Thursday, November 30, 2006

Me and Mao

When you're part of a minority -- and I'm a card-carrying member of several -- you maintain a mental roster of any high-profile figures among your ranks. Adam Sandler picks anew each year from the long list of famous Jews for his Hanukkah Song, while Scientology has Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and countless other celebs. We Quakers have Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon, lucky us. And a friend of mine, bless his heart, practically wets himself when he spots anyone from his native Minnesota in a TV show or a movie.

As for ALS, everyone knows that Lou Gehrig had it; he gave his name to the disease. Almost as well known are Stephen Hawking and Morrie Schwartz, the latter famous mostly because he had ALS. I was also aware that our numbers included David Niven, Jacob Javits, and Catfish Hunter.

But yesterday, after nearly a decade in Club ALS, I was astonished to learn that one of my comrades was Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong!

Nowhere was this mentioned in the orientation kit. As a former flack, I understand the reluctance to tout mass murderers among your membership. Still, you'd think I'd have heard about it sometime over the past 10 years. When Andrew Cunanan shot Versace, the gays could speak of nothing else for at least a week. "He went to prep school with my cousin!" "My ex's ex had a blind date with him!"

If I can make peace, however grudgingly, with my affiliation with Tricky Dick, I guess I can accept Chairman Mao.

Sixty Seconds of Fun for the Morbidly Curious

The Death Predictor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm So Proud

We've already come a long way from George Allen's presidential analingus:

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Full story here.

The incident even provoked a huffy outburst from George Will. Someone get that guy some Ex-Lax.

Color Me Blue

This winter will be a little colder without Stephen Heywood. (See the October 9 post "So Much So Fast" in the archives.)

The Enemy Within

Bats in her belfry (actually, her bedroom).

After Us

A fascinating look at a posthuman Earth.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tatum's Valley of Tears

No idea why CBS decided to rerun a two-year-old story, but the headline is beautiful.

I saw an interview with the subject, and she seemed boundlessly bitter and more than slightly unhinged. If you didn't recognize her, you'd think "trailer trash" before "Hollywood royalty." But she did have a rough childhood, bless her heart.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Anti-fan Clubs

Here's a trend that's right up my alley.

I don't watch Rachael Ray*, but I can think of many worthy celebrity subjects: Dr. Phil, Celine Dion, the late Steve Irwin, anyone with a crafts show ...

And of course there are countless noncelebrity topics. There used to be a brilliant site called the Dysfunctional Family Circus, which I appreciated as much as I loathe the comic that it parodied. It's gone now, but one blessed soul had the foresight to save and post some of the best. The original "Family Circus" is so criminally insipid, I want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon whenever they accidentally stray near it.

* Why does she spell her name that way, anyhow? Rachel is spelled Rachel.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

¡Viva Zapata!

Despot, thief, charmer
Center of our universe
Twelve years old today

Another Inconvenient Truth

Laurie David finds corporate foxes in the henhouse of science education. I'd like to be shocked, but I'm not.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Prepare to Believe!

Or -- if you graduated from, say, elementary school -- maybe not. But do prepare to be greatly amused.

Somehow, I don't think the Creation Museum's creators* meant for it to be a place of high hilarity or a temple of irony. But this description in the Guardian makes it seem exceedingly promising in those regards. Leave it to a lefty Brit to write a magnificent sendup with just the right amount of restraint.

I'm clearly not among the facility's target market, yet I almost feel like checking it out when it opens next year -- if only to learn how the Grand Canyon was carved in a few months. It's pretty big, you know; I always thought it took at least a year or two.

* Do they call themselves that?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Obscene Interiors

A friend recently reminded me about this snarky site, which combines two of my favorite hobbies.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Allen's Parting Shot

Whatever sort of legislator Jim Webb turns out to be, some honor will be returned to the Senate when George Allen is gone.

Somehow The Post overlooked the final turd he left on the carpet. The New York Times, by contrast, found it worthy of an editorial.

Headline du Jour

Woman, 92, Dies in Shootout With Police

Her picture is almost as riveting as the headline. Apparently she was a nonagenarian prom queen:

I Still Like You

Another great interview with Amy Sedaris features a dig at Martha Stewart and more handy tips:

A whole chapter on entertaining the elderly -- in large-print type -- advises: Turn up the heat, turn down the music, serve a bland meal about 4 p.m. and thread some needles for them to take home. "With all the special attention needed, one might ask, why entertain the elderly?," she inquires, then answers: Because "soon you will be in their comfort shoes, and wouldn't it be nice to be invited to a party?"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Against Nature?

Until now, the "gay agenda" was one of the religious right's greatest bugaboos, but it looks like Mother Nature has a much broader plan than the homos. Meanwhile, God enjoys a good hearty laugh.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My Life as a Roach

This afternoon, as I attempted to transfer from wheelchair to bed, my feet slid back an inch or two and I toppled slowly forward onto the bed.

That would be no big deal for a healthy person, who could either stop the fall or push himself up afterwards. But it’s a lot trickier when your arms don’t work.

I remained prone for a while – mulling, pondering, considering, weighing, plotting. Then I began wriggling and thrashing, trying various things, all with one crucial goal: staying off the floor. Once I’m fully down, even Dan can barely get me up.

After a seeming eternity, I managed to wedge my toes under the wheelchair and maneuver my ass into an acceptable position on the bed. (People sometimes ask how I occupy my time. Now you know.)

As I lay there catching my breath, an image appeared in my head: that of a cockroach on its back, kicking in frantic futility, its only hope a serendipitous puff of wind. I was stuck on my front, granted, and would have required a tornado to flip me over, but the parallel seems apt nonetheless.

Product Placement

Doris Roberts's career is officially in the toilet. Bless her heart.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Noteworthy Names

The latest installment from the ever-growing list of names that have caught my attention:

Wysteria Berkhoff
Amber Dimmer
Ebba Jo Spettel
Ebay and Ulonda Shamwell
Odie and Etta Waple
Rodrechus Durden
Khadijah Hoffler
Piercezendo Jackson
Harry Bugg
Harry Peaper
Orlando Barksdale
Vesta B. Dick
Grace D. "Bunny" Kok
Artemeshia Hairston
Lula Voyles
Iola Queen
Phyllis Queen Commodore
Willmer Stultz
(Ms.) Rozzetter Richardson
Jane Train
Lynne Flynn
LaVonne Quidley
Pearl Green
Kitty Dragonette
Hurshul Goosby
Conic Forehand
Lovella and Symphonette Nelson (sisters)
Hunter Gore
Monk Topping
(Ms.) Verdell Estep
Julius U. Hoke
Dequlia Pullen
Steptoe and Alzata Wrenn
Billie Jo Nutter
Lucy Diggs Slowe
Lottie Wills
Connie Hair
Hilda Trout
Sneed B. Collard III
Johnnie Mae Shingles
(Ms.) TaShai LaMhi Cheeseman
Brent Boner
(Mrs.) Beany Brown
Rev. Burnard Furbush
Joy Chapper
Kayrethia Crook
Faith Apt
Dr. Ellen Leibenhaut Leibenluft
(Mr.) Pleasant Bullock
Patricia Curtin Hankey
Ebony, Maghongany, and Cynnamon Gayden (siblings)
(Mrs.) Wanza Wiley
Marquis Prince
(Ms.) Clove Galilee
Phyrne Pitkin
Matilda Sugg
Edward Woodward
Melba Sue McGlamary
Glovenia Dorsey
(Mr.) Downie Deen
Mary Pearl Munsterteiger
Roosevelt Peebles
Rev. Roosevelt Dickens
JoEtta Pegler
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
(Ms.) Vergie E. Bodenstein
Aleecia Foo
Tinny Jones
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller
Loretta Retta
Temina Blue
Lettie Gooch
(Mr.) Crogher Devalentine Butler
Tarsha Snead
Sylvanus and Ozie Sneade
Jewelene Owens
William B. Tubby
Marjorie Gray Brown
Hazel Browne
(Miss) Lawnie Lee Browne
Gracie Belcher
Wiley and Virgie Bratcher
Jane Traylor Hauser
Hurley Offenbacher
(Mr.) Verl J. Wilfong
Hazel Wilfong Bean
Columbus and Colonious Knight (brothers)
Eartharene Prophet, Mervin Prezzy, and Willodean Plummer (siblings)
Wanda Moon
Odelia Dugger
Lulu Teates
Cleta Toomey
Tana Woodcock
WindyJoy Murphy
Pearl Starr
Dudley Harpster
Herma Gant Leatherwood
Mary Wedlock
Ginger Rash

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"A Tepid Sort of Oatmealy Hate"

Mark Morford examines objections to gay marriage.

"It's all just a bit cute, in a grossly ignorant sort of way."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Liberal's Pledge

By Michael Moore, not surprisingly.

Some trenchant lines, among them:

"If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport."

"We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Coming Soon to a Wal-Mart Near You

She sings, she dances -- and now she has her own line o' bling. Clothing, shoes, and maybe even furniture to come later.

She's also a philosopher, bless her heart. In this hilarious clip, she explains her "seven portals to peace and order." Don't miss the end.

And always remember: "It's only beauty that can feed the spirit."

Mimes Gone Mad

There are few things that disturb me as much as clowns, but mimes are right up there. The very sight of one tends to fill me with revulsion. There's just something about mimes that makes you want to beat them senseless -- or at least give 'em a good slap.

That said, this video seemed freaky enough to warrant posting.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"J'adore Louis XV!"

A friend saw this picture and thought of me: I'm not entirely sure it was a compliment. (But I do love Charlotte Rampling.)

You can see the rest of the series here.


Relive the midterm election again and again.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm OK -- You're OK*

The bishops were perturbed.

Anti-gay-marriage measures were handily approved in seven of eight states, but still the bishops felt unfulfilled. So they convened at their headquarters, a dank, musty warren of caverns deep in the Ozarks, where they donned their flashy robes, gnashed their yellow teeth, beat their pale, flabby man-breasts, and wailed mightily.

"We've made it clear where we stand, but we must do more," said one bishop as a small boy emerged from under his robe and scurried away. "I agree," said another. "Society reviles the gays less each day. We must smash them down before it's too late." "I'm with you," said a third. "Next thing you know, women will want a place in the clergy." A collective gasp cut through the cool, damp air, and the circle of puffy white faces clenched in horror, their gin blossoms reddening further at the ghastly thought. They decided on a course of action.

This, in turn, forced the Baptists' hand. Having long prided themselves on outdoing the Catholics at intolerance, homophobia, and all-around backwardness, they realized immediately that they had to act. So they called an emergency meeting at their lair, somewhere between the second and third layers of the earth's crust, and drew up their own plan.

You can read about both actions here, with a dash of Presbyterianism thrown in for good measure.

* Certain restrictions apply.

"The older one grows, the more one likes indecency."
Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gocta Go Now

How is it that the world's third-tallest waterfall escaped discovery until this year?

I'd love to see it in person, but that seems unlikely, to say the least. The pilgrimage involves multiple flights, a 12-hour car ride, and a long, steep hike through the jungle, complete with rope bridges.

Someone check it out while it's still unspoiled and bring me back pictures.

The Tide Advances ...

Last week Mexico, this week South Africa.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't Invite a Barnacle

Andy Cohen interviews Amy Sedaris about Martha Stewart, morning TV, and how to get rid of gay guests.

Clever Idea

Just one of many possible scenarios for people with plenty of spare time and no Caller ID.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Days

Mark Morford offers 11 reasons to celebrate.

Breaking Science News

Discovery of the densest element yet known to science

A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the densest element yet known to science. The new element has been named Bushcronium; its symbol is W. Bushcronium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 311.

These particles are held together by dark forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Bushcronium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons in a Bushcronium molecule, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Bushcronium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "critical morass."

When catalyzed with money, Bushcronium activates Foxnewsium, an element that radiates orders-of-magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Small Damn World

I realized today that Iowa's new governor was a year ahead of me in high school. (In Bethesda, not Des Moines.)

We were like doppelgangers back then, except he played varsity baseball, basketball, and football, while I was in the marching band. It was a huge relief when he graduated and I could spread my wings senior year.

"Hatred's Last Frontier"

The election results were almost shockingly good, with one notable exception: Virginia's passage of an appallingly overreaching constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions.

I was so busy celebrating the Dems' takeover, especially George Allen's richly deserved defeat, that I hadn't gotten around to writing about the amendment. The editorial board of Staunton's News Leader beat me to it -- and said everything I would have.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

She Who Would Rule

In six years of study and a decade of practice, I came across countless communication theories and guidelines. Strangely, "Karen's Rules" were not among them.

Some might question the value of guidance from the advisor of the least articulate leader in modern history. You have to admit, though, she kept her charges on message -- no matter how implausible or false.

The best part of the piece is the analysis by psychologists.

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully
as when they do it from religious conviction."
Blaise Pascal

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Great video.


I was at the synagogue bright and early this morning -- not to pray, but to vote. (Actually, I did a little praying too. There's a lot at stake today, especially in Virginia.)

If I can manage to vote, you sure as hell can. Get thee to a pollery, go!

Aggravated and Isolated

Political analyses don't usually make me chuckle, but this one did.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The House as Organism

Joel Achenbach in today's Post Magazine:
When you first buy a house, you think of it as an inanimate collection of rooms. But a house is more like a complex organism. Even though it may look presentable, you know that it is gradually disintegrating, that its arteries are clogging. In my house we have learned, over time, to ignore the things that are broken, the accumulated crud in the louvers, the peeling paint, the scuff marks and dents and divots. But after the walnuts fire, our eyes opened, and we realized [cue shrieking violins] that we live in squalor.
As we say in Quaker meeting, "The friend speaks my mind."

Read the full essay here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


One of my greatest friends is a person I've never met.

Many moons ago, as a freshly minted member of Club ALS, I happened to read something that struck me so profoundly I contacted the writer to tell her so. I've forgotten the topic and the context, but the author, Zana Abdul Rahman, has been my penpal ever since. We're bound by ALS and separated by geography: she lives in Australia.

Some years back, Zana put together Cornflower Blues, a book of essays by people with ALS, including the two of us, on how they cope with the disease. Producing a book is a heavy task under any circumstances; when you're physically disabled the effort is herculean. Having read many of Zana's journal entries, I harbor an intense hope that she'll publish another volume.

We've known each other for about nine years now, and Zana and I should have checked out long ago, but we're both still here -- a fact of enormous comfort to me. She recently sent some pictures from her garden, giving me a taste of spring in mid-autumn.


Betty Bowers on "liturgical Liberace" Ted Haggard.

Many of the links are worth a click. Like this one.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Other Other White Meat

Is this considered pork?

Lodging Complaints

No doubt you've often wondered, as I did, what sort of accommodations $100 a night would get you in West Virginia. Not much, surprisingly, compared to a Marriott outside Hartford or a Radisson in scenic Scranton, both of which we had occasion to sample last year.

The term lodge had always conjured images of commodious rusticity in my mind. Rough-hewn timbers, crackling fires in stone hearths, maybe some antlers on a wall and a bear rug underfoot.

In West Virginia, it seems, the definition is somewhat looser and can in fact include a hostelry with no structure in sight that could be considered an actual lodge. The owners conferred lodgehood on their establishment simply by naming it the Cheat River Lodge. (For comparison, see "war on drugs," "war on poverty," or "war on terror.") Easy as 'possum pie.

My mental lodge didn't have pink wall-to-wall carpeting or acoustical ceiling tile. It certainly didn't use striped wallpaper and a border to create the illusion of a wainscot. (Even my dentist finally realized that was a decorating no-no; word apparently takes longer to reach the hollers of West Virginny.) The higher paper was a floral print of uncertain subject. When I studied it closely, the blooms looked strangely like artichokes. But I was more troubled by the dehumidifier, air purifier, and two (!) electronic air fresheners. Most worrisome of all was the fact that the "lodge" was built against the base of a massive cliff. I half expected to wake up with a boulder on my face.

The impetus for our vacationette was to gawk at some fall foliage. Like me, the color was well past its prime, but we did manage to find some vivid patches, especially at lower elevations and in sheltered little pockets, of which there are many. Saw a pheasant, a chipmunk, and a few deer too. Oh, and lots of roadkill, of course.

The rest of the stereotypes were hit or miss. I saw many men with bushy beards, but nary a soul settin' on a porch strummin' a banjo, to my great disappointment. Plenty of rusting cars (and other objects) in yards, but mostly newer models, including a couple of Land Rovers. And scads of trailers, a disturbing number of which were situated in floodplains, as if taunting fate. But only one outhouse.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain."
Lily Tomlin