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Ode to SkyMall

[My column in the Sunday magazine.]

THERE IS NO MORE purely American publication than SkyMall, the catalogue that lets people do what God intended them to do when flying 35,000 feet above the Earth -- shop.

The summer 2006 issue runs 196 ultra-thin pages, with tiny type, the better to cram in thousands of individual affluent-lifestyle objects that every sensible person should own, like a remote-control mechanical shark ($99.95) -- perfect for anyone hoping to scare the bejabbers out of a rubber duck.

Or you might purchase a pet stroller -- $119.95 -- that is ideal for transporting dogs and cats that do not have legs.

SkyMall understands that its readers are psychologically vulnerable. They're wedged into tiny seats and given nothing but a little bag of micro-pretzels, enough food to sustain a gerbil. They aren't even allowed to bring a bottle of water on board, and have had to throw away, at the security checkpoint, their favorite hair gel. (Before flying I apply enough hair gel to last for days or, if necessary, weeks. My hair will be so stiff I have to style it with a hammer.) And so these travelers have an urge to obtain something. Ordering from SkyMall not only supplies an endorphin boost but is an act of optimism, as it presumes the safe landing of the plane. The traveler thinks: I will survive this flight and own a new 1,000-CD multimedia storage tower!

People do a lot of soul-searching on airplane rides, and realize that the only thing they need to achieve true happiness is that remote-control device that will open and close the deck umbrella ($149).

You may notice a pattern in SkyMall: There are all these objects that service other objects. You'll find shoe racks, trouser racks, stemware racks, even a rack for your batteries, which are probably rattling around in a drawer somewhere at your house screaming,"Rack me!"

Someday they will figure out how to sell you an object that organizes, monitors, cleans or in some way maintains all the objects in your house that are devoted to caring for objects. Even money is a form of burdensome object, which is why you might want to buy a digital cash counter ($299).

Marxists long ago foretold the eventual exhaustion of capitalism, saying it would collapse when it ran out of things to sell to people. But the Marxists did not realize that there is no limit to manufactured desires and invented needs. You weren't that worried about your toothbrush until you saw that, for just $29.95, you could buy a germicidal travel case that will render it practically sterile. You were happy shaving in a regular mirror until you saw the Power Zoom Shower Mirror that lets you, at the touch of a button, zoom in and out with up to 5X magnification. The entire narrative of capitalism vs. communism can be explained by the $139.95 sonar watch that not only tells time but gives you an LCD display of any fish swimming within 75 feet of you.

For just $49.99 you can get the ThermoHAWK Infrared Thermometer, which allows you to precisely measure the surface temperature of any object the thermometer touches. Not that we were dying to know, but it's consistent with the rule governing new technology: Don't wait for the question before creating the answer. (What they really need to do is invent an Attractiveness Meter that upon contact with a person gives you a digital readout of the person's looks, on a scale of 1 to 10, down to the third decimal. So much more accurate than trying to make that judgment yourself while intoxicated or in a state of concupiscence.)

Here's something so handy it's hard to believe anyone has survived until now without it: The QuickLink-Pen Elite electronic note-taker, which lets you take notes just by running the pen over a piece of text ($149.95). For example, you wouldn't have to actually read this column. You could just sort of . . . wipe it.

Eventually, as our possessions become more intertwined with one another, and more objects are devoted to caring for other objects, the human consumer will be cut out of the loop. The electronic pen will have a relationship with our books and magazines that will not require our input. The remote control will open and close the deck umbrella at its own discretion. We'll still be around, of course, and still wedged into airplane seats.

But there won't be a pilot.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 16, 2006; 8:40 AM ET
 
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Comments

Here is a map I found 6 months ago in American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines:

http://superfrenchie.com/Pics/Blog/maps/aa_map_cropped_wlogo.jpg

It shows several French cities about 50 miles off to the west: Paris, Lyon, Le Mans, Angers, Nantes and Strasbourg. Toulouse, considered by many the world's aerospace capital, seems to have gone a bit south. Shouldn't an airline know better?

I just hope the pilot's got better maps than that. Or French air traffic control better be ready to help!

To compare, here is a correct map:

http://superfrenchie.com/Pics/Blog/maps/map.France.gif

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 16, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I love SkyMall. It is like opening the door to a magical wonderland of overpriced gadgets. I gaze at it longingly for hours while trying to figure out why I always get stuck between the woman who uses too many aromatic beauty products and the chubby man who clearly uses none. It takes me to a happy place where I have the money and time to actually purchase and play with the items sold. (Then again, perhaps this "happy place" phenomenon is due to the recirculating air.) And even though the magazine encourages you to take the publication with you, I also get a momentary subversive thrill when I put it into my briefcase. In fact, I have been known to take home two.
For the children get so upset when I don't bring them something.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 16, 2006 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I was Stampede, but it's getting a little old.

I am sucker for any gadget that organizes something else. My closets, pantries, and cupboards are full of racks and drawer units and storage bins. Do I have a tidy home? Of course not. Family members rebel against the "a place for everything" doctrine and make piles on every flat surface.

JA, you hit it on the head when you said "manufactured desires." I'm going to stop being a consumer of unnecessary stuff, just as soon as I get a rice steamer and that new electrical device which removes the seeds from lemons before you cut them open.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

One movie you will probably never see in-flight is "The Black Dahlia." It would never pass the family filter.

We saw it last night, and I thought it was awful. Movie critics who gave it bad reviews were actually being kind! It was *so bad* that it was laughable in parts.

My husband, who is just starting Ellroy's fictional work about the Black Dahlia murder, had a hard time following the plot and figuring out the who's who of the minor characters. He liked TBD better than "Hollywoodland" because TBD has more action--but that's not saying much.

The movie's chief failure was Josh Friedman's script, which mangled mightily Ellroy's book. The plot changes were jarring: the fates of four main characters--Lee Blanchard, Mrs. Linscott, Kay Lake, and Madeleine Linscott--detour from Ellroy significantly. There were two extreme over-the-top elements, poorly executed in this film: Fiona Shaw portrayal of Mrs. Linscott, and the women-only nightclub, newly incorporating a song and dance revue with k.d. lang in a tux, crooning.

My advice: buy the book, forget the movie.

Posted by: Loomis | September 16, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I think SkyMall is refreshing. I say this, of course, not having read it, because I always take a book on an airplane and avoid the proferred reading material. I'm afraid it might encourage me to shop, and I don't like to shop. Except, as Yoki Formerly Known as Stampede notes, for organizing containers. I just love organizing things. My family used to rebel and leave piles of things all over the house, until they saw that I really would throw them out. As I was saying, I find the idea of SkyMall refreshing because it makes no bones about its purpose. It is there to sell you things you don't need and let you feel good about it. So much of what we see has a hidden agenda of selling us something we don't need. This implies that on some level we should feel guilty for buying. Much better to come right out and celebrate consumer frenzy.

Excuse me, I have to go shop for something online now.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 16, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Sad to hear it was that bad, Loomis.

Saw a trailer on TV for a new movie about the Lafayette Escadrille (flying squadron of Americans) during WWI, called "Flyboys," that might be good, though the only actor in it I ever heard of is Jean Reno.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Fall is catalogue season. HauteMaine has a long tradtion of cataloges. Eatons till they folded, and Sears Canada still put out an annual Christmas catalogue. As kids we'd pore over these catalogues, and make our lists. It was usually just dreaming, but you never knew when some combination of Santa Claus, your mom and dad and that catalogue would make those dreams come true. Now that I am an adult, I still do the same, its just that I know it was only mom and dad and they make me pay for my own dreams now.

The fall always brings true gems like the Natty Geo catalogue, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation catalogue, and though not a catalogue, the Discover magazine 'toy' issue. These things were bad enough, but I once did an online search for catalogues and mail order places.

If you are feeling a little weak and your credit card is not encased in ice, don't do that search.

Posted by: dr | September 16, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

The Eatons catalogue features in the wonderful story by Roch Carrier, "The Hockey Sweater" (even better in the original French).

"One day, my Montréal Canadiens sweater was too small for me and it was ripped in several places. My mother said, "If you wear that old sweater, people are going to think we are poor."

Then she did what she did whenever we needed new clothes. She started to look through the catalogue that the Eaton Company in Montreal sent us in the mail every year. My mother was proud. She never wanted to buy our clothes at the general store. The only clothes that were good enough for us were the latest styles from Eaton's catalogue. My mother did not like the order forms included in the catalogue. They were written in English and she did not understand a single word of it. To order my hockey sweater, she did what she always did. She took out her writing pad and wrote in her fine schoolteacher's hand, "Dear Monsieur Eaton, Would you be so kind as to send me a Canadiens' hockey sweater for my son Roch who is ten years old and a little bit tall for his age? Docteur Robitaille thinks he is a little too thin. I'm sending you three dollars. Please send me the change if there is any. I hope your packing will be better than it was last time."

Monsieur Eaton answered my mother's letter promptly. Two weeks later, we received the sweater.

That day I had one of the greatest disappointments of my life! Instead of the red, white, and blue Montréal Canadiens sweater, Monsieur Eaton had sent the blue-and-white sweater of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I had always worn the red, white, and blue sweater of the Montréal Canadiens. All my friends wore the red, white, and blue sweater. Never had anyone in my village worn the Toronto sweater. Besides, the Toronto team was always being beaten by the Canadiens.

With tears in my eyes, I found the strength to say: "I'll never wear that uniform."

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"stuck between the woman who uses too many aromatic beauty products and the chubby man who clearly uses none"

The guy sitting beside you was me, RD! :-)

Mrs. D. is a technophobe. At various times, she has commented at length on the uselessness and irrational excess of owning microwaves, DVD players, cellphones, laptop computers, pasta pots with built-in collanders, flat-screen televisions, microwave rice cookers, and bread machines.

Now, of course, she owns all of these things and wonders how she ever got on without them.

Posted by: Dooley | September 16, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Then please don't go here...

http://catalogs.google.com/

Posted by: TBG | September 16, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

dr, you have to do a search for catalogues? They multiply in my mailbox worse than rabbits. Maybe gerbils? The first Christmas catalogue - LL Bean - came earlier this week.

I keep a paper grocery bag by my chair in the den to ditch the catalogues. In the fall, I put the full bag in the recycling bin every couple of weeks.

Now I do a fair amount of catalogue shopping - Lands End, Coldwater Creek, JC Penney's etc. I've never bought anything from SkyMall or the catalogues it includes. Life is complicated enough.

Posted by: Slyness | September 16, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Such a stick-in-the-mud I am, no desire to fly anymore, at least not in the sardine cans of the present. Heck, I don't even want to go to the grocery store today, much less shop at 30,000'. I will stick with the occasional relaxing jaunt in my simulated DC-3.

In re. "Flyboys," saw the trailer and thought "Hmm, how relevant IS the Zeppelin sequence? Did that REALLY happen?" A quick jaunt to Google refreshes my historical perspective: a prolonged German use of airships vs England in WWI. I hit quickly on some fascinating reading.

Now that's what we need: actual malls in actual Grand Airships, along with ballrooms, swanky restaurants with separate smoking rooms, swimming pools, private staterooms, gymns and saunas... Of course the trips would take longer. But that could be a good thing.

Posted by: Jumper | September 16, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Not a relevant comment, but I thought this might amuse Mr Achenbach.

Your book: "The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West" got a mention on Daniel Drezner's (libretarian economist) blog.

Namely it was one of the five books Amazon recommended to people buying his book.

The other four:
* F.U.B.A.R.: America's Right-Wing Nightmare by Sam Seder
* Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean
If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life by Stephen Webb
* Sight Unseen: Science, UFO Invisibility, and Transgenic Beings by Budd Hopkins

He's currently puzzling over the connection at danieldrezner.com.

Posted by: Greg Sanders | September 16, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, friends. Just getting back in. It has been a busy morning. Pat, did not walk today, but the sky here is Carolina blue all the way. Bright and sunny, with just a slight chill because of the wind, a beautiful day, all in all.

Omni, thanks.
Annie, anytime is fine. There isn't a time limit.

Hello, Slyness, I'll bet the weather in your town is great.

KB, got the books, and will send what you requested when we start which will be the last week in this month. Thanks again.

I love catalogues, and I believe it goes back to childhood, those Christmas catalogues, wishing and hoping. I don't know if I would want to shop while flying, but I'm sure someone would enjoy that experience. Personally, I don't do shopping because for me it's called wishing. The catalogues are called "wish books". That's okay, the operative word being, "book".

Have a good weekend folks. And know that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 16, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Pat, today is hot and muggy here -- back up to ninety degrees and humid. The wind is from the south at about thirty miles an hour (okay, that's a guess, but I've been outside and it is darn windy). The sky started out blue. Small white clouds with grey bottoms scudded across as if they were afraid of being mugged. Sure enough, bigger, dingier clouds are puffing up, taking over the neighborhood. Still plenty of sun, though, to give us that all-natural sauna experience.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 16, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Stampede,
so I finally figured out why you called yourself "Stampede" - what is the Yoki reference (Blackfoot, perhaps)? Just curious (as well as slow and uninformed).

Got the LL Bean Christmas catalog a couple of days ago. I got 2 jackets from them last year, which I'm quite pleased with. Still, awfully early for Christmas shopping. Must order new clothes - most of what I have is fraying at the edges and I hate shopping. When I find something that fits, I get several, usually in different colors.

On the other hand, the Seattle library is having their huge book sale this weekend, and there is a plant sale in the same place - I am planning on shopping there! Gadgets I can do without (except for my VCR/DVD player, CD burner, etc).

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 16, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

That's funny about Daniel Drezer's book.

I mean "Wait! Don't Move to Canada?"
"The sociology of philosophies?"
"The Empty cradle: Falling birthrates?"

Political books, most of them except for alien books. His book subject also is highlt tailored to the Washingtonian market. That happens to be the same general demographic who may read the Achenblog and figure JA's book is worth a try.

My conclusion: looks like a lot of Achenblog readers/lurkers or their relatives thereof have been ordering those books.

Besides, if we're going to have alien contact, we MUST have a trade policy in place, worth knowing what that is, right?

"Sorry, we can't give you most favored Planet Status..."

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

mostlylurking: Yoki is a reference to the Barenaked Ladies song "Be My Yoko Ono." In reference to the breakup of the Beatles, Page says "Don't blame it on Yoki!" In a perfect world I would be exempt from blame for all things in whatever medium, anywhere in the universe, in perpetuity.

Also, it's shorter.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

This discussion about mail-order catalogs (nowadays, online catlogs), is somewhat bittersweet for me. Somewhere over Akron at 35,000 feet, some of you browsing through these catalogs may have asked yourselves, "Who writes this crap, anyway?" The answer is: me.

Once upon a time (during one of the periods in my highly checkered career when I went over to "The Dark Side") for five years in the 1980s, I had a job writing catalog copy for a major boating supply outfit, BOAT/U.S. There were three of us copy writers whose job it was five days a week, 50 weeks a year, to turn out stuff like:

"The RF3186 is a low profile Genoa Car with a 40mm wide sheave that accepts two sheets for easy headsail changes. An easily adjustable, two-position, spring-loaded pin stop allows this car to be fixed in place or travel freely on ultra low-friction plastic car slides.
• Lightweight and corrosion-resistant black anodized aluminum
• Sheave diameter: 1 1/4'' x 1 1/2''W
• Holds one or two sheets up to 5/8'' diameter
• SWL: 3300 lb "

And of course there were gems such as:

"Body lined with embossed polyester tricot for added moisture wicking, brushed cotton corduroy top collar, snap off hood with drawcord adjustment, double layer elbow reinforcements, and interior utility pocket with media portal.
• Brass front zipper closure with interior & exterior snap storm flaps
• Two extra large front pockets with drainage
• Bi-swing back for ease of movement
• Interior drawcord waist
• Inner knit sleeve storm cuffs "

And who can forget

"Had it with that cantankerous old range? If you've got AC power onboard, why not treat yourself to the safety and convenience of an electric range with reliable [brand name] quality. The Electric Gourmet combines [brand]'s legendary quality stainless steel construction with the cooking and safety features you need in an electric range. Electric galley ranges have [brand's]patented slide-away oven door with dual-layered, tempered see-through glass. Three- and four-burner styles have a bi-fold stovetop lid with wooden cutting board that functions as a grease splashguard when raised; automatically cuts power to the burners when lowered
• Two, three or four energy-efficient 6" burners
• Thermostatically controlled oven with interior light
• Multi-position oven racks
• Operates from any standard 120V AC outlet
• Draws 4.1kW at 30A.
• Also available in 240V by Special Order
• 2-burner: Overall: 21.75"W x 15.25"D x 21.75"H, Cutout: 19.88"W x 15.38"D x 21.25"H
• 3-burner: Overall: 21.75''W x 19.75''D x 22''H, Cutout: 20.7''W x 19.3''D x 21.7''H
• 4-burner: Overall: 21.75''W x 20.25"'D x 22.5''H, Cutout: 20.5''W x 19.88''D x 21.38''H "

The greatest challenges, of course, were writing about clothes, such as:

"The perfect shirt for women who love boating and the outdoors. Constructed of 100% Omni-Dry® nylon an extremely lightweight, crinkled and sanded plain weave nylon...it's so soft, it feels like cotton. Features UPF 30+ embroidery, sun protection collar, mesh venting panels at front and back yokes and underarms, action pleat at upper back, front pockets with hook and loop closures, extended split hem, rod holder and utility loop and button tab sleeve holders. Imported.
• The perfect shirt for women who love boating and the outdoors
• 100% Omni-Dry® nylon fabric is lightweight and soft like cotton
• Women's sizes S-XL"

Bored out of your skulls reading this stuff? You oughta try writing it day in and day out for five years. (I didn't write the above quoted examples, which are contemporary, but I could have; they haven't changed much in 30 years.)

It was during this period that a brand new catalog outfit suddenly burst upon the scene: Sharper Image. I'm sure many of you remember their catalogs from the 1980s and 1990s (they're still around, but now they have so much competition from outfits like Skymall that they've lost a lot of their cachet.) SI just blew away everybody else, not only with their products and their marketing, but even with their catalog prose. All over America, editors and bosses went into their copywriting departments and slapped down a copy of Sharper Image and said, "Why can't you &^%$#@&%$# write copy like this?"

Almost immediately afterward, another outfit popped up that gave all the rest of us heartburn: Banana Republic. If you remember them in their early years, their catalog was the complete antithesis of Sharper Image, which was glossy and slick, with brilliant photography and really high-end production and four-color printing. Banana Republic's catalog was funky, often printed on a rough-textured brown or sepia-tone paper, used drawings instead of photos of products, and had the longest text any copywriter had ever seen, often including discursive sidebars that rambled on about trekking through the Kalahari, or camping in New Guinea, or whatever. And all over America, catalog editors and bosses stormed into their copywriting departments and slapped down a copy of Banana Republic and said (OK, everybody in chorus): "Why can't you &^%$#@&%$# write copy like this?"

And so we all threw down our Sharper Image catalogs from whom we'd been stealing techniques, and ripped through BR, stealing methods and writing styles with abandon.

About my second or third year, the company cobbled up some training money and sent us to an advanced copywriting seminar taught by THE Number One copywriting and direct mail marketing guru in the world, a man named Hershell Gordon Lewis. Lewis is to copywriting what Shakespeare is to guys in tights talking while stabbing each other with rapiers. Lewis then (and even now) had several books about copywriting and direct mail, and traveled all over the country giving lectures and seminars and consulting. I learned a hell of a lot about all kinds of copywriting from him.

What I didn't know until much, much later was that Lewis had a duel career. Not only was he a national and international direct mail marketing authority, he had also been a moviemaker, and a strange one at that: he's the guy who invented slasher films. He is now known as "the Godfather of Gore" (see this interesting article, http://www.phillyburbs.com/hgl/), and director of such Shaekspearean epics as "Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat," "Miss Nymphet's Zap-In," "She-Devils on Wheels" (bc, you probably remember that one), "Goldilocks and the Three Bares" (yes, I spelled Bares correctly; we're not talking about grizzlies here, although grislies might be more like it) and of course "2,000 Maniacs," which did NOT star Sir Laurence Olivier. (See Lewis's IMDB listing at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0507267/ for a rather mind-boggling list of trashy movies he wrote, directed, filmed, and even occasionally acted in (it claims he was "Mr. Gordon" in "Chainsaw Sally," which I somehow missed). He even wrote the music for a dozen or so movies, including "White Trash on Moonshine Mountain." I wish to god I was making this stuff up, but I'm not.

So, yes, as many of you may have suspected by now, my writing career was greatly influenced by, and I am a devoted student and mentee of, one of the world's outstanding direct mail and copywriting experts, the man who gave you "Monster A-Go-Go" and "Texas Frightmare Weekend 2006."

And now I'm working for the federal gummint. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Curmudeon, you are J. Peterman!

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Alas, Yoki, I was the schlump who worked FOR J. Peterman. Therefore, my reaction to those Seinfeld episodes is considerably different (and much more traumatic) than it is for the rest of you. I think of them as kind of nightmare documentaries.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I hear you. That's my reaction to movies which include a movie set with continuity girls and assistant producers running about with clipboards and earphones. I did a similar job for a large arts festival associated with a major international athletic event, including the closing ceremonies, and it was not at all glamourous.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, you think that copy was bad, try reading through (and having to rewrite) product literature for clean-room gear, static-dissipating disk platter transporters, read-write head test stands and other assorted data storage manufacturing gold... *L*

TBG, hope things are going OK. *HUGS*

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 16, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan Coulton, a singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, and will be appearing at the Warehouse Theatre on Monday, shares your enthusiasm with SkyMall in his song of the same name.

http://www.jonathancoulton.com/lyrics/skymall

Posted by: Dave | September 16, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

And after all that, Mudge, you still have a soul! I am impressed. Never bought J. Peterman, though. That stuff was way above my pay grade.

Posted by: Slyness | September 16, 2006 3:32 PM | Report abuse


Curmudgeon, your memories of Sharper Image and Banana Republic brought up a vivid recollection for me. Back in the early 80's I worked for the U.S. Postal Service for a couple of years, and one of my duties was sorting mail. Magazines and catalogs are called "flats" in the USPS. Some days when I arrived at 4:30 a.m. and reported for duty, my supervisor, who had joined the postal service after retiring from some OTHER branch of the military (that's how he saw it)--would bark, "Bertocci!! Get on the Flats!!" and that meant for the next few hours I'd be sorting manilla envelopes, magazines, and catalogs. Now, I love magazines but of course the postal workers don't get to read them, just look at the covers. But there was one publication that I just couldn't resist and when I came to it I would put it aside and sneak surreptitious glances while I sorted the other stuff. It was so beautiful: the Patagonia catalog. That is still a very cool company and now they have a beautiful website as well:

http://www.patagonia.com/

Ah, more memories:

Sometimes, my supervisor would snap, "Bertocci!!! Get on the parcels!" and THAT meant I was spending the day sorting packages into bins, including some very heavy stuff like tires and machinery parts bound for the nearby navy base. Once somebody asked the supervisor, "why don't the women sort parcels on an equal rotation with the men? Why is Bertocci the only woman you assign to sort the parcels?" And he answered, "because she's the only one who doesn't complain." I was proud of that.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 16, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

OK, I've done some moderately extensive reading, and I went to see the darned movie. I STILL don't understand why Loomis has been on such a "Dahlia" kick for the last couple of weeks. I understand that she's related to someone involved with the backstory, but how's that different from any other major news story? She is, after all, related to everyone.

It's mildly interesting, and somewhat sensational, but I just don't get it. She's made much less noise about much more interesting connections in the past. What is it about this?

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I expect it is because of the lurid sensationalism of it all, at the time, and now with the movie.

When I was driving home last night, I heard our local CBC people on radio talking about the movie. They kept calling it "The Black Delia." It was making me crazy.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Gosh - whenever I see any movies about my occupation it's like watching a documentary. That is, if I happen to be foolishly drunk at the time..

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 16, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks for the copywriting tips. So how would you write a funny blurb for the wonders of the Panama canal:

"EXPERIENCE the sweet smell of oil wafting over as the busy locks slowly open to admit some of the largest ships on earth, deluging the shores with muddy water full of tropical-disease causing bacteria. Slurp your pina colada slowly under your native hat, as the canal makes a plethora of water noises as the two ocean waters meet and mix, in that wondrous place, the Panama Canal."

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Mudge - actually, I figure it takes a very talented writer to make consumer goods seem sexy. Your description of that electric galley range has put me in a complete state of concupiscence.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 16, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

RD, one step to sexiness is-- you just make a list of all the words that have even subtle double innuendo meanings... "Racks." "see-through" (redundant, but sexy), "raised" "lowered" "burner"...

Other words to use-- "stacked", "easy to handle", and I could think of a few others but I don't think your wife would appreciate your explanation of why you need an boat stove.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Yuk, yuk - I spent a couple of weeks in Panama in the early 80's, around Christmas. The canal locks are, of course, as uninterestingly industrial as you would imagine.

On the other hand, I saw a tree shake, shimmer, and then explode into color as a flock of parrots took flight. Then I noticed several spider monkeys which were apparently "messing" with them. At that point, I realized, "Bobby, you ain't in Sacramento no more!"

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

The uninhibited swimming pool party on Christmas day/night was fun, also!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* You'd think with my (vast) age and (half-vast) experience I'd know better. There ought to be a 12-step program for people like me. Yes, I fell off the wagon this afternoon. Big time. Here's what happened: my wife is out of town for a few days at a business convention, and I was running a few errands around town, being more footloose and fancy-free than usual. And then it happened. I drove past it. Or rather, I didn't drive past it, I drove into its parking lot. I should have known better, but you know how it is...you hear the siren song, and the call is irrestible. And so I went in, thinking, of course, that I was in control.

Sometimes I just never learn.

Yes, it was our local Borders bookstore. I didn't even get into the freakin' da-- store proper before my first breakdown. I was in the foyer, where they have a couple racks of remaindered books, and there I saw it. "The Last Detective," by Robert Crais, one of his Elvis Cole detective novels. $4.99. I'm a pretty big fan of Crais, and hadn't read that one yet. I picked it up, held it in my hand, and heard the voices. One voice was caution: no, you don't need to buy it today. You're already halfway through the new James Lee Burke paperback, "Crusader's Cross" (which is excellent, BTW). Then the other voice: c'mon. Five bucks. You like Crais. You like Elvis Cole. What's the harm?

I actually set the book back down, and was about to walk into the store, when I stopped. Hand reached out. Picked it up. Carried it into the store with me. I tell ya, it's just like an alcoholic thinking he can handle just that one little beer.

Then the magazine racks. There it was. The Atlantic Monthly annual fiction issue, 2006. Stories by Richard Russo and Cynthia Ozick. And then at the bottom of the cover: E.L. Doctorw on historical fiction. Six bucks. Hand hardly trembled. No shakes, to speak of.

On the opposite side of the rack: Sept. 18 issue of The New Yorker. Lead article is called "Being Bill Clinton," by David Remnick. Not too difficult to pas that up. But then the next teaser: "How guilty is Gunter Grass?" I got the shakes, but I think I was still in control. Then: "Getting to 'd'accord," with the tag line, "David Sedaris on the perils of faulty French." As some of you may remember, Joel has mentioned Sedaris a few times; I don't know if he knows Sedaris personally, but he's a fan. And just look at that steaming topic, just lyin' there and calling to me: faulty French. I mean, boodlers, let's get real: how could I NOT buy it? And then at the very bottom of the cover: "John Updike on thrillers." I love John Updike, especially some of his reviews and critical writing. I love thrillers; I consider myself a connoiseur of the first order, if not a budding practitioner. This is just catnip, it's dangling a bottle of Bombay Sapphire before a wino's glazed eyes. And only $3.99, a lousy four bucks. What a cheap drunk!

When I was on vacation a week ago, I saw a book in a bookstore in Beaufort, SC, having to do with early Soviet history. It was new and unknown to me, but I very clearly needed it for a project I'm working on. This was legitimate resource material. It was a hardback, and $30, and I resisted, but wrote down the title and author. So while in Borders today, I looked it up. They had it in the store, on a rack in the history section. In trade paperback. $16.96.

The shakes were pretty bad. I had to find it. Section F08, the Borders computer said. The problem was, to get there I had to get past the WWI history section. And there it was, a book about Black Tom Island I'd read about a couple months ago, and even tried to order, but it hadn't been published yet, only advertised. But now it was out. And sitting right there. It caught my eye.

There's a point where drunks get the DTs, and start seeing giant spiders climbing up the walls, and stuff like that. I swear I heard the book calling to me, talking to me, whispering to me.

$24.99.

A moment later, a salesgirl walked by, and I asked her where section F08 was. She led me there (O salacious wench!!), and almost immediately put her hand on the book. She handed it to me. I trembled.

Right next to the now empty slot on the shelf was another book on Russian history I hadn't heard of, but clearly need. I looked at it. Read the back cover write-up. Looked at the table of contents. Looked up a couple things in the index to see if they were there, and yes, they were. Major sections on what I needed.

$18.95.

Four books, two magazines. I think I was light-headed. Couldn't breathe. Spiders on the walls. There was a long line at the register. I waited. Then my turn. Closed my eyes and handed the girl my American Express card.

Total damage: $79.62. Most of it tax-deductible as a business expense. But still.

I am so weak.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Here, I sympathize. I solve part of it by speed-reading in the bookstore. Sometimes not so speedy.
I am part of the reason they got rid of all those cozy chairs and put in hard chairs you can't read for hours in.

Mudge, you write thrillers? I would think you're too funny to write a thriller. I mean, The guy is sprinting on a boat, as he has suddenly his ears ain't ringing, there's a ticking bomb and it's coming from the lifeboat. Tell me, could you really RESIST not writing into a slick freshly-mopped spot right where he's sprinting, slip n slideeeeeee with sickening results? And then a blind passneger going carefully with a rubber tipped cane, asking "darn, I think I left my sonic baseball in the lifeboat, can you direct me to the lifeboat?"

I know I couldn't.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Wilbrod, I write thrillers (or am trying to, anyway). And hard as you may find this to believe, there are some funny parts. (At least, that's my intnetion.) I don't write like Hiaasen, who is laugh-out-loud funny, but I do play around somewhat; your typical triller hero is often a wise-cracking type, and I also like to sneak stuff in from time to time that people may find amusing.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge - I'm wit' ya, bro! I can occasionally restrain myself at full-price outlets, but whenever I see a good deal....

I just received my latest Daedalus catalog, and I hate what I'm about to do. Mine came in the mail, but also beware:
salebooks.com

Bad, Bad, Bad!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, I think the catalogues stop at the border. Or else it has something do do with the fact that for years, I have not had any magasine subscriptions.

Every time I think of Eatons, I think of that story, Yoki. Remember the film short which I think was narrated by Roch Carrier? A very fine thing.

Mudge, your copywriting story was laugh out loud funny. Even here at home people are looking at me strange.

But oh books. I understand your pain. The other day someone wrote about a remainder book place, and now this...I tell you, its a good thing I live in Canada, where remainder places are small and far between, where even book stores are pretty much one big chain and if you've been in one you've been in them all. I'm pretty safe except for the Salvation Army store by the office which has a lot of books for sale, mostly for under 5 bucks. I hear its siren call more often than I admit to anyone but my imaginary friends.

So far its been easier to control myself online. I have not gotten into the habit yet of buying online. 2 orders still means I am in control, right?

Sure dr sure.

Posted by: dr | September 16, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

dr, do you mean that you have placed only two orders in 40 years... or only 2 orders in the last hour?

And was each order under 100, or just under 1,000?

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 7:16 PM | Report abuse

"Mayflower's" Philbrick will be up on Monday's WaPo chat schedule. Didn't realize the author had maritime and Nantucket connections. Better get cracking on my copy of his book.

Mudge, if you know of a bona fide 12-step program for bookaholics, please let me know.

Yoki, when working for QVC, I was training for an advanced customer service slot. I was listening in on calls with someone in the department, part of the training process. Some woman, a customer, was trying to return a coverlet (with a dahlia pattern)--all the customer and product information on the computer screen in front of us. The woman I was being trained by knew all the procedures for the job, but apparently wasn't much of a reader. She kept telling the customer she would be happy to arrange for the return of the "Delilah" coverlet.

I couldn't snicker in front of her so I snickered once I left that part of the building. And I've never forgotten the incident.

Posted by: Loomis | September 16, 2006 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I like to think that browsing the book store is like a vaccine, 'Mudge. If you do a little (say, under $200) every so often, you are unlikely to get the flew (the books just flew off the shelf at me, and all for only $479.29!).

My own experience was getting a library card last week at the branch that recently opened up in our neighbourhood. Great cheers from Himself who says, regularly, "You are beggaring us with your book-buying addiction." So yeah. I got 12 nice thick tomes from the 'berry. And got the shakes and had to hit my favourite independent the next day for some paperbacks. Just, you know, in case the library burned down before I had read the whole stack, or the city decided to save some money by closing all the branches (not so far fetched).

Among the borrowed books was a lovely effort by John McGahern, "At the Lake." I've read two or three others by him, but not this one. A small community near a market town in Southern Ireland, right about now. Everyone knows each other, and nothing much happens, like life. Life transformed by art.

I love a good thriller, especially Hiassen (and some of E. Leonard's Florida-low-life stuff too). Is that a hint, Mr. Curmudgeon, of the general bent of your 'script? Next year, maybe? It's going to be hard to wait for you to actually write the damn thing.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this story of Mudge's shopaholic episode at Border's had me laughing out loud, too, dr. You, Mudge, have obviously struck a loud chord here on the Boodle--and are getting a chorus of responses.

Forget the Skymall whistleandbellswhatzamajiggerwhatnotswith allthefancywriteupsandhighfalluntinprices.

Posted by: Loomis | September 16, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

For those who don't understand my problem, here are the books on the front cover of the Daedalus catalog:

"AUDUBON'S ELEPHANT - The Story of John James Audubon's Epic Struggle to Publish [italics on] The Birds of America [italics off]"
-- 'Audubon's Elephant' was the nickname given to [the] enormous magnum opus...
(288 pp / pub 2003 / $$9.98)

"THE ART OF TAROT"
-- History, usage, images. This compact volume presents images from nineteen tarot decks, dating from the early Renaissance to the postmodern present, including Salvador Dali's 'Tarot Universal'.
(320 pp / pub 1995 / $2.98)

"BEAUTIFUL SHADOW - A Life of Patricia Highsmith"
-- The life of the extraordinary woman who wrote "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley".
(534 pp / pub 2003 / $3.98)

"AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE NIGHT SKY"
-- On one level, a star guide with 24 "thoroughly comprehensible" maps created especially for the book which highlight what can be seen on a clear night in the northern hemisphere; but also:
"Raymo's poetic and elegant approach blends science, history, mythology & religion to celebrate the night sky".
(242 pp / pub 2001 / $6.98)

"SAY WHAT YOU MEAN - A Troubleshooter's Guide to English Style & Usage"
-- "Blunt & opinionated - though a rigorous opinion, to be sure - R.L. Trask's guide to English is cherished for its precision and its delightful cheek."
(290 pp / pub 2005 / $4.98)

"A SCATTERING OF CATS"
-- "This memoir takes place in a house high on a California hill, where a young Sandra Bozarth grows to adulthood in the shadow of the Great Depression... cats begin to appear at the doorstep... She finds solace in the beauty of the hills ... and the toothless old cat with the operatic voice."
(271 pp / pub 2002 / $3.98)

--------

These are just the cover page offerings! I'm powerless, I really am!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 7:48 PM | Report abuse

How to tell whether you are addicted to literature:

Do you crave a chapter or two at the same time every day?

Have you ever read first thing in the morning?

Have you ever neglected your family duties because you wanted to read?

Have you ever made yourself ill reading (headache, sore eyes, hunger pangs, etc.)?

Have you ever stayed up all night reading, while promising your significant other you would stop at one more chapter?

Have you ever falled asleep while reading and left the light on all night?

Have you ever, in a moment of weakness, criticized the lighting in a hotel room or friend's house by saying something like "there are no f****** reading lights in this place!"?

Have you ever dreamt that you are a character in the book you were reading at the time?

Have you taken a creative writing course?

Have you an unpublished manuscript (in the bottom drawer of your desk, on your hard disk)?

Have you had anything published (by a recognized trade publisher, vanity publisher, or online)?

Have you ever been late for work, or failed to go into work, because you were reading and could not stop yourself, or have you read at work when you should have been doing something else?

Have you ever hidden books from your family (in the bathroom, in the garage, in the trunk of your car, etc.)?

Scoring:

If you answered yes:

To 8 - 13 of the questions, your addiction is well established. Seek the advice of a professional immediately -- libraries, booksellers and discussion groups can recommend new authors you would enjoy. You have probably exhausted your personal library.

To 4 - 7 of the questions, you are a problem reader. This on-line community can tip you into the addicted category; just breathe easy and stick with us.

To 1 - 3 of the questions, you hardly qualify as a reader at all. Do not despair; this can be remedied and we are here to help you. Start slowly with a subject you really enjoy, and with repeat appointments you too will soon see the reading light on the end-table.


Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I better get off this book pornfest to read an actual library book.

I like Stanley Coren but by gosh I am ready to write him to get an actual technical illustrator for his books, he wastes way too much verbiage on what could be described in a few pictures.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I like to read things like SkyMall. You know, free. Except for Joel's books, which I pay cash money for, I visit the library.

Plus, I think this one librarian kinda has a thing for me. When she says "these will be due the 22nd" I am convinced there is a deeper meaning. In fact, this hidden meaning is so deep that I suspect she herself is ignorant of it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 16, 2006 7:53 PM | Report abuse

OK, I ordered all of the above (I could have done without the "Tarot" and the "Cats", but they were such a good deal, I figured that I might as well take a shot!), as well as several more. I got out for just over $120. Bear in mind that I have an 18-inch stack from the local library, and several personal loans as well. I'm a sick, sick man!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Really wish you hadn't posted that test, Yoki. I scored 12 out of 13. Only one I didn't hit was dreaming I was a character. Nailed every other one.

I am lost, lost.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 7:57 PM | Report abuse

WI, of course, have a score of 13, since how else would I have thought of those questions while composing it? I've done/have all of them.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 8:07 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, there is probably a Dantesque circle just for us lost ones. I, of course, have a score of 13, since I thought of the questions while composing the quiz just now. I've done/have all of them.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 8:09 PM | Report abuse

But, Mudge, do you dream of your own literary characters? Or write down your dreams as stories?

That one should be a bonus question.

As for me... sadly, I think I'd be a better writer if I was unconscious than conscious.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Apologies. I don't know why the 08:07 posted when I was still editing it. Please disregard 08:07 and read 08:09. Thank you. Resume speed.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 8:18 PM | Report abuse

I only ever had that experience once, Wilbrod. Woke up one morning (not exactly from a dream, but maybe must have been) and had an entire novel in my head--characters, plot, various aspects and details, the whole thing virtually "finished" in my head; all I have to do is sit down some day and type it up (which is kinda boring, in a way--usually when I write, I don't know any more about what's gonna happen next than anybody else).

I have never otherwise dreamed about any of my characters and stories, but do think about them more or less constantly when I'm awake, often when driving. My wife on occasion has caught me staring out the window or otherwise doing something that appears to be "idle," and asked me what I was doing. "Working," I replied. I don't think she believes me, but it's true.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 16, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm not at all sure when I'm a better writer. I don't write extended pieces professionally, and my personal writing is sufficiently sporadic that I don't have any great sense of my strengths.

I suspect that I'm better with non-fiction than fiction (my poetry is both rare and generally quite forgettable), and my non-fiction is probably more readable when well-researched and exhaustively self-edited. But that DO cut into my output!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

On another subject:

"Two churches in the West Bank were hit by firebombs Saturday, and a group claiming responsibility said it was protesting [Pope] Benedict's words."

Well, of course!

I'm often amazed by my own self-restraint in not committing firebombings in protest of all the things I hear that just annoy the heck out of me!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Yoki: //Do you crave a chapter or two at the same time every day?//

Not really. It's tough enough to finish coloring one chapter a day.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 16, 2006 8:33 PM | Report abuse

SuperFrenchie has, in case you didn't know, been working with Prez. Bush on his coloring technique, so that a more nuanced and less blundering view of the world might appear on the White House refrigerator.

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh Yoki, I'm gonna blame you all right... I'll have a tune cootie every time I see your name now.

And I just got fifth-row tickets to see Barenaked Ladies in November... at the GMU Patriot Center, which is just about four minutes from my house. (Thanks to the Ladies Room presale program.)

"If I were John and you were Yoko, I would gladly give up musical genius...."

Posted by: TBG | September 16, 2006 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Hah, that reminds me. I have a friend who is a novelist, and who has a three-year old son. For the Christmas letter last year, Rob enclosed one of Will's typical 3 yo crayon drawing, just scribbles. The letter was in the form of an art critic's comments:

This year, we see that Will has been exploring in more depth the place of man in nature, as well as the implications for humanity of the current security situation. The compelling reds at the margins compliment Will's delicate use of moist cheerio in the centre to balance the composition in favour of generosity...

Killingly funny.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Really... I've dreamed complete stories, but you know, there is always more you can add on to that barebones story. Like the before and after. Dreams provide you the scenes, the imagery.

Like the hero vs wizard's duel I once dreamed about. I started wondering if it was a pyrrhic victory for the hero... and if it wasn't in fact rigged for the wizard to lose, and I had a pretty good story idea right there. Probably not a full novel, though-- more like an intense short story.

Of course, when I once mentioned I dreamed so-so to a friend of mine, he said "your dreams have PLOTS?" He said his was just full of random action, you know.

...Well, so is most of 20th century modern fiction (ahem.).



Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I apologize, but I feel that it's vital that all of you (especially those with pets and/or young children) be aware of the availability of this product:
---

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* Dis-Taste® helps stop stool-eating behavior
* Makes feces taste awful to dogs
* Is the most effective product available for this disorder

This easy and natural treatment will quickly help put an end to your dog's disturbing and potentially dangerous habit of eating stools, which can be a means of transferring disease. Veterinarian-formulated from pure, naturally-fermented vegetables, these easy-to-use tablets or granules use vegetable extracts which pass through the intestines and react with stools to make them unpalatable to the dog. Triple Strength Dis-Taste® for dogs 30 lbs or larger. Feed in tablet form or sprinkle Powder onto food. For dogs only. Not for pregnant or nursing animals.

---

"Why," you ask, "for the love of all that's pleasant and civil? Why?!?!"

My answer is the same as Mallory's: "Because it's there!"

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever neglected your family duties because you wanted to read?

Yoki, the story of my life!

I am now going to ignore the dinner dishes (fresh Pacific salmon...yum, yum) to feast on a story about a band of religious firebrands who boarded a small ship to cross an ocean and landed on the icy shores of Massachusetts in December of 1620.

If we're moving subject-wise to Bush bashing, here's MoDo's take today on the "Third Awakening":

Besides saying he's in "a struggle between good and evil" -- which inflames many Muslims -- W. told the columnists he thought America might be experiencing "a Third Awakening," a religious fervor, because people he meets in rope lines tell him they're praying for him. That could also be because W.'s policies have led to so much global chaos and hatred for America, his supporters know he needs more prayers.

"I got into politics initially because I wanted to help change a culture," he said. He wanted to banish the old 60's "if it feels good, do it" culture and "help usher in an era of personal responsibility."

He has changed American culture, for sure. Bustling under Bill Clinton, the nation is now insecure about its moral force and military force. The president should take responsibility for the hash he's made, instead of insisting every decision was correct, and come up with more astute cultural and military analyses. The "awakening" should be W.'s.


Posted by: Loomis | September 16, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like it! There's nothing so pompous-sounding as that kind of an art critique.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, 10 out of 13 for me, and I'm not sure I couldn't say yes to the other three!

When my husband and I got married, he asked me how many of the books were staying. All of them, of course.

And I've added to the collection and filled all the available shelf space. They are now piling up on the floor. I promised myself I'd cull when I retire and have time. Recently, I looked over one of the bookcases and realized there are very few I will wish to part with...

Ruhrow.

Posted by: Slyness | September 16, 2006 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Yoki - Killingly funny, yup! Please let your friend know that I've passed the line (with "Rob, friend of Yoki & father of Will" attribution) along to a couple of young-kid's-parents that I know. Very funny, indeed!

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

The scariest Twilight Zone ever was the one with the man in the vault when the Bomb was dropped who comes out to find he's the only one left. He goes to the library and is coming out loaded down with books when he trips and his (very thick) glasses break. Alas, all the time in the world to read and blind as a bat.
Only got an 8 on the test, once this house is finished (like that's gonna happen in my lifetime) I'm sure I could retest and get an eleven.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 16, 2006 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Slyness - When I moved to the D.C. area in 1997, I was leaving behind a lot of things that mattered to me. The woman who I was divorcing was the most important thing, certainly (fortunately, no kids were involved), but that was a mutual and (I think/hope) helpful decision.

Next, the several thousand books. I had nowhere to put them and didn't have the means to have them stored. I don't cry over it (much), but THAT was thirty or so years of semi-careful purchases that I miss.

Important note: This was not her fault. I had nowhere to put them, and she couldn't keep them forever. Oh, well, it's psychically freeing to let go of things, yes?

Posted by: Bob S. | September 16, 2006 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, large private libraries and the gypsy renter life just doesn't mix. You could have given out to friends you had a hope of re-borrowing from.

It's good to have a free-floating lending library among a circle of friends, in fact I lend books whenever I think they will be appreciated, I do generally get them back.

Only once did somebody really forget to give me back a book, and it was brand-new book on horses. A friend in another class begged to read it, so I lent it, I was in fourth grade-- BEFORE reading it. I never got it back and I was steaming I hadn't read it yet. I changed schools and um, when I saw that pal again in middle school, my first phrase was "do you still have my book on horses?"

Yeah, killed any hope of having that friend come within 10 feet of me ever again. I also had a novel about things vanishing into unreality that also mysteriously vanished that year.

Motto #1: always read before lending.
Motto #2: Take hostages when you lend.
Motto #3: If the book takes 10 years to come back, great! You'll enjoy it all the more when you get it back.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Mudge... love the copywriting. My sister used to write catalog copy for a publishing company with titles containing words like "Treatise" in them. That's tough work, too.

On a side note... when she told my husband she was a copywriter, he asked if she was the person who draws the little circle around the C. As in ©.

Posted by: TBG | September 16, 2006 9:42 PM | Report abuse

this is probably an act of enablement, but for all you deal-searching book-aholics, i recommend www.bookfinder.com. it searches all major online book listings and is great for used and out-of-print books.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | September 16, 2006 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Also www.addall.com

Searches all the used-book sites. You pretty much need to know the title or ISBN number, but you can really find some good stuff.

We should start some sort of support group for people with books piled up on the floor and every flat surface.

Posted by: TBG | September 16, 2006 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I am proud, or shamed, to state that I scored rather low in the reading addiction test. I limit my reading to about an hour every evening down in the playroom surrounded by the pet rabbits. However, I seldom miss a night. I guess I am what could be called a "maintenance reader."

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 16, 2006 9:59 PM | Report abuse

TBG: I'm so happy for you! I love the BNL, but haven't seen them live since, well, ever. I have all their albums. "Just to have you as my own personal Venus." Do you know the Arrogant Worms? How are you doing? Are you holding up OK?

Here is a little story for you. My grandmother lived with my mother toward the end of her life, and died at home in her own room surrounded by her daughter and son and granddaughter and great-granddaughters (#1 and #2 were then 6 and 3.5 yo). It was really wonderful and moving.

#1 came to me a few weeks later and told me, very seriously, that when I got old, she would look after me. She would, to quote, "drive you to the library to get your books every week, and if you want, we'll even pick up some groceries." And then she added, "And when you get really old and sick and need someone to look after you... call #2!" I still laugh, 14 years later.

RDP: you're doing fine. When you have wee ones, maintenance reading is a bit commitment and a victory.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

10 for sure. None of them just once.

I was sick once with an inner ear infection, and took the time to read Irving Stones The Agaony and The Ecstasy. I was better the next day, but stayed home to finish the book. Since it was a nice day, I went outside and lay in the sun which gave me a reaction to the meds I was on. I ended up being off work for almost another 2 weeks. I also read Stone's The Greek Treasuer, and a book about John Adams or his wife. I can't remember the last. I'm pretty sure that part was when I was really sick. But it was the best read fest I ever had. I still have both of the Stone books. I've done it since, but not in a long time now. I may have to take that up again.

Addicted doesn't even come close.

Oh and yes it is just 2 times ever online. It was really very thrilling, hitting that submit button, and knowing that in very short order books would be on their way. The first time I did it, I knew if I didn't take myself firmly in hand, I was in deep doodoo.

Posted by: dr | September 16, 2006 10:24 PM | Report abuse

I have glanced through SkyMall occasionally, but I find that it has practically no effect on my desires. I think it's the core-of-my-being certainty that if these things were neither (a) badly made, nor (b) not worth having, then they would be marketed through established outlets, who have never been terribly shy about their own urge to make money by convincing you that you need something. Please do not disabuse me of my beliefs about SkyMall. Who knows what damage could ensue? Surely not any hilarity.

(Wow! On re-reading, I boggle my own mind with the number of nested and/or consecutive negations are in that paragraph.)

In the ScienceHousehold, we powerfully heart Jonathan Coulton (referenced earlier, for a song about SkyMall, which I have not yet heard). His "Re: Your Brains" and "I Feel Fantastic!" are the source of recurring tune cooties. "All I know is, steak tastes better, when I take my Steak-Tastes-Better pill."

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 16, 2006 10:25 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "big"

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Before I log off for the day, I should let you all know that pursuant to the previous boodle, I have been informed by sources on scene, that there was 16 inches of snow in the foothills and trees are down all over.

I'm not laughing hardly at all and the supreme being is a woman with a honey do jar.

Posted by: dr | September 16, 2006 10:29 PM | Report abuse

dr, did you like Stone? I have an original signature of his dedicated to me after I wrote to him for a project (about the book about John and Abigail Adams, of which I now
cannot recall the title). I wonder where it is? If I hadn't shopped for so many consumer goods and filled up the house with unnecessary desires, I'd probably know where to lay my hand on it.

Posted by: Yoki | September 16, 2006 10:35 PM | Report abuse

In the not-distant future, I envision a time in which our Things; our Things That Take Care of Our Things; and our Things That Take Care of the Needs of Our Things That Take Care of Our Things; will form such a complete and perfect symbiosis that our involvement no longer will be required. In fact, it will be frowned-upon, like Users mucking with the intricate perfection of a well-tuned computer system by actually engaging in any User-initiated activity. We will be required not as initiators, nor as consumers. We will be superfluous to this closed system. I cannot decide whether this will be a good thing. Will we be exiled back into something like nature, to evolve a new society and a new mode of life? Or will we be eliminated, not out of overt hostility, but merely as a source of friction to the system? You may think this dystopian view is one of fearing a robot revolt. I am more concerned, however, by humans who think that the purpose of human society is to become efficient. The ultimate efficiency is to eliminate human vagary. I guess it's just a morbid bias, but I'm inclined to believe in the primacy of the future that assigns the central motivation to human cluelessness and sociopathology. This sort of gloom-and-doom predicting would be so much simpler if I weren't so given to being cheerful. I apologize for my mixture of messages.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 16, 2006 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Yoki,

I'm doing OK. Thanks for asking. Started getting very sad yesterday when thinking of the everyday things I'm going to miss. I really got to know my dad well in the past two years since my mom died. Like my sister said in her beautiful eulogy, "no more Mom to hand the phone to."

One time when my son was around 3, he was mad at me and told me, "when you get old, I won't bring you grapes," which is something my dad did for his mom when she was old and in a nursing home. [I really shouldn't tell that story since my son is a lovely young man and I'm sure will bring me grapes regularly.]

My daughter, on the other hand, while my mom was sick, assured me that she'll take care of me when I'm old and sick.

I'm lucky to have both my wonderful children; they are amazing.

I don't know the Arrogant Worms but will check them out on iTunes right now. I have seen BNL twice so far (fifth row and third row) and sent my kids last time they were in the area. This time my son and I going and we look forward to finally being able to wait outside and meet the band after the show.

I'm such a nerd.

Posted by: TBG | September 16, 2006 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm a little confused, but if society ever becomes totally automated, then we'll see dogs and wildlife taking advantage of or sabotaging the system. Rat chew wires, etc. It sounds like a dystopia in the making to me.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 16, 2006 10:55 PM | Report abuse

hahahahaha, dr!

I have to admit that I do not "know" the BNL, despite being a music geek. I know *of* them, of course. I will have to get some CD's from the library. Any recommendations?

Yes, book addict for sure. We moved too many times and now live in too small a house for me to indulge in book ownership in a large way. Only recently did I clear the piles of books in front of the bookshelves so I could store more CD's, which are even more of an organization nightmare for me than books.

And oh my, you should see my web browser bookmarks!

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 16, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

My favorite BNL CDs are their first one (Gordon) and Maybe You Should Drive... and Stunt... and oh yeah, Maroon.

I have their newest that came out last week (Barenaked Ladies are Me), but hate to admit I haven't heard it yet. Haven't spent any time alone in the car.

That'll change when I start back to work next week. I'm actually looking forward to rush hour so I can listen to the CD.

Posted by: TBG | September 16, 2006 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I have been off line for seven days trying to attend to the death of a rather distant uncle. Distant or not, it is difficult. I've been away from the boodle, away from my own home, away from my very dependant cat. And today, everyone has gone, I am left alone with my aunt, who is 82. I want to write about her another day.

So I feel stressed.

And then I finally got to the boodle and there is RD, talking about his experiences with SkyMail, and I just felt at home and better. Thanks.

by the way, this is my uncle's computer. He learned all about computers when he was 80. He died at 92. At the service we found he was still admired in the community, altho he retired from the California Highway Patrol in 1974!

Posted by: nellie | September 17, 2006 12:32 AM | Report abuse

My condolences on the occasion of your loss, nellie. Catalogues are insidious. They make you long, in the southern vernacular, to be better than your raisin'. We learned in an in-service workshop that if you find yourself in a store (like Sonoma-Williams) or browsing a catalogue, not really knowing what all that stuff is for that you don't belong there. You've put yourself in a position beyond your raisin'. To put it simply, you're not of the upper class. You ought to hear what is said of the middle class phenomena of white bread.

Posted by: jack | September 17, 2006 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Nellie, so sorry for your loss. Look after yourself as well as you can.

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 9:08 AM | Report abuse

nellie, I'm sorry to hear of your loss.

Mudge, I actually worked on "She-Devils on Wheels." The less said about that, the better.

I'm sorry I haven't been so Boodleactive )(Boodleicious?) lately, there's been a lot going on at work and at home (renovating three rooms at once), and in other places (building three race cars at once as well).

I guess you could call it Reallyactive. Things should calm down by the second week of November. Honestly.

And trust me, you've seen catalogs, but when a JC Whitney, Harbor Freight, Year One or Jeg's catalog hits your mailbox it's a whole different ballgame. Not much prose, just parts lists and prices.

I scored 11 out of 13 (I'm with Mudge on the "never dreamed I was a character" thing, and I can't recall having hidden a book,. Well, as an *adult*, anyway.) on Yoki's questionnaire.

Couple more comments (and stuff that I have in common with Mudge, anyway), story ideas come to me full-blown, and I try to write them down as they come to me, in the car, eating lunch, reading a newspaper, wherever. I have a couple of file folders with hand written story outlines and notes. I thought there were in there 20-30 a week or so ago. I checked, and there's 74 in there. And those are the ones I haven't unpacked from when we moved 5 years ago.

Sheesh.

Talk about Failure to Launch. I'm Working for The Man, patching drywall, trimming the yard, painting, rewiring electrical, when I should be following my Muse!

Oh well.

bc

Posted by: bc | September 17, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

11 of 13 on Yoki's test. The only reason I haven't exhausted my library is working 3 jobs, reading technical papers, and squandering all my remaining time reading the Boodle.

Posted by: Dooley | September 17, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

It is interesting to me how we define "class" cf. jack's of 01:03.

Under the British definition of upper class, people of that station would not have a clue what anything in Williams Sonoma was for, because they still have servants who handle tools. Remember late in Brideshead Revisted, during the war when Charles remarks on Julia arriving at the house carrying parcels? It looks wrong to him, because until all the staff went to work for the war effort, she'd never carried a thing, not even a handbag. Many of the gentry didn't even carry money, because anywhere they went they were extended credit.

I've heard Canadians call me upper class, which is ridiculous. I've never known why. Because I have an education? Because I work in a white collar? Because I have a large vocabulary (and am not afraid to use it)? My grandfathers were a stone cutter and a factory owner, pure working class if ever there was such a thing. My father and his brother were the first generation in that family to go to University and gain professions. My mother's Dad (the stone cutter) would not even let her go to University, because he didn't believe women needed to be educated. She got there evenutally (yay Mum!). We certainly are not from a "good family". And I clean my own house and cook all our meals and look after my kids. Sounds solidly middle class to me!

I believe that in North America class is not defined by family or social station so much as by wealth and education. And I do believe jack is correct when he fingers 'lifestyle' advertising for the feeling so many of us have that we are somehow falling behind if we don't have all the stuff that is dangled before us so enticeingly. Catalogues, television makeover shows; if we aren't thin and have the latest style kitchen appliances and a big house and a new car, we're 'poor.' Makes me think, for sure. I blame Curmudgeon.

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm envious of you people who receive stories full blown. I more generally start with a "what if" question, and the answer as worked out in the story is as much a process of surprise to me as to anyone else. Well, only to me, since I've had little published. Stupidly sold all the rights to my only novel to a publisher, who then decided not to do anyting with it. Ack!

The only thing that comes to me whole, and I believe this to be the result of some sort of mis-wiring of the language centres of my brain (or perhaps a mental illess), is terrible doggerel rhymes. I often have to actually edit my answers to questions at work because they are just as likely to come out as a two to four-line pome as prose. It used to amuse #1 and #2 when they were little, but it gets a little wearying when you live with it all the time. I even dream in rhyme, sometimes. If you ever come across me banging my head against a wall and shouting "Shut up! Shut up!" please be assured I am not talking to you.

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, you shouldn't read Weingarten then. It would be a terrible fate to dream in higgledy piggledys (double dactyls).

This is the article you absolutely must, on all accounts, avoid, concerning the poet laureate of the US.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/01/AR2006080100809.html

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I read Weingarten (or did, and will again, if he ever comes back to work). My friends and I have composed dactyls for years:

Higgledy Piggledy
Thomas Stearns Eliot
Wrote obscure poetry
Much of the time.

The Waste Land, not Graceland
Was where he bred lilacs;
Ezra redacted it, where
the hell is the rhyme?

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Higgledy Piggledy
Juliet Capulet
Loved a young Montegue
They wanted to wed

The parents objected
The children defected
And everyone ended
up dead

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, you should become a preacher. Jesse Jackson has the same malady. I remember once he gave a speech on drugs when I was a kid, and he started degenerating into rhyme. The expression on the teachers/interpreters was unforgettable.

I don't remember what he said but it could have been this (real quote):

"Today's students can put dope in their veins or hope in their brains. If they can conceive it and believe it, they can achieve it. They must know it is not their aptitude but their attitude that will determine their altitude."

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Neat! Since I have to measure meter with a careful yardstick and a dictionary, I keep coming up short with any rigorous poetic form. Of course, I'm always short (insert obligatory "I never grew up" joke here).

I would love a meter-check for my verse. It should be possible... just have all the accent marks show up when a keystroke is hit.

To clerihews, then.

Ex-editor Curmudgeon
Gave up his blue ink bludgeon
To pen a few (unsold) thrillers
Grouses he now, "those editors are joy-killers"

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Those double D's are pretty good, Yoki.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

We get a HUGE assortment of catalogues at our house, ranging from golf to law book to book to clothing, male and female, to gadget, to general, to toy (U.S. Toys wins over "intelligent" toy catalogues every time). Mainly we just recycle. Some of the book catalogues get read, also Vermont Country Store and an occasional clothing outlet. Too much. Makes me not even want to wish!

I've never started or published anything (maybe because I write for a living) so mercifully could not get a perfect score on the Test of Willpower. As the Boy gets older and more self-sufficient I've regained time for personal reading. I still read to him at bedtime, and occasionally inflict an age-appropriate personal favorite. This month it has been Shirley Jackson's accounts of life with her husband & children, "Life Among the Savages" and "Raising Demons". I'm pleased to report that he's completely addicted.

I enjoyed yesterday's Boodle comments but was too exhausted last night to type.

Annie, I'm sorry to hear about your uncle.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 17, 2006 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, Nellie, not Annie. Terribly sorry. Probably shouldn't be typing now.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 17, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Avast, mateys! Are we having an emergency Pirate BPH on Tuesday?

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Off topic,
Mudge, you sound like a smart guy, so I can't understand after doing duty in the Merchant Marine black gang and writing catalog copy for a major boating supply outfit, how you ever decided to buy a wooden hole in the water to pour money into?

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Bh...should he pour it into his grown-up kids instead?

At least he gets some fun out of it, and once he becomes famous he can offload the boat to some sucker for more than he paid. If it doesn't sink first.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod , I wasn't suggesting an alternative. But I think he has suggested a few times he already did that.

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

My hole in the water is fiberglass (although I love wooden holes in the water better, I'm not totally off my rocker, nor rich enough to be so). But boats are a sore subject at the moment. I just got back a little while ago from visiting mine, which is up on land. She's got a leak in her fuel tank, which at this very moment is a 9-foot-long aluminum coffin reposing in the bed of my pickup truck en route to someone who can fix it (if I can find said expert). Cash flow reduction will undoubtedly ensue.

Intelligence and boats have nothing in common; it's just another form of addiction, like buying books.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 17, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

I take it bh is a sailor; that definitely sounded like a post with fellow feeling and in jokes.

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

That'd be my guess, too, Yoki. Either way, bh has my number, though; I've previously owned four wooden boats.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 17, 2006 7:31 PM | Report abuse

My dad used to say the two happiest days in a man's life were the day he bought his boat and the day he sold it.

Posted by: TBG | September 17, 2006 7:32 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I think my mother's husband would agree. He constructed his first boat at 12 (a wooden canoe with a keel board and mast, go figure, which he still has) and moved up to 12 and 15 and 26 foot saling craft. Only reluctantly after his stroke at the age of 79 did he sell the last one; he was very unhappy at the prospect, and then felt freed when the deal was done. At that point, it was really too much for him.

Although he'll offer to crew (and do a fabulous job) for most anyone.

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, friends. Really, really, late today. Couldn't hook up with you folks earlier. Don't know why, just wouldn't go to WashPost. Perhaps it's the ghost in the machine or something on that order. Hope your weekend was all you wanted it to be, and so much more. Getting ready for bed. Sorry about your uncle, Nellie. Just wanted to pop in and say hello. And to tell you as always that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

The Math and Reading Program starts September 28, 2006. Wish me luck!

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 17, 2006 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Good luck! I'm sure it will be a success; how could it fail, with your dedication to the cause?

Posted by: Yoki | September 17, 2006 8:41 PM | Report abuse

RD, I looked up the reference you made about me, passive-aggressive. A person with those traits is not a nice person at all. In fact, a person like that needs to be in therapy. I did not know that I come across as being passive-aggressive. I cannot afford therapy so I'll probably have to do a lot of praying to change those traits. Learn something new everyday, and most of the time it's not good. That really hurts.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 17, 2006 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, that's the mistake people make when they use psychology terms on the street. Everybody with a lot of energy and sense of humor is now a maniac, and so on.

I missed RD's remarks but if you are passive-aggressive by his definition, so was Jesus. Somebody who turneth away anger with a kind word is not passive-aggressive.

My belief (without looking it up) is that people who are passive-aggressive cannot speak about their feelings nor do they know how to vent normally. Instead they rely on delayed punishment/revenge, or going postal.

For mild passive-aggressives, I think, when they do complain, it may be months after the fact and it's a pile all at once.

As far as I can see, you are consistently upfront about your feelings.
I can't see a reason to consider you passive-aggressive.


Posted by: Wilbrod | September 17, 2006 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, this is for you:

http://img246.imageshack.us/my.php?image=churchsignoz2.jpg

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 17, 2006 9:22 PM | Report abuse

No yoki, I'm not a sailor,Iwas a hip boot Coasti in the early '60s and had to put a lot of really nice wooden life boats into the Treasure Island dump. I was the Industrial Manager at Yerbra Island and we put the first three fiber glass 44 footersinto service on the Pacific coast.
Did you see Rocky run that kickoff back 100 yards!

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Mudge, Your blue bottom photo a few weeks ago looked wooden to me. a retired navy aquaintance of mine just got his 45 wooden cruiser put back together after having to remove the deck to get a leaking fuel tank removed.

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes, that was a heck of a run--had me standing up out of my chair and yelling at the TV, "Go! Go! Go!"

But I don't believe all the penalties and the missed tackles I'm seeing. Very discouraging. I don't think the good guys are gonna win this one.

Visiting my boat was very dis-spiriting today--she's all "gutted" with the sole removed, the galley table struck down, couch pushed back, two ladders removed, and this big gaping hole right in the center of the boat where the tank used to be. Kinda like one of those autopsy scenes on CSI where the body is lying there and all the innards are removed.

I thought I had also lost my bimini top when Ernesto came through, but although it the bimin frame had blown down, everything was basically OK. I took the bimini off to take it home for the winter, put down the frame, put on the winter cockpit cover, and took several dozen sodas out of the refrigerator (turned off) and took them home. Also brought home several bottles of wine and two bottles of booze I kept onboard--no sense leaving on board for kids/vandals/boatyard employees to come across and "liberate." Closing a boat up for the winter is always a sad ritual, especially when she's in pieces. My wife was more upset than me, because we hadn't got to use the boat one single time this summer, after all the work we did getting her ready and putting the new name on the stern.

I'm sorry I missed the Eagles/Giants game. Sounds like it was a barn-burner.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 17, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Finally a sack. Been waiting all *&$#@% night for that.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 17, 2006 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Like you feeling like you are pouring..............

My landloard is from Philly and was preparing to send him a congratulation email then the wheels fell off. It was a barn burner in the first half that turned into a somouldering heap of ashes in the 4th qtr. Nice burner for NY.
Cowboys-Redskins are turning booooring.

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 10:34 PM | Report abuse

WOW, my last post just made feel how old I am. I '64 we put the newest most modern motor life boat in service and now I just remembered that last year we were over at Brookings and they had a 44 footer up on chocks being restored as a historical project.
Oh damn. Typing this I just heard somebody in the other room just made a touchdown :(

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 10:54 PM | Report abuse

If you think the Redskins game is depressing, you ought read a great story by WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/16/AR2006091600193.html) on how Arbusto's people recruited Bush Loyalists to go work in Iraq, rather than professionals who knew their jobs. The two most incredible stories involve a hack medical guy named Haveman, and Bernie Kerik, who was supposed to re-build the police. It's as bad as --or probably worse than, if such a thing is possible -- the FEMA breakdown over Katrina, with hack like Great Job Brownie.

Actually this story didn't depress me; it enraged me. If any single thing distinguishes what's wrong with the Bush White House, it is this crap.

Some excerpts:

"The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting."

"Interviews with scores of former CPA personnel over the past two years depict an organization that was dominated -- and ultimately hobbled -- by administration ideologues."

"To recruit the people he wanted, O'Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists. He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.
He and his staff used an obscure provision in federal law to hire many CPA staffers as temporary political appointees, which exempted the interviewers from employment regulations that prohibit questions about personal political beliefs."

"One former CPA employee who had an office near O'Beirne's wrote an e-mail to a friend describing the recruitment process: "I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to 'the President's vision for Iraq' (a frequently heard phrase at CPA) was 'uncertain.' I saw senior civil servants from agencies like Treasury, Energy . . . and Commerce denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC (Republican National Committee) contributors."

"I'm not here for the Iraqis," one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. "I'm here for George Bush."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 17, 2006 11:01 PM | Report abuse

I saw the headline of the story on WpPo hme page but didn't bother to read it. I've heard many storys like that over the past 4+ years.
Friday's rant/press conference sounds like GWB is starting to loose it. Probably having a hard time getting those neoconservative volunteers to re-up.

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 11:10 PM | Report abuse

I read that article Mudge, and it dovetails nicely with Fiasco, which I have been reading on and off all weekend. Angry, yes very, but also disgusted that with all the brains and talent in this country, we gave Iraq such a bunch of f#$ ups and morons instead. But it seems to be the 'mo' for this administration.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 17, 2006 11:13 PM | Report abuse

I think if I hear that *&%$#@&^%$#@*&^%$# *&^%$# *^%$#%^^&^$# CITTI I.D. theft commercial with the girl singing "Unbreak my heart" one more time, I'm gonna break my television.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 17, 2006 11:18 PM | Report abuse

"In Gloryously"

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 11:19 PM | Report abuse

I guess we are blessed in the West. We get our satellite feed from LA and haven't heard that commerical.

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 11:24 PM | Report abuse

An engloryously "fitting end."

Posted by: bh | September 17, 2006 11:32 PM | Report abuse

How did we go from one of the least corrupt administrations to one of the most corrupt administrations ever?

Ironically, Clinton ran his administration more like a real business- he picked talented and able people on the basis of their resumes, not family connections or personal wealth.

Fair hiring practices as dictated by modern American law.

Arrrrbusto (practicing for Tuesday), in spite of his "business experience" is running the White House more like a Frat house. Bring a keg and a few conservative creditenials, funny handshakes if you want to get in. And nobody's reading your resume. I mean, from arabian horses to hurricanes?

I don't believe that anybody can be sincerely and honestly conservative and believe in that kind of Ford Edsel.


Posted by: Wilbrod | September 18, 2006 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Superfrenchie, love the sign, and thanks a bunch. Wilbrod, you are right about throwing around those kinds of mental terms, it is a little upsetting. I really don't understand too much of it, just figure it is not a good thing. I was thinking don't we all sort of fall in that category? I mean when one says they have good days and bad days, barring illness, isn't that basically what is said? We all get upset, and say stuff, and we all can be really nice sometimes, but not all the time. Of course, there are folks that are not nice at any time, but I'm talking about most people.

Do you believe we, those of us that participate here on the Achenblog, are more open and free with our feelings because we basically don't have to encounter each other in physical form? And yes, I know we have the "porching hour", but that aside, do you think what we have here, and the rest of the blogs, is a "free form", for lack of a better word? I can say what I want to say, and know that I'm not going to encounter you at any point of my existence. Would my conversation be different if I knew I would see you on a daily basis? Is this like "forbidden fruit" in a sense? Just something I wonder about.

Hope your weekend was good, and everybody got some rest. I still feel tired. Got to walk this morning, and dreading it already. Pat, will try to post sky update later after the walk. Have a good day folks. Got a lot of work to do to get ready for the math and reading. Found out yesterday the lady that works with me is home with her sick grandson. He has pneumonia(sp). I'll give her a call today and see how he is, I hope better.

I've said my prayers this morning, and I've prayed for you too. I've asked God to provide whatever is needed in your life, and to bless you to the highest, and in doing so, just maybe, you will come to know that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 18, 2006 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Yoki, for the vote of confidence. I need all the help I can get, the church leadership is already giving me grief, some, not all.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 18, 2006 6:02 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra:

http://img95.imageshack.us/my.php?image=churchsignph1.jpg

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 18, 2006 6:57 AM | Report abuse

I read the entire "expose" on incompetence in the CPA. Not much new except for the anecdotes. Everyone knew from Day 1 it was overrun with hacks and cronies. A three page article in the WaPo won't do any good. When National Review starts running articles called "Who Lost Iraq?" change will start hapeening.

I read 'Florence of Arabia' by Christopher Buckley over the weekend. Some of it is too funny to be true and some is too true to be funny. It also has the best "twist" ending since the movie 'The President's Analyst'.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 18, 2006 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra - I did not mean to cause offense. I was using "passive agressive" in a non-technical way, in that it is better to take an active part in a difficult discussion rather than "passively" avoid it and then "actively" criticise it when it is over.

Everyone exhibits certain psychological traits now and then without needing therapy. We can be paranoid, neurotic, manic, and depressed one day and fine the other. Again, no criticism of your mental health was intended!

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 18, 2006 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Pat, this morning the sky is bright, bright, and the lake is shiny and smooth, not a ripple in sight. The sun is so bright, one has to turned the head and not look directly at it. The mist and fog was slowly easing up as if to offer a courtesy to the sun. And the lake is almost covered in green by the water lilies that look like a green blanket with white flowers. The ducks were quiet this morning, not even flapping their wings, just taking in the beauty of it all.

RD, thanks for the offering. I try real hard to stand for what I believe, but being the weak creature that I am, so often I fail miserably. And you are correct in that assessment.

Good morning, Nani and Error Flynn. Still missing you something awful.

Good morning, Slyness. Hope your weekend was good.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 18, 2006 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, I have a great big smile on my face, and an even bigger feeling in my heart. Thank you, thank you.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 18, 2006 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Frankenstein: "Whose brain did I put into my creation?"

Igor: "Ummm...I think it was...Abby..."

Frankenstein: "Abby who?..."

Igor: "Abby Normal"

Posted by: jack | September 18, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra:

http://img87.imageshack.us/img87/2408/churchsignmd0.jpg

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 18, 2006 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Some of the better "catalogues" are online and noncommercial. A neat, soon-to-be-upgraded one I like is
http://maen.huh.harvard.edu:8080/china
Biodiversity of the Hengduan Mountains Region, China. Actually, it's mostly plants, many of them small alpine species. But what plants! It's like the Rockies on steroids, a real biodiversity hotspot with excellent photos.

It seems that the Brits are pretty good at shipping to the US (despite occasional hassles with Customs) but they suffer from the exchange rate. http://www.ctshirts.co.uk/default.aspx?progrpcode=share has expensive but comfortable non-iron dress shirts.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | September 18, 2006 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Pat, fog and low clouds running across the sky make the sun look like a ping pong ball emitting low, then more intense, then blinding amounts of light before losing that intensity and disappearing, again and again. It's going to be in the 80's today and I don't think I'll be saying that too many more times this year.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 18, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse

The discussion of tags for personality traits reminds me of a good parenting lesson I learned. When I was growing up, my parents insisted on a cheerful demeanor at all times, no matter what the feelings behind it. Nobody wanted to deal with feelings, because that would involve, potentially, empathy and even, perish the thought, apologies. Just not on the agenda for my authoritarian parents.

When I was thinking of starting my own family I tried to learn as much as I could about child development, etc. so as to avoid some of the mistakes I felt had been made for generations in my family of origin.

And one of the first things to jump out at me was a description of the various ways people generally react to emotional stress. Denial; hostility (fight); or withdrawal (flight) to examine those feelings.

This helped me examine my own and my children's (and Himself's) behaviours more productively than I might otherwise have. What my parents called "sulking" I call "withdrawing."

Posted by: Yoki | September 18, 2006 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Pat, with the temperature this morning below freezing, but with no clouds, this morning I saw a perfect midnight blue bowl of a sky with sharp pinpoints of stars and planets.

Posted by: Yoki | September 18, 2006 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday it rained hard all morning (hurrah!) followed by flat gray skies. Today the air is cool and most of the sky is a beautiful blue. There was a low streak of cloud in the east, gray at the bottom and streaky white on top, which was incandescent as the sun lit it from behind before rising about it. The Boy told me that strip of cloud went all the way to the Texas border (about 200 miles, give or take).

Superfrenchie, those signs are so cool!

Cassandra, remember you can't ever make all the people happy with your work. If some of the folks are criticizing you already, you must be doing something right. Remember, they'd rather you do it than do it themselves. It means (a) someone else is doing the work and (b) they get to complain about it. Sometimes when that happens I thank people for their thoughts and very sweetly ask them to step in with their ideas. NEVER happens. It doesn't stop the criticism, but at least everyone can see what's going on.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 18, 2006 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"Boodle Trivia"

Recently "boodle" was the word of the day at Wordsmith.com, and I reported it here; you may remember they gave the meaning as "An illegal payment, as in graft." Here are the responses they got:

====================
From: Bill MundtSubject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--boodle
Refer: http://wordsmith.org/words/boodle.html

Boodle: The meaning to a West Point cadet is completely different. It is an
out-of-messhall goodie, especially ice cream. In fact, the store where the
'boodle' is gotten is the Boodlers! The only out-of-the-ordinary fact about
boodle is that is after hours of the mess hall. No illegality at all.
Cheers, William E. Mundt, M.D. West Point 1949

----------------------------

From: Maggie (smags aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--boodle

One of my favorite authors, Carl Hiaasen, makes use of this word extensively
in his book Sick Puppy. One of the main characters is a professional
lobbyist, and receives as a "thank you gift" from a client, a trained
Labrador. He cleverly names the dog Boodle. Seeing this entry from you made
me smile!

==============
[The Hiaasen connection has been noted before, but I'm always happy to promote his books.]

Posted by: kbertocci | September 18, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I fell for it and checked out salebooks.com. Its a good thing I went warily. There were more than a few that tried to call my name, but I was not listening.

I was struck by the difference between my favourite Canadian based website,

http://www.hhbooks.com/

and Daedelus. We are without a doubt connected far more closely to the British side of the printing business than the American side. I've always thought that the books we see are overwhelmingly American, and in a large part, I guess they are, for first run books, and best sellers, but when you get to this level, its quite distinctly Canadian with a strong British flavour.

I'm sorry, I have to go now. (They changed the books listed since I was there last. I'm not sure I am going to make it through this one. I seldom do.)

Posted by: dr | September 18, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Cassandra, I had a very nice weekend. My husband was out of town, so I accomplished quite a lot! It's amazing how much I can get done when he's gone...

LindaLoo, did you get any rain yesterday? Hubby flew in from Dallas yesterday morning and flights were delayed due to thunderstorms. Hope they were in your area too.

Husbands. Gotta love 'em, even when they drive you crazy. The vacuum cleaner cut off on me Saturday, so I changed the bag, which was full, but it still wouldn't work. I referred the problem to him. Sure enough, the hose was plugged up. So where does he clean it out? In the kitchen sink, while I'm trying to fix his supper! Arrrgh! and yuuuck!

Posted by: slyness | September 18, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

slyness;

Sounds like Hubby was asking for mud pies for dinner.

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 18, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

And from today's "B.C." comic:

n. frigging -- the rigging on a frigate

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 18, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Slyness,
As I mentioned, we had a giant thunderclap overhead on 9/11, lost power for four hours, and I failed to mention that we received 2.6 inches of rain. Later last week, we had another storm that dropped about 1.3 inches of rain.

I got online yesterday morning and saw that Dallas was getting rain, but not us. (It was predicted that we would receive an absolute deluge.) It appeared that we would soon get clobbered by a giant blob of rain headed due north from the south, the remnants of Hurricane Lane that made landfall on Mexico's western coast early this weekend.

So confident I was that it would pour imminently, that we carried umbrellas around during a walkabout of the one-year-old outdoor mall near us, La Cantera, which we have visited less than a handful of times. We were the only ones so equipped and it rained not a drop. By late afternoon the sun was out and it was hot and extremely humid.

But all that residual moisture in our atmosphere got corraled in mid-evening by an approaching front. Last night, we had tremendous thunder and lightning, and, when I checked the rain gauge this morning, the storm had left .6 inches of rain.

So 4.5 inches of rain, approximately, in a week's time, after a searing, semingly unending dry spell. The rains are drought breakers, not drought busters. And isn't it odd that the only moisture we have received for much of the year has come from two storms, named after men--John and Lane, that have tracked along Mexico's west coast?

But there is a phenomenon that is more interesting. We lost some plants over the course of our Hades-like summer, but many of our plants that didn't die were hibernating, from about May forward. The sky is a light grey flannel this morning, but the backyard is a riot of color. Flowers have erupted in all shades of an intense rainbow: the roses of Sharon, butter flower, salvias, Gerber daisies, plumbago, and Mexican petunias. So what should have been early summer blooms are bursting forth in mid-September. This is one of the most unusual and extreme weather years I have ever experienced--a rival only to the extreme winter in Floyds Knobs in 2000-2001.

I'm proceeding slowly through Philbrick. Not sure if I like the book yet. I think the author's maritime interests got too much in the way of the story in Chapter 1. And there is quite a long section in the latter part of the book that tells the Mary Rowlandson captivity narrative, much to my surprise. I guess discovering this story, connected to my closest friend's genealogy, by Googling meant more to me by finding it on my own, independently. And if the author's main interest is Phillip, son of Massasoit, why name the book "Mayflower"?

Posted by: Loomis | September 18, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

New kit!

bc

Posted by: bc | September 18, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

an ode to j.a. (a haiku):

inflate the pilot
fly to see me and jessie
sky-bagel nine bucks

Posted by: whitney (baby chris) | September 18, 2006 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The primary difference between Catholic and Protestant theology on the issue of concupiscence is that Protestants consider concupiscence to be sinful, whereas Catholics believe it to be highly likely to cause sin, though not sinful in itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concupiscence

Posted by: Thomas Aquinas | September 19, 2006 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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