Thanksgiving Traditions

Do you have any? Until I married Lady Laird, I’m not sure I did. Other than watching the Detroit Lions lose a football game in the afternoon.

She came equipped with one decidedly odd one I should have known about but didn’t. Which is that you must listen to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant on the day.

You see, there was once a radio station that was THE radio station. WMMR in Philadelphia. They billed themselves as “progressive rock” and pioneered the on-air personalities who didn’t yell like the AM stars of the time, you know, Wolfman Jack, Cousing Brucie, et al. MMR even had a nerdy little guy who just loved the music. His name was Michael Tearson, he adored rock and roll music, and he was a bookishly conversational radio host, so earnest that he felt like everybody’s smarter younger brother.

That was the WMMR experience. They talked to you. They were fans. They were crazy. They did Stones A to Z weekends, playing every single Rolling Stones song in alphabetical order. You could plan your weekend around your favorite letters of the alphabet.

And then there was Pierre Robert, who without my permission, started the Alice’s Restaurant tradition on Thanksgiving.

I learned about it from my wife about ten years ago, something she shared with her son, the both of them listening at the same time, and I found it, you know, moving somehow.

Frankly, I have no idea what the song has to do with Thanksgiving. But I don’t care. It’s a good thing and a reminder that there were happier days when not everything had a political meaning or penumbra or tag.

WMMR is not much anymore. Just another classic rock station stuck in the past. Pierre Robert is still there, a literal graybeard who also seems stuck in time. The good news is that Arlo’s song is available on Youtube, and the tradition can continue in perpetuity.

This morning I woke her because it was time to check the turkey which had been roasting overnight. Sleepily, she said “I thought it was me whose favorite holiday was Thanksgiving.” Not anymore, sweetie. I’ve caught the bug.

Do you have a weird Thanksgiving tradition of some sort. If so, please share.

Regardless, have a great day with your family. We sure will.

Lady Barbara Update

Gulp. News to me. Lady Laird sent me this FB pic of Lady Barbara. I'd been imaging someone more along the lines of Ethel Barrymore. Now I feel really old.

Gulp. News to me. Lady Laird sent me this FB pic of Lady Barbara. I’d been imagining someone more along the lines of Ethel Barrymore. Now I feel really really really oooooold.

Why we still believe in Thanksgiving. I dissed Megyn Kelly on the occasion of her new show, favorite commenter Barbara disagreed, and then — based on the evidence of the show itself — I recanted. Which led to this world class funniness from the lady who lives in Hawaii.

Thank you, RL. I’m so happy that If I knew where your tents were I’d run down right now with a couple of succulent turkey drumsticks and some sausage and sage stuffing. For Raebert, of course; he’s my main concern, out there in the cold, poor baby.

You are a gentleman for admitting your error. It will make a difference in my life too, because from here forward I will be able to watch Megyn without distraction from obsessive thoughts like “Did RL hear that question? I hope so.” “Isn’t he noting how carefully she listens, her quick follow up to that evasion,” etc., etc. Now I will be able to focus on the program’s content instead of my fears that you’re watching, unimpressed — possibly even hostile. I pray you can intuit my deep sighs of relief from across the Pacific.

She’s gorgeous too. And sexy. I know that because every minute her face fills the screen my husband grins, dimples and twinkles his eyes naughtily. Inside his head he’s Cary Grant in a romantic comedy where Megyn’s trying to educate him on the perils of, say, reductions in GNP, while he’s getting ready to interrupt with “You’re so darned cute when you’re mad.” We’re both huge fans, though possibly for different reasons.

Yes, she’ll take over prime time soon. The times I feel ashamed for conservatives is when I read the ratings O’Reilly and Hannity get. I find both to be unwatchable dullards, the sort of individuals who would inspire thoughts of suicide, along about St. Louis, if you happened to be either’s seatmate on a cross-country Greyhound bus trip. Megyn’s gonna be their downfall (I hope).

It doesn’t get much better than that. Only downside: Lady Laird has been asking, “How did Barbara get to Hawaii? What does she know that we (meaning you, of course) don’t?”

Probably many things, I tell her.

Back to basics, though. I’m more inclined to defend Hannity than O’Reilly. Hannity is the trooper on the line, the man at the gate, the first line of defense. Always on duty, never AWOL, eternally vigilant, a soldier’s soldier. They’ll have to take out him before they get to us. Brains don’t count for much in that equation. He’s the Etienne Gerard of the conservative movement. O’Reilly’s just an ass. Loved Limbaugh’s passing reference last week to “Ted O’Baxter.” That about sums it up.

But my subject was Thanksgiving. I’ll probably never have the opportunity to meet Lady Barbara. But the age of the Internet has created electronic friendships. I’m shaking hands with her as we speak.

Thank God for such boons.

Happy Black Friday!

You gotta be tough in the New Normal.

Our new home away from home. You gotta be tough in the New Normal.

Just a note to let you know there won’t be the usual Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving greeting this year. Lady Laird and I are camped out on the threshold of the Deptford Mall waiting for the Black Friday sales to begin.

She’s got the list. It’s so top secret even I haven’t been allowed to see it yet. I’m guessing there’s stuff on there about GPS, needle cams, and electronic jamming devices. But my job is to boil the water we’re siphoning from the nearby ladies room faucets. I’m also responsible for preparing the MREs, which is tricky because they’re frankly inedible without the right application of ketchup and French’s brand onion rings. And Raebert, obviously, insists on having his own tent, which he keeps knocking over. Guess whose job it is to put it up again.

So it’s not a holiday here. Hope things are better in your little corner of the world. Maybe you’re one of the ones who can afford a turkey. I really do. We have cranberry jelly. I’m saving it to put on the MREs come Thursday. That’s the day we here at the mall call T Minus One. Other people call it Thanksgiving.

Honey? Honey? Where’s the bag with the bungee cords? Honey?

Where’s she wandered off to now? Damn. Gotta go.

Have a good one.

Raebert's tent. He's wandered off too, dammit.

Raebert’s tent. He’s wandered off too, dammit.

JUST FOR BARBARA. Not to worry. He ran back home. Apparently, tent life isn’t for him. Poor baby indeed.

Mommy promised to be back soon.

Mommy promised to be back soon.

Sociopaths R Us


Real men aren’t this obnoxious and despicable.

Professor walks into a bar. Says “I’m looking for sociopaths.” Bartender says, “Mirror’s right behind my head, sport.”

One afternoon in October 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was looking at brain scans of serial killers. As part of a research project at UC Irvine, he was sifting through thousands of PET scans to find anatomical patterns in the brain that correlated with psychopathic tendencies in the real world.

“I was looking at many scans, scans of murderers mixed in with schizophrenics, depressives and other, normal brains,” he says. “Out of serendipity, I was also doing a study on Alzheimer’s and as part of that, had brain scans from me and everyone in my family right on my desk.”

“I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological,” he says, noting that it showed low activity in certain areas of the frontal and temporal lobes linked to empathy, morality and self-control. Knowing that it belonged to a member of his family, Fallon checked his lab’s PET machine for an error (it was working perfectly fine) and then decided he simply had to break the blinding that prevented him from knowing whose brain was pictured. When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own.

Interesting, huh? Maybe not really. I’ve been talking about the danger of secret sociopaths in our midst for at least a dozen years. Must not be that interesting.

Still. We keep hearing about Rahm Emmanuel and his brothers Ezekiel and Fuckface (the guy in Entourage I’ve never watched). I think, in NYT and WAPO terms, we’re supposed to admire them. I’ve always kind of taken it for granted that they were sociopaths from a family of same. Sorry. I come from a family equipped with moral conscience and empathy. My bad.

Here’s more about the confessed sociopath in the Smithsonian article:

It wasn’t entirely a shock to Fallon, as he’d always been aware that he was someone especially motivated by power and manipulating others, he says. Additionally, his family line included seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, infamously accused of killing her father and stepmother in 1892.

But the fact that a person with the genes and brain of a psychopath could end up a non-violent, stable and successful scientist made Fallon reconsider the ambiguity of the term. Psychopathy, after all, doesn’t appear as a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in part because it encompasses such a wide range of symptoms. Not all psychopaths kill; some, like Fallon, exhibit other sorts of psychopathic behavior.

“I’m obnoxiously competitive. I won’t let my grandchildren win games. I’m kind of an asshole, and I do jerky things that piss people off,” he says. “But while I’m aggressive, but my aggression is sublimated. I’d rather beat someone in an argument than beat them up…”

Of course, there’s also a third ingredient, in addition to genetics and environment: free will. “Since finding all this out and looking into it, I’ve made an effort to try to change my behavior,” Fallon says. “I’ve more consciously been doing things that are considered ‘the right thing to do,’ and thinking more about other people’s feelings.”

But he added, “At the same time, I’m not doing this because I’m suddenly nice, I’m doing it because of pride—because I want to show to everyone and myself that I can pull it off.”

You can’t pull it off. There’s always going to be something bent about you. Your first instinct will be to smash, obliterate, annihilate, and ridicule those who obstruct you. How dare they?

You give yourself away by your overreaction. See video above.

Ezekiel? We’re damned lucky you’re not a guy who tracks down human prey and leaves them in ponds with some missing trinket as trophy.

I’m not kidding. You can’t see what’s wrong with you. Obama can’t either. The rest of us, if we pause and reflect, know exactly what’s wrong. When Thanksgiving comes, you don’t give thanks. You want thanks. Pitiful you.

Boston CSI, 1950

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In our neck of the woods we like film noir. Lady Laird has all that Russian and German language literature in her past. She can even stand Strindberg (I’m joking. Nobody can stand Strindberg.) So I pick dark stuff for her to watch. How I found Annika Bengzton, which I hope some of you have watched. She’s hot, the subtitles aren’t that onerous, and she takes her top off from time to time.

But there’s a dark strand in American movies too. Most of you know the handful of archetypes: Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Touch of Evil, and Kiss Me Deadly. You know. Black and white. Not so happy endings. Or beginnings for that matter. All these titles are indexed at imdb.com if one or two aren’t known to you. Guess which one ends with a nuclear explosion.

Truth is, though, there are many such movies, starring everyone from Bogart to Mitchum to William Holden to Glenn Ford. Lots of sultry blondes no better than they should be. Including dolls like Jan Sterling, who made this appearance in a 1950 production called Mystery Street:

Not her best 10" by 12" glossy, to be sure.

Not her best 10″ by 12″ glossy, to be sure.

It’s a startling little movie. The hero is a surprisingly diminutive Ricardo Montalban (the real life inspiration for “the most interesting man in the world” in Dos Equis ads), who is aided in his murder investigation by a Harvard professor (Bruce Bennett) who seems straight out of the modern TV series CSI.

All kinds of stuff is upside down. Patrician Elsa Lanchester plays a madam. The wife of a man who is implicated in the death of a prostitute trusts him enough, correctly it turns out, to stand by him even at the risk of her own life. And the villain is a Harvard snob who sneers at the Hispanic cop on the case. But everybody is wearing a suit and tie. Except the women, obviously, of whom one is a female marine, who knows exactly how to police a 1911 .45 caliber semi-automatic.

Life ain’t what we think it is. The past ain’t as dumb as we sometimes want it to be. Movies weren’t as naive as we pretend they were. Watch this one if you think you know better.

btw, collections are available.

Lots of collections

Lots of collections

Sitcom Update

Well, I’ve only watched one this season, so it’s not what you’d call a comprehensive update. I was curious to see Rachel Maddow in the gay cop sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

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Rachel isn’t always funny in his new gender-bending comedy.

I thought it was just me not appreciating all the subtleties, but here’s the scoop from an industry insider Q&A:

Question: Have you gone back and looked at Brooklyn Nine-Nine since your initial review? I watched the first few weeks with some hope, but it seems to me to have gotten into a rut way too quickly. Rachel Maddow’s shtick has gotten old real fast, and what seemed like interesting characters at first view have all been exposed as one-trick ponies. And for goodness sake, what is the great Andre Braugher doing here? Lord knows, I would love to see him have another successful series/ (I watched and enjoyed Thief, Last Resort and even Hack.) And the first episode gave him an intriguing backstory, which should have started developing by now and could add to the development of other characters in the squad room. But after the pilot, they dropped all that entirely, and his role seems to be reduced to playing the stern parent to Maddow’s child. What I thought might be another Barney Miller has become, way too fast, Leave It to Beaver with cops. Am I overreacting here, or has the show failed to capitalize on its initial promise? I’m willing to give it time, but I don’t see any growth here at all. – Rick

Matt Roush: Watch Tuesday’s mostly delightful Thanksgiving episode, and see if you feel more generously toward it. I’ve watched most episodes this season and still like the show – more than any other fall network sitcom (which isn’t saying much) – and while it has been uneven and I take your point that Maddow’s show-off character is often more annoying than funny, there’s strong ensemble work and great diversity on display here, including Braugher’s masterful deadpan as the sly, un-stereotypically gay boss. He’s absolutely worth exploring further, but there’s time…

Not really. If these ratings are any indication. The show has three more viewers than the zero who are watching Michael J. Fox’s uproarious comedy about unfunny people in an unfunny situation.

I don’t think that leads to Renewal Land. Rachel better hang on to his day job. In my humble opinion.

Barbara. I was wrong.

The Future.

The Future.

Barbara tried to tell me:

I did not expect to ever say this in my lifetime, RL, but you are wrong. Gentlemen, let Martha McCallum bear your children; I can understand that. But for verve, intelligence and charisma, Megyn Kelly is the best person at Fox — male or female — and deserves the prime spot she’s gained.

She was right. Megyn Kelly is the replacement in waiting for Bill O’Reilly. He’s a dimming apologist for old New Deal traditionalists. He doesn’t quite get what’s so wrong about Obama. To him it’s all just politics. We’re supposed to see a cascading series of national catastrophes as hopefully ratings-worthy partisan conflict. “Well, what’s on this side? What’s on that side?” And then bluster, bluster, bluster the difference before he promotes his new book and big words he can’t pronounce, like the Kennedy School dyslexic he is. (Who the hell writes all those books of his?)

Megyn’s new show is faster paced, not so obviously centered on her as some quasi-Cronkite-like presence. Though she is articulate, aggressive, incisive, relentless, sometimes witty, and yet not horribly loud. Her constant question is, what the hell is going on?

She puts up with no nonsense. She’s always in command. She has her facts at her fingertips. (Good ol’ Bill couldn’t cite specifics of polls about Hispanics turning against O he wanted to use as proof in a Juan Williams interview tonight. Wedged them into the next segment instead. Weak.) But Megyn’s not arrogant like Maddow or bullying like O’Reilly. Just a quick, tough host with a two-edged smile.

She’s O’Reilly’s replacement. What do the differences add up to? Something like journalism. Learned more from her show tonight than I learned from the last week of O’Reilly. He’s lazy and dull. She’s sharp and sexy. Oops. Did I say something wrong? I think not.

Barbara. No one else at Fox has this talent. When you’re right you’re right.

So it’s not just me

The gray dictators of The Rules.

The gray dictators of The Rules.

Three years ago, I proposed a radical theory about what Obama was up to. The explanatory graphs were:

I think I’ve been asking the right questions all along. (I’ll leave it to you all to make the appropriate citations.) I never thought his goal was defined in European terms. If he was a muslim child in the far east, he was also an American visitor in the most heavily populated region of the world, where the American economic model was proliferating in ways no one could have foreseen, with one country after another exploding in terms of capitalist economics, technology, and common aspiration. He was a witness to the unbounded, and unregulated, consequences of the American Way unleashed on a world that had long been governed more by tradition than freedom.

As a result, I don’t think he is as much an enemy of America as he is of the American Way leading the world into a technological chaos we’re not prepared for. I don’t think he’s as much a Marxist as a Luddite. I don’t think he’s as much a totalitarian Maoist as a Mandarin…

I do think he’s planning to slow it all down, dumb it all down, knowing full well that all his dumb-ass, putative allies have it in their power — via stultifying regulations and stagnating economic policies — to recreate something like the old Chinese dynastic cycle, in which a durable professional bureaucracy staffed by “mandarins” ultimately forced every new emperor into the mold of his predecessors.

Now, three years later, National Review’s Kevin Williamson has articulated a similar theory in an essay called The Lawless One.

Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism, nor has he contributed any new ideas to it. He is, in fact, a strangely incurious man. Unlike Ronald Reagan, to whom he likes to be compared, President Obama shows no signs of having expended any effort on big thinkers or big ideas… This is not to say that he is an unintelligent man. He is a man with a first-class education and a business-class mind, a sort of inverse autodidact whose intellectual pedigree is an order of magnitude more impressive than his intellect…

“Democracy never lasts long,” Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck… But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.

In an important sense, the American people have no political say in the health-care law, for example, because Congress did not pass a law reforming the health-care system; instead, Congress passed a law empowering the Obama administration, through its political appointees and unelected time-servers, to create a new national health-care regime. The general outline of the program is there in the law, but the nuts and bolts of the thing will be created on the fly by President Obama and his many panels of experts.

Glunks rule.

Glunks Rule.

The modern interpretation

The modern interpretation of Glunks Rule. Don’t talk to the hand. It just doesn’t matter..


Because this is my blog, I will close with a quote from my much older post, which strikes me as more resonant because it was more prediction than prognosis.

Obama thinks he knows better. He’d prefer being a Mandarin to being Mao. He’s not a communist internationalist. He’s a dynast. He thinks the best way to save America — much like Ron Paul — is to segregate his nation as much as possible from the world at large, abandoning overt attempts to control other nations, and reestablish a dynastic bureaucracy of the kind that managed profitably to suppress Chinese innovation for centuries and keep the people safe by only modest oppression. He may be positively inspired by the fact that it was a dynastic custom of the Chinese census never to report more than 60 million as the population. Stasis is preferable to dangerous change. (Change we can believe in?) He sees himself as Ch’in (builder of the Great Wall), the oppressor who in a few brutal years laid down the framework for 2,000 years of stability and relative freedom from outside interference. I’m thinking that’s the real long-term “vision” of so-called American progressives. They don’t hate us. They just fear and mistrust our vitality as a contagion that could destroy the world.

It’s the residue of Obama’s Marxism we should be skeptical about. The belief that history and human destiny are still somehow controllable by the pronouncements of the smartest rationalists. The last thing he doesn’t understand — that so many of us are eager for the adventure of human life, whatever highs and lows it brings. His arrogance is not that he regards himself as smarter than all human ingenuity and aspiration, but that we need to be protected from these things by a dull, depressive seer like him.

You could read all of both posts. But you probably won’t. On the other hand, Raebert has a response of his own.

Monumental is one word. Gigantic, glorious, and heroic are three more. You choose your own favorite.

Read them all or don’t. There’s a difference between a horse’s ass and a deerhound’s ass. One of them doesn’t constantly raise a tail in your face. Unless you deserve it.

How I’m Feeling Today

You know? You get tired. I’m tired of most everything. My wife is getting tired of embarrassing stories about her alma mater, Rutgers. Here’s their latest:

This seminar offers a theologically oriented approach to Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics. We will focus on Springsteen’s reinterpretation of biblical motifs, the possibility of redemption by earthly means (women, cars, music), and his interweaving of secular and sacred elements. Springsteen’s work will also be situated within the broader poetic tradition that casts the writer as a religious figure whose message does not effect transcendent salvation, but rather, transforms earthly reality.

Really? I think the professor even said Springsteen explored biblical themes more than any other contemporary musician. What utter bullshit.

Yeah, I’m a Jersey boy, but I’m not a fool. There’s more Christianity in the Tom Waits opus than in Springsteen’s by a factor of 10 to 1. Waits is trying to live and love. Springsteen is trying to get a union card for self-loathing misery. On a motorcycle.

But. As already foreshadowed — because I’m in a mood, what with none of our esteemed commenters having anything to say about the impending humanitarian disaster of ObamaCare — I’ll default to my favorite all-world band, the Rolling Stones.

There are no coincidences. Raebert’s spent a week convincing me I need to use the ear buds and listen to all the music that isn’t Mozart’s concerto for clarinet and oboe all by my lonesome. He’s happy now and so am I.

So Springsteen is a master of the cheap allegory:

Interestingly, Springsteen refers more often to the stories of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) than the New Testament. On a literary level, Springsteen often recasts biblical figures and stories into the American landscape. The narrator of “Adam Raised a Cain” describes his strained relationship with his father through the prism of the biblical story of the first father and son; Apocalyptic storms accompany a boy’s tortured transition into manhood in “The Promised Land,” and the first responders of 9/11 rise up to “someplace higher” in the flames, much as Elijah the prophet ascended in a chariot of fire (“Into the Fire”). Theologically, I would say the most dominant motifs are redemption — crossing the desert and entering the Promised Land — and the sanctity of the everyday. Springsteen tries to drag the power of religious symbols that are usually relegated to some transcendent reality into our lived world. In his later albums he also writes very openly about faith.

Really? Faith in what? Democrat rulers? Seems like it. All he does anymore is parade around campaigning for leftists. No wonder he prefers the Old Testament. Kings beat jacks and deuces every time. The “Promised Land” is Rumsen, where Bruce lives and even gatekeeper cottages cost millions. Got it.

No. Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me.

Please spare me the mournful, self pitying dirges that constitute Springsteen songs about growing up so illiterate that none of your song lyrics even scan.

Told you I was in a mood. I promise I’ll stop. But only after four more demonstrations that the Stones have a lot more theological content than Bruce ever did..

Doubt.

Defiance.

Gospel.

Clearly NEW Testament by the way, all of them. Shidooby.

Oops. Did I say Four? Okay. Here’s how you should all think of me.

You can put that on my tombstone. Right after best writer ever.