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A Man Eat Man World

     I live in a leafy inner suburb where life is good, the public school is excellent, everyone has a new gas grill the size of a small spaceship and the only thing anyone worries about is being hit by a weapon of mass destruction.

    It's kind of an all-or-nothing situation. We assume that when the good times come to an end, the substitute will be something truly apocalyptic. It used to be, not many years ago, that we could park these fears in a little compartment of the brain, near the neurons that monitor a possible collapse of the housing market. But these are insecure times. We are all a bit nervous. We talk a lot about guns.

   Like the other day, a professorial neighbor, a man of refined taste and gentle demeanor, announced that he's thinking of buying a shotgun. "Because of what happened with Katrina," he said.

   This is a guy who's never been armed with anything more lethal than pruning shears. We're all liberals in our neighborhood, and are queasy about doing anything more violent than wielding a can of Raid. But we're also post-9/11, post-Katrina, mid-Iraq, and now even the peaceniks and PBS junkies are talking about the coming day when Only the Strong Survive.

   You should hear my oversize friend Angus. Angus is the grimmest blond person I've ever met. I always expect the very, very blond to be carefree, like they've just come from playing tennis. But Angus has seen the darkness. Naturally he has cached abundant emergency supplies in an undisclosed location out in the country. He's ready for the Big One, be it a terrorist attack, cyclone, blackout, plague, asteroid impact or invasion of trolls from the center of the Earth.

   It's curious that when people talk about the Big One, they don't actually worry about dying. If you die, your problems go away. It's the surviving that's hard. We fear the social breakdown: the power grid failing, hoodlums running loose, cops quitting, Balducci's closing early, book club meetings degenerating into statements that can't be logically defended -- the full urban nightmare. Click here to read the entire column.

    [The Rough Draft column runs in the Post's Sunday magazine, where you will also find columns by Gene Weingarten, Jeanne Marie Laskas and Hank Stuever. Click here to see the archive of my recent Rough Draft columns. Another archive of older RD columns can be found here.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 9, 2005; 9:51 AM ET
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Next: Rooting For Least Undesirable Repercussions


Joel's column, after I read it this morning, vaguely reminded me of a book I had read as part of an introductory sociology class at Humboldt State, timeframe circa early 1970's. I remembered the characters were struggling with survival issues after an apocalyptic event in a Florida (Joel's home-state) town. So I Googled "book Florida survivors apocalypse" and a one sentence synopsis at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame lead me to Pat Frank's 1959 book, "Alas, Babylon."

Some mention of the book at:

"Alas, Babylon" speculates about America in the aftermath of a nuclear war....political concerns are of secondary importance in "Alas, Babylon." They affect the story from time to time, but the story focuses primarily on ordinary people, in an ordinary town. The main character, who is introduced in these opening chapters, is representative of an average person who is suddenly forced to deal with an extraordinary situation.

Randy drives to Orlando, listening to news of international tension on the radio as he drives. Meanwhile, Florence Wechek, the manager of the local Western Union telegraph office, is having lunch and sharing gossip with her friend Alice Cooksey, the Fort Repose librarian. Near the end of the meal, Florence mentions the telegram that Randy received that morning, with the cryptic phrase "Alas, Babylon" at the end. That afternoon, Alice looks up the reference in a Bible in her library, and finds the quotation in the Book of Revelation, referring to the destruction of a great city -- "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon . . . for in hour is thy judgment come."

I remember vividly in college that after we had all read the book as part of our class assigment, we broke into discussion groups for a week's worth of work. I recall that the book pits a group of survivors who try to restore order and civility and survival against the anarchy enveloping their local community.

Realistic scenario? You decide....

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 9, 2005 10:45 AM | Report abuse

It's a familiar anxiety from the 70's in rural New England: that when something really really bad happens in the Megalopolis on the east coast, hordes of displaced suburbans would be invading New England looking for sustenance and escape. New Englander's of the time would to some degree hoard and arm to be ready for it, feeling relatively secure in their low(er) dependence on modern ameneties.

I never looked at it from the other end, where I now reside. Thanks for that, Joel... I'm still the unarmed skeptic, but perhaps we need a plan...

Posted by: Tom Moore | October 9, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

For weeks after 9/11, I had an uncontrollable urge to buy dry beans and lentils. I would go past the bulk section at the store, and see them and be drawn to them by their colour, their sizes and their variety. After about 6 weeks of this behaviour, my cupboard was stuffed to the gills. Every container I had was filled with beans, peas and lentils and I found myself buying more containers. That was when it hit me. My actions had nothing to do with the beans, or the need for a healthier protein. It had to do with a need to stock up with protein in case. In case what? Nothing specific, just in case. I am still eating those darn beans, and have found numerous new ways to eat dried legumes.

Joel, this could be your contribution. Fill up an average beer cooler with dried legumes, and take it with you when you go.

Posted by: dr | October 9, 2005 12:34 PM | Report abuse

This is really depressing. Gene Weingarten (thanks for the link) suggests we look at Parade Magazine. I suggest you take some catsup (ketchup) to go with the beans and also some duct tape.

You could add the story of Lot and the pillar of salt to your tales of despair.

But one must have hope in the future, for order and civility, and thoughts of the common good. If it ends up as "eat or be eaten" the eaters will probably die of indigestion.

Look to Columbus. He said "fie" to those who thought he would fall off the edge of the earth, and made a discovery. What can we discover that will help us survive Armageddon?


Posted by: boondocklurker | October 9, 2005 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

"We have met the enemy and he is us." --Walt Kelly

Posted by: Reader | October 9, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes I'm a peacenik and a PBS (well, NPR) junkie, but when I think of the breakdown of society I think in terms of finding some likeminded people and living quietly and peacefully while the crazies kill each other off. It's not hard: look at Achenblog. These communities will spontaneously self-create and it will be the good guys supporting and helping each other while the "dog-eat-dog" types spend their energy in competition and destruction.

Posted by: Abby | October 9, 2005 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I thought after 9/11, everything the government said, and is doing, amounted to keeping us safe? And what's post Katrina? Are you in a hurricane zone, Joel? I suspect some folks are worried that the very thing they've feared, (and who knows what that is?) is going to come about, and hey, they won't be prepared. Listen folks, accept God, and His son, Jesus, put your faith and trust in that, and go on with your life. Man cannot save you, guess what he needs? The same thing you do. Read your Bible, it's all in there. And for those of you that don't believe, you're already doomed, unless you have a change of heart.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 9, 2005 4:59 PM | Report abuse

This column confirms what many of us have long suspected. Joel is dangerously self-aware. He understands that we continue to exist each day through nothing but a quirky combination of good timing and dumb luck. At any moment each of us could easily be taken out by an asteroid, sniper bullet, volcanic eruption, (this from one raised in the shadow of one) or especially ill-tempered virus. So what do we do? Simple. Keep breathing. Maintain the irrational hope that each day we will make it. Have the stupidity to marry, make friends, raise children, go to work, laugh, and understand that whatever happens, we humans are a tenacious lot. And if it helps to keep a back-up plan based on pre-emptive cannibalism. Well, umm, you know, whatever works....

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 9, 2005 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Linda - I too remember reading "Alas Babylon," although in my case I was in junior high, so my recollections of some of the more subtle aspects are lost in the mists of time. I remember thinking that it was fairly realistic, especially in the way that it recognized the fatal danger of being paralyzed by change. I also recall it being terribly anachronistic in its views of women ( "breasts are for babies; legs are for men") but I guess that can be overlooked given the era in which it was written. Some of the themes reappeared in another, much inferior, book I read in 1985 called "War Day" by Whitley Strieber. In neither book, however, did neighborly cannibalism play a significant role - an unforgivable omission given recent insights into the suburban psyche.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 9, 2005 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Today's column is very thoughtful, wry and provocative. Funny or humerous it is not.
It is real.

Posted by: melvin/a | October 9, 2005 10:07 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was funny. Really. Of course, it was also disturbing, but in a funny way.

Really. And leave Melvin/a alone, Joel. S/he didn't mean to hurt your feelings at all by his/her comment.

Man, in one column he goes from affable funny man to Child of the Corn.

Posted by: suecris | October 10, 2005 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Funny, I was seized by the urge to hoard dry beans, etc. for weeks and months BEFORE 9/11.

Posted by: panax | October 10, 2005 3:31 AM | Report abuse

Speaking from recent experience here (10 days without power at home after Katrina...was never so happy to go to work with AC and internet accessibility) you can live for a good long time on Beenie Weenies and granola bars. Mind you I have not had any since, but its possible. Also, you should have a barbecue or camp stove ready incase you want something hot.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 10, 2005 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm Republican and fine with wielding more than a can of Raid. Should the Big One create giant mutant creatures (like that Simpsons episode where Homer was perusing bomb shelters and happened to be in one when the bomb hit) I think I'll be fine. Of course, if it doesn't create giant mutant creatures I'm pretty much screwed.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 9:23 AM | Report abuse

A man eat man world
I've got mine, go get your own
barbecued long pork

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I suppose if you are living in the "world of the plush" these things would be of some concern. Some face potential for catastrophy daily and hate the idea of getting up in the morning knowing how the day is going to go. I suppose these are the ones who like to live on the edge continuously, bored with the idea of a secured environment. Both extremes are distrubing: the 'worry-worts' and the 'edge-seekers'. If one is not very spiritual I suppose one should consider our brief existence and ponder its inevitable termination and ask: What next?

Posted by: auster | October 10, 2005 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I suppose if you are living in the "world of the plush" these things would be of some concern. Some face potential for catastrophy daily and hate the idea of getting up in the morning knowing how the day is going to go. I suppose these are the ones who like to live on the edge continuously, bored with the idea of a secured environment. Both extremes are distrubing: the 'worry-worts' and the 'edge-seekers'. If one is not very spiritual I suppose one should consider our brief existence and ponder its inevitable termination and ask: What next?

Posted by: auster | October 10, 2005 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I take it you preemptively ate Angus?

Posted by: Huntsman | October 10, 2005 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I'll admit it - I have a generator and a fair amount of gasoline on hand. It has come in handy when the power's gone out for days at a time (blizzard, ice storm, hurricane, tornado, etc.). I don't have guns around, but both of my brothers who live about 10 minutes away have decent armories.

I do have a chain saw, compressor (and air tools FWIW), and welding equipment.

My personal favorite post-Apocolypse books: A Canticle for Leibowitz, On the Beach, Alas, Babylon, Planet of the Apes, Earth Abides, The Stand (for all of it's faults), A Boy and His Dog, and yes, jw; Riddley Walker.

I'm about halfway through it, and while the Riddleyspeak requires concentration, it's rewarding.

The Postman (as much as I like David Brin) and Farnham's Freehold (as much as I like Heinlen), represent the worst of the genre. Well, with the movie "Damnation Alley". Bah.

Oh, and the movie "Sean of the Dead", funny stuff.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Radioactive mama, hold me tight
Radioactive mama, treat me right
Radioactive mama we'll reach critical mass tonight
Well when we get together clear away the crowd
There won't be nothing left except a mushroom-shaped cloud
Well since I kissed you baby, that evening in the park,
I lost my hair and eyebrows and my teeth shine in the dark.

--"Atomic Baby" by Amos Milburn, sung by Sheldon Allman

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 10, 2005 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I read Vonnegut's book A Man Without A Country yesterday. He addressed a similar issue in the Letters section at the end of the book. The same problem some commenters seem to be having with your column.

[Dear Kurt Vonnegut:]

If you knew that a man posed a danger to you--maybe he had a gun in his pocket, and you felt that he would not hesitate one moment to use it on you--what would you do?

We know Iraq poses a threat to us, to the rest of the world. Why do we sit here and pretend we are protected? That is exactly what happened with al-Qaeda and 9/11. With Iraq, though, the threat is on a much larger scale. Should we sit back, be little children that sit in fear and just wait?

Charles Perkins
Address withheld

Dear Charles,
Please, for the sake of all of us, get a shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge double-barrel, and right there in your own neighborhood blow off the heads of people, cops excepted, who may be armed.


Posted by: Reader | October 10, 2005 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I'm sorry that didn't make sense because I took out a sentence. I originally said, I can't decide whether this is funny or not--the same problem some commenters seem to be having with your column.

This is why I'm a reader, not a writer. I am not worthy.

Posted by: Reader | October 10, 2005 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Hmm. After I entered that comment, a couple of others occurred to me. I'll mention - though not recommend - "Lucifer's Hammer", in the light of the New Orleans tragedy, as one could easily construe a thread of rascism in this novel, as interesting as it is on many other counts.

And Mr. Achenbach, to you I recommend "The Rift".


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I love "The Stand." I've always wondered if Flagg from "The Stand" was the same Flagg from "The Eyes of the Dragon" (my favorite King book). Both were evil. And Flagg from TEOTD was pretty much immortal. He'd disappear for hundreds of years before coming back to wreak havoc. So maybe he came back for "The Stand." Anyone have any insights on this? It's been bothering me for years, so if anyone knows I'd be eternally grateful to them for telling me.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The Bible, baby -- it's all right there! Gotta take the fight to the terror--err, cannibals so we don't have to fight them here at home! It'll be hard work though .. hard work. Resolve. Determination. 9/11.

Posted by: mdmbkr | October 10, 2005 10:16 AM | Report abuse

How We Learned to Srtop Worrying and Love the Bomb (chapter)

At least one baby--Atomic Victory Trotter--was named in celebration of the bomb, as were dozens of racehorses: Cosmic Bomb, Atom Buster, Sir Atom, etc.

As Americans travelled the interstate highways in the 1950s and 1960s, they stayed at the Atomic Motel, ate submarine sandwiches at the Atomic Cafe, and sipped potent Atomic Cocktails at the Atomic Saloon.

In 1946, Gemeral Mills [Can you believe it?] offered an Atomic Bomb Ring for 15 cents and a Kix cereal boxtop. The company was inundated with 750,000 orders.

On the flip side of Bill Haley's 19564 hit single, "Rock Around the Clock" was a song called "Thirteen Women," a post-apocalypse nuclear fantasy in which a bomb devastates a town leaving just one male and 13 female survivors. What results is the ultimate male utopia--the women attend to the man in every conceivable way. Striking a chord for equality, Ann-Margret reversed the roles on her "Thirteen Men."

The bikini bathing suit appeared just four days after the first test on Bikini Atoll, the designer explaining that he gave it that name "because of its explosive, dangerous potential." (An article in the Journal of Social Hygiene in 1951 warned that counselors and clergy should be prepared for an explosion of sexual hunger after a nuclear attack. Shelters, the article advised, should be stocked with adequate supplies of penicillin to combat a VD epidemic.)

Just a month after Hiroshima, Life magazine featured a full-page spread of Linda Christians, a bathing beauty who MGM press agents dubbed the "anatomic bomb."

Even Doris Day, that paragon of propriety, got in on the act. In a little known Broadway musical, an "attractive hick" gives her a "radioactive tic," making her heart beat like a Geiger counter. Rather fortunately, the musical had a short half-life."

--Gerard DeGroot's 2005 "The Bomb: A Life", Harvard University Press

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 10, 2005 10:21 AM | Report abuse

OK, Linda, you started the soundtrack theme:

Queen's "Hammer to Fall"
REM "End of the World as We Know It"
Police "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around"

Reader, the Vonnegut bit was a good one.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 10:23 AM | Report abuse

James Taylor, "Let it Fall Down"

Posted by: JT fan | October 10, 2005 10:27 AM | Report abuse

In Maine we know how to prepare for long periods of time without being able to leave your house; you know, winter. Sure-fire way to run into everyone you know is to go to the grocery store right before a storm. Even if the house is already stocked, you go to the grocery store, just to peruse the aisles and make absolutely certain nothing essential is missing.

Posted by: LP | October 10, 2005 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Sara, Flagg is Satan.

Think about it.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 10:37 AM | Report abuse

...the more skilled the housewife, the more secure the family and the nation:

In Grandma's day, her well-stocked pantry safeguarded the family against such emergencies as floods, blizzards, hurricanes and other devastations that rendered outside food sources inaccessible. Superbomb hazards of today furnish similar reasons for householders to maintain a "Grandma's Pantry" with a 7-day stock of food supplies...Grandma's Pantry, in homes of the Atomic Age, may save thousands of lives. [Garrison Keiler, in an op-ed in the last two weeks or so, ended his piece with the advice that women not part with their pressure cookers!]

Preparing tasty dishes in the shelter would maintain morale. Betty Crocker, the much-loved icon of Gemeral Mills [oh, no, not again!!!] advised the FCDA on post-Apocalypse cuisine, while one civil defense pamphlet suggested "how to...make do with bricks and rubble and grates that you might find so that you [can] cook." Cleanliness was also important since the tidy home was less susceptible to fire and less likely to harbour disease and infection. Howard told women that "The highest military authorities in our country stressed...that good housekeeping is one of the best protections against fire in an atomic blast." An AAUW [American Association of University Women] book on civil defense tested women on their civil defense awareness as it applied to their homes. Those who scored in the lowest group were told: "you deserve what you get." In other words, nuclear annihilation was just reward for slovenliness.

--DeGroot, again

Posted by: Loomis | October 10, 2005 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I know, but I'm wondering if King meant for the "Flagg" in both stories to be viewed as the same Flagg so that parallels between the stories could be drawn, or if he just thought, "Well, Satan was Flagg in the last book, and that's a good name..."

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,
packed up and ready to go
Heard of some gravesites, out by the highway,
a place where nobody knows
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance,
I'm getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstore, lived in the ghetto,
I've lived all over this town

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
this ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,
I ain't got time for that now

Talking Heads - Life During Wartime

Movie: "The Handmaid's Tale" gives a different take on post-apocalyptic America.

Posted by: BovineSurvival | October 10, 2005 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Flagg turns up in other King books, too, IIRC.

More or less in the same evil provocateur role.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Okay. I'm gonna guess he's meant to be the same "Flagg" then.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian friends north of the border.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Oh, we will all fry together when we fry
We'll be French-fried potatoes by and by.
There will be no more misery
When the world is our rotisserie,
Yes, we will all go together when we fry.

Tom Lehrer's 1959 "We Will All Go Together When We Go."

There was a turtle by the name of Bert
And Bert the Turtle was very alert.
When danger threatened him he never got hurt.
He knew just what to do.
He'd duck and cover, duck and cover, duck and cover.
He did what we all must learn to do.
You and You and You and You
Duck and cover, duck and cover, duck and cover.

Some time after 1963, Bert the Turtle retired and took up quiet residence in the film archives. Air raid siren tests stopped screeching every Monday at noon. [DeGroot: When I was growing up I thought that if the Soviets were really clever they would attack us on a Monday at noon.] Backyard shelters were neglected and in some cases dismantled (no easy task, given that they were built to withstand a nuclear blast. [I'll never forget when my closest girlfriend called me in 6th grade to say good-bye in light of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how as kids, we'd play in our friend Jane Cross's family's underground bomb shelter.]

Anti-nuclear groups imploded--reduced to tiny collections of diehards arguing with each other over arcane policy. In early 1964 the Student Peace Union decided to disband when only 25 delegates showed up to its national conference. America had, it seems, learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.


Posted by: Loomis | October 10, 2005 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and Atwood's "Oryx and Crake", that's another good P-A tale. Well, I think Achenfan might disagree with me on that one, though.

In the TV miniseries of "The Stand", Flagg meets one of his recruits from prison with the phrase, "Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.". The prisoner says, "Huh?", and Flagg says "Classical reference, forget about it".

Good bit, and still the best use of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" on TV. I didn't think the SNL "More Cowbell" bit was all that funny.

That series had the best use of Pop/Rock soundtrack for a network TV series I can recall, the uses of an acoustic version of "Eve of Destruction" and Crowded House's haunting "Don't Dream it's Over", being a couple of personal favorites.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 11:08 AM | Report abuse

King does that in a lot of his books, bringing in characters and throwing in references to his other novels. I think in "The Tommyknockers" Pennywise the clown from "IT" pops up really briefly. I've seen that kind of thing repeatedly in his books, so I wouldn't be surprised if Flagg resurfaced somewhere.

Posted by: LP | October 10, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Pennywise has got to be the scariest clown the world has ever seen.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 11:19 AM | Report abuse

yeah - I agree with you there, Sara. Ruined me for clowns forever.

Posted by: LP | October 10, 2005 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Sara, I looked at your upside down picture on your blog and rotated it and it looked like the picture was taken upside down with you lying down, then went to your web site and in the color picture it's much easier to see this.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Am i right?

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Yup, the picture was taken upside down and I was lying down. That's why my hair looks like it's full of body. Usually it's not that fluffy or big.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 11:45 AM | Report abuse

re: Linda Loomis "Alas Babylon"

I too read this book many years ago, although not for school. Realistic scenario? Not sure. Did it create opportunity for thought on the topic of surviving an apocalypse? Absolutely.

Now years later, and the recent histories of 9/11, Katrina, etc. my mind did wander back to this book, although I couldn't remember the title of it.

Another good book that I know many of us have probably read that also deals with apocalyptic times is Executive Orders by Tom Clancy.

Fiction often finds a way to become reality of sorts. I wonder just how prepared we are individually to deal with such scenarios - emotionally, physically and as a society in general.

Reading these books points out our general lack of survival skills - if the opportunity to survive is even given to us.

Posted by: janet | October 10, 2005 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"The safest place in the whole wide world is Grandma's kitchen." (13 yr.old Rose Chismore to her little sister lying in bed at night listening to her mother and alcoholic WWII vet stepfather arguing. From DESERT BLOOM, a coming of age film set in Las Vegas and the early years of atomic testing.)

"The bestest place in the whole wide world is Nani's kitchen." "Yeaaah." (From MY HOUSE, Angela and Hilary to each other on numerous Saturday nights spent with me.)

Posted by: Nani | October 10, 2005 11:50 AM | Report abuse

bc writes, "I have a generator and a fair amount of gasoline on hand....I do have a chain saw, compressor (and air tools FWIW), and welding equipment." AND HE IS KNOWN TO FIX CARS TOO. I think bc wants to know that, when the darkness comes, and we revert to the condition of brutes, he is going to be the Alpha Male. The boss. The one man who can survive without the grid.

bc, I think I read some of Earth Abides. Isn't that the one where everyone dies? If we ever have a book club here on the blog, we should definitely read only books in which everyone dies.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 12:10 PM | Report abuse

fyi, not that anyone cares, but there won't be a fresh kit until tomorrow. Partly because it's sorta kinda a holiday, and partly because I have to learn how to blog less and get more stuff in the paper. So, like, I had an idea this morning but decided to save it for a possible story, rather than splatter it upon the lowly blog. [It had to do with rebar.]

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Joel when the big one comes, I can envision you and your neighbors running around spraying one another with Raid fighting over the last scrap of processed food and whining about where FEMA is while your aryian friend sits back and waits to use the last one standing as bait for wild pigs. Not a pretty picture. Get a gun and start target practice.

Posted by: LB | October 10, 2005 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Fortunately, Angus was out of town this weekend when the column ran. He's back now, though. I am going to have to wear a disguise when I head back to the neighborhood, lest he try to take me out.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 12:17 PM | Report abuse

It's a holiday? The only thing on my calendar for today is "City Council Meeting, 7:00 p.m."

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Greetings all -- I'm back in the 'boodle, and don't [sic] it feel good.

Being in denial about The Coming Apocalypse, this week I chose to focus even more intently than I usually do on the humorous aspects of Joel's column. (You've gotta laugh or you'll cry, right?)My favorite witticisms:

"We fear the social breakdown: the power grid failing . . . book club meetings degenerating into statements that can't be logically defended" (Ha. Ha!)

"in the darkest hour, when every family on the street is down to its last wedge of brie . . ."

"The hulking blond must go, before the Big One hits and the competition for food, water, gas and cabernet becomes truly savage."

(Mmmm, brie.
Mmmm, cabernet.)

Also, I like it how the little man in RT's illustration is sitting on a porch; it seems to compensate for the fact that he's completely bald -- both bald headed AND bald faced.

[I wish I could think of something more profound to say, but I'm getting nothing. Maybe I need more brie and cabernet . . .]

Posted by: Achenfan | October 10, 2005 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Good Lord almighty Sara, its Columbus Day!

Posted by: LB | October 10, 2005 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Angus. Isnt that a kind of steak? Now that's a manly name.

Posted by: LP | October 10, 2005 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Well why isn't that on my calendar?! I knew that was this month, but I didn't know when. I depend on calendars for these things and my calendar has let me down miserably! I should tell someone. We make this calendar to disperse to the city folk and whoever depends on this calendar won't know that it's Columbus Day! I probably won't tell our PR department though. I don't know that I care enough.

Welcome back, Achenfan! (I also saw Joel's column as humorous this week.)

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The only way I knew it was Columbus Day is it is on my calendar.

Posted by: LB | October 10, 2005 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The ex-Minnesotan in our Florida office points out that every big snowstorm in Minneapolis results in "hundreds" of deaths--his words; I haven't researched the subject. So he'd rather put up with the occasional hurricane. Me, I'm in the season of wanting to eat all the stuff in the freezer and leave the badly overstuffed pantry with its heaps of canned goods intact. Oh, it was good to pick up about 40 cans of Italian tomatoes when Jerry's Deli closed.

Posted by: Dave | October 10, 2005 12:32 PM | Report abuse

So, Joel, you DIDN'T eat Angus after all? Kinda risky at this stage in the game to tip your hand to him about your culinary plans, wasn't it?

Posted by: Huntsman | October 10, 2005 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Sara.

Also, I forgot to say congrats to Nani re. the new great-grandbaby, or "boodle of joy," as mostlylurking called him. (The word "boodle" is so versatile.)

Last but not least, SCC entry for my previous post:
Need a space before "My favorite witticisms" (still getting my boodling legs after being away so long -- that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it).

Posted by: Achenfan | October 10, 2005 12:35 PM | Report abuse

LB writes:
"Joel when the big one comes, I can envision you and your neighbors running around spraying one another with Raid fighting over the last scrap of processed food and whining about where FEMA is while your aryian [sic] friend sits back and waits to use the last one standing as bait for wild pigs. Not a pretty picture. Get a gun and start target practice."

Thought for the day:
"God made all Men, Samuel Colt [Loomis descendant] made them equal."

Posted by: Loomis | October 10, 2005 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Dave, I live in Minnesota, near Minneapolis, and I can say with almost 100% certainty that your co-worker is exaggerating. Never, in all my years of living here, have I heard of "hundreds" of deaths from big snowstorms. There are several deaths. Old people that can't get out of the house for a long period of time and run out of something vital, people who freeze to death because they get stranded in their cars on the side of the road, automobile accidents, etc...but not hundreds. Most people stay in their heated homes and are fine.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Umm, when isn't Achenbach's column humorous, or at least, intended to be? It's a humor column, right? Humor is funny because it's about Truth (not to be confused with truth, which involves factual accuracy). Subject matter doesn't completely define whether it is possible to be funny; it only defines what kind of humor will work (for details, ask Weingarten). Nuclear apocalypse is a hoot.

PS: Does it bother anybody that most any physics graduate student, and many undergrads, could build a working nuclear weapon if he/she had access to materials? Even the theorists (although they might not be able to figure out how to wire up a remote detonator or a timer). I always found this vaguely disquieting, yet empowering. Plus, it suggests that there's always a job out there if the astrophysics thing doesn't work out. Fortunately, I suppose, I don't recall exactly how to do it; I've been out of grad school quite a while by now, so I'd have to study for at least a week or two before I could re-learn how to do it quick 'n dirty. Give me a year to do it moderately elegantly. Doing it really well, of course, takes considerable expertise.

Try reading John McPhee's "The Curve of Binding Energy." That'll scare you.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 10, 2005 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Joel can call the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and find out how they're celebrating "Columbus Day" there? Better yet, call Gene Weingarten--maybe he knows someone from Parade magazine who can go out and do a story...?

In 1992 Pine Ridge, South Dakota, was named the poorest county in the US, where two out of every three adults are without a job and more than half the population lives in poverty. There are no factories or other industry anywhere near the reservation. The land is barren - with no crops or lumber, minerals or gas anywhere in the vicinity. The only source of employment besides the tribal government is the Prairie Wind Casino [drove past it], a gambling operation much less impressive than its name. It consists of three trailers hoisted on cinder blocks, with several slot machines and two tables for poker and blackjack.

There are no buses or trains anywhere in Pine Ridge. There are no gyms, movie theatres or shopping centres on the reservation, while the nearest city is 80 miles away. More than one third of homes have no indoor plumbing or electricity. Tribal officials estimate that an average of 17 people are crammed into each dwelling.

Posted by: Loomis | October 10, 2005 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Linda Loo-
A few years ago I did some work with the Lakota Tribe on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is very close to Pine Ridge, and the conditions more or less the same. The isolation is breathtaking. There is nothing - the word poverty does not begin to describe it, as poverty implies something to compare it with.

Posted by: LP | October 10, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Joel, blog less?!? You haven't exactly been blogging a lot, lately, if you ask me. I'm tempted to start a petition or letter writing campaign or something to tell Sydney you All you have to do is throw a funny paragraph or two together, and we'll take it from there. Please.

Posted by: mostlurking | October 10, 2005 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Sara and LP: You know it's a federal holiday because the banks are closed and there's no mail delivery...City Council meets here tonight, as well!

Posted by: slyness | October 10, 2005 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I knew it was Columbus day when I got out this morning and waited twice as long as usual for the bus (we're on a Saturday schedule don't you know).

At work I looked at my calender and discover it lists three holidays:

Columbus Day (Observered) (USA)
Thanksgiving Day (CAN)
Yara Yell (CUB)

What the heck is Yara Yell?

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Yara Yell sounds like it would be a lot of fun, eh omni?

Posted by: Achenfan | October 10, 2005 1:24 PM | Report abuse

SCC - 1:13:55 is me, mostLYlurking...

Today is also Canadian Thanksgiving. We had turkey and some of the trimmings yesterday.

From U2' Seconds (1983):
In an apartment on Times Square
You can assemble them anywhere
Held to ransom, held to pay
A revolution every day
U.S.S.R., D.D.R.
London, New York, Peking
It's the puppets,
It's the puppets pulling the strings

Fall, rise and fall, rise and

Say goodbye, say goodbye
Say goodbye, say goodbye
Say goodbye

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 10, 2005 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I hate no-mail days. I like mail. Probably because I have very few bills at this point in life. It's mostly letters and I am a letter writing kind of girl.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 1:24 PM | Report abuse

SCC - that would be U2's Seconds.

I am scum.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 10, 2005 1:25 PM | Report abuse

ahem, pardon us that we could do with a little less space devoted to sucking up kinds of witicisms. we don't need an unterblogger echo.

yes, I could have just skipped over them, but I know this sentiment is widely held.

Posted by: margarine | October 10, 2005 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I for one like the unterblogger echo!

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I also like the unterbloggeress. She's such a Dream.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 1:31 PM | Report abuse

does it go like this, omnigood?

I for one like the unterblogger echo! I love you.

Posted by: omnigasm | October 10, 2005 1:31 PM | Report abuse

SCC: er, I meant Dreamer. But that could have been a freudian slip.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 1:32 PM | Report abuse

you two should go for a drink after the porching hour

Posted by: omnigasm | October 10, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering about "mostlurking," mostlylurking. I wanted to say something, but I didn't think that would be very SCC, so I resisted. Thanks for clearing it up.

As for Joel's trying to blog less, I'm of two minds about that (well, maybe three minds). Although Kit-less days are hard to endure, we must remember Joel's warning that the blog could be killed at any time. If having fewer Kits helps keep the blog alive, I say we should have fewer Kits. I will continue to remind myself that the Achenblog is not a right, it's a privilege.

[I always have to double-check the spelling of "privilege"; I wish there were a "we are weird" equivalent to help me with "privilege."]

Posted by: Tom fan | October 10, 2005 1:40 PM | Report abuse

mostlylurking writes, "You haven't exactly been blogging a lot, lately, if you ask me."

Quantity is not what this blog is about. When I glance at other blogs, they make my head hurt, there's so much stuff, so many links, they're busy, they're manic.

We're all about quality here. This is the Tiffany's of blogs. We serve up blog items in the most incredible box.

The main thing that keeps me from blogging more often is that I have absolutely nothing to say 99 percent of the time. Pick any topic and in all likelihood I will have nothing to add to it. Other than that I am against it. And am outraged.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you flatter me.

Alpha Male, hmm, I prefer the term "Silverback".

An example of rebar-related mad manliness (and manfood to boot):

On a camping trip in Western MD some years back, one of on an extended family camping trip a subset of us decided to barbecue a pig over a pit for the mishpucha (about 15 people on the camp-out). So we brought a generator, a stick welder, a oxy-torch, a bunch of 6ft. rebar, some blacksmith's tongs, and (of course) some welding gloves.

After we got camp set up, we dug a pit and put some local stone in and around it. Then we set transforming the rebar into a decent spit setup with the torch (for heating, bending, and cutting) and welder; tripods on each end, and the spit itself with a handle so's we could turn it.

Everything worked out pretty well, except for the part where we tried to convince the wimmenfolk that it was only fair for THEM to actually put the pig on the spit.

Hey, we'd done all the hard work already.

Fresh pork, right off the spit after it's been cooking all day. Let it marinade in some BBQ sauce for a little while, stick it on a potato roll and enjoy.
Mmmmm. Goes great with s'mores too.

S'mores: the official food of the Apocalypse.

And while we're at it, I'm amazed that no one in the 'boodle mentioned the "Left Behind" novels (Sorta like The Stand, only longer. Ha.).

ScienceTim, I have some experience with explosives, though precisely shaped charges are a bit out of my league, though if you can get hold of some plastique...

I can produce eyebrow-removing 1st degree burn carb backfires with ease, however (careful, don't whack the back of your head on the hood).

"Try it now!"

Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Tom fan, I hear you. Maybe we should rotate the privilege of writing a kit among ourselves so Joel doesn't have to do all the work? I would be game, but I'm not sure I could produce many worth commenting upon. But I'd try...

Posted by: slyness | October 10, 2005 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Tom Fan, last week when you were gone, the blog was a Festival of Typos. I'd post something riddled with mistakes and about five hours later someone like bc would notice. We barely survived. Indeed this may be why the editors are making blog-killing noises.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Let me get the ritual "I am scum" out of the way first, and then observe...

We could use more of JA and less of the obersized, el grande kinds of verboseposts. We don't need to fill up his absence as if it were dead air.

That will take some of the heat off him, and some off our unterbuds suckups (when their content is just to fawn all over Him, blessed be He (muffled puking sounds)

I agree w Tom fan's sage obs except the privilege thing. Privilege smacks of the exclusivity that seems to irk quite a few people tripping in here for some good blogging. Let's not irk them. More people and less diversity probably helps this blog seem like a potential business proposition for the WP, you savvy?

It was impressive how many new people had a chance to breathe here from last Wednesday to now.

Posted by: margarine | October 10, 2005 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I just asked my brother to write a kit, about his experiences with Rox Diamond when they went to Japan and were mobbed like the Beatles. He says he'll try.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 1:49 PM | Report abuse

meant "more" diversity [of participants, e.g., new, ethnic, boy/girl, fish/fowl, plant/animal, religion, get it, ja?}

Posted by: margarine | October 10, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Joel said he likes me!


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Hard Work!!!!

Posted by: mdmbkr | October 10, 2005 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Glad to be bach, Achenbach, especially if it means I can plaly some small part in keeping the 'blog alive. (Bah. Who am I kidding.)

["A Festival of Typos"! That sounds like the ideal vacation destination for editors. Depending on what sort of mood we were in, we could either correct all those typos, or laugh in their face ("Ha! I'm on vacation! Correct your own typos!")]

And yes, please have the Achenbro write a Kit. Tell him SCC rules will apply -- I won't point out his errors (not that there'll be any, of course).

Posted by: Achenbro- and Tom fan | October 10, 2005 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Anyone can post anything they want here, anytime, within basic rules (no vulgarity, no grammatical mistakes, no typos, no redundancies, no questionable propositions). I do think eventually the blog will figure out a way to have multiple threads going, so that, for example, if we get rolling on Maureen's column, we can simultaneously talk about the possibility of an avian flu pandemic, or whatever. As for "more of JA," that depends on the bosses at the Post. If they want me to blog, I will. But I think they view it as something that is distracting me from my job, which is to perform journalism.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

bc, the Left Behind novels are also more corny (cornier?) than The Stand.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Can someone please post the Dowd column from yesterday. Thank you.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 10, 2005 2:06 PM | Report abuse

That sounds like a good job for "margarine" -- unless he/she is already spread too thinly.

Posted by: Tom fan | October 10, 2005 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Wait wait wait wait. Boss, was that really you at 2:06:30 PM?

Posted by: CowTown | October 10, 2005 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I know, Sara.

But nobody ever went broke underestimating the American public, to borrow some Mencken.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 2:13 PM | Report abuse

No threads! It's much more fun, and more interesting, to bounce back and forth among subjects here. I'm afraid I'd miss something if threads broke off like tangents. I, for one, really like the "verticalness" of the kaboodle.

Posted by: TBG | October 10, 2005 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Tom fan, Promise that was a joke?

Way to butter up some new people.

Bah. These jokes are too corny even for me.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"new people"? Please tell me *that* was a joke.



Posted by: Tom fan | October 10, 2005 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Joel, are you doing this for the fun of it and not as an assignment? That makes it even more wonderful.

Posted by: slyness | October 10, 2005 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Occasionaly Joel mentions having to "get back to work." I wonder what he does on a regular basis that constitutes work?

Posted by: LB | October 10, 2005 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, this will work.

Took me all of about 5 minutes to find it.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Tom fan, you know me too well.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Souter punchline in the Dowd column did make me laugh.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 2:33 PM | Report abuse

bc, the bad thing about the Left Behind series for me is that I started reading it on my friend's recommendation (never again will I listen to him) and now I have to finish it because I have to know how the writers will play out the entire thing. I've been on book six for about 2 years now. I just keep looking at it and thinking, "No, it's too much silliness right now." Eventually I'll finish them all and know how the writers end it all, though. I mean, I know how it ends, but I want to see it played out.

And thanks for the Dowd link.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Why not just tell the powers-that-be at the Post that this IS your column? I bet they'd respect your journalistic independence and leave you alone after that. Or you could get yourself thrown in jail like Judy Miller over at that other newspaper... your schtick would be a "prison blog" of sorts, where you tell about some of the strange new experiences and more delightful fauxes-pas among your new colleagues.

What you need is an "angle"... hey, you could run for Congress, and write about that! Or join the Army, and write about being deployed to Baghdad! What's stopping you, huh?

Posted by: Huntsman | October 10, 2005 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I noticed the Dowd columns were removed from the comments a couple days back .. and now it's OK to ask for more? What's going on? Will the swat team drop through the roof for me again?

Posted by: mdmbkr | October 10, 2005 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Sara, I read the first book on a recommendation as well. I didn't feel the need to continue. Bah.

You're welcome for the Dowdyness.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 2:51 PM | Report abuse

On the "Left Behind" series - my born again friend asked me if I had read these books. She's the one who freaked me out because she's worried about the Mark of the Beast. So, I looked in my local library for books by Tim LaHaye (sp?) - found tons and couldn't quite figure out which was the first one in the series. I checked out a book of his called "Signs of the End Times" or some such thing. After I took it back last week, my library record showed some sort of problem. It turns out that the book had been water damaged (I thought some of the pages were ripply). I think a houseplant dripped on it. Anyway, I had to pay for it. They said I could have the book, but I declined. Talk about signs...

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 10, 2005 2:58 PM | Report abuse

this was hard to find:

Yara Yell:

October 10th: Date in which the first war of independence started.

This day of the year 1868, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes a Spanish descendant and a rich landowner freed his slaves and urged them to join him and fight against the colonial power of Spain.

Cespedes was killed during the first years of war but the war he started, continued. A series of wars followed until 1898 when the U.S intervene in Cuba and the republic was established four years after.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, omnigood. I found this:
Céspedes attacked the small town of Yara on October 11, from which this revolution took its name, even though the attack on Yara was a failure. The October 10 date is commemorated in Cuba as a national holiday under the name "Grito de Yara" ("Shout of Yara").

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 10, 2005 3:07 PM | Report abuse

My born again friend was also the one who recommended those books to me. He's cool for the most part, but when it comes to literature I question him.

Yara Yell reminds me of my name. So what does Yara Yell mean? Because neither word was used in the description of the day.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh, posted too soon. Sorry.

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 3:10 PM | Report abuse

mdmbkr, reproducing copyrighted text is infringement. If the Post is hosting text (such as these comments) illegally, they could potentially be liable (I'm sure the Post's Legal dept is on top of this one) for same.

We'll see how well posting a link to text (that we don't know if is illegal or not) holds up.

To what I think is Joel's point, it's farcical to think that any content or documents on the 'net will remain "select" or private for very long.

Well, not without strong (and somewhat onerous) security measures. I've done such things, and it's expensive.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to escape all the talk of apocalypse, disasters, poverty, no Kits by going to the new Wallace and Gromit movie.

Bach in awhile, crocodiles.

Posted by: Caged Rabbit | October 10, 2005 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks mostlylurking. I am possibly the worst googler in the world. 90% percent of the time my top ten returns are for online bookstores. The other ten are for bloggers who have no clue. eg the first item on my searches claimed Yara Yell to be the Canadian Thanksgiving. ha! and, bah!

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for persevering, omni. Info on Yara Yell was indeed hard to find; I started looking but then gave up. (I had started to worry that my "sounds like it would be a lot of fun" comment would turn out to be hideously inappropriate. Phew!)

Posted by: Achenfan | October 10, 2005 3:15 PM | Report abuse

If it's anything like our Fourth of July, then I guess you'd be right Achenfan.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I feel like stopping in at Habana Village on my way home and ordering a mojito and toasting loudly "Yara Yell!!!"

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:19 PM | Report abuse

That made me laugh out loud, omni. I'd kind of like to do that too, except I'd be worried I might pronounce "Yara" wrong and end up looking like a nitwit.

Posted by: Achenfan | October 10, 2005 3:21 PM | Report abuse

you don't even know how to pronounce it!

Posted by: omnigoof | October 10, 2005 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Great minds worry alike is what I always say (starting now).

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Caged Rabbit, I took my youngest two to see the W & G movie this past Saturday.

If you liked Nick Park's other movies/shorts (and there are plenty o'references to W&G's past in it), you'll like this one too. I sure did.

"May contain nuts.", made my 11 year-old laugh until we left the theater. Ok, and me too.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I posted that pronounce comment before I read yours Achenfan, it was directed at my monoglot alter ego.

Posted by: omnigoof | October 10, 2005 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how to pronounce lots of things, omni. (I guess that's because I write and read more than I speak and listen. Pathetic.)

Posted by: Achenfan | October 10, 2005 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Sure I do goof:

The Spanish "y" acts as both a consonant and as a vowel. Earlier lessons on diphthongs discuss how the "y" sounds as a vowel. This lesson will focus on "y" as a consonant. As a consonant, the Spanish "y" has two common sounds. Depending upon the region, the "y" might sound like the English "y" in the word "yes" or the "j" in the English word "joy."

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Me too Achenfan. I'm always getting corrected, especially words with a French origin. In fact I was in my twenties when I first discovered that lingerie wasn't pronounce the way it's spelled. Boy was that embarrasing.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, omni -- we independently posted concerns about not being able to pronounce Yara Yell? That's quite a coincidence.

[Actually, I think I'm OK on "Yell"; it's the "Yara" part that makes me anxious.]

Posted by: Dreamer | October 10, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

ok 'good, is it y as in yes or j as in joy.

Posted by: omnigoof | October 10, 2005 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I was a fan of PA fiction in junior high and high school and read nearly all of the books mentioned here. Alas, Babylon is the standard bearer. A Canticle For Liebowitz is a little too allegorical, especially the two sections that follow the original novella. "The Postman" is the same way. A great short story that was ruined by being expanded. On The Beach always seemed a little slow for as short as the book was.

The one I read several times was Malevil by Richard Merle which is kind of a European flavored A,B. The locals all rediscover medival farming and technology. The PA novel was quite a genre in its day.

I don't own a gun because no one knows their relatives well enough to keep weapons in the house. I have just resigned myself to being in the first round of victims.

And you can't talk about apocylyptic rock songs without "London Calling" most notably because it has been coopted into a luxury car commerical. The line "An' you know what they said? Well some of it was true!" also ties into Joel's previous post about reporting false rumors over Katrina.

London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared - and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard,you boys and girls
London calling, now don't LECTURE us
Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the reign of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
Cause London is drowning - I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, you can go at it alone
London calling to the zombies of death
Quit holding out - and draw another breath
London calling - and I don't wanna shout
But while we were talking I saw you NODDING out
London calling, see we ain't got no high
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
Cause London is drowning - I, I live by the river

Now get this
London calling, yes, I was there, too
An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
And after all this, won't you give me a smile?
London Calling

I never felt so much ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE ALIV
[Fade out]

Posted by: yellojkt | October 10, 2005 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I think the Yell might be English (grito: shout). and the Yara might not even be Spanish, could be Taino. Now were realy in trouble.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:36 PM | Report abuse

SCC: really. scum I am in a pond...

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:38 PM | Report abuse

SCC in an SCC: insert comma after am. I am that kind of scum you find on unwashed dishes left in the sink for a couple of weeks. Yech.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Good pull on London Calling, yellojkt.

Though I think the last section (Fiat Voluntus Tua) is just as allegorical as the Fiat Homo and Fiat Lux sections.

I mean, baptizing the second head of the two headed mutant lady, just as it awakens to speak?


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 3:44 PM | Report abuse

talk more than listen
sit more than walk
width more than depth
fan more than muse
i know thee
i will riddle my middle
with a gilded shaft of rebar

Posted by: golconda | October 10, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

You know how you come across a word that you're certain you've never, ever heard before and then all of a sudden, it's everywhere! Okay, maybe it's not everywhere, but it's sure to appear in the 'boodle within 24 hours.

At 1:46:23 PM, bc refers to his "mishpucha", which only yesterday I came across in Herman Wouk's book _Inside, Outside_ in a slightly different form: Mishpokha. It is defined as a "classical Hebrew" word meaning 1) CLAN. Family connexion (sic) of individuals. In a loose popular sense, TRIBE.

Here endeth the lesson.

Nice going, bc! Women love manly men with big vocabularies.

(It occurs to me than everyone else knew that word already and I'm revealing my ignorance.)

Posted by: Pixel | October 10, 2005 3:53 PM | Report abuse


see if you can comprehend this additional bit of yiddish: putz

Posted by: gibbersish | October 10, 2005 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't fit in here.

Posted by: mdmbkr | October 10, 2005 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Pixel, when do you leave for Fiji?

Posted by: Sara | October 10, 2005 3:59 PM | Report abuse

sure you fit in, mdmbkr, especially if your handle means

middle-market broker. Y/N?

Posted by: golconda | October 10, 2005 4:01 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I used to joke that if Y2k borked everything, we'd be rich, because we knew how to make beer and wine and had plenty of raw ingredients on hand. Plus a wide array of bike trailers to haul it around in. That said, I also have a well-stocked "go bag" in the trunk of my car, an easily grabbable lockbox with important papers, and a USB keychain drive with scans of stuff that would help with an insurance claim. My suspicion is that the most I'll ever use the kit for is to keep my kids comfortable while changing a tire -- which I've already done.

My go bag is based on the "Urban bag" found on this page:

It's cheap and doesn't take much space in the trunk, so why not?

Posted by: Lisa Williams | October 10, 2005 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Who you calling a putz? I'm getting a bit Farklempt!

Leaving for Fiji on Thursday and won't be back until Nov 4. No kvetching from me!

Posted by: Pixel | October 10, 2005 4:06 PM | Report abuse

just trying to add to your vocabk, pixel, not calling you a putz.

in fact, I am kvelling over your new-found wordings.

are you going to fiji on business?

Posted by: gibbershish | October 10, 2005 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Question for H. Miers at the hearing, to be posed by Sen. Specter:

And, Ms. Miers, how much Yiddish do you know?

Posted by: omnigasm | October 10, 2005 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I once, after making a stupid programmin mistake at work saif "I'm such a putz". It was a shared office of four. Later when one of my office mates called me putz and another colleague said "yeah putz", I said that's Mr. putz to you, he then asked: "Is that your last name?"

What a maroon!

Posted by: omnigoof | October 10, 2005 4:16 PM | Report abuse

SCC1: programming
SSC2: said

Posted by: omnigoof | October 10, 2005 4:17 PM | Report abuse

there was a guy on my base in the Army, a lieutenant, whose nametag said Putz. I used to run into him every once in a while. And all I could do was smile and salute him, the poor sod.

Posted by: omnigasm | October 10, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Oi! Gevalt! No, no business for me in Fiji. I'm going to dive, dive, and dive some more. And read books between dives. Maybe drink some fruity drinks after diving is over for the day (I never drink and dive.)

Posted by: Pixel | October 10, 2005 4:19 PM | Report abuse

When I got home I looked it up and vowed to never call myself that again. Funny thing is, at the time, I thought I was actually making a word up (don't know what made think of getting out the dictionary).

Posted by: omnigoof | October 10, 2005 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Mojitos and Cuba Libres all around at the Boodle Porching Hour tomorrow! Maybe you all can shout "Yara!" loudly (if you figure out how to pronounce it). Maybe mo knows...

Pixel, thanks for looking up "mishpucha". I had no idea what it was and meant to find out, but I forgot. I thought maybe it was a primitive oven or something...

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 10, 2005 4:21 PM | Report abuse

sounds great, pixel. I'll bet there's a wench or two on this blog who would be happy to be your designated diver.

Posted by: gibbersish | October 10, 2005 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Lisa, thanks for the link for emergency kits. Good stuff. I like this:
Brush your teeth, wear your seatbelt, quit smoking, wash your hands before eating and after using the toilet, and look both ways before crossing the street.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 10, 2005 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Further research leads me to believe that the arawak (language of the Taino) "y" in yara (yara means place) is pronounced like the English "y".

So my toast will go like this:

Grito de Yara, Yara Yell.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 4:34 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Arawak

Me scumbucket. Go home now.

Posted by: omnigood | October 10, 2005 4:35 PM | Report abuse


I once had someone ask me (in all seriousness!): "What does 'ubiquitous' mean? I see it everywhere!"

Posted by: TBG | October 10, 2005 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Is the Boodle Porching Hour still on for tomorrow at McCormack and Schmick's? I haven't been at work today so I'm a little out of the loop.

Posted by: jw | October 10, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Just thinking out loud here, Joel, but perhaps your boss has a point about your blog. I mean if all you talk about is "light" stuff, then it may be seen that you're goofing off, I doubt seriously if they want you to handle the really deep stuff because they "fear"? Or maybe they can get sued? Do these folks cover blogs, the FCC?

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 10, 2005 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Hate to ruin your mojito gritos for a bit of history (DeGroot again), but it's your neck of the woods...

One high-profile [FCDA "Operation Alert"] exercise occurred in 1955 when 15,000 federal employees, including the president, were evacuated from Washington to an encampment in rural Virginia. "President Eisenhower leads the way in a test evacuation of the entire executive branch," a newsreel subsequently proclaimed. "The chief executive heads for a secret retreat. The first time the government has abandoned the capital since it was burned in the war of 1812." From the reception center, Eisenhower sent soothing words: "We're here to determine whether or not the government is preapred in time of emergency to continue the functions of government so there shall be no interruption in business that must be carried on." He concluded by urging the American people to pray "that this kind of disaster never comes to the United States." In private, Eisenhower called the exercises futile.

Though the media generally played along with the government on matters of civil defense, scepticism occasionally surfaced. Newsweek reported that, in a mock evacuation of Rockefeller Center, thousands of workers had ignored the sirens, including some civil defense officials. More damaging were the doubts about the feasibility of the scheme. Planners in Milwaukee calculated that roads would become so choked with traffic that it would take over seven hours to evacuate all 870,000 residents of the city [reminiscent of Houton and Hurricane Rita].

The FDCA's response had an air of desparation. Peterson suggested that residents of Chicago and New York were already experts at evacuation since they practiced it every day on their commute. When asked about the thousands of citizens who would not make it to the reception centres before the bomb dropped, AEC chairman Willard Libby stated that they "could merely dig a hole and crawl in it and stay there for a few hours." Peterson sugggested that highways could be equipped with buried concrete pipes into which evacuees unable to reach the centres could crawl.

So, is your city's current disaster preparedness plan current and workable? And why is it that the United States can deliver $50 million in aid to Pakistan within three days of their unfortunate earthquake when it could not even do the same for our own city of New Orleans?

Posted by: Loomis | October 10, 2005 7:16 PM | Report abuse

So, is your city's current disaster preparedness plan current and workable?

So, is your city's current disaster preparedness plan realistic and workable?

Posted by: Loomis | October 10, 2005 7:18 PM | Report abuse

It means "modem biker", dating me to the golden age of BBSes around 1992.

In other news I believe in preparedness and self reliance. But I still need to get some guns. All I have for now are Dreams...

Posted by: mdmbkr | October 10, 2005 7:44 PM | Report abuse

mdmbkr, don't you mean "I still need to get me some guns"?

Posted by: suecris | October 10, 2005 8:16 PM | Report abuse

And another thing ....

I remember the old phone modems where you placed the phone's handpiece in the squishy modem cradle and turned it on ... I remember playing through all the levels of a game called "Adventure" at 300 baud back in 1981 or 1982.

Posted by: suecris | October 10, 2005 8:19 PM | Report abuse


What can we do to talk you out of getting guns? Whaddya want?

Posted by: goombah | October 10, 2005 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Pixel, it seems to me there are many discrepancies when spelling Hebrew or Yiddish words in English.

I'm just mayo-eatin' goyim, but enough of a ganif to throw some of the language around.

This reminds me that I should get my pais trimmed before the BPH tommorrow, otherwise I'll be doin' me some Atonin' come Wed. evening.


Posted by: bc | October 10, 2005 9:01 PM | Report abuse

suecris, You are in a twisty maze of passages, all alike.

xyzzy to you.

Posted by: Pixel | October 10, 2005 9:03 PM | Report abuse

bc, make mine a cheeseburger with bacon and mayo! Mishpucha/Mishpokha... I never saw the word in my life until yesterday but I knew it was the same word when I saw it again today regardless of the spelling. I mean, it's not exactly common parlance. Yay for new words!

Posted by: Pixel | October 10, 2005 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Ug, I'm not going to be able to make the porching hour tomorrow. I'm snotty and congested and achy and just plain gross. I wouldn't want to contaminate anyone or their loved ones. Next time!

Posted by: pls | October 10, 2005 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back Tom fan (and Achenfan). It's good to have the spelling/grammar critic on board again.

Have a good trip pixel.

A toast to the boodle porching hour! We out of towners will await the pictures and stories.

Songs, books, adventures - a very thoughtful, somewhat humorous, scary, educational (if that is not a word, it should be) Kit and Kaboodle. Columbus would have approved.


Posted by: boondocklurker | October 10, 2005 11:00 PM | Report abuse

From Monday's London Times:

Quake diplomacy allows US to give $50m as terror payback

PAKISTAN has been given a very visible reward for backing the United States in its war on terror.

The US yesterday pledged $50 million (£28.5 million) to help the earthquake disaster zone, joining at least 17 other countries (including India) in offering help. But lest anyone should mistake this for a purely humanitarian gesture, US military officials were keen to make clear that it was also an expression of gratitude for favours rendered -- and for those to come.

"Pakistan is one of our closest allies in the war on terror and we want to help them in this time of crisis," said Sergeant Marina Evans, a spokeswoman in Kabul, as US forces in Afghanistan sent five Chinook transport helicopters and three Blackhawk helicopters to Pakistan.

end 'graph:
For the US, the only risk in the gesture may be the perception at home that it moved more quickly in Muzafferabad than it did in New Orleans.

Posted by: Loomis | October 11, 2005 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Linda, that's a good point. I saw some footage of Pakistanis who were angry at their own government for not helping them sooner, and there was looting. People on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

There was an interesting opinion column in yesterday's Seattle Times. The writer is David Brown of the Washington Post, but I couldn't find it here on line. Here's a link to the Times:

He talks about how in a disaster, Americans may rely too much on processes and leaders, instead of just doing what needs to get done. In situations where lack of communications (not to mention everything that breaks in a disaster or terrorist incident), you (we) have to take the initiative.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 11, 2005 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Well, well, I see that HST lives on in the words of Joel Achenbach. The only thing missing were carnage, cannibalism and bestiality.....

Keep it up.

Posted by: Dave McConnell | October 11, 2005 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Taking the scenic route back from Shenandoah once I stumbled onto the Mount Weather area which is the "super top secret" Executive Branch emergency refuge. It's in the middle of the Washington National Forest outside Leesburg with only windy two lane roads reaching it.

The acres of barb-wire enclosed FEMA emergency vehicles truly terrified me more than any story of black helicopters. Who is supposed to drive all these vehicles and how do they get to them? I got out of there as soon as possible before Mulder and Scully started running my license plate number.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 11, 2005 8:18 AM | Report abuse

You would have already been observed, including your plate, several times if you drove on that road. Site is one of several, once super-secret, to evac the Executive Branch in case Washington is nuked. As that's still a possibility, it's still in use. And just think, FEMA runs it (but only from the facility and admin functional standpoints). There are several other agencies, including some unknown to the public, that have a hand in it.

Posted by: margarine | October 11, 2005 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Hey guys,

Just got back from a weekend trip to NYC. Who knew the path train from Jersey city pulls into the World Trade center site? And of course, the one day in my life that I take the NYC subway is the one day that terror alerts were at full cry. Needless to say, the experience had a very apocalyptic feel to it.

As for great books "where everybody dies," I can't let THE LAST SHIP go unmentioned. I know we (the fifteen) are generally big readers, so want to share with you that it is probably my favorite book. Either that or "It Looks like a President, Only Smaller." (Gratuitous ode to the Kit, but hey, he is our host).

THE LAST SHIP is a fine, fine novel, and was very well reviewed critically when it was published in the late 80s. However, it is not at all about ordinary people -- rather it is about a Navy crew that cannot return home because all major land masses are radiating cinders. Very interesting dilemma, and what follows is a great story that considers the roots of humanity and authority. Part Tom Clancy, part Shakespeare, part Dante, stirred.

I haven't read ON THE BEACH or ALAS, BABYLON, but they are on the list now.

Posted by: Kane | October 11, 2005 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Oh, come now. Mount Weather hasn't been a secret since a TWA plane crashed there in 1974. Look, you can even see a photo of the facility on FEMA's web page:

I will tell you this: It's easier to get inside Mt. Weather than it is to gain access to the NIH campus.

Posted by: Pixel | October 11, 2005 10:00 AM | Report abuse

We've all seen those action movies, where the nerdy hero tries to win the day BUT makes some rookie mistake with a gun; I really don't want to be that guy. The one who can't tell that the safety is still on while he's pointing the gun at the bad guy. Or the one who shoots himself in the foot while trying to load his pistol. So, I just went to the shooting range at the NRA headquarters in Fairfax on Saturday. One 30-minute safety test later, and I was throwing lead!

Posted by: mizerock | October 11, 2005 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm often struck as we drive around in our fuel efficient VW, darting between Hummers, that the Hummer is the official vehicle of the Reign of George the Younger. The Hummer's Humvee parent was the symbol of a less imperious foreign policy that sought to uphold international law. The Hummer represents many things: the militarization of domestic policy post 9/11 - aks homeland security; hubris abroad and at home, epitomized by a vice president who tells senators to "**** themselves," conspicuous consumption enabled by the Bush tax cuts, indifference to energy efficiency and a statement that all nature is subservient to human vanity and convenience.

Posted by: drivesaVW | October 20, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse appearcrossedhalls

Posted by: sandwich | November 18, 2005 3:53 PM | Report abuse

     I live in a leafy inner suburb where life is good, the public school is excellent, everyone has a new gas grill the size of a small spaceship and the only thing anyone worries about is being hit by a weapon of mass destruction.
I do not agree.For more info go to

Posted by: warsaw hotels | September 27, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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