Friday, March 31, 2006

Everyone Can Go Ahead And Call It Conspiracy

Frankly, I'm surprised I didn't score higher percentages on this test (only 64% in Political Scandal Knowledge?), but I am nonetheless satisfied with the result, particularly due to the local angle on this one.

Richard M. Scaife

You scored 64% in Political Scandal Knowledge, 80% in Sex Scandal
Knowledge, 75% in VRWC Political Connections, and 87% in Right-Wing
Political Ideology!
You're definitely a veteran
and very valued member of the VRWC, with a special emphasis on the
seamier, sexual side of the Clinton Administration. Mr. Scaife, as you
undoubtedly know, was one of the VRWC's financial kingpins during the
Clinton years and was as obsessively reviled by Clintonites as the rich
left-wing maniac George Soros is today on our side. Congratulations on
your achievement of this high honor, and let's dig up some more dirt on
Hillary, shall we? We can never have enough.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Pol Scandals
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Sex Scandals
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Pol Connections
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Pol Ideology
Link: The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Test written by CatoTheYounger on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Break Out The Champagne...

...because visitor number 6,000 has just cruised on in to this blog. It's someone from New Jersey who is interested in this old post from over a year ago. It's funny -- my Site Meter stats have indicated a lot of interest in that post recently, with visitors coming in from different areas of the country, but no referring URL. Either someone is blocking whatever page is leading them here, or that post is getting passed around in people's email. Interesting, if true.

I've also been getting quite a few hits from an internet domain in Norway. If you're reading this, Norway, Have a nice day.

Thank you all for dropping by, and I look forward to visitor 7,000.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Moonbat Smackdown

Some fine folks who are or were in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom take a moonbat letter writer out to the shed, grab him by the throat, and put the wood to him.

Rhetorically speaking, of course.

Zombie Constituency

Oh good grief, they're going after dead people now:

Sandra Bradley knew her husband was registered as a Republican, but she was stunned to learn his name was on a recent petition supporting the re-election bid of state Rep. Michael Diven, R-Beechview.

There's no way James J. Bradley Jr. signed the petition March 4, as it indicates, she said. The Baldwin Township man died more than three years ago.

And he wasn't the only member of the Reanimated corpse-American community to back Mike Diven:

Her husband wasn't the only deceased voter named on the petition. A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review search of obituaries found matches for at least three other names of dead people.
If they keep looking, I'm sure they'll turn up more. Who comes up with this crap, anyway? It's like Diven never stopped bring a Democrat, as least in terms of how his supporters gathering signatures. And speaking of Diven's former comrades:

Republicans contended House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Greene County, was behind the challenges to Diven.

Mike Manzo, DeWeese's chief of staff, said Diven should "blame himself."

"From what I understand, there was possible criminal activity on his end," Manzo said.

That's possible -- but would Diven have committed the forgery himself? I rather doubt that political candidates personally and meticulously examine their petitions for irregularities. They trust the people who work for them, and there is some evidence that Diven's chief of staff might be responsible for the forgeries.

Mike Diven, to his credit, is taking full responsibility for this petition mess by withdrawing from the race, ruling out the possibility that he would run as either a write-in Republican or an independent. It looks like the cute chick is a shoo-in in the 22nd district.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Creative Genius

All bow before the creative genius that is T&A, inspired by that pigeon thing that happened last week.

Search That Makes Little Sense

Another Bizarro World search not only leads to this blog, but also makes me the number one search result.

When did I ever talk about that?

Editorial Page Insipidity

An editorial in the Moist-Towelette today concludes with this bizarre and cryptic note:

Mr. Bush's new chief of staff will have his work cut out for him, but if the president is looking for true salvation, he's two or three human sacrifices away.
It's basically another attempt by the leftist media to try and tell the President how to run his administration. It's interesting, though, that the editorial writers chose to use a death metaphor to express their feelings about making some personnel changes near the top. What do they really want to see happen?

In another example of Bush Derangement Syndrome, the editorialists end a piece about local Clean Water Act violations by saying, out of the blue, that it's all Bush's fault. Actually, they are just echoing the sentiment of some eco-pressure group, but they could have come up with it on their own in any case.

The third commentary surprisingly lacks any mention of the President. It's an expression of outrage at the closing of a charter school in the city of Pittsburgh. That's actually something that I can agree with.

The weekly Dan Simpson column finds fault with the Bush administration for not being nicer to the bad guys overseas. Yeah, like we should have been supporting the Iranian nuclear program and Saddam's government instead of letting the Russians do it. Got it. At least Dan doesn't come off as psycho as he did before his North African vacation last year.

In a nice change, Reg Henry, the most obsessive BDS sufferer at the Moist-Towelette, manages to go through an entire column without making even one reference to the President. Actually he does talk about the President, but it's the President of Taiwan. He even got to meet him, in fact, as part of some kind of journalistic fellowship program. Does this mean that Reg is going to be on some sort of long-term assignment in the Far East? We can only hope.

I mean, we can only hope that the entire PG editorial staff gets sent overseas permanently.

How To Defeat Your Opponent Without Actually Having To Run Against Him

I thought whole petition challenge business was bad in my PA House district, but at least no one here tried to pick off the incumbent, as has just occurred in the district a few blocks away from me:

In the face of a challenge to his nominating petitions, state Rep. Michael Diven, R-Brookline, yesterday officially withdrew from the Republican ballot in the May 16 primary. But while Mr. Diven's name will not be on the primary ballot, it does not necessarily mean the end of his candidacy for re-election.

Mr. Diven, a former Democrat who turned Republican to make an unsuccessful run for state Senate last year, said he hadn't made up his mind on his next step, but suggested that he was inclined toward an attempt to defend his seat.

"We're still evaluating our options," he said. "Obviously, if I wanted to retire I wouldn't have circulated petitions and sought re-election. The question is, logistically, what decision makes the most sense, but I'm definitely interested in exploring those."

Long-time readers of this blog may recall some of my commentary concerning that state Senate race from last year (here and here). That was kind of an unfortunate contest, as it quickly drifted away from substantive discussion of issues and devolved into a direct mail duel in which each candidates seemed to be presenting photographic evidence that his opponent had a fatter neck than his own. If nothing else, it kept me amused.

It also showed how desperate the local Democrats are to be rid of Mike Diven. He was a loyal Democrat right up to the end; his change of registration was ultimately due to the party's rejection of him rather than the other way around. I heard him speak once, early in the campaign, to a conservative audience and he had a lot of things in common with the Republicans in attendance. He was also a little nervous, no doubt due to venturing on what was "enemy territory" just a few months earlier. On the whole, though, he comported himself well in the face of a tough audience. His real difficulty wasn't so much trying to please Republicans as it was running as a "turncoat" in a now-hostile district.

There is still a chance that Diven could end up running for reelection anyway, if he gets enough write-in votes in the Republican primary, or if he runs as an independent in the fall. He won't be able to get away with sending out mailers with unflattering pictures of his opponent this time, though. Let me put it this way: If this political campaign were a beauty contest, his Democratic challenger would win with 100% of the vote.

Beyond Genealogical Research

I am one of those people who is obsessed with genealogy. I have transcribed ancient records in obscure German script, I have spent entire days poring over smelly old books in county courthouses, and for the last few years I have had the obligatory subscription to My family file consists of tens of thousands of names. That's the result of over fifteen years of research, and I'm sure there's plenty more to come. At this point, though, I've run into enough "dead ends" to know that it is unlikely that I will uncover more ancestors. Most additions to my database over the last six years have been distant cousins. My family tree is growing out, not up. I consider myself fortunate to have learned as much as I have about my direct ancestral line.

But enough about me. What about those who can't go back hundreds of years for the data on specific ancestors, as in some cases I have? The answer, according to this article in the morning paper, lies in our genetic code. A black man in the USA who long felt an affinity for Asian culture and had been told that he possessed Asian physical characteristics took a DNA test and learned that he did in fact have Chinese ancestry on his father's side. This is a wonderful discovery. In the old days, genealogy was an elitist and, in many ways, a racist hobby for those who wanted to demonstrate some kind of assumed "racial purity". The DNA testing of today yields much different results, showing us just how close many of us are in spite of outward differences, and without realizing it.

Not that I would want to have it done for myself -- at least not until such time as the cost of testing drops somewhat lower than $299 -- but if comedian Chris Tucker can determine from DNA testing, and nothing else, that his roots lie with a particular group of people in Angola, then who knows what I might be able to learn about myself beyond the "German" and "Scots-Irish" ethnic classifications that I grew up with? The possibilities are mind-boggling.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Omega Hog

Good food is about to get better! From this morning's PG:

Someday you could eat bacon and ham instead of fish and nuts to get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the University of Missouri-Columbia's National Swine Resource and Research Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital have made pigs that produce the beneficial nutrients.
Nice. I would consume more bacon and ham if it didn't feel like it clumps in the middle of my chest every time I eat it. Besides, as I like to tell people, I am ethnically German, so my religion requires that I eat the flesh of porcine mammals. But what's the deal with this omega-3 stuff anyway?

Omega-3 fatty acids cut triglyceride levels, the risk of irregular heartbeat, and the growth of artery-clogging atherosclerotic plaques, according to the American Heart Association. The association recommends eating fish, preferably fatty ones such as salmon, at least twice a week because it is rich in omega-3.
Pig as healthy as fish! Think about it. It's not just the other white meat, but it'll be just like the other other white meat. Maybe a bit too much, as experimentation has shown:

In one study, pigs were fed flaxseed, leading to an elevation in one subtype of omega-3, and "the bacon tasted like fish," Dr. Dai said, laughing.
I would prefer it if fish tasted more like bacon. Can they do that? After making the pig as healthy as fish, can they make the fish taste like bacon? That would be doubly cool.

What is not cool is this fact of current-day America that I gleaned from the article: The Federal Government regulates the food chain. I have always thought of the food chain as an aspect of nature that transcends our ability to control it. Now I learn that the feds are involved. Sorry, folks, but that just activates the "libertarian outrage chip" that God implanted in my DNA. Give me the pig. I want to eat the pig NOW.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Worms In Your Brain

An article about migraine research in this morning's Trib starts off talking about worms:

Roundworms thinner than sewing needles don't have complex brains like people do.

Technically, they don't have brains at all - just a pair of grape-like nerve cell bundles in their heads.

But these dirt-dwelling worms invisible to the naked eye might hold the key to understanding why an estimated quarter of the world's population suffers from migraine and how to better treat it, said University of Pittsburgh neurologist Dr. Miguel Estevez.

Unfortunately, the article goes downhill from here. I thought for sure that these tiny worms somehow burrow into people's heads and penetrate their brains, thereby causing migraines, and that the cure would be to take some kind of special medicine that kills the worms without damaging the brain. But that would be too cool of a story.

Instead, we learn that the worm brains are being studied to help us understand how and why we have migraines, and what could be done to cure migraine. I like my version better.

Clear Out Of Touch With Time

Last night, I took a shopping trip to Bethel Park, where I spent over ten years as an employee at Borders. I don't get out that way much anymore. The experience was surreal, as if I had ventured into a parallel universe.

My first stop was at South Hills Village. Out of towners and youngsters call it "the mall", but those of us who grew up with in back in the 1970s know it as "The Village", which gives it kind of a creepy Patrick McGoohan vibe. Well, last night I felt like Number Six. For one thing, a longtime Pittsburgh area institution, Kaufmann's department stores, are gone, having sold out to Macy's. The new parent company closed the Village location because it already owned the department store at the opposite end of the building. That Macy's was previously known as Lazarus, but for many year prior to that had borne the name Horne's, another Pittsburgh shopping institution.

Kaufmann's now looks like a masoleum. It's especially scary at night, because instead of the end of a shopping mall, it looks like the end of the world. Much of the inside of the Village has changed as well. There is now an enclosed children's play area at one end, which did not concern me since I left the kids at home. After picking up a couple of accessories at Radio Shack for my new computer, I couldn't resist stopping at the bulk candy store. This place has been around for somewhat less than twenty years, and has undergone a few name changes in that time. Originally it was Help Ur Self, a name which convinced a college chum of mine to believe that the store should have a Sumerian theme. Then, for several years, it was Icky Sticky & Goo, which sounds kind of gross, implying that someone had already been sucking on the candy before it was put on sale. The current name is Sweets From Heaven. I don't like that either. It's too elegant. It conjures images of Victorian gentlemen gracefully handing Whitman Sampler boxes to their sweethearts. This store isn't like that. It's still a self-serve bulk candy store. To me, it will always be Help Ur Self.

My purchase consisted of a bag of Chocolate Covered Raspberry Jelly Rings and a bag of Licorice Allsorts. Not much has changed with me, either. That is the same kind of purchase I made at that store over ten years ago. The only thing that felt different was the price. Everything costs the same per pound, so the cashier girl plopped both of my bags onto the scale at once. Good thing I decided to forego the Gummi Worms, or I would have needed a bank loan to pay for the candy. Next time, I will try to get something lighter than Allsorts.

Once I found my way back out of the Village, I headed on over to more familiar surroundings. It's always fun to go back to Borders and see what kind of shape the old sections are in, and how all of my old colleagues are doing. Or it would be fun, if everything hadn't been moved and if there hadn't been so much turnover in the years since I left. For one thing, the bland off-whiteness of the walls has been replaced with alternating sections of garish orange and purple. Most of the short bookcases have been replaced with sky-high tall ones. And about time, too. I was asking for more shelf space when I started running out of room for books over ten years ago. Nice to see that they finally figured it out.

Everything else was confusing. The children's books are in the history section! The History section is where children's should be! And so on. The sole reason that I went was to use a coupon that I acquired by joining the Rewards card program. It took me a while to find what I was looking for, as I was in a state of shock for quite some time. (This was due not to the rearrangement of everthing, but because of the hideous orange and purple color scheme.) I recognized two guys who were working there when I left back in 2000, but didn't talk to them as I was never really close to either. After checking out at the cash register, I was about to leave when I spotted someone whom I could actually talk to.

"Edward!" I cried out. He greeted me warmly with a handshake. I asked him what the hell happened to the store. Another renovation, which would make it the first major overhaul in about ten years. Something else bothered me, something about the staff working at the store.

"What's up with the Borg implants?" I queried. It seems that, in order to keep in touch with one another but without blasting everything over the store's sound system, each employee must wear a communicator clipped to their belts and connected by wire to an earpiece.

I didn't want to know whether there were any other body parts with unseen implants, so I said good night to Ed and went grocery shopping. Even though I visit my local Shop 'n Save once or twice a week, it still felt different. This, at least, was a change that I was prepared for. The supermarket's Minnesota-based parent company, Supervalu (whose home turf stores are known as Cub Foods), recently completed a deal to sell off some of its regional chains, including SNS in the Pittsburgh market. The biggest change that we, the "end users", see in the stores is the discontinuation of the S&H Greenpoints program. It felt odd to walk through the store and not see any reference to the accumulation of Greenpoints. That was kind of sad. But on the bright side, the store still uses the Greenpoints Rewards card to extend special in-store offer to customers, so that's good!

In another couple of years, when I decide to leave the house again -- or when I run out of Allsorts, whichever comes sooner -- I am going to try to be better prepared for the temporal traumas that await me. Nothing stay the same for very long anymore.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thus Falls A Contender

Well, well. It looks like the signature that my wife applied to Mike Crossey's ballot petition was for naught:

Democrat Mike Crossey won't be able to run for state representative in the 27th District because he doesn't legally live in the district, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled yesterday.

Too bad. The more Democrats tussling in the primary, the better. Not that a Republican would have a chance anyway, but it's nice to see the other guys sweat a little.

Mr. Crossey's attempt to claim he was a resident of both Mt. Lebanon, which is outside the district, and Dormont, which is part of the district, was flawed, Judge Bernard L. McGinley wrote. The judge wrote that is it illegal for Mr. Crossey to live apart from his wife to establish residency so he could run against incumbent state Rep. Tom Petrone, D-Crafton Heights.

This is a great blow to the hopes of men everywhere. We ought to have the right to live wherever we want, even if it is on a separate continent from our wives

Mr. Crossey said he was "kind of shocked" by the decision because he thought he had done everything needed to become a resident. He said he disagreed with the decision but would not appeal because of the cost involved.
Yeah, he might actually have to sell one of his houses. It must be nice to be rich enough to be able to afford two houses. If I sold my house to pay a debt, I'd have to move into a dumpster.

It will be interesting to see how many candidates make it to the primary, considering the number of court challenges going on right now. But let's save the popcorn and beer for more lively entertainments.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Slow News Day?

Breaking news items of the afternoon are so much more thrilling than the reporting that gets printed in the bland, reflective morning paper. To wit:

A co-worker dropped by my office earlier this afternoon to ask if I had heard about the rooftop sniper shooting at people in downtown Pittsburgh. Turns out, it was just some goofball taking shots at pigeons with his pellet gun. The best thing about this incident is that it allowed the city to demonstrate how quickly it responds to a possible terrorist situation. All told, I'd say they handled it reasonably well. It remains to be seen, however, just how efficiently the city would deal with such a crisis if someone actually was shooting at people. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

The Pittsburgh pigeon sniper is undoubtedly going to get into some kind of trouble over this, but not as badly as he would were he doing his shooting in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia, where the President of the United States dropped by for a talk about Iraq. He acknowledged that the administration and the (mainstream) media are at odds with regards to his Iraq policy, and described himself as an optimist. We should be relieved about this; who wants a President who seals the White House with duct tape and whose speeches consist entirely of "we're all gonna die!"? As I've said before, though, both the administration and the media have an agenda; if you want an accurate assessment of what has been going on in Iraq, listen to people who have been there.

Back home in Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell is once again offering to use taxpayer money to buy himself some more votes in this year's election. What a shameless bastard this guy is. Last year it was "intervening" in the Pork Authority labor dispute, and more recently it's been trying to keep the Penguins hockey team in Pittsburgh (and in Pennsylvania). Today, he's trying to pick up some more votes by offering to let the state (i.e. taxpayers) pay for the International Baccalaureate program at Upper Saint Clair High School. After all, he can't let the democratically elected Republican-dominated school board in USC do the job that they were elected to do. Miserable Philadelphian S.O.B.

I'll come back later when I stop seething.

I'm Too Young For A Mid-Life Crisis

A few years ago, I was walking through the business district of my town, just a block over from my house, when I spotted a dark-haired man with a remarkably long ponytail feeding a parking meter. There was something familiar about him, sans ponytail, but I didn't say anything until he acknowledged my presence. "Oh, hi, Joe," I responded. He was a former professional colleague of mine from the bookselling trade who spent some time as a writer for both the PG and the Trib. He hadn't changed much from when I last saw him...except for that monstrosity dangling from the back of his head. Since I knew him well enough, I decided to ask him just what in the hell that thing was all about. He never struck me as the ponytail type.

"That's my midlife crisis," he explained with a smile.

I though he had already experienced a "midlife crisis" a few years earlier when he went on a long vacation in Paris, and called a couple of days before he was scheduled to return to work, just so he could inform us that he had decided to make his trip to France a permanent one. Of course, he was back in Pittsburgh a year later, working his old job at the book shop. Still, I could not help but wonder what it would be like to travel thousands of miles for a visit and then decide to not come home. Had I done so at the time, I might have been able to get away with it. Those were, after all, my "carefree days"; I was single and in my early twenties.

Today, I am married with at least four children and in my late thirties. I can not afford, financially or otherwise, to disappear from the face of the earth and move to Iowa, or wherever. But am I ready for a midlife crisis?

I certainly hope not. For one thing, I detest the notion of a "midlife crisis". It's a rather simple term that is used to describe the slightest shift in someone's style, taste, attitude, habits, etc. once they have passed a certain age. Certainly, people do change from time to time, and the notion that any such change is a crisis is overdone. But I can't help wondering, over and over again: Am I ready for a midlife crisis?

Not that I would ever wear a ponytail, but long hair is something that I keep coming back to again and again. Many men of my age went through long hair phases in their late teens and early twenties. Popular styles of the time included the "soccer buddy", which is a kind of mullet, and the "white boy afro", which is what I had on and off, as the mood suited me.

Come to think of it, my friends derisively referred to my style as "Peter Brady hair", so maybe it wasn't so fashionable after all. It also looked more like Greg Brady's hair than Peter's, but that's beside the point. My point -- after six paragraphs -- is that just because someone does something different with their hair, it does not mean that they are in crisis mode. I wore my hair bushy and curly because I could. Sometimes we change our styles because we need to. A lot of guys alter their wardrobe and trim their locks when entering the job market, in order to make themselves look more "professional" -- or, as many of them have told me, "I have to get a job, so I have to start looking normal".

My job does not demand any sort of rigorous grooming, though one does like to look one's best. I just couldn't help thinking of my old co-worker Joe and his ridiculous ponytail this morning when, after emerging from the shower, I dried my hair and looked in the mirror. The ends of my bangs went past the tip of my nose. I usually comb the lot straight back into what you might describe as "Gaius Baltar hair", though without the face to match. But if I decided to let it all flop around my head, you wouldn't be able to see my eyes. "Goodnight, Sam." "Goodnight, Ralph."

No, it's not a midlife crisis. It's my "winter coat". How long is it going to last? I'll let you know when the temperature goes above 50 degrees for the season.

Where Do You Live?

The late Winter/early Spring nastiness that is the start of the primary election campaign has caused one of the candidates in my PA House district to go on the defensive, both in court and in the media:

Michael J. Crossey makes it perfectly clear that he maintains two residences.

One is in Mt. Lebanon, where he raised his family, served as a municipal commissioner and county councilman and made an unsuccessful bid for state representative in 2002.

The second is in Dormont, where, he says, he moved by himself two years ago to run for state representative in a district more friendly to Democrats.

In point of fact, my district is friendly to Democrats. It makes me feel dirty, like I've penetrated the enemy lines and my body is covered in a mass of mud and blood from crawling over barbed wire. Like I could be shot if discovered. Of course, I feel that way everywhere I go, especially at work.

"I consider myself to live in both homes, but I consider my primary residence in Dormont," Mr. Crossey told Commonwealth Court yesterday during a hearing challenging his candidacy. "I have maintained a residence there, voted there and paid wage taxes there."
So do I, but I don't own a home in safe, luxurious, comfortable Mt. Lebanon on the side. I couldn't afford to, anyway. There is, however, an advantage to the arrangement that I find inspiring:

As a result, Eileen Crossey said, the couple has had a "less traditional" marriage the last two years than before. She makes meals and washes clothes for her husband in Mt. Lebanon -- "I'm pampered," Mr. Crossey said -- and also makes curtains and does other housework about three miles away in Dormont, where Mr. Crossey said he sleeps "probably less than once a week."
Oh yes, I could live that way. Keep the wife (and kids) in another house in another part of town, while I get a pad all to myself. And she still does all the work at both homes. I would feel like a medieval warlord. Life can't get much better than that. Except that I wouldn't use the word "pampered" to describe my situation. It would give the impression that I must need to wear diapers. Brand names are powerful things.

Mr. Crossey works as a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District and dabbles in real estate and financial planning on the side, but he remains enamored with the possibility of serving in Harrisburg. If he remains on the ballot and wins this year, Mrs. Crossey said, she will move in with him in the 27th District.
I don't know about Mike Crossey and his wife, but if were to run for office in similar circumstances and my wife told me "If you win, I'll move in with you," I would consider it a threat. Perhaps enough of a threat to consider running for office in Alaska.

I understand that there are a lot of places in Alaska that are friendlier to Republicans than my district.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Get To Know His Face In Every Single Place

One of Pittsburgh's favorite sons turns 35 this week!

Mr. Yuk is mean, Mr. Yuk is green.

When you see him, stop and think: Do not smell, do not drink, do not touch, do not eat, or you will be sick.

Invented in Pittsburgh, Mr. Yuk -- the scowling neon green frowny face sticker with the catchy jingle -- turns 35 just in time for poison prevention week, which ends Saturday.

Ultra-mega cool. I was a little over three years old when Mr. Yuk was "born", so I grew up watching his Tv commercials, seeing his stickers everywhere, and even singing his song in school. Yes, the frumpy antagonistic music teacher sometimes let her hair down, so that, instead of "Clementine" and that little ditty about Eskimos rubbing noses, we were singing things like Jimmy Pol's Steelers fight song and Popeye the Sailor. (Those two were especially fun because I would try to mimic the original vocals, thereby causing my classmates to look around the room to see where the strange sounds were coming from.) But the best music class ever was when the teacher passed around the lyrics to the Mr. Yuk song. Everyone knew the tune and most of the words, so little coaching was required on her part.

Thirty-five years later, Mr. Yuk is everywhere. His home, though, is still at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh -- and when I say home, I mean home page. Request some stickers, and use them wisely, especially if you have children in your home.

My wife has been waiting for several months now for me to explain why there is a Mr. Yuk sticker on the bottle of lemon juice in the refrigerator. It may not be poison, but who wants to drink it straight?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Search Engine Scrutiny

Google is getting stuck on stupid. Dimitri tells us why.

I've been favoring Yahoo in recent months, and right now I'm rather pleased with myself.

So How's It Going Over There?

From the ease and comfort of their offices in downtown Pittsburgh, the editorial staff of the Moist-Towelette newspaper regularly bash the Bush administration and criticize Operation Iraqi Freedom using all of the usual leftist talking points -- that it's a quagmire, that there are no WMD's, that Saddam was no threat, etc. It is refreshing, then, to open this morning's edition of the very same paper and read the viewpoints of people who are actually serving in Iraq:

Iraq was bad, nearly all of them agreed. "Not knowing day to day what was going to happen." "Hard to figure out who the enemy was." "Never being able to relax." "The rules are that there are no rules."

But it was not bad in the ways they see covered in the media -- the majority also agreed on this. What they experienced was more complex than the war they saw on television and in print. It was dangerous and confused, yes, but most of the vets also recalled enemies routed, buildings built and children befriended, against long odds in a poor and demoralized country. "We feel like we're doing something, and then we look at the news and you feel like you're getting bashed." "It seems to me the media had a predetermined script." The vibe of the coverage is just "so, so, so negative."

Don't expect this kind of coverage to make a difference in the paper's editorial position. And if you think that the American presence is universally unwanted:

Arriving in Baghdad, "I had an Iraqi citizen come up to me," said Lance Cpl. Daniel Finn, a Marine infantryman. "She was a female. She opened her mouth and she had no tongue. She was pointing at the statue" of Saddam Hussein. "There were people with no fingers, waving at the statue of Saddam, telling us he tortured them. People were showing us the scars on their backs."

Those people know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are.

Our troops also had to make a home for themselves in the desert environment, as well as a few sacrifices:

Little by little, the cans arrived with their cushioned bunks and air conditioning. Showers and restrooms were built. Apart from the improvised explosive devices, the ambushes, the suicide bombers and the mortar attacks, life became sort of bearable. Rec centers opened with large-screen TVs and air-hockey tables. With a few exceptions, the veterans described a highly professional, almost spartan force, characterized by resilient morale and good discipline. "I didn't touch a girl or alcohol for seven months, and that was tough," said Sgt. Christopher Johnson of the Marine Reserve. Many said they were ready to return to Iraq.
"Ready to return". Remember that. It's not the kind of thing that you're going to read about or hear in the mainstream media. Just as the government puts forth its own propaganda, so does the media. The media does not represent the people..

The only way to get the true story is to talk to people who were there.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Big Food! Sauce-quatch!

Come on, think of some good nicknames for this monstrosity:

Monday evening, the Guinness Book of World Records will send their emissaries to confirm that "The Big One" at Mama Lena's Pizza House in McKees Rocks really is as big as they say it is. The Big One is a 150-cut, 53 1/2-inch, $99.99 pizza -- and it's on the menu now.

Just one thing -- order in advance, please.

Well, now I know what to do with next year's tax refund. Is it just me, or does the combination of phrases like "The Big One" and "in McKees Rocks" make anyone else think of an organized crime boss? If I made a monstrosity huge pizza, I would call it Sauce-quatch. But then, I've never lived in McKees Rocks. The name reflects the culture.

"It takes about 15 pounds of cheese. It's got about a gallon of sauce, 20 pounds of dough."

Man, thatsa lotta dough. Does this pizza keep well in the refrigerator overnight? Or over week? If I lived alone, I could order one of these and not have to eat anything else for over a week, possibly two weeks.

What prompted the pizza chef to go for the gusto?

He remembers the attention paid to the world's largest hamburger -- newspaper covers, MTV, "The Today Show.
Ah yes, I remember that burger -- I read about it on some blog on the internet. At least the pizza is not expected to be eaten in one sitting. Someone will try, someday. Mark my words. Just don't expect it to be me.

Dead Even

The Pennsylvania Governor's race is looking very interesting right now:

Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican challenger Lynn Swann are running neck and neck, a new independent statewide poll shows.

In a hypothetical election, Rendell and Swann each would get 44 percent of the vote, with 10 percent undecided and 2 percent for others, according to the Strategic Vision poll.

"Dead even. You can't get much closer than that," said David E. Johnson, pollster for Atlanta-based Strategic Vision, a public relations and marketing firm.

That's nice to know, but I'm not sure I even care about this race right now. Why worry about candidates in uncontested primary races? The state house races are going to keep us entertained over the next couple of months. Let's see how many incumbents survive the primaries. Then we'll talk about Swann and Rendell.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lost And Never Found

As the four founding members of Black Sabbath enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Nihilist In Golf Pants makes the case for one Mr. Ronald Padavona:

However, the most bizarre exclusion was lead singer Ronnie James Dio of Black Sabbath. He replaced Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 and helped resuscitate the bands career over the course of two studio and one live albums before leaving in 1982. In 1992 he returned for a reunion album of sorts. Next to Osbourne, Dio was the next most popular singer in the band and deserved induction. The snub broke the Fleetwood Mac precedent. In their 1998 induction Peter Green, Danny Kirwin and Jeremy Spencer were inducted alongside eventual replacements Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, despite the fact that the Buckingham/Nicks era was clearly responsible for the bands largest commercial successes.
I grew up -- and am now growing old -- listening to Mr. Dio's music. He deserves to be inducted as a member of Black Sabbath, as a member of Rainbow, and as a solo artist. But that's just my opinion. The fact is this: Black Sabbath has entered the RNRHOF. Are they entered as "the original version of Black Sabbath with Ozzy on vocals"? If so, does that mean that a Dio version of the band can be inducted separately at a later date? And if so, will Sharon Osbourne approve?

I'm not so sure that the "Fleetwood Mac precedent" is a good thing. Sure, the Buckingham/Nicks era was Fleetwood Mac at its peak. But it would never have happened if it had not been preceded by the Peter Green era. Following this logic, Jimmy Carter ought to receive some kind of award from CPAC or the Heritage Foundation because his presidency led to that of Ronald Reagan.

Dio's time will come; count on it.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

...that is, if you pay taxes to Uncle Sam:

Port Authority of Allegheny County plans to ask the federal government as early as this week for at least $20 million more to bring subway service under the Allegheny River to the North Shore.

Although the chance of getting more money from Washington is slim, transit officials say it might be the last hope for building the North Shore Connector. Bids for the $393 million light-rail extension came back significantly higher than expected and County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has vowed not to spend any more than already pledged.
Doesn't the Pork Authority have anything better to do than continually hit up all levels of government for taxpayers' money? Whether it's a useless parking garage, a sweet union labor agreement, or a trolley extension, we the people end up getting soaked.

Any chance of Allegheny County getting corporate sponsorship, selling more advertising on buses and trolleys, or naming rights for bus stops and trolley stations? Of course not, because that wouldn't be an exercise of power. When you get federal money, you get federal power, and screw the private sector.

Supposing We Held An Election and All of the Candidates Were Disqualified?

Earlier this year, I attended a couple of political type functions and was greeted not with handshakes, but with petitions to sign. Everyone running for office tries to gather as many signatures as possible in order to qualify for placement on the primary election ballot. I signed about half a dozen petitions, some for people I never even heard of, but hey, I'm a Republican and a constituent, not to mention a live human being, so I didn't mind scribbling my name in the box.

Some signatures, however, are questioned for a number of reasons (wrong party, wrong address, already dead, etc.). 2006 is a big year for petition challenges:

The race to get on the May primary ballot is turning into a roller derby with candidates maneuvering in court to throw competitors off the ballot.

Eighty-one Commonwealth Court challenges have been filed seeking to have candidates disqualified, claiming invalid petition signatures, incomplete forms, failure to meet residency requirements and, in one case, contending that a candidate's criminal record bars him from running.
Who says politics is boring? What makes these challenges especially interesting is that most of them -- this being a primary election campaign -- come from within the prospective candidate's own party.

"This is without precedent," said G. Terry Madonna, head of the Keystone Poll at Franklin & Marshall College. "You've got party people challenging non-endorsed people, you've got incumbents going against challengers, you've got organizations filing suits. It's chaotic. It's wild."
Man, talk about political parties. Who's bringing the keg? Probably those who are out for blood after last year's legislative pay raise fiasco:

The challenges are part of the continuing fallout from the pay raises lawmakers gave themselves last summer and later repealed because of voter outrage, he said.

"The pay hike has created extraordinary political instability and everybody is trying to clear the decks," he said.
One of the targeted payjacking incumbents is my local representative, Tom Petrone. Mr. Petrone, a Democrat, has been in office for a long time, and routinely cruises to victory with little or no opposition in either the primary or general election. This year he has a Republican challenger to look forward to -- if he can make it through the primary. He stands a good chance at winning, if only because his opponents are having some petition challenges:

The nomination of Mike Galovich, a Democrat running against incumbent Rep. Tom Petrone of Crafton Heights, is being challenged by Daniel E. Cindric, who claims some people who signed Mr. Galovich's petition are not registered voters, don't live in the district or used nicknames instead of their legal names when signing.

Mr. Galovich filed a challenge against another opponent, Democrat Michael J. Crossey, alleging that Mr. Crossey does not live in the 27th District. Mr. Crossey, a former Allegheny County councilman from Mt. Lebanon, has said he moved to Dormont a year ago.

Just last weekend, my wife signed Mr. Crossey's petition. (He was going door-to-door collecting signatures.) She's a Democrat, so she was okay. If Mike Crossey had a copy of the voter lists (which all candidates running for office should and usually do obtain from the county), he would know that there was only one D in the house. But what if he didn't have it with him? I could have signed the petition and sent him on his way, then tipped off one of his opponents that there was something fishy about one of the signatures. That would be mean, though. And the fireworks have already started.

It's time to tap that keg and find out just how wild these political parties can get.

Lasting Impact

Here's an interesting little tidbit from a photo journal in this morning's PG:

Each year, sophomores in English classes at Plum, reading Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," wear Roman period dress on March 15, the date in 44 B.C. when the Roman emperor was assassinated.
(Plum Borough, for you out-of-towners, is located a little ways east of Pittsburgh.)

This Roman tradition sounds cool. And the girl in the photo looks legitimately sad over the killing. People still care about Caesar, 2050 years later.

Or maybe she just looks downbeat because that's what all violin players look like when performing. Either way, you can't deny that Julius Caesar changed the course of world history.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Fun Quiz For Bloggers

Via the Kool-Aid Report:

You are Dementee!

Please seek help immediately.

Which KAR blogger are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Yep, that's me. Cute, furry, and blue.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Making A Federal Case Out of It

"Meanwhile," as they say, "life goes on here in western Pennsylvania." Indeed it does, in our construction zones as well as in our courtrooms:

A New Castle man filed a federal lawsuit yesterday claiming his free-speech rights were violated last year when he was cited for using an obscene gesture at a construction worker.
Right away, two words come to mind: "Frivolous" and "Precedent". How silly is it that something as stupid as a middle finger turns into a federal case? And, depending on the outcome of the case, how will the eventual decision affect future trials involving women who are offended by leers and wolf whistles while walking past construction sites?

Thomas Burns had been frustrated by a traffic delay during road work on April 27, 2005, on Broadhead Road in Center Township, Beaver County. As he passed by construction workers operating the "Stop-Go," sign, he flipped them his middle finger.
Those guys (and quite often gals) who operate the handheld traffic signs are the ones for whom I have the most sympathy. They aren't doing the heavy work, but they are just inches away from moving traffic, and that puts them at the mercy of any driver who is overcome with road rage. It's dangerous work.

That was enough to raise the ire of the workers, who radioed the incident to Center Township Police Officer Samuel J. Johns, who was parked down the road, the lawsuit said.
Flipping the bird is not a violent act. The motorist expressed his displeasure at being forced to wait, and attempted to move on. Road crews, at least the ones that I see, normally consist of big tough men. One does not expect them to call the cops when they get their feelings hurt. My sympathy evaporates at this point.

The officer pulled Mr. Burns over and issued him a citation for obscene disorderly conduct, which he said would arrive by mail.
I sure hope he didn't wait anxiously by his mailbox in anticipation of said citation's said arrival, because...

In his lawsuit, Mr. Burns said he never received the ticket, and in July, a constable showed up at his home to arrest him for failing to appear at a hearing.
Perhaps the letter was returned for insufficient postage; should not a missive of such import be insured, and require signature upon delivery? It sounds like a set-up. It makes you wonder whether the arresting constable was wearing a SWASTIKA armband. That's what I would be looking for if someone showed up over two months later to haul me off to the slam.

Mr. Burns later appeared in magistrate's court to plead not guilty, and the charge was ultimately dismissed when neither Officer Johns nor the victim showed up at a hearing in October.
Why OF COURSE they weren't going to show up. They made the man's life hell for half a year. Surely that's punishment enough. "He'll soon forget all about it," they might well have been thinking.

Yesterday, Mr. Burns filed his lawsuit, claiming his First Amendment right to free speech was violated, as were his 14th Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and malicious prosecution.
On the other hand, maybe he wants to make sure that they never forget about it. Considering the facts as presented in the newspaper, this thing has gone past the point of frivolity. A man has been wronged, and he deserves justice. You can tell he's serious just by his choice of lawyer:

Mr. Burns' lawsuit, which names both the township and Officer Johns, was filed by the same lawyer, Harlan Stone, who won a $9,000 settlement in a similar case in 2004.
See? There already is a precedent. Good luck to Mr. Burns. A victory in court would keep the civil authorities just that much further away from exercising absolute power.

Monday, March 13, 2006

First QB In Orbit Around Uranus?

I'm not sure what's more disturbing about this article -- the fact that Terry Bradshaw is going to appear naked in a movie, or the accompanying photo of him that looks more like John Glenn than Terry Bradshaw.

Ethnic Intimidation

In observation of Saint Patrick's Day, the civil authorities are going to round up masses of Irish drunks and toss them in the drunk tank.

Good, because that's just where they belong. Ha hah!

But seriously, the cops are just going to be extra vigilant about nabbing DUI perps on a day that has become a big excuse for excessive drinking. Although alcohol consumption has become the focus of March 17, the fact remains that it is still a celebration of pride and accomplishment for a prominent American ethnic group. You don't see the same kind of crackdown on festival days for other nationalities.

That doesn't say as much about our society, I believe, as it does about the Irish character.
As a proud descendant of Irish drunks, I know whereof I speak, BOYO.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Holy Frackin' Cow

Season 2 of the new Battlestar Galactica is over, and I've gotta say, Ron Moore and his cohorts really know how to leave us hanging. I didn't see that one coming. It was intense in a way that I haven't seen in a television show in a long time. One of the show's strengths (along with acting and scripting) is its utter unpredictability.

It has impressively taken its cues from current real-life events without getting too derivative. For instance, in the vote counting scenes, I knew that something was up even before the ballot tampering was revealed. I fully expected to hear Gaeta utter the words "hanging chads". Thank you for not disappointing me.

You know what would disappoint me? If the last fifteen minutes of tonight's episode turn out to be a dream sequence by a snoozing Baltar. That would frackin' suck.

New episodes to come in October. Meanwhile: New Doctor Who starts next week!

I Eat T-Bone Steaks And Lift Barbell Plates...

...I'm sweeter than a German chocolate cake. Well, maybe not. I haven't touched a barbell in about ten years, and as to whether I'm sweet, well, sweetness is in the mouth of the beholder. But I am German (partly), and I did eat a T-Bone steak for breakfast.

For some reason, my employer considers the second Friday in March to be Great American's Day, which means absolutely nothing to me but that I get a day off. Bogus holiday? I'm not complaining. I celebrated by taking my little daughter out to breakfast this morning.

Eat 'n Park restaurants have been a Pittsburgh tradition for decades. We live around the corner and up the hill from one, so every now and then we pop in for a nice meal. The breakfast buffet is not available on weekdays -- at this location, anyway -- so I found myself having to look over the menu. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit down, tell the waitress that I want the buffet, then get up and charge the trough. The baby made her choice right away: pancakes and bacon. Good girl. I couldn't take my eyes off of the most expensive item on the menu: Steak and Eggs.

Not just any steak, but a T-Bone Steak. Ah yes -- I am under the influence of Superstar Billy Graham, hence the opening line of this post. You gotta dig his rap, brutha. It's infectious. And the steak was delicious, though in future I ought to get it at least medium instead of medium-rare.

Little doll girl ended up giving me more than half of her pancakes to finish. She loves to share, and doesn't expect anything in return. For all I know, this might just be her way of preventing herself from growing up fat like Daddy. Smart kid.

If she really wants to be a much more physically fit individual than her father, she needs to complement her sensible diet with exercise. Then, when she is old enough, she can start working out with barbell plates.

She's already sweeter than a German chocolate cake.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oh His Poor Hands

Why do I feel like biting my monitor's screen and spitting out the broken glass? Perhaps it is because I just read a new item about new agey musical type Yanni beating up his girlfriend:

Flamboyant New Age keyboardist Yanni has been arrested for alleged domestic battery in the wealthy coastal town of Manalapan, Fla.


...she was hiding in the bathroom after allegedly being shaken, pushed and slapped by her boyfriend.

Police said she had a bloody lip, but Yanni claimed she hurt herself when he grabbed her arms after she kicked him in the groin.

As if the assault wasn't enough, the next bit really got my blood to boiling:

Yanni's attorney told the newspaper there was no way his client would have hit Barthes because "the last thing this man would want to do is hurt his hands."
Think about this. Yanni wouldn't have hit the woman because it might hurt his hands. What about the girl? Is she insignificant in comparison to the magic fingers of the great Yanni? Do Yanni and his lawyer think that it would have been acceptable if he had kicked her instead?

They probably do. After all, as the article states, Yanni lives in a $7.7 million estate in Florida. He could buy her off with no problem. Publicity quashed, no questions asked. Though one may well wonder just how popular Yanni would be in prison when the other convicts find out that he beat up a woman.

Monday, March 06, 2006

On Our Side

Tribune-Review Middle East correspondent Betsy Hiel recently spoke to some Egyptian bloggers. The article is worth a read.

It's always good to see support for US policy from "behind the veil", as it were.

Dirty Tricks

Two of my favorite innovations of the past few years are Caller ID and the No-Call List. Still, annoyances have a way of getting through:

Last fall, the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, started getting phone calls from constituents who complained about receiving recorded phone messages that bad-mouthed Mr. Murphy.

The constituents were especially upset that the messages appeared to come from the congressman's own office. At least, that's what Caller ID said.

"People thought we were making the calls," Mr. Murphy said.

The calls, which he estimated in the thousands, were apparently placed with fake Caller ID. That has been possible for a long time, but it generally required special hardware and technical savvy.

You know, this is enough to make me want to cancel my land line and throw away the phone.

I have had a ton of these calls coming in at home, almost all identical. Some pre-recorded Moonbat mentions the Congressman's name, and immediately starts getting snippy about it. It's a message that only a Moonbat could love, and not just in my district. These calls are being placed to constituents in Republican-held districts in different parts of Pennsylvania. The message is the same, with only the name changed to that of the local representative.

It's bad enough that I have to take these calls and then hang up on the Bat-Bot. But if I am not home, my answering machine records the whole automated message. That's enough to make me want to throw away the answering machine and chop down the telephone pole in front of my house.

I seriously hate the flood of campaign mailers that hits my mailbox every year at election time. It's even worse when it comes over the phone. I hate this for the same reason that I hated telemarketing: Some uninvited guest is virtually barging into your living room and forcing you to listen to a sales pitch for something that you really don't care about (or a plea for a donation that you really don't want to make) and you can effectively give them the bum's rush and hang up on them to stop the pitch. When I was younger and had more leisure time, I would let them talk for the whole two minutes or however long it took and them turn them down, knowing that I had wasted a lot more of their time than I had of mine. After I married, I lost my patience for the invasion of privacy and just hung up.

They never bothered to leave messages.

Now that the jig is up, and everyone knows how their scheme works, the Moonbats running this phone operation ought to be shut down for the fraud that they are committing. If they want to anonymously convey "annoying" propaganda about politicians, why don't they just get a blog? It's cheap if not free, and no one goes into people's private computers and forces them to read blogs. Yet I somehow suspect that if they could, they would do it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Good Story Spoiled (Almost)

Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) can strike where you least expect it.

Or, to put it another way, ghost authors SUCK.

Now, to give some background, I have read a few of the pro wrestling autobiographies that have come out over the last few years. It started with Mick Foley's book Have a Nice Day, and progressed from there. At first I felt like I ought to snap up a copy of every wrestling book that came out. I bought books by The Rock, Diamond Dallas Page, Goldberg, Bret Hart...and then I stopped. What was the point? I thought it was a fad, so I was going to enjoy it while it lasted. But Goldberg? Why in the name of Strangler Lewis would I buy a book by Bill Goldberg? He had accomplished quite a bit in the short time that he had been around, but was his life story really worthy of a book?

I had to slow down. It was a serious waste of money. (Some would say that spending money on anything wrestling related is a waste, but I would bet that their homes are loaded with junk that no one else would spend money on, either.) People who had been famous for no more than a couple of years were releasing books -- in hardcover. I saved my money for books by the men who actually had stories to tell: Roddy Piper, Bobby Heenan, Ric Flair, Fred Blassie, and, most recently, Superstar Billy Graham.

Now I should mention that even when I read non-political literature, I keep my eyes open for any hint of bias. Mentions of politics where none are called for can ruin the whole narrative for me. Most of the above-mentioned books avoid politics like the plague, except for Flair's book, which includes a photograph of the Man with President Bush (41), and only briefly mentions Flair's Republican political affiliation without getting into any serious discussions. That was fine -- his politics are a part of his life, but not the focus of the book, so he touches on it and moves on. (Of course, it helps that his politics are the same as mine...)

Mick Foley's second book, Foley Is Good, nicely complemented his earlier work. Whereas Have a Nice Day was a pretty straightforward autobiography, the follow-up dealt with Foley's worldview and his experiences with being a first-time published author. Unlike almost every other wrestler-author, Foley actually wrote his own books. No one expects works of flawless prose from these men, so they or their employer (in most cases, World Wrestling Entertainment) will hire a co-author to put the grappler's thoughts and words down into a coherent, accessible form. Foley tried that with his first book, and soon learned that co-authors like to embellish other people's life stories in ludicrous fashion. He wanted to be honest with his fans, and made the effort to set everything down in his own words. The result was a pair of well-written, accessible non-fiction books that read as if Foley was speaking the words aloud.

The co-written -- or ghost-written -- wrestling autobiographies, by contrast, sound as if they were all written by the same author (in fact, some of them were) for a rather young target audience. That's understandable, but I prefer to read something that talks to me without talking down to me, which is why I enjoyed Mick Foley's books. Now, Foley did in fact get political in Foley Is Good, and sure enough, his politics don't exactly match mine, but at least I know that he was honestly representing himself and not allowing some outside party to put words in his mouth -- or on his page, as it were.

The latest wrestler book, the life story of Superstar Billy Graham, is one that I have been waiting years to read. When I started to follow "sports entertainment" back in 1977, the Superstar was the world heavyweight champion of the regional wrestling promotion that would eventually become WWE. Outspoken, cocky, and the most muscular wrestler anyone had seen up to that point, he defeated a Pittsburgh hometown hero, Bruno Sammartino, to win the title and held the honor for just ten months before dropping the belt and seemingly disappearing from sight for a few years. Graham then struggled through some bad gimmicks and finally reverted to his old style before retiring due to health problems in the late 1980s. He briefly resurfaced in the early 1990s to testify against his former employer at the infamous WWF steroid trials -- and, as he later admitted, lied through his teeth in order to try and win some kind of compensation from the WWF. It also turned out that he had been taking a lot more drugs than just steroids. After two hip replacements, two fused ankles, a liver transplant, and a personal religious revival, the Superstar not only became healthier than he had been in years, but actively sought a reconciliation with those former associates whom he had wronged in word and deed so many years earlier. As of two years ago, he is back on good terms with most of his old colleagues and has even done consulting work with the younger members of WWE's talent pool.

With a life like that, his story definitely needed to be told. A long-time admirer helped set up an official website for Superstar Billy Graham a few years ago, allowing his fans to keep up with the current goings-on of the former champ. As in other areas, I kept an eye open for any mention of politics on the site. The only thing that came up was during an online audio interview -- what we would call a podcast today -- where Superstar expressed amazement at not only seeing The Rock speak at the 2000 Republican National Convention, but also at The Rocks's taking a seat with the Bush family afterwards. The Rock even got a smile and a handshake from ex-President George H. W. Bush, whom Graham described as "one of my favorite ex-presidents". (Presumably he did not mean "ex-president" in the Jimmy Carter sense.) This remark suggested that Superstar may, in fact, be a Republican. However, he was not explicit about that. Elsewhere he said that he was more conservative than his public tie-dyed hippie image would imply, but "conservative" isn't necessarily indicative of one's politics. It wasn't that big of a concern for me anyway. I was just relieved that Graham didn't turn out to be a patchouli-stinking left-wing beatnik.

I'm not so sure about his co-author, one Keith Elliot Greenberg. This is where the aforementioned Bush Derangement Syndrome comes into play.

Although I am reading the book cover-to-cover, I just couldn't resist flipping ahead and checking out some of the anecdotes from different parts of Superstar Graham's career. In the story of his 1983 drug overdose in Baltimore, he tells of being taken into the emergency room at the same hospital where President Reagan was treated after being shot in 1981. Nothing political there, just an interesting trivial aside. Superstar also relates the story of how his mentor, Dr. Jerry Graham, caused a disturbance in a hotel bar in San Clemente, California, while then-President Nixon was in town (his hometown, I might add). FBI agents visited the Grahams' room and soon departed after being assured that the wrestlers would be on their way out of town first thing in the morning.

Then, out of nowhere, comes a gratuitous parenthetical crack about President Bush (43), something along the lines of how differently the hotel rowdiness incident would be handled by federal authorities if it had happened in Crawford, Texas, today. Huh?? Was this an attempt to make the story hip and relevant enough for younger readers to understand? It almost seemed to be missing something along the lines of "federal agencies didn't employ Gestapo-like tactics in those days". I smell the co-author's hand in this.

And it wasn't even the first BDS driven crack in the book. Earlier, Graham had discussed his youthful days as a Christian preacher. He mentions that he preached against "evil-doers" -- and, in parentheses, points out that this is a biblical term, not one coined by George W. Bush. Or did his co-author point this out? Again, here we see a gratuitous remark that seems designed to do nothing more than make a completely out-of-context slam against the president. It is also an example of the ghost writer's tendency to talk down to the book's audience, inasmuch as it appears to assume that the reader either never heard of the Bible, or is under the age of four, if he/she needs to be told that the term "evil-doers" existed before September 11, 2001.

But then, it turns out that Mr. Greenberg is indeed an experienced Children's Books author. For instance, in 1996 he wrote a book about a child being raised by a same-sex couple. You don't need to be critical or judgmental to realize that the book has political significance, based on its subject matter. A few years earlier he wrote a story for children about Bill and Hillary Clinton that I have never seen before, but which appears to be something of a hagiography. However, it does seem that, in true Clintonesque fashion, the then-President of the United States has at his side a woman who is not his wife:
Hey Bill! Who's the feisty looking redhead with you?

Anyway, getting back to my point, it seems like Superstar's co-author is a leftist who suffers from BDS, and as a result, my enjoyment of the book is suffering slightly. Perhaps I ought to cover up the silly asides with white correction tape, then go back and read my edited version. I might even forget that there is a second person who worked on the book.

Thus far, I have not yet reached the part of the book where Superstar wins the world title. I would love, love, LOVE it if he tells us that his championship reign was the best thing to happen to this country during the Carter years, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Sleep of Unreason

Yesterday morning, just before my awakening, I experienced a strange and vivid dream. Some folks would find it rather disturbing, but it didn't strike me that way at all.

About halfway into the dream (the part that I actually remember), I was in a room with a coffin on display, as if in a funeral home. Except it wasn't a funeral home; it was more like someone's living room. There were three small bodies in the coffin. I recognized one of them as my son, but the others were hard to tell. I have no waking recollection of the circumstances that led to these three people (possibly all children) to be clumsily tossed into this coffin.

As I stood before the coffin looking at the bodies (which I wasn't even sure were actually dead), I decided that they needed to be heated. Perhaps I wanted to cremate them. Somehow, this dream coffin had controls like a stove, so I turned up the heat and the mass of pink flesh (apparently the bodies were unclothed) began cooking and turning red. After a couple of minutes, someone (possibly my wife, but I can't say for sure) walked over to me and insisted that the bodies were not dead. This surprised me, as I was sure that the forms were lifeless; after all, the flesh from each body was starting to melt into that of the others, was it not? Who could not react to that?

At this point, I turned around to look at the coffin again and saw that the three figures slowly began to rise and emerge from the coffin. They were not cooked at all, just toasty warm as if they had been sleeping with an electric blanket. And they were full clothed. Climbing down as if getting out of bed early in the morning, my son and the two indistinct figures slowly wandered away showing no signs of damage. Of course they wouldn't be damaged! How could I cook people in a coffin without setting the whole thing on fire? It's full of drapery, after all.

For once, a dream had some kind of closure. I didn't wake up needing reassurance that it was all just a dream. The dream did that for me before it ended. And when I did get up, I did not feel disturbed by the dream at all. I know the difference between imagination and reality, after all.

How many people can accurately say the same thing?