God and Man at Manchaca

Consider it done. 

I do not speak ill of the dead.

Or at least not the newly dead.

Joseph McCarthy, for example, has been gone long enough (he died in 1957, a year before I was born) that I have no qualms about describing him as a foul drunkard who indulged a paranoid, psychotic need to persecute and bully by cloaking it in false patriotism. Nor do I have any qualms about asserting that this description is overly generous.

But William F. Buckley, Jr., who defended McCarthy in 1954’s McCarthy and His Enemies, died only yesterday (February 27, 2008).

So I’ll not speak ill of Mr. Buckley.

Instead, I’ll just describe one of the three instances in which Mr. Buckley’s life almost-but-not-quite-and-not-really intersected with mine – with no purpose other than to illustrate what a strange universe it must be that would allow even the slightest of connections between the right-wing, Ivy-League likes of Mr. Buckley and the labor-union-joining, State-School likes of me.


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I Got Plenty of Nothin’…

I wish there was a Weekly Roundup today, but I’m afraid that the house remodeling adventures of the last two weeks have left me drained of my sanity, energy, and what little I have that passes for wit.

Remodeling, even the “easy” kind we’re doing (replacing our old, animal-ravaged carpets with new hardwood floors and painting), is a nightmare. It’s particularly tough at Casa Spector because The Dude and I are packrats.  The only difference between the two of us is that I tend to collect small stuff like vintage jewelry and The Dude has kept every piece of paper, toy, game, and hang tag that has ever touched his fingers.  This can add up.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but trying to move the, hrummmm, stuff out of The Dude’s room was a week-long trial.  It involved much dust, whining, and several threats.

Dante had Nine Levels in Hell. 

He had obviously never remodeled.

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But A Few Hours Later, the Flying Monkeys Attacked

Now that I’ve returned to Central Texas after my and Barb’s annual Pilgrimage to the Old Country, I thought I’d write a long, convoluted post worthy of my reputation as a yammering psychopath.

Unfortunately, now that I’ve returned to Central Texas, Central Texas has also returned to me.  I have a truly outstanding case of cedar fever, and tonight I feel about as good as I did the last time I was worked over with a crowbar (which happens with greater frequency than you might imagine, considering how sweet I am).

As a result, this week’s post is of the same ilk as last week’s — that is, a photo from one of the high points of the Pilgrimage:

Hark the Herald Okies Sing

So.  Where did YOU spend Christmas?

Ike (and Keith)


Ike Turner died last week at the age of 76, and the news of his death made me ponder the fact that every artist’s life and work can be represented as a Venn diagram – two circles intersecting, separate yet inseparable.

It also made me ponder the fact that how an artist is perceived by everyone else depends on whether everyone else is looking at one circle or at the other . . . or at the place where they intersect.

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In Praise of Foreign Gum


Barb returned from another trip to Japan last weekend, and she brought back something wondrous for me:

BlackBlack Chewing Gum.

Now, if you’re like me (and I know I am), you’ll be asking, “What’s so wondrous about BlackBlack Chewing Gum? Does it have a unique, delicious flavor? Does that flavor last a long, long time? Do the packages contain decoder rings that enable one to discover Jessica Alba’s phone number hidden within the text of her Wikipedia entry?”

The answer to all of the above is “No, who needs that stuff? If I want a unique, delicious flavor, I’ll eat a nectarine. [Rory: A nectarine is a kind of fruit.] If I want flavor that lasts a long, long time, I’ll consume a clove of garlic. And if I want Jessica Alba’s phone number, I’ll look for it in my kitchen trash, which is where I threw it after hearing that she’s having a baby with another man.”

“So what’s the attraction?” you’ll ask. “If BlackBlack’s flavor isn’t especially unique, delicious, or long-lasting, and it’s no help in stalking starlets, then why all the BlackBlack love?”

One word, my poor, deprived Brainiacs:

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A Cross to . . . uh, Bear

What a (fuzzy) friend we have in Jesus

This is Jesus.  He is a teddy bear.  He is warm, fuzzy, cuddly, and stuffed with straw (on account of He was born in a manger).

Everybody loves Jesus.  After all, He’s a teddy bear.  And who doesn’t like teddy bears?

However, I must emphasize that I did not name him Jesus.  He came with that name.  So if you don’t like it, don’t blame me.

I guess, though, that you do have to blame me for this: 

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Track Your Child/Spouse/Employee

This is the Trackstickâ„¢ II Personal GPS Tracker.

Little Snitch
It records where it has been and when. This is its only purpose. You can’t use it to rescue someone–it doesn’t transmit where they are. You can’t use it to give someone directions. It won’t tell the carrier where they are. Only after you’ve retrieved it (from a car, from a purse, from a briefcase, from the lining of someone’s coat) can you get the information.

So, why are you using this?

To spy on a person’s movements and, from physical locations, their associates.

It’s only 200 bucks after all. 2.5 meter accuracy. On board USB 2.0 port. 1Mb programmable flash memory. Weatherproof ABS housing.

Why wouldn’t you?

Probably because money isn’t the only cost of betraying trust.

Political Brain Damage

My Dearest Colleagues in the Struggle,

Like all good little hippie boys, I got politically radicalized in the Sixties. I realized that our wonderful, God-ordained, perfect U.S. of A. consistently fell short of its aspirations. It was a gut-level awakening, not the result of some sophisticated research and development on my part. It broke my heart.

Actually, I made the mistake of watching what the politicians did, instead of what they said, and that was fatal. Yeah. As it always has been.

There are no mainstream political parties that I feel at home with. I find even the most moderate (WTF? What is a ‘moderate’?) Republicans repugnant on a genetic level. Democrats at least mouth the words I want to hear. Then they sell out or chicken out. I don’t know or care anymore whether they actually ever meant the things they said while trying to get their own room in the palace at Versailles-on-the-Potomac.

The real system we have in place is deliberately designed to run off, destroy, or corrupt anyone who wants to actually further the ideals enshrined in our Constitution.

I bailed out. I didn’t vote, not once, until the 2002 elections. All I saw was a lose/lose game, and I decided early on to not play it. I watched things crumble around me with a certain narcissistic smugness.

Then Caroline and Jessica made me feel all guilty and citizen-y and responsible and politically aware again. They’re both hot babes, and I’ve always been compliant with the hot babes.

I started surfing the netroots blogs. It was a comfort at first. I realized that I wasn’t merely insane – things were indeed getting incredibly worse incredibly quickly. And I wasn’t the only one who saw it. I wasn’t alone.

I now read political news and blogs on the webs for at least two hours a day. I can discourse in detail on damn near every scandal, outrage, cop-out, conspiracy, treasonous act, fuck-up, and smear campaign perpetrated by the assholes on both the Left and the Right — mostly the Right — since about 1990.

It’s a rolling carnival of unending horrors. We’ve officially disowned damn near all of the paperwork our Founding Fathers signed off on to try to keep us from becoming Caligula’s Rome. You won’t sneer at my comparing us with that particular decadent empire, after we’ve had another generation of the two-tier economy in place, the one where there are the wealthy, and there are the peasants, and no one else between, and nobody gives a shit what happens to the peasants.

I’ve vibrated between Wrath at the spoilers, and Despair for my country, for almost all of this new century.

I’m tired of it, and I’m done with it.

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You’re So Vain

Pride is not necessarily a bad thing

Advertising Week, the largest and most prestigious annual gathering of advertising and media industry leaders in North America, has named the United States Marine Corps an inductee to the “Walk of Fame” for advertising slogans. Voting took place via the World Wide Web Aug. 28 through Sept. 25.

“This slogan [The Few, the Proud, the Marines] reflects the unique character of the Marine Corps and underscores the high caliber of those who join and serve their country as Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “Such recognition reaffirms the special relationship we have with the American public.”

All right. The above examples are not meant to, in any way, reflect negatively upon the Marine Corps, Barbie, or Barbies who may be serving in the Marine Corps. I want to talk about Pride.

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Anger Management


(Sorry this is late, plane landed after 11:00pm last night.)

I was thirty and working as a temp in the military industrial complex. I was the office help for a huge lawsuit, working sixty or more hours a week. The company had taken on a project for the government—that’s what defense contractors do, of course—and in those innocent days before Halliburton, they had accepted specs that were beyond the capabilities of any company to produce. The government knew that. But the idea was to make the goals impossible with the hope that the company would come up with unexpected ways to fulfill some of them. Then the political wind shifted and suddenly those specs became not goals, but hard and fast specifications. Much nastiness.

Me, I typed. Like I said, I was an office temp. I worked with a manager and two lawyers from a bit Washington DC law firm. One of the guys billed at $210 and hour. (I billed at $7.50 an hour.) One day, he took one of my floppy discs that contained all of the latest versions of the incredibly huge legal document I was typing. He said he didn’t have it. And I got mad.

My nervous system lit up like a Christmas tree and all the tiredness from the crazy hours I was working burned out of me and I explained to the $210 an hour guy just exactly how I felt. I felt empowered. I felt pretty good. I liked being angry. It was a lot better than a lot of other ways I normally felt—like anxious. Righteous anger. Adrenaline.
I went back to my desk and half an hour later found the disc.

I went crawling back to the lawyer and apologized. (He, of course, had forgotten it. You don’t make partner in a powerful Washington DC law firm if having somebody yell at you bothers you.) But I didn’t forget. Continue reading

Unca Buzzkill Presents: Envy!

 The Envious in Hell. Or possibly Milwaukee.


I got your Envy right here. Too bad YOU don’t get any.


Hi, kids, and welcome to this week’s edition of “Unca Buzzkill Sez.” Your boy Denton was supposed to occupy this space with a few words about the Deadly Sin of Envy – but he’s off washing the feet of impoverished former Enron executives or petting fluffy bunnies or something. The guy claims to have no experience with Envy, and instead swears that he’s grateful for everything in his life and rejoices in all good things that come to others.*

Yeah, it sounds like a load to Unca Buzzkill, too. But don’t worry. Unca B. has plans to fix Mr. HappyPants’s little red tent-show wagon soon enough. In the meantime, it falls to Unca to help the rest of you explore this nasty little spot of pustulence eating away at your hearts.

To be honest, Unca Buzzkill wishes he could explicate Despair for you instead. You see, Unca knows all about Despair, having socked away his entire 401(k) in Zeppelin stocks on May 5, 1937.

Besides, Despair is usually described (as Joyce Carol Oates explains) as the only sin God CANNOT forgive. So even though it isn’t one of the traditional Seven Deadlies (except on a few Orthodox lists), there’s actually far more juicy badness to be found in simple Despair than in any of those splashy (yet forgivable) sins like fornication or taking-the-name-of-the-Lord-in-vain. Seriously. F*** me. I mean, Jesus.

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Mr and Mrs Sloth

Our Sin today is sloth. Frankly, I thought about putting off this column, but that’s procrastination, and it is not a sin, it’s a vice. Vices are merely hazardous to your health; sins are hazardous to your soul (so: smoking, drinking, unprotected sex are vices; it’s the impulse to smoke, drink, or have unprotected sex that is sinful). Procrastination is often a product of sloth, but it’s sloth itself that we are here to discuss today. So, no more putting it off.

Sloth noun: reluctance to work or make an effort.

That’s a little half-hearted, isn’t it? Sloth isn’t mere indolence or laziness. Sloth is something greater and more sinister: the total disinclination to bestir oneself, even on one’s own account (which makes you not only slothful, but a drag on the people around you who have to pick up the slack). My favorite illustration of Sloth is from Norman Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my Holy Texts (see No Religious Training, above). When the hero, Milo, wanders into the Doldrums, he encounters the Lethargarians, who outline their day: Continue reading