1 March 2004
Night of fear
Andrei Codrescu once opined that lorazepam and other cousins of Valium impaired our capacity to dream. I'm here to tell you that, as Ira Gershwin might have said, it ain't necessarily so.
Scene: A present, though not necessarily this present; I know this because I'm at my parents' house, and both of them are still alive. I'm going through my morning routine, and it seems to be taking longer than usual, which of course causes me to worry that I'm going to be late for work especially when it dawns on me that my car isn't here, but at my house on the other side of town.
The family is remarkably unhelpful. They wheel out a bus which has been customized to Monster Truck levels; I can't even climb into the driver's seat. "You're on your own," says a voice. Fine, I mumble, and hop on the cell phone, first to my boss "Get here when you can" is the unexpectedly civil response then to summon a cab. The dispatcher asks where to send the taxi; a little too loudly, I say, not the address I'm at, but the address next door.
A crowd has gathered in the street, and it seems to extend for blocks in every direction. I'm not too worried we've had this sort of eruption occasionally in this version of the universe but I don't see how any of this is going to help me. The cell phone rings with a tone I hadn't heard before, and it's a BBC newsreader who wishes to audition, not me, but a young woman who was reportedly at this address. It turns out that the person the BBC man wants is the nonexistent female doppelgänger I had created for online purposes back in the 80s; I'm trying to explain this to him without, you know, actually explaining this to him, when I spy a yellow Chevrolet out of the corner of my eye.
Not the usual yellow Chevrolet one sees in the taxi fleet, though; this one is a 1957 convertible, its tailfins enameled jet black, its interior some shade of red found only in boudoirs, and its driver, a slight woman in a dress apparently devoid of color, demands, "Well, do you want a ride or not?"
I climb into the back seat, and off we go through what seems to be a full-fledged insurrection.
As we pass an intersection, she says, "Keep your head low."
"How low?" I ask.
WZZZZT! something darts past my ear.
"Lower than that," she says.
I start to notice how utterly uncablike this car is; oh, there's a meter nicely integrated into the metal dash, but there are lots of buttons and gauges I don't remember from any '57 Chevy I've seen before. She pushes a button, gets out of the car, and gestures for me to follow. By now thoroughly baffled, I comply.
Behind the big wooden door is an ultramodern office of some sort, though I haven't any idea what it's for. The driver is known here, though; at least, she's giving hand signals to people as we walk down the hall.
Through another big wooden door, and there's the car, apparently driving itself, about twenty yards ahead of us. "Damn," she says. "Three-tenths of a second slow. Get ready to run."
I'm getting ready to run, as best I can, when a motorcycle, presumably from behind the building, accelerates to blinding speed, with all the noise that speed implies, and heads straight for the Chevy.
The crash is astonishing; the cyclist where is the cyclist? was this an unmanned mission? is conspicuous by his absence; the Chevy is stopped but undamaged.
We climb back in, proceed on a side street, and get out once more, this time at what looks like an auditorium of some sort. The door opens, and what I'm seeing, I think, is an emergency infirmary; there are neat rows of mattresses, though no bed frames to speak of, and about half the mattresses are freshly sheeted and unoccupied.
"Drop 'em and let's go," she orders, and I note to my amazement that she's already shed most of her clothing. She looks even smaller now, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, though no twelve-year-old I've ever seen had this many scars.
She's selected a mattress, and we're going through physical gyrations simultaneously feverish and perfunctory, when someone in the next row imagine Nick Nolte at ninety rolls toward me and croaks:
"You know, you could have a knife in your back, even as we speak."
And it was of course at this point that I woke up, ten minutes later than usual, realizing that if I didn't get moving, I would be late for work.
Getting there from here
Oklahoman columnist Don Gammill covers transportation issues, and this week he passed this reader question to the city traffic engineer:
Why, after 40 years, does not Oklahoma City complete the interchange at Northwest Expressway and May Avenue, the southeast quadrant? This would allow traffic going east to exit and go north without having to travel on another 300 feet.
May runs north and south; Northwest Distressway runs more or less west-by-northwest to east-by-southeast. There is no intersection: the May lanes are elevated, and there is no ramp for the narrowest turn, eastbound NWD to northbound May. (In practice, you follow NWD for one more block, take the turnaround, and catch the northbound ramp from westbound NWD.)
This is of course a pain in the neck, but as a practical matter, all the ramps are inadequate; the city engineer says basically that they'd have to redo the entire interchange, and that's probably true, but for the moment, I'm planning my trips with an eye toward never having to take any of those turns. Since I live less than a mile away, that's a lot of planning.
"If you build it, they will come." In Tulsa, says Bruce, they mostly build churches:
I do wonder about all the time and energy put into churches and how that effects the quality of life in Tulsa. I can't help but wonder what life here would be like if we put just some of that time and effort into schools and education.
Sounds like an argument for letting the churches run the schools, doesn't it? (Well, maybe not.)
It seems terribly inefficient that we have all these churches for different denominations. They get used for a couple of hours each week then sit empty for a majority of the time. That's lost real estate, its terribly inefficient if you ask me. It would be much better to have different congregations work out a church sharing agreement so that one nice church could serve multiple groups.
Yeah, but with few exceptions, they all celebrate the Lord's Day on Sunday. I doubt seriously that you can persuade any congregation to hold Sunday services on, say, Tuesday evening. (Wednesday evening, well, that's a whole different issue.)
I've heard it said on more than one occasion that Tulsa has more churches per capita than any other American city. I don't find that so far fetched. This is a city where you can frequently find a church across the street from a church, next door to a church. You think I'm kidding, drive down 11th street between 129th and 145th.
He's not kidding. Between Youngs and Independence along NW 50th Street in OKC, a distance barely more than a mile, there are no fewer than five churches, including two from the same denomination. And 50th is a two-lane residential street through the eastern half of that area; imagine what some of the major arteries look like.
I have little doubt that the Almighty looks upon small, modest churches no less favorably than the ones that look like shopping malls; still, I can't bring myself to get worked up over people spending their own money to build fancy houses of worship even if they do take the occasional parcel off the county tax rolls.
"As a non-believer," writes Michele, "I walk around with the knowledge that I just may be wrong."
For some reason this reminded me of a dream Isaac Asimov once described. It went like this:
I dreamed I had died and gone to Heaven. I looked about and knew where I was green fields, fleecy clouds, perfumed air, and the distant, ravishing sound of the heavenly choir. And there was the recording angel smiling broadly in greeting.
I said, in wonder, "Is this Heaven?"
The recording angel said, "It is."
I said [and on waking and remembering, I was proud of my integrity], "But there must be some mistake. I don't belong here. I'm an atheist."
"No mistake," said the recording angel.
"But as an atheist how can I qualify?"
The recording angel said sternly, "We decide who qualifies. Not you."
Mysterious ways, as they say.
2 March 2004
Never two without three
When Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony announced that he would run for Don Nickles' Senate seat, the good ol' boys of the Grand Old Party shrugged: Anthony built his reputation by taking on, and usually vanquishing, men in suits, and, well, this is not how you rise to the top of the Republican totem pole in Oklahoma. Kirk Humphreys, the former Oklahoma City mayor who had been anointed by the party faithful, had little to worry about from Bob Anthony.
But now former Congressman Tom Coburn has thrown his hat into the ring, and suddenly it's a race. Fiscal conservatives like Coburn because he's incredibly tight with a tax dollar; social conservatives like Coburn because he pays them more than lip service. And I have to give Coburn credit for doing something relatively unprecedented in Oklahoma history: he vowed he would serve only three terms in the House, max, and after six years he duly returned to private life.
Mike at Okiedoke sums up the guy this way:
Coburn has a strong moral base that Oklahomans like. Even when you donít agree with him, you trust him.
Now is the time for Kirk Humphreys to sweat.
Greg Hlatky wonders how well this would go over:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to enter into marriage shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of the sex of the spouse.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment reads like this:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
Is it possible that both of these could be circulating through the states at the same time? It is.
Is it possible that both of these could be ratified? Theoretically, I suppose, but don't bet on it.
Is it possible that either of these could be ratified? I'm not holding my breath.
We bring good things to light
If you buy lots of General Electric light bulbs, be advised that GE's Home Electric Products division in Cleveland is getting out of the business.
Oh, you'll still be able to buy GE bulbs, but they'll be made in Oklahoma City by Jasco Products Co. under license. Jasco, which has been making electronic accessories for GE for the last four or five years, is adding about 120 jobs and 400,000 square feet of plant space.
What, you were expecting maybe China?
Just down the street, kinda sorta
At least for now, the top-of-page photo at JMBzine.com is a spectacular shot of Oklahoma City's Overholser Mansion, on NW 15th between Hudson and Harvey, a home which dates to before statehood and which qualifies as a tourist attraction all by itself.
And you thought we all lived in little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
3 March 2004
When it all unwinds
Serenity says she's broken, and she may be understating the case.
Please read her story, and help her if you can, and remember: a kind word and a dollar is worth slightly more than a kind word alone.
Perhaps the indictment of WorldCom chairman Bernard Ebbers has made the company more amenable to other legal actions: Attorney General Drew Edmondson has announced that the state is negotiating with WorldCom to settle the state's lawsuit against the company.
According to Edmondson, the company has been cooperative, and the amount he expects to recover will be "more than the cost of litigation."
Two mediums, please
Mickey D's will no longer supersize it.
Walt Riker, speaking for McDonald's, explains:
A component of [our] overall simplification, menu and balanced lifestyle strategy is the ongoing phase-out of the Supersize fry and the Supersize drink options.
Of course, if you really want to be frustrated at McDonald's, try ordering a Quarter Pounder without cheese. (I did find a location in suburban Indianapolis that didn't flinch at the request, but that's a long way to go for a burger.)
Only a pawn in their game
Could there possibly be a game more blatantly racist than chess?
Look at the very beginning. White moves first, thereby taking the offensive; Black must wait for White's first move, and then must defend against it.
Of course, you can always change the rules, but then it wouldn't be chess, would it?
Gee, I hope Pejman doesn't find out about this.
(Via Tongue Tied)
Pounding rhythm to the brain
I was fascinated with Boléro for a short time when I was just beginning to explore classical music but it quickly became boring and then seriously annoying. Now it is one of the few pieces of classical music that I truly hate. It's sort of a neat idea but Ravel should have ended it seven or eight minutes sooner. The last few repetitions are nothing but unbearable noise.
Chalk me up as someone who considers them bearable noise; this isn't my favorite Ravel work that would be the Piano Concerto in G major but I've always admired it for its sheer perversity, and whether the composer did this deliberately or as the symptom of an illness, I'm still rather delighted that he did it.
And, if for no other reason, Boléro deserves credit for inspiring Roy Orbison's 1961 hit "Running Scared".
Grey Lady grows spine, film at 11
[W]hat the Times has done here to me and to you represents a dangerous precedent for a free press (or, in this case, an online press). They've sent the message that political pressure works. It's one thing for an editor to decide that a cartoon no longer works for editorial reasons, or that it's not as good as it used to be. It's quite another to cancel it simply because you're tired of being deluged with hate mail. Dealing with feedback is an editor's job. If you don't like the hate mail, delete it.
Anyone want to argue that Rall's cartoon isn't as good as it used to be? Michele? Bueller?
Update, 4 March, 10:40 am: Here's what Michele had to say:
Note to Ted Rall: Maybe they let you go because you SUCK?
4 March 2004
Generally appalling accounting practices
Call it the Feds' Annual Report: it's the Fiscal Year 2003 U.S. Government Financial Statements [requires Adobe Reader], published under the auspices of the General Accounting Office, and of its 33 pages, ten of them (22 through 31 inclusive) are devoted to explaining why these numbers really don't mean anything.
This paragraph, at the beginning of Appendix III ("Material Deficiencies"), is instructive:
The federal government did not maintain adequate systems or have sufficient, reliable evidence to support information reported in the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government, as described below. These material deficiencies contributed to our disclaimer of opinion on the consolidated financial statements and also constitute material weaknesses in internal control.
These days, not even the cynics can keep up.
Juxtapose, there's nothing to it
It is, of course, quite proper for Dickinson's 10-screen theater at Penn Square Mall to show The Passion of the Christ, and quite proper to advertise it on their sign in the mall lot.
Spirit of 76
Seventy-six weeks of Carnival of the Vanities, even.
The ever-resourceful Andrew Ian Dodge is your host this week for the finest blogdom (in its own humble estimation) has to offer, with an assist from someone else with three names: Howard Philips Lovecraft.
The official Oklahoma City weather station (at Will Rogers World Airport) reported 1.45 inches of rain in January and, again, 1.45 inches of rain in February, a total of 2.90 inches over 60 days, within spitting distance of the normal rainfall for the period.
March, evidently, comes in like a sea lion; 1.19 inches fell between 3 and 4 this morning, with 2.60 so far over the two-day storm period. Normal for the entire month of March is 2.90.
Glad am I that I chose the house upon the hill. (If this place floods, start pairing up your animals, post haste.)
5 March 2004
Mike Swickey has been around a while he's run a political links page since before the turn of the century but this week he's shifting focus a bit, adding more local content (he's down the street from me, give or take 28 miles) and more timely stuff.
So welcome swickey.com, and let's see what happens.
No electoral votes for bin Laden
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) was quoted in the Yukon Review to the effect that "if George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election." Kevin Drum, tongue perhaps in cheek, wants to know: "Where's the outrage?"
I demand that all bloggers who condemned Corinne Brown's remarks last week also condemn Cole. Anything less than his immediate ouster from the House of Representatives and permanent exile from the Republican party just proves that all Republicans are bigots and hypocrites.
The other day, I made a statement that a vote against Bush is a vote for Osama bin Laden. Obviously that's not the case, since John Kerry doesn't have a beard, and bin Laden's not eligible for the presidency (unless Orrin Hatch gets his way). Oh yeah, Kerry's not a terrorist either. I should make that clear: John Kerry is not a terrorist. He's a waffling wussy when it comes to national security. I apologize for my insensitive remarks, and hope that I've cleared the air with this statement.
Got that? John Kerry, who incidentally served in Vietnam, is not a terrorist. And he doesn't have a beard. As for other, um, masculine characteristics, well, let's not go there.
I covered the Rittenhouse/Wonkette dustup a month ago, and I rather thought that was the end of it.
A couple weeks after L'affaire Wonkette, I linked to Wonkette and (Poof!) the Berry's World link on The Rittenhouse Review was gone. I'd like to be able to report that my link was removed because of a lack of space and not because [James] Capozzola is a small, petty and cheap little man. However, as repeated e-mails to The Rittenhouse Review have gone unanswered, I simply can't say.
Glenn Reynolds adds:
To be fair, as far as I know there's no actual evidence that he's cheap.
Tragedy of a ridiculous situation
I hadn't had any particular urge to see Bertolucci's The Dreamers; the reviews had been mixed, and the subject matter basically, the Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly is superimposed upon 1968 Paris while Daniel Cohn-Bendit warms up in the wings didn't seem especially appealing.
Then the Oklahoma Gazette decided to do their sporadic Dueling Reviewers thing, praise from Preston Jones and panning from Doug Bentin; each made his case well enough that I found myself thinking, "Maybe I ought to see this thing after all, just on general principles." Bad idea. Nowhere, in the twin articles, on other Gazette pages, or on their Web site, is there any indication of where the damned film might be playing.
The Oklahoman, which accepts no ads for films rated NC-17 over the years, there have been times when I thought they would turn down ads for R-rated films if they didn't need the bucks would of course be no help. Fox Searchlight, the film's distributor, has a blog, which pointed me to various search tools; eventually I discovered that The Dreamers is not playing here at all, and if I have any desire to see it in an actual moviehouse, I must drive to Tulsa, Kansas City or Dallas.
Which begs the question: Why did the Gazette devote a whole page to arguing the merits of a film that the vast majority of its readers will never get to see until the release of the inevitable DVD? To try to shame one of the theater chains into booking the film for a week? Fat chance.
(Update, 7 March, 6 pm: The Gazette responds.)
There is no better opportunity than a bus at rush hour for brushing up against the full range of what constitutes the human enterprise in Minnesota. Guys in suits. Women with briefcases. Kids doing homework. Immigrants starting new lives. Hip-hopsters on cell phones. Men with lunch pails. Women with babies. Over time you begin to absorb a fuller dimension to life, to problems, to aspirations, than before, back when you were pinned behind the wheel with talk radio's bleak conspiracies.
Atomizer lists a few folks the Strib forgot (or chose not) to mention:
Obnoxious kids who should have done their homework the night before, people who don't speak English, gang members, men who actually bring their lunch to work in "pails" and crying babies. I'm sold!
Most of us, I suspect, would rather deal with the rest of the world on our own terms at our preferred times. One of the most annoying traits of the present-day American left, I think, is its tacit belief that interaction with other people ("hell," pace Sartre) is not only something to be desired, but something to be enforced where possible. I will never be able to forgive Richard Milhous Nixon for that "Bring Us Together" crap; its sheer simplicity evidently persuaded a lot of simple souls that stuffing people into small spaces could soothe the suffering in the seething city.
A lot of simple souls who wound up working at the Star Tribune, anyway.
6 March 2004
Dawn Eden, on the wisdom of compiling lists of desired (and undesired) characteristics possessed by applicants for the position of Significant Other:
[I]f one has not found one's soulmate by a certain point in one's life (let's say, age 35½), one is not going to come any closer to finding that person by compiling "can't stand"s and "must-have"s a la junior high.
Needless to say, she supplemented this wisdom with exactly that sort of compilation, which is of course the very same thing I would have done had I made such an announcement.
And after reviewing her desiderata, I decided that I probably should not make such an announcement. While I know several individuals who match my own list decently well (say, seven or eight out of ten desired characteristics and no real bêtes noires), I also know that when contemplating matters of the heart, my higher brain functions tend to dissolve into synaptic chaos.
Besides, the criteria I apply tend to be either absurdly vague or embarrassingly superficial, to the extent that I have no faith in the ability of those criteria to produce any reasonable results. But what's the alternative? Take the first person who doesn't immediately reject me out of hand? Been there, done that, and the rejection came on its own schedule.
I have never quite believed that there was exactly one person for everyone: the symmetry is beautiful, but the evidence is lacking. I try to encourage my friends who are still looking, lest they become downhearted and frustrated. (Been there, done that too.) But I think there's a definite limit, and not an especially high one at that, to how much you can affect the outcome; the factors that set a relationship in motion, more often than not, are random. (I'm not ruling out divine intervention, but assuming it exists, it is sufficiently unpredictable to meet my definition of randomness.)
And I'm quite a long way past 35½. Had I any sense, I'd accept that there was no one for me, and go on.
It scrolls for thee
Bruce reports that scrolling this page is a slow process. I have been so far unable to replicate the situation he's experiencing, even on a low-speed dialup. Is anyone else having similar problems with this page?
The rake's progress
Yard work began today.
There isn't that much yet only the faintest green is starting to show in the lawn but I did redistribute some of the accumulated leaves from the last few months, scrape away mud from in front of the gate, and stir up the wood chips in the flower bed. (I have no idea what, if anything, is planted therein; by the time I bought this place, fall was well underway, and any actual blooms would long since have expired.)
The apartments around the corner did some serious tree-trimming last week, and rather a substantial amout of detritus dropped over my side of the fence. I stacked it in the far corner for now. Maybe some of the bare spots near the fence will be somewhat less bare, now that they're getting less shade.
The weather, atypically for March, was cooperative. By summer, of course, these same tasks will seem excruciating.
7 March 2004
Yesterday's price for the lamest grade of unleaded (on which my car returns an honest 24 mpg or so most of the time) was $1.599, up a couple cents from the previous weekend, and allegedly headed still higher.
You'd think this was probably not the best time in the world for the state to contemplate increasing fuel taxes. Still, two measures are in the works: HB 2559 by Rep. Bill Nations (D-Norman), which would increase the gas tax by seven cents and the diesel-fuel tax by nine, and HB 2632 by Rep. Randall Erwin (D-Nashoba) and Sen. Robert Milacek (R-Enid), which calls for five and eight cents respectively, to be phased in over three years. Both bills would require approval by a majority of voters. Nations' measure has already passed the House.
The current tax is 17 cents per gallon on gasoline, 14 cents on diesel, low by regional standards but not exactly chump change. I think, though, that if the state government could persuade the electorate that the tax increase would actually be spent on the state's roads and bridges, which are terrible except when they're absolutely godawful, they could get one of these bills approved in November. Last year, Sen. Mark Snyder (R-Edmond) asserted that there wouldn't be any need for a tax increase if the state would actually allocate all the fuel-tax receipts to roads and bridges, instead of siphoning off some to the General Fund; the Milacek-Erwin bill does earmark the amount of the increase for transportation.
The Oklahoma Trucking Association, of course, objects to this sort of thing, though OTA executive director Dan Case has hinted that he might go along with a smaller diesel increase: "Those highways are our offices," he says, and certainly those offices need a facelift.
Two years ago, I suggested the issuance of wheel stamps to help defray the cost of replacing suspension parts damaged by driving over substandard roads. Obviously this proposal went nowhere. Still, if The Road Information Program has calculated correctly, and each Oklahoma motorist incurs an additional yearly expense of $1053 from "diminished safety, longer delays and increased wear and tear on vehicles," an extra buck at the pump (figuring 12.5 gallons, my usual fillup, at an additional 8 cents per), if it can actually counter most of that expense, strikes me as one hell of a bargain.
On the left side of your dial
The Air America liberal radio network now has affiliates in the top three markets: WLIB New York, KBLA Los Angeles, and WNTD Chicago.
Generally, the stations will be competing with, shall we say, separate but unequal facilities: WLIB, while no 50-kw powerhouse, puts out a decent 10-kw signal in the Apple, but WNTD, which maxes out at 5 kw, is nestled between two 50-kw blowtorches, which may make finding it tricky. KBLA pumps out 50 kw, but it's down in that no-man's-land at the far end of the dial (1580) where supposedly hardly anyone goes.
Were I the local Clear Channel manager, I'd be tempted to work up a sub-Machiavellian scheme to land the Air America programs here in Oklahoma City and then run them, not on KTOK, their local flagship, but on KEBC, their 1-kw daytimer at 1340. (The station does have a nighttime schedule, but it's leased to another operator.) This would make Clear Channel's claim that "We are so not in Bush's pocket" less implausible, and there's always the chance that Air America's talk shows will draw better ratings than the how-to-save-for-your-retirement stuff that airs there now.
Of course, if the FCC finally gets around to approving KGYN's move-in from Guymon to Oklahoma City, all bets are off.
Desperately seeking celluloid
Friday, I wondered just what had gotten into the Oklahoma Gazette: they published not one but two reviews of Bertolucci's The Dreamers, a film which is not playing anywhere within a hundred miles.
Today, the Gazette's Preston Jones explains:
The situation surrounding The Dreamers was indeed interesting. The press screening was held Feb. 27 at AMC Quail Springs, and as of that date, it was slated to open in OKC March 5. As of Tuesday (3/2), Michelle Langston at George Grube Advertising let us know that the film was no longer opening here; it now had a release date of TBD. Since we found out on Tuesday, we'd already gone to press and it was too late to do anything about our full page of reviews. Michelle said that [the Oklahoman's] not taking advertising wasn't the problem, but that no theater in town would book the film...which clearly wasn't a problem in Tulsa, where's it's playing at the AMC theater there.
It's deeply frustrating, to be sure, that a worthwhile film can't find a screen to call home in our fair burg...perhaps there's hope that the Noble Theater will pick up the film for a weekend. We shall see....
I can only conclude that AMC Quail Springs needed the extra space for 50 First Dates, which was shown eleven times today.
The Noble Theater, for you out-of-towners, is the 250-seat theater at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, in downtown's nascent Arts District. The Museum itself is actually an extensive redesign of the old 1600-seat Centre Theater, which opened in 1947 and shut down along with most of downtown circa 1980. The Noble's film program is extensive, and until the Harkins opens in Bricktown, presumably this summer, it's the only downtown venue for film. And happily for me, it's a shorter drive to downtown than it is to Quail freaking Springs.
All hail the mighty king
Stephen "Brute Force" Friedland cut a lovely little single for Apple (!) in 1969 called "King of Fuh" (Apple 8, U.K.), produced by the Tokens. (Force, in fact, had been a Token for the previous couple of years; I don't know if he played on the infamous Intercourse album.)
This guy who sells sofas in Canada has got to be a spiritual descendant of His Majesty.
8 March 2004
West by southwest
Rural Oklahoma changes slowly, when it changes at all; the machinery may be newer, the buildings are generally older, but the pace of life is distinctly different from what you'd experience in the city.
And you don't even need to leave the city to see this. Oklahoma City covers over 600 square miles, but barely a third of that area qualifies as urban; the city limits extend well into the country, and city services follow slowly, if at all.
I was in Canadian County yesterday, in an area the city annexed many years ago. There is a city fire station in the 11600 block of SW 15th Street (at eight blocks per mile, this is way out), and occasional fresh green city street signs can be seen, but for the most part this is an area of small farms and ranches, separated by old and indifferently-maintained roads. (I caught one of Frosty Peak's campaign signs over on Piedmont/Czech Hall Road, which promises "I will fix this road.") The sections that are within the limits of Yukon or Mustang, both of which were established long before Oklahoma City pushed into these areas, look decidedly more suburban, more contemporary.
Still, there are changes. People wanting to get away from the concrete jungle are building houses out here, and not just in Mustang or Yukon. Twenty or thirty years from now, this part of Canadian County may look just like any other suburb but I can't imagine it happening any sooner.
Speeding along at Mock 2
Back in the Jurassic period, when I was working for an Evil Utility which shall not be named here, somebody in a suit came up with a policy to regulate trips to the toilet. Being the paperwork person, I duly designed a sign-out sheet for travelers, to which you were to affix your name, employee number, time in and time out, and circle #1 or #2 as appropriate.
The policy was abandoned shortly afterwards.
I don't do this sort of thing now, mostly because if there's anything (besides paper and time) wasted around here, it's subtlety. But I'm always happy to see someone following the same inspired path.
Swimming to Long Island Sound
Apparently that was Spalding Gray they pulled out of the East River over the weekend.
Gray, who hadn't been seen since January, had a long history of depression, and presumably committed suicide. In an interview in 1997, he had suggested an epitaph for himself: "An American Original: Troubled, Inner-Directed and Cannot Type." I'd swipe that for myself, except that I can type.
Spalding Gray was sixty-two years old. He leaves behind a wife, three children, and an impressive body of work.
A must to avoid
Truth be told, I have no idea whether Stonebridge Life is any better or any worse than your present insurance company, or than mine.
But I do know this: anyone who calls me nine times in eight days, as has their agent in DeKalb, Illinois, will never get dime one from me, even if the deal includes premium waivers eleven months a year, guaranteed renewal even if I move to Haiti to take up the practice of vodou, and Bernadette Peters' cell-phone number.
9 March 2004
Shadows and light
The official sunrise this morning is 6:49 am, right in the middle of my morning commute, and since said commute is now largely in an easterly direction, I got to see more of it than eye doctors generally recommend.
The evergreens haven't changed in months, of course, but their bare-branched brethren appear by some trick of the light to have turned their limbs skyward, supplicants hoping that today they will be favored. Grey against pink, a few seconds later grey against orange, and then the background is awash in light and the colors dissolve into the brightest white there is and you must look away or never see anything ever again.
The speed with which this happens tends to inspire the right foot; rounding a curve, I took a peek at the instrument cluster, and discovered I was whipping along at 76 mph. This was not really too fast for conditions traffic was light on this stretch but not likely to warrant getting off with a warning should a patrolman take notice; the police tend to be unimpressed with stories about heading for the heart of the sunrise.
Similar scenes await me for much of the next month, after which time the government robs me of sixty minutes and my morning world is plunged into darkness once more.
Themes like old times
Yeah, I know: the first rule is, you do not talk about Culture Club.
But if Bill Clinton can use a Fleetwood Mac tune for a campaign song no, it wasn't "Landslide" we can certainly expect John Kerry to pillage the vaults at VH1.
And conveniently, Boy George has already anticipated this situation:
I'm a man without conviction
I'm a man who doesn't know
How to sell a contradiction
You come and go
You come and go
Instant karma, no?
Can you break a million?
Well, no, I can't.
And I don't recommend trying the Wal-Mart in Covington, Georgia either.
You're young, you'll adjust
After three house payments, I find myself with a brand-new payment book, containing the standard but nonetheless ominous notice:
[name of bank] has completed an analysis of your escrow account, and has adjusted your mortgage payment to reflect changes in your real estate taxes or property insurance.
And they did indeed adjust it by one cent.
I haven't checked with the County Assessor yet, but I'm assuming this means I'm not getting a big jump (which, in this state, is defined as five percent) in property taxes this year.
10 March 2004
Blows against the Empire
We may be a deeply divided nation Red versus Blue, Republican versus Democrat, This versus That but there's one thing on which everyone agrees: Clear Channel sucks.
Allow me to demur ever so slightly. I have no particular fondness for America's largest radio group owner, but I don't consider them to be some sort of indestructible monolith: they can be beaten.
In Oklahoma City, they are being beaten. Routinely. Three stations finished in a virtual dead heat for the number-one spot this last book, and not one of them was an outpost of the Evil Empire; the best showing made by a Clear Channel station was #6, by news/talker KTOK, and we all know this is because of morning man Cam Edwards, who's worth two or three ratings points all by himself.
I might also point out that stations not owned by Clear Channel also tend to be less than scintillatingly brillant and/or incredibly innovative, which tells me that Clear Channel isn't the disease: it's merely a symptom.
The Axis of Talbot
I'm not sure what to think of David Talbot's new expansion of Salon. Sidney Blumenthal will head up the site's new Washington bureau; there will be a working relationship (read: "We will swipe each other's stories") with the Guardian; and finally, there will be some tie-in with Air America, the nascent progressive radio network.
But given this push toward leftish groupthink, I suspect Wonkette has called it about right:
As the left's answer to the Washington Times, Salon is also going to hold a group marriage where subscribers have to pledge fidelity to all of John Kerry's positions on the invasion of Iraq.
Sheesh. That could take weeks all by itself.
In his piece, Hibbard actually describes a scene with Gregory's sister:
Madeline is about to begin sipping a ginger beer float (ugh, who else believes ginger beer one of the vilest concoctions ever brewed outside the realm of underpants?). Anyway, prior to the beverage's imminent consumption, Madeline delivers a miniature soliloquy germane to the nature of longing, and how quelling longing leads only to further longing. "But that can't last forever," she says, and enjoys her float.
Wise beyond her years. And not just wise, as one of the neighborhood boyz who seeks to win Madeline's heart explains to Gregory:
"She's only ten, but she has the body of a woman of thirteen."
Ah, youth. What a pity to waste it on the young.
Eat [blank] and die
The case for Big Arm Woman as dinner date:
Of all the snobs in the world, food snobs are the absolute worst. I'm not interested in your super special imported brie and paté on cracked pepper rounds, and I could give a rat's ass that you refuse to pollute your body with non-soy milk. It's food. Eat what you want, freak out about pesticides and GM crap and whether that rhubarb root is really super fresh all you want you're all still going to end up in the same place: DEAD.
Sure, I'll buy.
We shall not be moved
Occasionally, someone usually someone from Oklahoma grumbles about the annual OU-Texas football clash in Dallas' Cotton Bowl, which is, after all, in Texas.
Well, it's not going anywhere, at least through 2008; Dallas Mayor Laura Miller announced today that the Cotton Bowl will be keeping OU-Texas for five more years under a new contract. The City of Dallas will pay each school $250,000 per year for expenses and waive the $94,000 stadium rental at Fair Park; in addition, four thousand new seats will be installed in the end zones.
I never did worry too much about this. I mean, Dallas is fairly close to the midpoint of a Norman-to-Austin drive, and where are you going to find truly neutral territory? It took years just to establish where the Texas-Oklahoma border actually is.
Redmond dodges a bullet, maybe
Back in 1999, Eolas Technologies, on behalf of the University of California, sued Microsoft, claiming that Internet Explorer's method of embedding executable code in a Web page infringed upon UC's patent; last summer, the jury found for Eolas and awarded damages upward of half a billion dollars.
Of course, Bill Gates didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks, and it appears he may not have to write this one either: the US Patent and Trademarks Office, acting on a report by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee that the original HTML spec described comparable methods for embedding code long before the patent was issued, is now considering declaring that patent invalid. Examination of the patent continues; Eolas gets 60 days to explain itself.
11 March 2004
Return to Geauga Lake
Six Flags World of Adventure in Aurora, Ohio was created from the fusion of two amusement parks: the classic Geauga Lake park, founded way back in 1888, and Sea World Ohio, which opened in 1970.
The park has been drawing about 1.5 million visitors a year, but Six Flags has had a couple of rough years, and will now sell the park to Cedar Fair LP, operators of the Cedar Point amusement park near Sandusky, for approximately $145 million.
The first order of business for Cedar Fair likely will be to expunge all Six Flags-related indicia, including Warner Bros. characters used by Six Flags under license, before the park opens in seven weeks.
Six Flags, based in Oklahoma City, retains one Ohio park: the Wyandot Lake water park near Columbus. The firm also is selling off seven of its eight European facilities.
Let us now praise combo meals
By a vote of 276 to 139, the House passed the so-called Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, which bars lawsuits against restaurants and food-service companies who vend stuff that might actually make you fat if you wolf down enough of it.
Maybe I don't get out enough. I appear to have missed all those Burger King employees going through the quiet, unassuming neighborhoods, kicking in doors, taking the residents out by gunpoint and forcing them into a van, hauling them to the closest BK, and shoving a Whopper down their throat.
You'd think that John Kerry would endorse this bill: after all, if the nation cuts down its consumption of French fries, the effect on ketchup manufacturers which is to say, the effect on Heinz, the only ketchup that matters will hit him, or at least his wife, right in the pocketbook.
The last real newspaperman
It probably doesn't help that dueling big-city newspapers are fast becoming memories. I read the Oklahoma City Times much more than the Tulsa Tribune for logistical reasons, but it's safe to say we were better off with both of them. It may be more profitable for one publisher to provide the news than two, but it's certainly not more effective.
Indeed it doesn't help, although there hasn't been actual competition in Oklahoma City since 1980, when The Oklahoma Journal folded; the Times had been absorbed by the Oklahoman decades before. The Tribune soldiered on until 1992, when the rival World, yoked to the Tribune in one of those pesky Joint Operating Agreements, saw an opportunity to dispose of its rival once and for all.
In the fall of 2002, I did a fairly readable Vent on JOAs in general and the Tribune under Jenk Jones in particular.
Karn Evil 77
You know the drill:
This is the song that never ends
it just goes on and on my friends
some people started singing it not knowing what it was
and they continued singing it forever just because....
Oh, wait. Wrong never-ending presentation.
Anyway, this week's Carnival of the Vanities is brought to you by Aaron, he who Rants and who Slays Liberals, and it's the extended version of the best of blogdom, including (yes!) an actual item from here. See it now, while it's still legal.
Disenchanted in advance
Oklahoma is one of those states whose devotion to the two-party system is apparently deep and lasting; it's darn near impossible to get a third-party candidate (e.g. Nader, 2000) or an independent candidate (e.g. Nader, 2004) on the Presidential ballot here. And that's rather a shame, since I'm not all that enthralled with the incumbent I give him points for foreign policy, I take them back for the way he spends my money and I am really appalled that the Democrats are actually about to nominate a sagging mannequin, a Gorebot minus the charisma. If ever there was a time for a protest vote, November 2004 is it, even if there's no chance of electing, say, some hot Abercrombie chick.
12 March 2004