Friday, February 24, 2012

Reviewing Books I've Barely Begun; A Continuing Polybloggimous Tradition.

A month or so ago, the UPS guy showed up at my door with a delivery from Amazon  -- which I found a little strange, since I hadn't ordered anything.  I opened the box and found this:

 ...and pretty much zilch info on where it had come from.  It was addressed to me, so it must be mine, right?  I double checked my Amazon account and confirmed that I hadn't bought it.  And I can't honestly remember how I went about sleuthing this out, but I eventually discovered it was from Janiece!*  It turns out I had just come up on her list of people to randomly receive stuff for no reason whatsoever other than Janiece's compulsion to be awesometastic.

So I thanked Janiece and promptly put the book on my waiting-for-attention pile (cuz I had a bunch of stuff that was already in the lineup), and didn't really pick the book up again until a few days ago.

And I'm completely in love with this book and I want to treat it to a lovely dinner and take it for moonlit walks on the beach and have its babies.

No, really.  This book is absolutely fascinating.

First of all, it's exactly what is says it is -- New York Diaries.  Or to be more precise, excerpts from a bunch of New Yorker's (and New York Visitors') diaries.  Like a couple of hundred of them - New Yorkers and visitors, that is.  They include the famous, like George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Andy Warhol, and unknowns alike.

The book is organized by the calendar.  January 1st might have four entries from four different diarists - one from 1778, another from 1861, one from 1893 and another from 1977.  And then you continue in a similar vein through the month and then into the next month.  The entries cover from the first time someone sailed up the Hudson River on September 11, 1609 up into 2009.

Each entry stands by itself and is attributed to its author. Some of it is rather momentous (Washington recounts speaking to Congress).  Some of it is utterly mundane.  You can refer to a section in the back of the book for a mini bio of the author of each passage. (More on that later.)  You want some examples?

On New Year's Day, 1851, Inspector William H. Bell (a Police Detective) writes - "On duty at the office all day between 12 & 1 o'clock helping give out new year's cake at the Hall. In the evening went up to the 18th ward Station House saw there the young man who was thrown out of the sleigh & killed at the corner of Madison Avenue & 29th St.  I called on Alderman Atwood [sic] had a good time of it -- went home."
 Or there's Maria Lydig Daly** in 1863 - "Mrs. Ritchie is a pretty woman who aids nature a little by art. her hair was dressed in the modern Phrygian style in two great hills on either side of her head, the center being occupied on full-dress occasions with a bunch of hair full of feathers, birds, or flowers.  One lady, a Mrs. Ronaldi, who is now the toast of the town, wears a bird's nest with eggs, making her head a hatchery.  I doubt if there is enough brain there to hatch anything.
From Catherine Elizabeth Havens, a 10-year-old shipping heiress in 1850 -- "...I have a green silk [dress] that I hate, and the other day I walked too near the edge of the sidewalk, and one of the stages splashed mud on it, and I am so glad, for it can't be cleaned."
Charles Ritchie, Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. in 1958 - "I had forgotten how much Americans love talking on social occasions about international affairs and how earnestly distressed they are about the conduct of everyone everywhere."
And I can't find the quote right now, but someone in the 1980's is describing a bad dinner of oysters at The Grand Central Oyster Bar followed by a long bout of not being able to get a cab home on a bitingly cold evening -- and then chastising himself over how much easier it would have been if he'd just taken the subway. He concludes, "The thermia was never more hyper."
I love lines like that (and hate other people for coming up with them when I never do).

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure how I'll go about reading this book.  It's probably best done in short spurts.  1.) I find myself constantly referring to the bio section in the back of the book to know just who it is who's speaking. (As I read more, I'll probably have to do that less, since many diarists have multiple entries).  2.) The book doesn't lend itself to just plowing through as I would with a narrative. Many of the entries are fairly light, but a number of them just beg you to sit back and absorb them after reading them.

I would definitely not recommend reading this on an e-reader. I'd make myself completely batshit if I tried leafing back and forth to the bio section on my nook.  To be honest, this is one of those rare books that I'd probably enjoy more if I were reading it on my computer -- but only if each entry had a hypertext link to the author's bio that would open in a separate window.  Lacking that, this one's best read on a big ole dead tree.

Oh, Oh, Oh! While we're on the subject of things I love, I have one more thing to recommend.  If you have Netflix, you must watch Lilyhammer, starring Steve Van Zandt and a bunch of Norwegians.  He plays a mobster who rats and then gets witness relocation -- to Lillehammer because he saw it on the Olympics and thought it might be nice there.  The show is absolutely hysterical.  All 8 episodes of the first season are available streaming on Netflix.
*I'm betting it wasn't very impressive sleuthing; otherwise, I'd remember.  I probably just asked "who sent me a book?" on every social website I could imagine.

**Mrs. Daly's bio makes her sound a complete curmudgeon.  She ignored her family's objections to marry an Irish Democratic reformer; hated Lincoln, blamed Abolitionists for causing the war, and yet was a staunch defender of the Union.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Could Have Sworn This Post Had A Headline!

I dumped the word verification the other day - Thanks, Mrs. Bitch for telling me how -- and I'm pleased to say that I'm not getting overrun with spam.  I've gotten one or two spam messages per day and all but one has gone straight to Blogger's Spam Folder.

Most of it has been run-of-the-mill pron and one was for lawn products.  The best one was entitled "You may see the humor in this" and linked to some of the most paranoid Antisemitism I've ever seen.  I'm kind of impressed by someone's dedication to trolling since I think that one came from a living person and not a Spambot. And I thought I had too much time on my hands!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mutants, Lepers & Debutante Cotillions.

In yesterdays' comments, timb111 recommended a book set in a Post Apocalyptic Society.  Ah...Society.  Could little things like nuclear winter, bacterial epidemics or rampant anarchy put a stop to Society Announcements?

I think not.
All announcements are embiggable!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

If Only I Could Welcome My SpamBot Overlords!

Blogger seems to have changed the style of their Captcha Codes recently and, to put it mildly, some of them are a tad difficult to decipher.  Here, take a look at some.

I don't know about you, but I've had to try a few times to leave comments on other peoples' blogs lately.  And no, I'm not interested in having the machine read it to me first.  As far as I'm concerned, some of these are just slightly easier to figure out than quadratic equations.  Then again, robots probably solve quadratic equations quicker than I do.

In the interest of that "Do unto others" thing, I tried to disable them on my own blog, but alas, Blogger doesn't seem to offer that as an option.  Granted, turning it off here wouldn't have been as altruistic as it might sound.  After all, one of the best ways to hide information from the internet at large is to post it here on Polybloggimous!

Update: OK, I followed what Mrs. Bitch did and hopefully I've ditched the damned codes.  Let me know.  Thanks.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Few Universal Truths.

If you're a terrorist in America and you want to buy explosives, you supplier will be an FBI agent.

If you read a headline along the lines of "Will your children travel to Mars?" or "Does eating raw dandelions prevent cancer?"... no matter how long the article is, the answer is NO.

If you hire a hitman to off your spouse, you've hired an FBI agent.

It's impossible for me to leave my house without spending $80.00 before I get home again.

Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean They're Not Out To Get You.

So, here's a little followup to what I posted a couple of days ago about the whole Mormon Proxy Baptism Kerfuffle.  I didn't zero in on it, but if you read the linked story in that post, you'll have noted that the most recent controversy was set off by one Ms. Helen Radkey.  Ms. Radkey, it turns out, is an interesting lady.  None of the following, in any way invalidates any of her research, but, in the interest of fairness(?), it's probably worth knowing the whistleblower.

There's an article in yesterday's Washington Post that tells at least part of her story.  It's worth a read.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a woman believing that "Gabriel Lalemant, a 17th-century Canadian Jesuit ... was her son in a past life".  And there's nothing wrong with being an excommunicated Mormon who has since dabbled in Catholicism and a few other religions (“The Jews didn’t want me”), and is currently a Certified Universal Life Church Minister.

And, frankly, the article is a tad confusing.  It appears to be focused on another issue, namely that of "Posthumous Polygamy", in which dead folks are "sealed" to multiple partners for the afterlife?  But it also seems to take Mitt Romney to task for dissing his own ancestors who (may?) have been polygamists?  I'm not sure which it is.  Or both.

Anyway, I just thought I'd link this article for the hell of it.  And even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Make of it what you will.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teachable Moment? I'll Give You A Teachable Moment.

A few days ago, my friend Jim wrote a post about the brouhaha over a group of USMC Sniper Scouts who posed with flag consisting of what  appeared to be a stylized Waffen SS symbol. I haven't commented over there because frankly, I don't really care very much.  I just can't find anyone in the narrative who is either fully in the right or fully in the wrong.  Rabbi Hier brought it to peoples' attention, he made his point and, IMHO, that should have been enough.  The marines who claimed they didn't know it was a loaded symbol are either disingenuous or seriously ignorant. (I'm voting for disingenuous since I'm pretty sure you don't get placed into an advanced specialty without just a teensy bit of exposure to military history and I'd be shocked if the chapter on WWII was completely omitted.  But that's just me.) I'm not sure exactly what action the Marine Corps took, but since I don't think the offense rated a firing squad or a dishonorable discharge, I'll trust that it was adequate.

No, the thing that gets me most exercised is the phrase "teachable moment".  It shows up in Jim's post and repeatedly in the comments.*  I swear I'm not picking on you Jim, and this is not specifically a reaction to that story, but I hate that fucking phrase.  I'm all for adult education, but I'm pretty sure your "teachable moments" have expired by the time you can't get a case heard before a Juvenile Court Judge.

Teachable moments are great for great for 3-year-olds.  When the kid manages to open your refrigerator and pulls the carton of milk out and...Ooops...manages to pour the whole damned thing out over his head?  Yup, teachable moment. (If your kid is reaching for a lit burner on the stove and your teachable moment comes before grabbing the kid and hollering, you might be doing it wrong.)

When your 8-year-old and her friend rip her stuffed bear into two pieces because neither of them want to share it?  That's probably a teachable moment.

When your 12-year-old is loud and demanding and rude to someone in public, I bet there's a teachable moment in there.

But if you're a 23-year-old in your first real  job and you think it's a really cool prank to piss in the breakroom coffee pot your ass oughta get fired.  That'll learn ya!  How's that for a teachable moment, asshole?  If you're a cop and you keep beating on a suspect after he's been subdued and cuffed, you should be welcome to all of the teachable moments you can find in prison.  You're supposed to have learned a little self-restraint before they gave you a gun and a badge.

Look, every bad act should have a consequence proportional to just how bad the act is.  Punishments should fit the offense. But most people tend to use the phrase "teachable moment" when they want to excuse bad behavior.  They want a bit of education to take the place of a bit of punishment.

I'd like to think that those Marines' punishment consisted of a week or two of latrine duty, some other loathsome duty and the promise that if that flag made a reappearance there would be real consequences.  And the "teachable moment" hopefully was when their superior screamed into their faces that the flag wasn't "appropriate" because the SS "was the enemy, you shit-for-brains, dickhead excuse for a Marine, that's why!"

Just because some people have a lot to learn doesn't rate them a "teachable moment".
*Jim put the phrase in quotes, so I'm not sure whether he was referring to something USMC said, or if he was using the phrase sarcastically.  And in the comments, every time I saw the phrase, my eyes glazed over and I skipped to the next comment, so I have no idea whether or not they were using it seriously.

P.S. The original title of this post was "Fuck You And The Teachable Moment You Rode In On". I decided the "humor" in that might have been lost on fans of Teachable Moments, so I went another way.  :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You'll Baptize Me Over My Cold Dead Body. Oh Wait, That's What You Had In Mind?

Yesterday, I ran across this story about how The Mormon Church was considering performing a posthumous "Proxy Baptism" for Elie Wiesel in spite of the fact that he certainly would object to being Baptized.  Oh...and he's also not dead.  Oopsie!

Frankly, this is one of those things that twists my mind into so many directions I have a hard time nailing down my own opinion on it.  I'm left with a case of "On the one hand; on the other hand; on the third hand; Can I borrow a hand or two 'cause I'm fresh out."

Let's start with my first knee-jerk reaction:  Who the fuck do these people think they are to take it upon themselves to baptize anyone who didn't ask them to?  I mean really!  If you haven't already read the linked story, please go back and do so.  It's not just Jews who have had a history of having to fend off forced conversions, but we've got a pretty solid history with the practice.  We're not real big on martyrs, but the few we do have tend to be folks who refused to denounce their faith.  The idea that anyone would come along later and perform some kind of involuntary baptism is really about as offensive as you can get.

Not only that, it would appear that the Mormons have previously promised not to do it any more, but they're just ignoring that and going ahead anyway.  I'm officially putting the Mormon Church on notice that I'd appreciate it if you didn't baptize me now or at any time in the future.  I haven't accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and I'm not likely to do so any time in the future. (If, during some unforeseen afterlife, I discover that I've been betting on the wrong horse all along, I'm pretty sure I'll be in a better position to rectify the situation than any of you in Utah will be. Or it'll be too late and I'll just have to live(?) with the consequences.)

Shortly after pitching an internal hissy fit over it, I find myself having another reaction:  Who Cares? I mean, really.  I don't believe in the Mormon Church's beliefs or rituals, so what possible power can they have over me?  In my mind, it's the rough equivalent to someone signing me up for the NRA's newsletter, paying for the subscription themselves, and having the newsletter sent to their mailing address.  Weird, yes, but would it really be any skin off of my nose?  The only potential effect that might have on me would be if some future biographer digs up the record of the subscription and has trouble trying to understand my previously hidden fascination with guns.  And why I was receiving mail in Montana?

On the Third Hand:  What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!  How's about if we start converting some of them?  Obviously, an individual's personal beliefs don't enter into it, so maybe we should just convert a bunch of Mormons to other religions. Hey Mitt, I don't know if you're circumcised or not, but a symbolic drop of blood is required even if you are.  I can schedule a visit from the Mohel at your convenience.  And there's no reason to limit this to Jewish conversions. I'm sure Mormon's will be just as appreciative to be unknowingly made into Hindus, Buddhists, or Hare Krishnas! Everyone can join in on the fun! (Painful rituals will score extra point!)

I swear I had at least one more reaction to this, but my head hurts and I've completely forgotten what it was.  Feel free to tell me what else I think about it. I'm confused enough to throw it into the mix.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There's A Meme Going Around. Of Course I Had To Join In.

Just to be clear, I only created the Location Manager version.  I saw the other two on FB.

Adolf's Soft Side

Kindly click for proper biggification.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

O.K. I'll Care For A Minute.

I'm not much of a football fan.  Scratch that.  I'm not any kind of a football fan.  I just didn't inherit that gene. 

As I'm sure you all know, the Giants won the Super Bowl which means New Yorkers are...uh...a little excited. Before the game, I was wondering if New Yorkers would be more insufferable if the team won or lost. (I kid, I kid).  Anyway, today the city threw the team a ticker tape parade.  Not only did lower Manhattan come to a standstill for the parade, it was carried live by every local station.

Note: I have personally always thought that one of the lamest things in existence is a parade on television.  Parades are things to go to.  It's just kind of pointless as a TV show.

Having said all that, I now find myself a huge fan of Steve Weatherford, the Giants' punter.  He wasn't satisfied riding on a float in the parade, so he donned his helmet (autographed by a bunch of his teammates), borrowed a drum from a kid and joined a marching band for the length of the parade.

I love this guy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Do You Think It Was Something I Said?

I got home today to find an intriguing piece of mail.  From India, no less!

Being a child of the 60's, my first thought upon seeing the "Sea Mail" imprint was...Hmmm, fan mail from some flounder?

A look at the return address didn't immediately shed any light on who might have sent me what.

So, of course I opened it and found a little booklet.  In Russian!  Curiouser and curiouser.

I won't mind a bit of translation from any of my Russian speaking readers*, but a quick internet search for GLS in Mumbai reveals that it's the Gospel Literature Service.  Ergo, somebody's trying to save my soul.  Why I'm getting anything printed in Russian from an Indian company founded by British Colonists is mighty perplexing.  Why they might think I'm a bound-for-hell heathen...a bit less so.

Ah well.  Getting mail is always nice.

Shocking, ain't it? I can think of at least three people who stop by here who will be able to provide translations.  Woohoo!

Friday, February 3, 2012

For Whom: The Bell Tolls.

At least, I hope it does.  "Who" vs. "Whom" (or is it "Whom" vs. "Who"), is one of those great bugaboos constantly plaguing grammarians among us. Well, I, for one, don't think it's worth the trouble.

Let's look at a few others on the list first.  Some only come up as problems in writing.  You're/your, their/there/they're, it's/its, who's/whose...these, you can't get into trouble when you're speaking.  They're homophones! If you're writing, frankly, the rules are really simple but I'll admit my brain goes into vapor-lock sometimes and I have to look them up again - at least the latter ones on the list.

I look up desert/dessert regularly when writing but unless you hear with some sort of weird dialect, you'll never confuse the two by the way I pronounce them.

There are a ton more of them on the list, and I don't really have a problem with trying to get people to use the right ones in the right places.

But whom?  Fuck whom!  I mean, c''s useless.  It's archaic.  Dump the bastard!

I know some of you are going to go ahead and trot out the important distinction between the two, but I don't give a shit.  I can't, off the top of my head, tell you when "whom" should be used and I REFUSE TO LOOK IT UP!  Because I don't care!

You know when I'll use "whom"?  When I'm writing dialog for some guy who is supposed to be speaking in a time period before we got smart and dumped "whom"!  The story will also include a pantsload of "Thees" and "Thous" and a couple of "Thines" for good measure.

I'M NOT AMISH!  We don't need no stinkin' "Whoms"!

You want to know the other time "whom" comes in handy?  When some asshole is trying to sound smart and comes off sounding dumb because they use it wrong.  And use it so wrong(ly) that even I notice.

Forsooth, methinks I'd lief jetison "whom", and eftsoons be pleased no longer to swink away trying to decipher this particular hugger-mugger.  And if I've used any of the archaic words in the previous sentence in error, and you feel the need to rub my nose in it, well...fuck youm too.
I shall now return to being adorable and congenial. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

You Win Some. You Lose Some. But Who's Keeping Score?

Yesterday should have been a draw.  Having received a beauteous new red Yak yarn scarf (points for Anon GF for the making and the giving), I proceeded to wear it in the stifling heat (points por moi). And, I'll grant that the making and the giving of the scarf is actually worth more points than the mere wearing thereof...but that's why I'm describing a mild warm snap into a deathly heat wave.

Anyway, after dinner, I put out some cut up fruit and a couple of slices of banana bread (homemade BY ME), for us to nibble on while watching TV.  Now it's not like I put the stuff down and proceeded to snarf it down in two seconds without Anon GF being able to get at it.  It's not like I body-checked her when she reached for a bite.  No!  I just nibbled away at a relaxed pace.  Until it was all gone.

Is it my fault she chose to be on the phone the entire time I was nibbling? Hmmmmmm? I think not.

So imagine my surprise 45 minutes later when she said, "What happened to dessert"?  And imagine my chagrin as I answered "It got et". (I didn't really believe she might think the cats had eaten a bunch of melon and grapes, but it was worth a shot.)

I'm pretty sure I finished yesterday down a point.

Mmmmmmmmm. Sweet, tasty points!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stupid Weather Is Stupid.

So here we are on Fauxgust 1, 2012 and it's 63 freakin' degrees here in Brooklyn.  Which would normally be considered a really good thing.  But there's just one problem.  Y'see...Anon GF just finished making me this lovely red scarf made from the finest Yak yarn money can buy!

Allow me to digress for a moment.  Newt Gingrich should be totally in favor of the Yak yarn industry since, I'm told, the yarn only comes from the belly hair on the Yaks.  I don't know why that is, but it's what I'm told.  Anyway, the perfect harvesters of Yak belly hair are, of course, dexterous little 5-year-olds.  Can't ya just see the little urchins patiently brushing Yak bellies until they've harvested only the finest hair.  And then getting just a wee bit stomped when the Yak gets bored and walks off.  Ah well...plenty more 5-year-olds were that one came from.

Anyway, it's not really scarf weather today, but when one has a brandy new red Yak yarn scarf, lovingly knitted by one's loving Anon GF,  (anon to you -- I know who she is),  one wears their brandy new red Yak yarn be damned.

Ain't that a purdy scarf?

Edited to add:  GF thought you'd like to see some Yaks!