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May 31, 2010 - May 24, 2010

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness

TREADING WATER AGAIN. The only appropriate word right now is 'surreal.' The U.S. Treasury Department is an empty office building, the congress is having an epileptic fit about 0.01 percent of their own multi-trillion-dollar bank heist, and the president -- when he isn't attacking capitalism as a sinister Republican conspiracy -- is making campaign appearances on the Tonight Show and filling out brackets (whatever they are) for the NCAA basketball tournament. March Madness indeed.

Who is it exactly who expects us to believe that the AIG bonuses are the only money that's been wasted in the obscene orgy of government spending the malignantly destructive Obama administration has visited on the American people in the past two months? The congress that had no problem larding up an already grossly prodigal budget with $9 billion worth of special interest earmarks is righteously indignant about $165 million in bonuses they specifically authorized in their own legislation? The greed that's a necessary credential in the parasites who levy taxes is a mortal sin in the private sector that actually creates jobs and wealth. I get it. I can't wait for the federal legislation that bans bonuses and regulates salaries in the rest of corporate America. I guess the good news is that given the breakneck speed of Obama's legislative agenda, that bill will be on his desk in another three weeks.

And what are conservatives doing to stand up for our nation and our way of life? The eggheads are writing careful, measured essays on topics like "epistemological modesty," while the mere politicians whose job it it is to represent our interests are lining up in the same AIG gangbang that makes the Democrats so repulsively hypocritical to watch that even the braindead lib  Shepard Smith is outraged about it. As I said. Surreal.

Anybody else feel like forgetting March altogether and waitng for this perfect storm of idiocy to exhaust itself before we pay it any more attention? If you like college basketball, you're welcome to that as your consolation. But some of you are just as sick of spinnaker pants as we are of leftwing balloonheads. For them, I have a very modest diversion to offer.

Yes, it is possible to avoid basketball and American Idol and the next Obamessiah press conference. I can offer you what amounts to a secret television series that will soothe you and calm you down. Here you go. Twelve hours of surcease.

I'm sure some of you already know about the Jesse Stone movies, but if you don't, take a chance and rent them from Netflix or Blockbuster. I know they're not for every taste and younger viewers in particular may find them somewhat too deliberately paced. But that's what makes them therapeutic at a time when all hell is breaking loose and the pace of our public life is revving up to stark insanity.

Jesse Stone is a small town police chief played with quiet dignity by Tom Selleck. The charm of these movies is subtle but strong. Stone is flawed yet unsentimentally wise, believably principled, and most of all a man, though not in any stereotypical macho way. His first life was as a Los Angeles cop. His marriage soured, he drank too much, and he lost everything he cared about. The movies deal with his second life in a small Massachusetts town, where he lives alone with his dog, a bottle of scotch he rations to himself between late-night calls from the shallow ex-wife he's still in love with, and the job he takes as seriously as good men always do. The reason he's not a loser is that he knows exactly who he is and if he is in some ways sad, he's not sorrowful or lost. He understands that his wounds enable him to care more deeply about other people, even if they regard him as remote and just a little dumb. A younger girlfirend informs that he's the simplest person she's ever known -- not entirely a compliment -- and subsequently asks him if he's ever killed anyone. He answers, "Yes."

"Do you want to tell me about it?"


But she persists and he tells her about a man with a machete and the physical sense of fear. Then the shooting part. She wants to know if he couldn't have wounded the man, shot him in the leg. Stone tells her, matter-of-factly, "You always shoot to kill. It's not like the movies. There's no time. You aim for the center of the body and hope you hit it."

Then she observes, "Maybe that's what being a cop brings out in a man."

And he replies, "Maybe it's that I'm a cop because I am that kind of man."

That's really the essence of the series. Stone knows that life is a life-and-death situation, and he possesses a sense of duty and the bravery of a man who knows his capabilities without the bravado of ego. The plots have everything to do with character and just enough action and danger to create suspense, but the best moments have to do with Stone's minimalist methods for effecting justice. He can't be bullied, but he almost never raises his voice. There's a scene where the town council querulously importunes him to allocate his small police force their way, and he tersely refuses. They remind him that they have the power to fire him. He tells them, "You do. But you can't tell me what to do."

The Massachusetts setting -- a spare hilly town and Stone's lonely rented house on the waterfront -- reinforces both the ordinariness of life and the beauty of the ongoing tension between loss and life. In other words, it's hauntingly real.

That's why I'm recommending this right now. The writing is fine, the supporting cast routinely excellent, and Selleck seems completely at home in his part. If your appraisal of him dates back to the noise and over-the-top teevee-ness of Magnum P.I., please put it aside. There's a gentleness about him, and a steely core, that 's been noted here before (scroll for Quigley Down Under), and this ongoing series of movies is the best thing he's ever done.

He has a stolid golden retriever for a companion. The eyes are limpid and knowing. You can imagine your blood pressure subsiding just by having this dog around. That's what these movies do. (Here's a trailer featuring both Selleck and the Golden. Don't pay any attention to the other bang-bang trailers. These aren't rapid-fire procedurals.) Give them a chance and I think you'll feel better for it. You might even make it through the middle of April without stroking out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Goyim:

Jewish Humor

How do they do that? They must be Satanic.

JOOS. Go to Columbia or Havard or anywhere where they're celebrating Palestinians over Jews and I guarantee you you won't find people who can make you laugh. Of course, if you're a liberal, laughter is the last thing you want. YOU want social justice. Which is best achieved by enabling muslims to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. Except that if you did that, you'd also have to give up Jerry.

Well, he's not Satanic. More like a neighbor. Which is... Satanic.

Ha. What is it about those Jews? The thing that makes them funny. Could it be that they are more observant about human behavior, that they see and recognize the details of life most of us disregard or pretend don't exist? That's FUNNY. Until that suspiciously shrewd eye locks on us:

Damn. She's not funny. She makes us uncomfortable. Let's kill her.

Just kidding. We know you don't want to kill her. You're perfectly happy to let the Arabs do it, aren't you? (Although -- it sure is an uneasy feeling hoping that Arabs and Persians can do what the Germans couldn't.) But what are they waiting for? Why do they let the American ones in particular have the opportunity to speak their fucking minds?

This is the problem. Like with that bitch earlier. Let them
get serious and before you know it, they're making sense.

Some truth. Jews are screwed up. Not because they're evil or stupid or too wrapped up in the conspiracy that's made them all rich and powerful enough to rule the U.S. government. They're screwed up because their close observation of human behavior deludes them that we're all comically fallible, regardless of our origins and beliefs. Which makes them think that basic humanity should somehow overrule fanaticism, hatred, ideology, and politics. They're not opposed to arguing. They've been doing it amongst themselves for 3,000 years. But they get over it. Because there's sex and chicken salad on the table after the quarrel.

Which is to say they're grownups. Maybe the only ones. Which makes them fools. Sex and chicken salad really should be enough to bring people together. But they aren't. Not for all the rest of us. The ones who know that the only way people can ever get together is by turning every spat into a jihad and killing every single motherfucker who disagrees with us.

Like, look at today. St. Patrick's Day. Glory be. The "troubles" have started again. Isn't that wonderful? Maybe this time, we can kill them all, to the last man, woman, and child.

While the Jews want chicken salad. And maybe sex with their wife, at least once What do the muslims want? Maybe sex without having to see even the eyes of their wife, because it's so much better with another man who's already bent over his prayer rug with his ass up in the air. And then kill everyone who calls it buggering.

But pay me no mind. I'm a Scot. We think Jews are funny because 1) they only pretend to care about money, 2) they haven't, in 3,000 years, figured out the one infallible way to shut up their shrewish women , and 3) for an ancient tribe, they're damned obtuse about the mass slaughtering it takes to get the pagans to leave you alone.

On the other hand, they're the only other tribe that's as brave as we are. Except maybe the Irish, since this is their day and all, and we're trying to be polite. And the Irish are also funny.

So maybe the thing to do is join up and finish the thing. Scots in the lead, of course, with the Jews and Micks following our chieftains while we put every last man of the enemy to the sword once and for all. That would be a hoot indeed.

P.S. On a more serious note -- we offer condolences to the family of Ron Silver, who made a moving address at the Republican National Convention in 2004. We don't know the right words to say, but we'd gladly join him in storming the gates of Muhammed's hellish paradise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stations of Loss

How much of everywhere will look like this in 2029?

HISTORY IF YOU CARE. Funny how things work, how trains of thought get started and lead to other destinations. Over the weekend I glimpsed some Top Gear promo featuring what the Brits call a 'shooting brake' or an 'estate wagon.' It got me wondering about the obsolete American term for the same kind of vehicle: 'station wagon.' I realized I didn't have the slightest idea where it came from. So this morning I did a Google search and was rewarded with the following from

Friday, February 20, 2009

Station Wagon, origin of the phrase

I was thinking about Station Wagons after posting about the Desoto and the Dodge a post or so down the page... and I realized that the phrase must orignate from the horse drawn wagons that went from station to station... or stages, hence Stage Coach... ergo station wagon.

Well, it made sense to me until I looked on the web for confirmation.

I was wrong.

The very first station wagons were called 'depot hacks' - they worked primarily around train depots as hacks (taxicabs). The modified back ends that made them depot hacks were necessary to carry large amounts of luggage - everyone traveled by train then, remember, and you needed a car that could comfortably carry people and large amounts of luggage from the train station to home. They were also called 'carryall's' and 'suburbans' (a name Plymouth used on their wagons until the late 1970's). 'Station wagon' was just another derivative of 'depot hack'; they were vehicles that were used as wagons (to carry passengers and cargo) from (railroad) stations.

He got it from a dedicated station wagon website, where there is also an excellent photographic gallery of this dead staple of American vehicular design.

The thing is, I miss station wagons. I've always had a soft spot for them because in my most serious car days a generation back I had a friend who loved both speed and bigness. His dad owned a Type 27 Bugatti, whose eponymous founder famously derided W. O. Bentley for making "fast trucks." But my friend preferred Bentley's vision of the roadgoing locomotive (cowcatcher optional) to the continental European ideal of the quicksilver scuttlebug too elusive to step on. He didn't disdain sports cars. But he preferred the big Jags -- the XK 120s and 140s -- to the Alfas, Fiats, Matras, Elvas, and Lotuses that made smallness a cardinal sporting virtue in the fifties and sixties.

Elva Courier. Cute, huh? Very Euro.

His personal ideal was American to the core, police cars and, yes, station wagons outfitted with tires, suspension, braking, engine, and audio components that would make them fast and agile enough to run down the scuttlebugs without any loss of big-car utility and comfort. As a big man and a multi-tasking one, he wanted plenty of leg and seat room, 100-Watt Stones belting from the stereo, a wide Detroit ashtray for his cigars, amusing passengers, and a few hundred pounds of tools and parts slamming around in back while he executed four-wheel drifts that would make today's fast-and-furious Hondas an endangered species if they'd interfered with his cornering arcs. Below is a picture that's close to what he'd have wanted, though he'd have switched out the alloy wheels for drilled stainless steel hubcaps, mounted the white-lettered tires with the inside blackwalls out, and he'd have fabricated his own dual exhausts, blueprinted the 440 V-8, and added fore and aft super-het radar detectors, headers, a manifold with two four-barrel Holley carbs, Koni shock absorbers, and calculated a custom camber and tow-in alignment that would have snapped the numb Chrysler steering into amazing responsiveness.

He'd also have installed metallic brakes and repainted in primer or matte.
The idea was not to look fast, but to
be fast and look nondescript to cops.

Sorry about all the retro tech jargon, but the point here is that unlike today's minivans, the station wagons of old had the capacity to be utilitarian, sexy, godawful fast and, if not nimble, tenaciously athletic at handling. There was nothing inherently feminine about them, nothing suggestive of the bulbous wombs on wheels you see mooing blissfully down the highways of a morning, so content in the primacy of their cargo that the mother behind the wheel can't even be bothered to compensate for her abundant blindspots by checking the rearview mirror. She has no power in merging maneuvers, she veers from lane to lane as if guided by the wind-heeled spinnaker of a sailboat that knows it always has the right of way, and she has more faith in the belts and trusses of her childseats than she has knowledge of the physics that make underpowered high-center-of-gravity vehicles so incredibly vulnerable.

I'm not tring to be mean. Honestly. But surely our wives and children would be safer in transportation appliances more like the old station wagons -- lower, less tippy, with more visibility all round, lower, more solid automobile handling characteristics, lower. To the ground. Yet station wagons are a thing of the past. Why?

I know it's crazy, but I also happened this morning on a beautiful but depressing photographic essay on the ruin of the City of Detroit, which you can see here. The first image was of the pathetic remains of Detroit's great train station, and I thought, "Hmmmm." Even if I don't know where the term 'station wagon' comes from, maybe the soul of the Detroit automotive manufacturing triumvirate does. Obviously, not every American city has lost its links with its railroad legacy, but Detroit definitely has, and that's the city that governs the American understanding of what contemporary transportation requirements are. Maybe their current vision of safe travel for women and children has taken on a tank-like quality because their headquarters city bears so much resemblance to a war zone.

Tell me this pic of the Packard plant doesn't remind you of Enemy at the Gates.

I realize I'm not making a defensible economic, historical, or rational argument. It's just a sensory reaction. But what are the odds that I'd light on the Detroit nomenclature 'station wagon' and then stumble on a photo of the tragic state of the Detroit train station?

Now think about the kind of corrupt, tax-heavy government that has run the City of Detroit into the ground pretending that government can make up for the loss of private sector revenue. It can't. It isn't that business is the exploiter. It's that government is the parasite. Always the parasite, feeding itself on the weaknesses of the people.

All you mommies: Is that what you really want?

If government succeeds in killing the engines of capitalism and private enterprise, the portrait of Detroit you see above could be all of us in twenty years time. Think about that, why don't you?

We are the change ghosts we've been hoping for.

P.S. A final plink of serendipity. The Michigan Central Station was finished in 1913, the year the income tax was legalized in the United States. Metaphors involving cancer come to mind. More irrational poetic guff. Right?

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