Thursday, February 27, 2003

Rest in peace, Fred Rogers. You were a rock in the middle of my strangest days.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Hey folks,

This weekend was subsumed by mandatory socializing with family and friends, including an extremely urgent wine-tasting party I forced myself to endure. It was rough. Especially the Francis Ford Coppola chardonnay I had to guzzle over and over to adequately capture its nose on my tongue.

I got 12 minutes to finish my presentation. Naturally I'm blogging.

Anybody catch Ashcroft's precious press conference today? G-men confiscated "millions" of dollars of illegal drug paraphernalia from predatory online distributors. (Translation: they busted somebody for selling tobacco pipes and lamp parts) Ashcroft thanked everybody who is on the "front line" of the drug war: secret service agents, prosecutors, etc. Somebody got up and made the typically hysterical, uninformed, overgeneralized argument about how many teenagers are abusing and dependent upon marijuana, and how the problem is "misunderstood" by the vast majority of the public. Whatever. [insert typically hysterical, uninformed, overgeneralized anti Drug war rant].

Mary sent me an obviously much needed explanation of what "muscadine" is. Its not, as I suspected, an unfortunate inner-ear condition caused by overexertion in the cold:

>I just wanted to mention "muscadine" is a grape similar to muscat, which are made into yummy sweet wine or raisins...
>Somehow I don't find the thought of a throatful of scuppernong totally unpleasant...>

With that explanation, I say, bring on the scuppernong. I'll guzzle a few carafes and torch the American flag while singing the "internationale". Ashcroft can put the leftover resin in his lamp parts and smoke it all the way to hell or Missouri, whichever comes first.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

I have just been informed under no uncertain terms that my weeklong hiatus from blogging has irreversibly conjoined me with a certain class of "boring" bloggers who don't update their blogs regularly. Fortunately, they inform me, I have one last chance. Whew. That's a relief. Wouldn't want to be "conjoined" to anything involuntarily. Sounds painful. In any case, to my contumelious tormenter I say save yer scunnery for true slack bloggers -- *I* had an excuse: it was snowing outside.

Yes, snowing, I said. Normally that wouldn't be a reasonable excuse, I know, but it was *really* snowing. Feet upon feet of snow fell. (They said it was only two feet of snow but when I went outside there were drifts above my head so I don't know how scientific their measurements are.) I was forced to remain inside for several days. I developed a severe case of cabin fever without the benefit of being in a cabin. I dreamed of what life would be like with more than two channels on the TV. My skin desquamated in the dryness. I survived eating nothing but pretzel crumbs and dried orange peels from the bottom of the trashcan. Blockbuster was closed. Etc.
That's my story I'm sticking to it.

I know, by now you're saying "put...the dictionary...down" but I have to say the $20 I spent on an electronic version of Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus has been well worth it. Perhaps by propining the following definition I can mollify you into agreeing with me:

scuppernong:a cultivated muscadine with yellowish green plum-flavored fruits

Granted, I'm not sure what a "muscadine" is, but I believe "scuppernong" can be applied in the following way:

"After shoveling snow for five hours in subzero weather, the erstwhile blogger's inflamed sinus produced a throatful of scuppernong."

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

So I hear from reliable sources that Mac just put out a new 17 inch laptop. Apparently its really big -- almost like a desktop but portable if you don't mind lugging around 57 kg of pure processing power.

I'm not sure what to make of this.
See, we already have desktops. In fact, I'm using one right now AND, we've already gone through our "big, clunkly laptop" stage. I used to have one. It was thicker than a dictionary and slower than George W. Bush ducking punches from a pretzel.

I thought the point of laptops was that they were small and unobtrusive. For awhile people were saying that smaller and less obtrusive was better. As laptops got smaller, PDA's got more and more powerful until the two were difficult to distinguish. Granted, Mac reached a lowpoint last year by releasing an Ipod laptop that was so small there wasn't even room for a keyboard. And the screen was freakin *tiny.* I couldn't get the damn thing to do anything but play songs. (Rumor had it there were plans for an even smaller laptop but the prototype got mistaken for a mini-thin and eaten by an overworked Apple employee.) Still, we've been told for several years that smaller represented progress and despite the whole Ipod fiasco I'm convinced there's truth to it.

But now they come up with this...this 17" monstrosity. My question is this: where will this counterintuitive laptop trend end? Soon they'll be selling us laptops with 54" plasma screens that are so handy you will never want (much less be able) to move them once you set them up.

My lack of comprehension means only one thing: Steve Jobs is a visionary.
I'm writing a paper this semseter on the post-Vietnam POW/MIA movement. No doubt you've seen the black flags fluttering over your statehouses and courts. No doubt you've heard the conspiracy theories about POW sitings, and government cover-ups etc. No doubt you've wondered why the hell any country would damage its international reputation holding stinky, lice-ridden POWs in bamboo tiger cages for 30 years after a war they'd won. No doubt you've wondered why US relations with Vietnam have been hamstrung by the families of MIAs. Well, I have to interview members of this movement for my paper.

I've been reading up on the issue, formulating my ideas based on the writings of various sociologists and historians. Depending upon who you read its a grief response mixed with a guilt-response mixed with unrealistic hope. Others say its latent anger based upon the perception by Vets that they were ignored or mistreated after returning home. On paper it seems to be all of these things. So and so's theory of dissociative rage blah blah.

Yesterday at the grocery store I came across an SUV with POW/MIA stickers on it. The owner -- a 50ish something man (looked like a Native American or a Latino) with silver streaked black hair -- is getting in just as I walk past. I decide to approach him. He regards me with suspicion.

Me: Hey, I'm a student at American University. I'm writing about the POW/MIA movement. I'm looking for anyone who can tell me about it.

[a look of pain crosses his face.]

Him: What movement?

Me: I noticed you had these stickers on your car. Would you happen to know anyone I could talk to about it?

Him: I've been involved in it since 1961. It was a bad time. Everybody's dead, buddy.

[he gets in his car and drives away]

Monday, February 10, 2003

Caught up with the Captain tonight -- he called to say he was up to his eyeballs in Yoga and the GRE. The thought of the Captain locating his chi or chakram is infinitely hillarious. California has a way of doing that to people sometimes. But I'm not worried about it -- the Captain's got eagle eyes for voodoo. Nobody will twist his wallet into a pretzel or force him to hover serenely over a pool of blatant b.s.

As for the GRE, well, that's just a damn shame. Nobody should have to suffer the indignity of standardize tests. I'll vouch for his abilities right here. Anybody who has served under the Captain knows that his language skills are unsurpassed. To hear the Captain bellow "Oh My Hell" or "That's Spank" amid the smoke and chaos of a defensive sortie against the Dread Pirate Booz is to know that you are in the presence of a canny linguist.

As for his analytical ability, this is practically mythical. Once whilst swilling whiskey in a waterside shanty near Yosemite the Captain assuaged the possibility of remaining upright after accepting a particularly devastating fusillade from the Dread Pirate Booz. Our foul opponant had come upon us suddenly in the darkness behind a bottle of fine imported whiskey. The analysis was clear -- the Captain could not rescue both himself and his crew, and quick thinking was required or none of us would survive the night. (His crew at that moment consisted of myself and an unconcsious Barrister who had traded long range fire with the Pirate but succumbed from smoke inhallation during the initial salvo).

As the balls and missles tore through the air, the good Captain positioned himself so as to accept the brunt of the impact. He remained defiant to the last -- so much so that even as he fell senseless, he continued to yell commands in the mistaken impression that he was unimpaired. Yet his quick-thinking afforded me the opportunity to make my escape and tell my tale. It is in the spirit of what I believe to have been the characteristic selflessness of his deeds that night that I am compelled to relate these events as I have, unadulterated and without embelishment. If only his own mind on the subject had not been rendered ajumble by the greviousity of his wounds, he would no doubt faithfully and without hesitation render this very same account himself.

As for mathmatickal ability, the Captain stands verily among of the great navigators and astronomers of the world. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were off the Muloccas or perhaps the San Bernardinos. We had become lost in a maze of shifting tidal islets and inlets. I admit it was I who had been in charge of relating our position in the great watery sea to the great flowing ocean of stars overhead. I had been schooled in the finest academies in Europe, trained by master astronomers at Leipzig.

My equipment was the best available. My sextant had been hand laithed in London. My compass crafted by the Venetians. My watch was of Swiss origin and cost me close to seven francs in Marsellis, the greed of all Frenchmen and all Frenchmen be damned. Still, the confusing array of tidal shoals and submerged reefs had hopelessly damned my calculations. After several days of floundering, with starvation upon us and scurvy threatening to rear its toothless head, the Captain approached upon my position on the foredeck and requested an explanation.

"Sir," said he, "we have skirred hither and thither among yonder ithsmuses and littoral estuaries for nigh over several weeks now. What seems to be the problem?"

Upon hearing my explanation that this confluence upon the terrestrial tableau did not match the expected conjunction of cosmic bodies per Tycho Brahe's First Principle of Orbital Alignment, the Captain proferred the explanation that perhaps my instrumentation suffered from improper calibration.

"Allow me to rearrange their particular locality vis a vis the Prime Meridian," said he.

Greatly relieved that the solution might be something as simple as this (whatever it meant), and glad that it was not some sort of misapplication of scientifick principle on my part, I surrendered my instruments to him for the necessary adjustments. Without so much as a glance to the exquisite metallurgic composition of the sextant, nor the unsurpassed steadiness of the watch and compass, the Captain planted his feet and with his shoulder as the locus, did utilize the full length of his arm to describe an exquisitely formulated arc. At the apex of this sudden measurement, the Captain released the contents of his hand. After a short, parabolic flight which terminated among the waves, it became obvious that upon the specific design of the Captain, the wide ocean had become availed of my fine instrumentation.

"There," said he. "Thirty feet closer to the Prime Meridian." Then, perhaps detecting an aura of dismay upon my features, he endeavored to explain the essence of this singularly unusual act of calibration. "I have heard that crabs are especially adroit at grasping the particulars of such articles," said he, but detecting my continuing unease, proceeded to declaim a particularly astounding yet remarkably cogent critique of Modern Science.

According to the Captain it was no wonder that we were lost based upon my measurements, for the very same Astronomers who had provided me with the necessary figures and formulas to read the heavens had conferred amonst themselves and determined that the summation of all the lines and angles of the cosmos, and every mote of dust therein, and all the planets and stars, and every dram of liquor ever drunk, added up to a single shape: a round, ring-like arrangement similar to a cylendar bent so that its ends touch.

"Do you know what shape that is?" said the Captain. "Your scientists call it a 'cylindrical ring' but do you know what it really is?"

I thought very hard, unsure of where he was going.

"It is a doughnut!" said he. "Leave a man locked up in a university for four decades with all his learning and calculations, and his charts and his latin and his measurements, and his sextants and clocks and he comes up with a great big, cosmic doughnut. This is their final conclusion. Their 'big theory'. Everything there is and was and will be: a doughnut.
This is what they say, yet when I look toward the heavens I cannot see it...can *you* see it? When I lift my nose to the air all I can smell is foul bilge and tar and soiled sailors...I cannot smell a doughnut. When I reach my hand toward the sky I feel nothing: nada, nil, zilch, zed. No moist, slightly warm dough fresh from the oven. No cruler with crusty glaze and chocolaty sprinkles. What am I supposed to do with such a doughnut as this, feed my starving crew? Am I to munch on a bit of green cheese from the Moon and thank my lucky stars I live in the middle of a giant, puffy pastry that can't be seen but exists conclusively on a chart in central Poland? Perhaps this doughnut is filled with jam or lemon. I do love a bit of lemon. It keeps a sailor's teeth from dropping one by one into this rolling blue batter. And that hail that tore away the topsail in Vancouver -- it must have been sugar. They can prove that, too, I'm sure. Just add one plus one here and divide it all by zero. You get a doughnut.

"No, sir," said he, "I place my faith neither in omnipresent breadstuffs nor all the learned theorems in all the wide world. We shall strike East from this very spot, and there we will find ourselves, if not secure, at least a darn sight less lost than we are at present because we will know with a certainly -- or at least as far as our judgements allow -- that we are East of where we once were."

And with this new orientation to the heavens and all beneath it, we were able to continue our voyages and I became convinced as never before that the Captain was as capable at discerning the subtleties of mathematicks as he was at applying analytical reasoning and demiurgic verbosity. So you see, despite his recent affinity for Yoga (and godspeed to him finding his Chakram) -- I have no doubt that he will do fine on the GRE.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Sunday evening. February something. Supposed to snow. Snowed the day before yesterday. They call that day "Friday". Snowed out a meeting I was unprepared for anyway. Yippee.

Its Sunday evening. Still February something. I got a full stack of rewrites to grade before tomorrow. They are rarely better on the second reading. After I get off this computer I'll spend a good three hours cozied up with an afghan on and a red pen in hand. Yippee.

Fortunately, Epidapheles hooked me up with the Flaming Lips. People compare them to Radiohead and Wilco, but they strike me as less pretentous than Radiohead and prettier (and more daring) than Wilco. I'll be able to hum a song or two in the shower, which means Flaming Lips passes the test. This album validates my "Song Four Theory." Rightawn.

Since its Sunday evening and February and since my wife will be returning Tuesday night and the laundry is piled up to the rim of the washing machine and beef I boiled in the crock pot is still hard 32 hours later (no joke) and since there are papers to grade and vacuuming to do, I will leave you with a quote from a book I have to read entitled "Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive" by Joan Hoff Wilson:

"This neoguildist brand of corporatism was repudiated and finally abandoned in the panic of the Great Depression for an equally ambiguous, pluralist brand of liberal welfare statism."

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Well I did it. I studied today. It took me 6 hours and I got a good 45 minutes out of it. Fortunately I have a good memory. I internalized much of someone's synthezised history of the US from 1945 to now. Now I'm back to blogging. Why blogging? Because it is here. Because *I* am here. And because it is just as useless as studying, but its a hell of a lot more fun. Blogging is a bit like the scribbling I used to do in spiral notebooks, but instead of leaving it to moulder in my closet, I rip out the pages one by one and toss them off a pier. Most probably the pages get soggy and sink to the bottom, to join a fuzzy layer of detreitus comprised mainly of rubber boots, fish-shit, and 1947 cadillacs driven into the sea by lonely, despairing women with nowhere better to go. As the pages fall they are nibbled upon by nervous sardines hoping to find that legendary "magic meal" (so common in old fishwives tales) to infuse their fragile bones with vigor and enable them to finally confront the grinning barracuda. There are minutes of suspense and fin-flexing as the wood-pulp works its way through the system. Of course by the time of any potential transformation, Sardine attention spans being what they are, all dreams of assertiveness will be forgotten. Shit will happen. Prankster plankton swimming by will suck it down like shared spaghetti in a bad Disney flick. On the way to the bottom, whatever remains after the single-celled crowd gets through with it will flutter past urchins and hermit crabs, imparting choice phrases and terrible puns, so that for weeks from now wayward orca will hear smug mutterings and sodden laughter from under the rocks. A true waste of words.
All you idle laggarts should check out Jeff Swanson's site -- Its full of all sorts of good stuff: fiction, poetry, art, music, etc. I especially liked the photograph of the Chumash rock painting depicting mysterious flying creatures known as "rods." Apparently these creatures are only visible to ancient rock painters and people with video cameras. (

For the record, Mr. Swanson informs me that Mach 18 is 12,500 mph, and *not* 30,000 mph as I'd indicated in my astronaut rant. I hope nobody mistook me as an authority on this (or any other) subject. I'd hate to be responsible for spreading sloppy science.

By the way, the Ocean Blue didn't let me down. Davy Jones' Locker is a good album. For all you mp3 junkies out there I especially recommend the song "Bottle Yours" (with the caveat that it has absolutely nothing do do with beer brewing, which is the only thing that would have made it better). It turns out that my friend Anne lives up the street from OB's lead singer and her father built his house. Small world.

I also would like to point out that the recent theory floated on Hometown Unicorn regarding Michael Jackson's astonishing deterioration/transformation is the only one I've heard that makes sense. Such a ring would be among the only objects on earth capable of draining a man's color and reducing him to a state of mental infancy. That and an X-box, of course.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Faced with a 5 page research paper proposal due nearly four hours ago, yet thinking very much about the economic uncertainty brought about by terrorists and war-pessimism, I sought to maximize my time this evening by doing my patriotic duty. Did I sign up for the Marine Corps in order to prevent future threats from materializing upon our hallowed shore? No -- I did something even more dangerous. I went shopping. At the Mall.

[insert standard tired tirade about crass consumerism and overindulged teenagers ruining the world]

[mixed it with undisguised pleasure at having located an "Ocean Blue" album I've been coveting, which I was able to purchase through assorted Christmas gift certificates]

Duty and shopping aside, as I considered the pros and cons of purchasing this particular album, I realized that there was very little chance of it actually changing my life or giving me a new perspective on things. Nor would it make me feel warm and fuzzy or make me laugh or feel loved or clever or lucky. Aren't these the things that art should do?

Aside: I realize that not everybody feels this way about art. Take my grandma, for instance, (rest her soul etc.). When I was a kid and my grandma would show us paintings and sculptures she'd made but would never say anything about them. Not a thing. Not a peep. We were just supposed to come to our own conclusions about it, I guess. When I'd go with her to art museums, we'd stand around the work in silence or hovering around at our own pace, never interacting with one another, just thinking our own separate thoughts until it was time to go. It was alwasy so icy in those places, so remote. They were like...well...museums. My inclination in the midst of such outings was often to howl with laughter and jump around like a monkey just to break the ice. All those trips really taught me was how horrible it feels to be isolated in the midst of ones family. I subsequently rejected that kind of hyper-personalized experience in favor of a much more negotiated experience with art. Its a given that all of our experiences with art will be ultimately subjective, but in the meantime we might be able to gain insight and intimacy with it and one another, and hopefully we'll be strong enough to retain our own opinions about it. Blah blah.

Point is: my new CD will not blow my mind or make me a better man or a better lover etc. In all likelihood its songs will fit into the same general themes as most songs:

I am happy about obtaining love/money/car.
I am sad about losing love/money/car.
I have problems.
I am angry about my problems.
You should be angry about my problems.
You have problems.
Your problems are not my problems.
U R my baby.
R U my baby?
I would like to fornicate with you immediately.
We are fornicating right now -- oh yeah.
We are fornicating right now -- oh no.
I remember fornicating with you.
I am happy about growing out of my teen years.
I wish I was a teenager again.
I like teen bitches.
I'm cool.
I'm a loser.
You're cool.
You're a loser.
Life used to be great.
Life used to suck.
I'm leaving you.
You left me.

All I really demand of my new CD is that it contain pretty melodies I can hum in the shower without sounding like a gagged emu.

Fortunately, it's Ocean Blue.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

I was poking around on my computer and I found this definition I apparently jotted down. I found it in Webster's. Until it becomes commonly known I'm going to use it at least once a day. I think it will fit into most conversations. The trick will be making it sound natural, but since a mackerel is natural and a sky is natural, how hard could it be?

Mackerel Sky (n): a sky covered with rows of autocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds resembling patterns on a mackerel's back.

The existence of this word calls into question how exactly it is that words wind up in dictionaries. This particular word appeared in 1669. My guess is Webster put it into the dictionary it to impress a lady.

[Scene: A breezy hilltop south of Boston, 1669. The sky is full of clouds. A foppish young dandy dressed in rediculously exaggerated period costume sits on a blanket beside a gorgeous young sylph with a look of blank adoration upon her face. A picnic is spread before them consisting of a rhind of hoary cheese, a rock-hard digestive biscuit, forty-three raisins, and a bottle of wine.]

WEBSTER [sighing]: Look at the sky, my dove. Is it not the epitome of pulchritude? Look at those clouds, how they fall one after another in echelon...

GIRL: [bats eyelashes, stuffs her mouth full of plump raisins] I wish we 'ad a bit 'o fish t' go along wif these 'ear currants.

WEBSTER: Is not its very perseity evidence of a great and numinous pneuma? What we are witnessing is not the residua of some cosmic mishap, no - we are looking into the very furnishings of heaven itself! The lares and penates of the house of the divine, would you not agree, my dear?

GIRL: [looking up with a mouthful of raisins] Looks like a big ol' striped fish t' me. A mackerel sky, it is, me love, and a lovely one at that. Plump and juicy. O', but I do wish we 'ad a bit o' it down 'ear to go wif this 'ear wine.

WEBSTER [clearly dissappointed]: Uh, yes. Very much so. Mackerel, indeed. 'Like twin candles melting together in the lee of a harbormaster's furnace, the two young lovers became one beneath a mackerel sky.'

GIRL: Oh, Noah! You're sooo romantic!

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Clay Sails: Its become a fashion lately to blame 9-11 for everything. Its the reason "everythings changed" etc. So I think I'm on safe -- or at least familiar -- ground when I blame 9-11 for my lack of emotion about this whole space shuttle thing. Is it possible I'm suffering from "disaster fatigue"? When I see the shuttle debris streaking across the screen I feel...oh yeah...nothing. I'm sure there were brave people up there and all -- in all liklihood they were heroes -- but to me its just another plane crash. And not a very big plane, either. At least there were only seven people on board and really, are those seven people any more deserving of life than anyone who dies prematurely? Maybe we're sad because we lost people who were more useful to us than the usual movie producers and airlines stewardesses and Democratic Senators. Astronauts are at least indirectly responsible for 500 channels of satellite TV and every cell phone conversation on earth. Still, I gotta admit, I didn't feel much.

I'm convinced that part of the issue here is 9-11. If only seven people and a 20 year old airplane got smoked, how does that even hold a (pardon the metaphor) candle to the 2900 who died when the towers came crashing down and reduced America's greatest city into an even bigger pile of shit? Remember that plane crash that happened in New York just a few days after 9-11? No, neither do I. Well, barely anyway. People were like "another plane crashed in New York and 250 people died. That sucks, but whats 250 when we've still got thousands missing and accounted for at ground zero?" Folks were just happy the thing didn't come down on the Empire State building, or in a rich uptown neighborhood. Otherwise, it totally got lost in the larger tragedy of that week.

For the record, I'm not saying *nobody* should care about the shuttle explosion today. I *completely* understand the NASA scientists reactions, their tears, pain and senses of helplessness. I obviously understand that lives of the families will be shattered and nobody wishes tragedies like this upon anybody, but we need some perspective here as a country. Fortunately, I'm around to give some.

[*Before continuing, Clay Sails glances over his shoulder to make sure the PC goon squad isn't about to tie him up and force him to undergo seventeen weeks of sensitivity training*]

Ok, so 7 people versus 2900 killed on 9-11. By my humble math skills we would need to demolish 414.2857142857142857142857 fully-crewed shuttles to equal 9-11 in terms of scale. My ratio holds up and I'm sticking to it. I defintely feel 414.2857142857142857142857 times less upset over today's unfortunate accident than 9-11. Following this little macabre analogy here to its ultimately pointless conclusion, I was reading about the Rwandan massacre the other day. Somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 people got hacked to death with machetes, shot, and beaten with baseball bats in a span of THREE WEEKS by spontaneous mobs consisting of ordinarily fairly un-ideological people (who were also by many accounts good neighbors to the people they ended up slaughtering). Three weeks of killing on that scale makes the Nazis look like girl scouts by comparison (albeit REALLY MEAN girl scouts with ugly little moustaches and horrible accents who would gleefully smother you to death with handmade macrame bean bags if you did not buy their nasty little cookies.)

But forget about all that -- I'm rambling and getting off the subject. The seven that died this morning, tragic as it was etc., died going MACH EIGHTEEN! That's even faster than I ran once after eating a basket of Szechuan Chili Cheeze fries at the mall. Mach 18. That's 30,000 mph. Damn. Eat your heart out Chuck Yeager. But seriously, think about it: going 30,000 miles per hour and heated up to 3000 degrees ain't such a bad way to go. Sure beats the hell out of tuburculosis, or impacted bed sores, or dying of shock like that poor guy pinned beneath his semi in Ottawa who chewed mostway through his own leg before discovering it was the wrong one.

At 30,000 mph and 3000 degrees you'd be dead in, like, *PFF*. Not even that slow. And on the bright side: at least they didn't have to spend another goddamn minute in Texas. I've driven across that state and let me tell you -- its really big, and an even bigger drag. Its just days and days of concentrated nothing. I can't imagine what seeing the whole thing at once must do to the brain. It'd flatline you right away. You'd go instantly comatose. Drool would seep out of the corner of your mouth. Hopefully there wouldn't be any sensitive electronics around...

So anyway I guess that's why I'm not feeling too sad for them personally, or America (except for the families etc.). We'll get some other shmo to blast up there and adjust our cable antennaes. Maybe this time they can make it so that Calista Flockhart isn't so damn ugly. But the will go on. Am I wrong?

The Dude: No -- you're not wrong.

Clay Sails: Am I wrong?

The Dude: No, you're not wrong. You're just an asshole.

The space shuttle blew up this morning. How very sad. Probably there's more worth saying about it than that, but I doubt I'm the one to say it.

I remember when Challenger blew up I was home sick from school. I lay on the couch all day in the grip of fever, watching the footage over and over again. My teacher, Mr. Murphy, was hugely into astronomy and science and we'd been following the Christie MacAuliff story for several weeks. Mr. Murphy, who'd been a chopper pilot in 'Nam, had himself applied for the "teacher-astronaut" position. After the explosion, Mr. Murphy had all the kids in the class draw a picture of how they felt. Naturally, being only fourth graders, the possibility of getting mature emotional responses from everyone in the class was slim. It was even slimmer because the class contained my friend Danny Bickell. He drew a flaming Christy MacAuliff flying out of a shuttle. She had a big smile on her face and although I never actually saw the image, I was told (and it is safe to assume) that it also included full frontal nudity.

This morning Dan Rather got an eyewitness from Texas on the phone.
Dan: We have on the phone a man who seems to have a part of the shuttle in his backyard. Can you describe what you saw, sir?
Eyewitness: I heard this large, long roar and saw this white plume of smoke streaking down across the sky. It crashed into my backyard.
Dan: You say it landed in your backyard?
Eyewitness: From what we can tell right now it looks like one of Baba-Booey's teeth.

[For those of you who may not be familiar with the Howard Stern Show, Baba-Booey is the producer. There are folks who make crank calls to all sorts of media outlets in order to invoke the name of Baba-Booey. Call me juvenile if you wish, but I've always found these calls to be highly amusing.]