow last month for failing to knock out Saddam in 1991.

What made Mr. Rumsfeld’s speech noteworthy wasn’t its toxic effort to impugn the patriotism of administration critics by conflating dissent on Iraq with cut-and-run surrender and incipient treason. That’s old news. No, what made Mr. Rumsfeld’s performance special was the preview it offered of the ambitious propaganda campaign planned between now and Election Day. An on-the-ropes White House plans to stop at nothing when rewriting its record of defeat (not to be confused with defeatism) in a war that has now lasted longer than America’s fight against the actual Nazis in World War II.

Here’s how brazen Mr. Rumsfeld was when he invoked Hitler’s appeasers to score his cheap points: Since Hitler was photographed warmly shaking Neville Chamberlain’s hand at Munich in 1938, the only image that comes close to matching it in epochal obsequiousness is the December 1983 photograph of Mr. Rumsfeld himself in Baghdad, warmly shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein in full fascist regalia. Is the defense secretary so self-deluded that he thought no one would remember a picture so easily Googled on the Web? Or worse, is he just too shameless to care?

Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t go to Baghdad in 1983 to tour the museum. Then a private citizen, he had been dispatched as an emissary by the Reagan administration, which sought to align itself with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam was already a notorious thug. Well before Mr. Rumsfeld’s trip, Amnesty International had reported the dictator’s use of torture — “beating, burning, sexual abuse and the infliction of electric shocks” — on hundreds of political prisoners. Dozens more had been summarily executed or had “disappeared.” American intelligence agencies knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons to gas both Iraqi Kurds and Iranians.

According to declassified State Department memos detailing Mr. Rumsfeld’s Baghdad meetings, the American visitor never raised the subject of these crimes with his host. (Mr. Rumsfeld has since claimed otherwise, but that is not supported by the documents, which can be viewed online at George Washington University’s National Security Archive.) Within a year of his visit, the American mission was accomplished: Iraq and the United States resumed diplomatic relations for the first time since Iraq had severed them in 1967 in protest of American backing of Israel in the Six-Day War.

In his speech last week, Mr. Rumsfeld paraphrased Winston Churchill: Appeasing tyrants is “a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.” He can quote Churchill all he wants, but if he wants to self-righteously use that argument to smear others, the record shows that Mr. Rumsfeld cozied up to the crocodile of Baghdad as smarmily as anyone. To borrow the defense secretary’s own formulation, he suffers from moral confusion about Saddam.

Mr. Rumsfeld also suffers from intellectual confusion about terrorism. He might not have appeased Al Qaeda but he certainly enabled it. Like Chamberlain, he didn’t recognize the severity of the looming threat until it was too late. Had he done so, maybe his boss would not have blown off intelligence about imminent Qaeda attacks while on siesta in Crawford.

For further proof, read the address Mr. Rumsfeld gave to Pentagon workers on Sept. 10, 2001 — a policy manifesto he regarded as sufficiently important, James Bamford reminds us in his book “A Pretext to War,” that it was disseminated to the press. “The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America” is how the defense secretary began. He then went on to explain that this adversary “crushes new ideas” with “brutal consistency” and “disrupts the defense of the United States.” It is a foe “more subtle and implacable” than the former Soviet Union, he continued, stronger and larger and “closer to home” than “the last decrepit dictators of the world.”

And who might this ominous enemy be? Of that, Mr. Rumsfeld was as certain as he would later be about troop strength in Iraq: “the Pentagon bureaucracy.” In love with the sound of his own voice, he blathered on for almost 4,000 words while Mohamed Atta and the 18 other hijackers fanned out to American airports.

Three months later, Mr. Rumsfeld would still be asleep at the switch, as his war command refused to heed the urgent request by American officers on the ground for the additional troops needed to capture Osama bin Laden when he was cornered in Tora Bora. What would follow in Iraq was also more Chamberlain than Churchill. By failing to secure and rebuild the country after the invasion, he created a terrorist haven where none had been before.

That last story is seeping out in ever more incriminating detail, thanks to well-sourced chronicles like “Fiasco,” “Cobra II” and “Blood Money,” T. Christian Miller’s new account of the billions of dollars squandered and stolen in Iraq reconstruction. Still, Americans have notoriously short memories. The White House hopes that by Election Day it can induce amnesia about its failures in the Middle East as deftly as Mr. Rumsfeld (with an assist from John Mark Karr) helped upstage first-anniversary remembrances of Katrina.

One obstacle is that White House allies, not just Democrats, are sounding the alarm about Iraq. In recent weeks, prominent conservatives, some still war supporters and some not, have steadily broached the dread word Vietnam: Chuck Hagel, William F. Buckley Jr. and the columnists Rich Lowry and Max Boot. A George Will column critical of the war so rattled the White House that it had a flunky release a public 2,400-word response notable for its incoherence.

If even some conservatives are making accurate analogies between Vietnam and Iraq, one way for the administration to drown them out is to step up false historical analogies of its own, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s. In the past the administration has been big on comparisons between Iraq and the American Revolution — the defense secretary once likened “the snows of Valley Forge” to “the sandstorms of central Iraq” — but lately the White House vogue has been for “Islamo-fascism,” which it sees as another rhetorical means to retrofit Iraq to the more salable template of World War II.

“Islamo-fascism” certainly sounds more impressive than such tired buzzwords as “Plan for Victory” or “Stay the Course.” And it serves as a handy substitute for “As the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down.” That slogan had to be retired abruptly last month after The New York Times reported that violence in Baghdad has statistically increased rather than decreased as American troops handed over responsibilities to Iraqis. Yet the term “Islamo-fascists,” like the bygone “evildoers,” is less telling as a description of the enemy than as a window into the administration’s continued confusion about exactly who the enemy is. As the writer Katha Pollitt asks in The Nation, “Who are the ‘Islamo-fascists’ in Saudi Arabia — the current regime or its religious-fanatical opponents?”

Next up is the parade of presidential speeches culminating in what The Washington Post describes as “a whirlwind tour of the Sept. 11 attack sites”: All Fascism All the Time. In his opening salvo, delivered on Thursday to the same American Legion convention that cheered Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush worked in the Nazis and Communists and compared battles in Iraq to Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal. He once more interchanged the terrorists who struck the World Trade Center with car bombers in Baghdad, calling them all part of the same epic “ideological struggle of the 21st century.” One more drop in the polls, and he may yet rebrand this mess War of the Worlds.

“Iraq is not overwhelmed by foreign terrorists,” said the congressman John Murtha in succinct rebuttal to the president’s speech. “It is overwhelmed by Iraqis fighting Iraqis.” And with Americans caught in the middle. If we owe anything to those who died on 9/11, it is that we not forget how the administration diverted our blood and treasure from the battle against bin Laden and other stateless Islamic terrorists, fascist or whatever, to this quagmire in a country that did not attack us on 9/11. The number of American dead in Iraq — now more than 2,600 — is inexorably approaching the death toll of that Tuesday morning five years ago.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm sure this will get plenty of play, but I wanted to point out that yesterday's "Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet" joke is tomorrow's news story.

FORT WORTH, Texas Aug 30, 2006 (AP)
— RadioShack Corp. followed through on its announced plans to cut about 400 jobs, but the electronics retailer has been forced on the defensive about its method of notifying laid-off employees by e-mail.

Employees at the Fort Worth headquarters received an e-mail Tuesday morning telling them they were being dismissed immediately.

"The work force reduction notification is currently in progress," the notice stated. "Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wit from the Bench

I was researching Supreme Court cases regarding the rights of students for an upcoming series on the Constitution when I came across this excerpt from an opinion written by Justice Stevens in the 1981 case of Widmar v. Vincent. In that case, the court ruled that the University of Missouri was wrong to ban the use of campus facilities by religious groups, saying that while the university had the right to set rules, they couldn't single out religion as a banned content area. In his concurring opinion, Stevens sought to emphasize that requiring fairness was not a requirement that schools give up any attempt at critical judgment:

Because every university's resources are limited, an educational institution must routinely make decisions concerning the use of the time and space that is available for extracurricular activities. In my judgment, it is both necessary and appropriate for those decisions to evaluate the content of a proposed student activity.

I should think it obvious, for example, that, if two groups of 25 students requested the use of a room at a particular time -- one to view Mickey Mouse cartoons and the other to rehearse an amateur performance of Hamlet -- the First Amendment would not require that the room be reserved for the group that submitted its application first.

Nor do I see why a university should have to establish a "compelling state interest" to defend its decision to permit one group to use the facility and not the other. In my opinion, a university should be allowed to decide for itself whether a program that illuminates the genius of Walt Disney should be given precedence over one that may duplicate material adequately covered in the classroom.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Drawing Conclusions goes light on the politics this week with a look at Pluto's demotion through the eyes of the Toronto Star's Dave "Andy" Anderson and the Detroit News's Henry Payne.

Meanwhile, Nellie Bly takes the anniversary of Katrina as an occasion to do a little reflecting on how tight deadlines and bogus numbers intersect in the news business.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bogus pop-up of the day

Yeah, I think I saw these girls the last time I drove through Fort Edward.
They had the spreader loaded and they were headed for the hayfield.
(Yes, I sometimes lie about my exact location when registering.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

NYTimes exclusive: Water is a drowning hazard! (and math is hard!)

HONOLULU, Aug. 25 — The blue waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands may be irresistible, to tourists and residents alike, but swimming there — or surfing, snorkeling, diving or kayaking — can be deadly. And not just for the reason that seizes the imagination.

What? The reason that seizes my imagination is that the ocean has a pretty high water content, not to mention rip tides and such.

While it is the infrequent shark attacks that make the headlines, (Oh, right. Jaws. Okay, carry on.) drowning claims far more lives in Hawaii, where coastlines of sand, coral reef and lava rock create shorebreaks and currents that cause many swimmers to encounter peril entirely unexpected. Indeed, most of the victims are adults who thought they were good swimmers.

(Okay, I can live with "many," though "entirely unexpected" gives me a slight case of the collywobbles. But could we get a source for that last statistic -- drowning rates among adults who self-rated their swimming ability as "good"?)

“The waters at many beaches are deceptively beautiful,” said Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the state health director. “Even if you know how to swim, if you get into nasty surf, if you’re ill or injured, your chances of drowning are increased.”

Seventy-one people drowned in Hawaii in 2004, 58 of them in the ocean. The toll was the highest here in 15 years, but then was eclipsed by last year’s total of 77.

It is not just the millions of tourists who are at risk. Nearly half of all drowning victims are residents, a statistic that gives Hawaii an exceptionally high per-capita rate. The state’s Department of Health reports that from 1999 to 2003, 9.7 people drowned for every 100,000 residents, more than double the national rate of 4.7. That made the state’s rate for the period second only to that of Alaska, where fishing accidents account for a large share of drownings.

Let's go back to the "half of them are residents" part. Is she saying that the 9.7 per 100,000 stat is based only on dead residents? If so, why doesn't it say "9.7 Hawaiians drowned ... "

A look at Hawaii's Dept of Health suggests that she's counting the tourists despite having just excluded them. I couldn't find the exact figures she's citing (and I do have to get back to work on my paying job), but here's what a quick search turned up:

G. Drowning Deaths

Current status and trends in Hawai`i

Drownings are the second leading cause of unintentional injury death. Each year in Hawai`i, there are nearly 50 drownings and over 100 water-related hospitalizations occurring mainly from activities in the ocean and pools. Hawai`i has more ocean-related drownings and injuries leading to death and disability per square mile than any other state. Nearly half of all ocean-related drownings and hospitalized injuries occur to non-residents, therefore de facto population estimates yield a more accurate injury rate.

Healthy Hawai`i 2000
Objective Baseline (1990)47 and current data

9.H Reduce drowning deaths to Drowning deaths 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
no more than 3.0 per 100,000 among state residents 4.4 2.5 3.2 3.4 3.4
people. Drowning deaths 5.3 3.6 3.8 4.3 5.3
inde facto population

NOTE: Hawai`i's baseline for this objective is not resident population-based, as it includes visitors. Therefore, it can not be compared to the national objective.
47Hawai`i Department of Health Status Monitoring, Vital Statistics data, special tabulation.

She goes on to talk about the videos they're showing tourists to warn them about the dangers of the ocean -- pretty much recycling a story that ran two months ago in the Honolulu Advertiser, but not ripping it off. Just not improving on it much. The difference being that the Advertiser ran some fact boxes that, while more current than the ten-year-old figures in this DOH report, were closer to this rate than the 9.7 quoted by the NYTimes writer.

And the Honolulu reporter didn't automatically assume that, when readers think of hazards in the ocean, they imagine Jaws.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This job description is a lot funnier if you understand journalism pay scales

Company: Democrat and Chronicle
Business reporter
Rochester, New York
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
September 22, 2006
Job ID: 672529
We’re seeking an enterprising business reporter to cover fast-developing medical tech and biotech industry, including Bausch & Lomb, one of the world's largest eye-care companies. The reporter will think new media, eager to break news on our website and bring a flair for good writing to Page 1A and the Sunday and daily Business sections of our newspaper (160,290 daily and 219,660 Sunday). On the multimedia front, this reporter should be prepared to do podcasts, collect audio interviews, work with videographers and appear on television with the local ABC affiliate as needed. Interested? Please contact Neill Borowski, managing editor, the Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY. Email and

(cartoon is Between Friends by Sandra Bell-Lundy)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Here we go again.

School is just around the corner and I've got mountains of stuff to get done in the next two weeks. This year's serial combines mythology and astronomy and, unfortunately, I don't really know much about astronomy except what I learned in Earth Science ... well, so long ago that some of the stars have moved since then. I'm way out of my comfort zone with this stuff, but it will be pretty cool when I'm done. (Fortunately, I have the help of a friend. Unfortunately, he's out of the country.)

Which either means I won't be updating the blog much or else I'll be posting a lot, and so, by checking in here, you'll be able to tell whether I'm hunkered down or blissfully avoiding what must be done.

The illustration here is a favorite Peanuts simply because so many NIE programs base their entire educational approach on goofy fun stuff of no real value in the classroom. A classic request on the NIE listserv is "Does anyone have the directions for making a pressman's hat?" While I have nothing against making hats, I wish that request was at least equalled, if not outnumbered by, "Does anyone have any really good First Amendment resources?"

In any case, I'll be in the office much of the weekend and I won't be folding hats.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No pida, no diga

(an Ecuadorian pamphlet my co-worker, Peggy, came across. A translation I cobbled from Babelfish.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Arthur Lee died the other day. That won't matter to very many people, but it will certainly be noticed by those who knew who he was.

About ... gee ... was it 20 years ago? More or less. Anyway, I was at a college reunion and my buddy Charlie came by, even though it wasn't his year, and we played a little guitar music together. We played "Signed DC" and "A House Is Not A Motel" and then were piddling around with a kind of funny one called "Live and Let Live."

I mentioned that, since I'd left school, I hadn't run into very many people who had even heard of Love, much less knew any of their songs. And Charlie off-handedly remarked, "Well, they were a musicians' band." And I realized it was true -- the people who I associated with the group were almost all musicians, or very close to the music scene.

The thing that was different with Love was that a lot of the bands that are "musicians' bands" are so esoteric that nobody would want to listen to them except to marvel over (and steal) certain licks. But Love was incredibly listenable music, with nice, accessible instrumentation (easier to listen to than to play) and a kind of baroque lyrical sense that Jim Morrison could have learned from. And apparently did.

Funny thing: One of the obits I read quoted a line from "The Red Telephone" as an example of Arthur Lee's genius. The line -- "They're locking them up today. They're throwing away the key. I wonder who it will be tomorrow, you or me? (We're all normal and we want our freedom!)" -- was often quoted back then. But the line was taken from "Marat/Sade." (The lyrics linked here attribute the song to Bryan Maclean, but it's by Lee. Except, y'know, for the line everybody quotes.)

And speaking of locking people up and throwing away the key, for awhile back in those days, I lived next door to a guy who was on a "perma-trip." Steve had dropped acid one time and never really came down again. It had been awhile and, though he was from Washington, DC, he was in South Bend at the moment because his buddies took turns watching out for him, and a couple of them were living out there. He wasn't at all trippy or goofy -- actually, he was very quiet and very nice, but you couldn't really hold a conversation with him. I don't think he was hallucinating. He'd just completely lost his ability to focus. He'd get various shelf-stocking sorts of jobs but he couldn't hold it together and he'd just kind of not work, and either he'd get fired or he'd stop showing up.

But one thing he could still do was play guitar, and he could play every song Love recorded, really well. He was a human jukebox, and there are several Love songs that still remind me of Steve, sitting up in his room playing. He went back to DC after a couple of months and I have no idea what happened to him. I kind of hope someone a little more grounded than his buddies eventually took over his care and feeding.

For that matter, I wish someone more grounded had been able to take over Arthur Lee's care and feeding, because he certainly put himself through some unnecessary things. One of those obits where you're sorry he's dead, but you're also kind of surprised he was still alive.

Anyway, lots of memories and associations, some sublime, some ridiculous. I don't know why this band wasn't more popular. But if you read the obit linked to Lee's name at the beginning, you'll see that a lot of later-to-be-popular bands were listening to him.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bear in Hammock video -- A public service

Ronnie writes: "You know, Mike, I think that forevermore I shall think of incredibly stupid, inane, vapid media fluff pieces as "bear in a hammock" stories."

Especially if you were alone in a hotel with no Internet access and this clip, playing over and over on the news. Admittedly without the annoying soundtrack.

Or the potential bruises of this poor bruin's endlessly replayed adventure.