Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Well, it’s official.  We’re going to Europe.

It’s going to be quite a trip.  We’re going to Sweden first, where we’ll stay with Mats and Sara and their family.  Then we’ll be headed to the UK, where we’ll stay with Julie and Richard and their family. 

We’re set.

The tickets are purchased.  We learned a few things in that process.  Our original plan was to go from Chicago to Stockholm to London and back to Chicago.  This, it turns out, is not what the airlines want you to do.  Or maybe it is, because it’s the most expensive option.  Kim did the research and figured out that by adding another flight – making one round-trip from Chicago to Stockholm and back and a second round-trip from Stockholm to London and back – we could save about a quarter of the price of the whole trip.  More flights, less money.  No wonder the airlines are going broke.

The plans are made.  Or at least they’re as made as we’re likely to make them.  There’s a delicate balance to be struck between planning enough things to do so you don’t end up just hanging out staring at walls – which we could do at home for considerably less trouble – and not planning so much that you need a vacation when you get back.  It’s a trick.

We’ve even got a house-sitter all arranged.  The bunnies and cats will not starve in our absence, and we don’t have to figure out how to work the light timers again, the way we do every time we go away.  So if you were planning to come by and steal our stuff while we were gone, a) think again, and b) you need to aim a little higher in life anyway.  Go steal from someone with nicer stuff.  Or better yet, go get your own stuff, so you don’t have to worry about large men in blue uniforms taking you away to a large grey building filled with even larger men named Bubba who would spend the next several years making you their pet and bartering you for cigarettes.

Because seriously, how many cigarettes do you think you’re worth?

We’re in the process of cleaning the house now, so that it looks nice for the house-sitter.  Because you can live quite comfortably with your own disaster area, but inflicting it on someone else is sort of rude.  It’s the same impulse that makes people do all those long-delayed home repair projects just before they move out, though by the time you finish it’s kind of a shame to sell the place.

So beginning tomorrow there will be a rather rapid decline in the amount of posting here.

But fear not, intrepid readers!  I shall return, with stories and photographs, tales of derring do and cunning, and not a few instances of culture shock. 

It’ll be worth the wait. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Message From 1966

We gotta talk, here.

Look.  I know you’re new at this whole “parenting” thing.  It takes time to get the hang of it.  There’s a whole lot of new limits on your activities, new things you gotta remember, and you’re not getting any sleep in the process.

Consider it part of the training. 

Because this ain’t no temp job you’ve got now.  This is long-haul.  This is life.  I’m gonna be around for a while here, and we gotta get some things straight, capiche?

You’re gonna sweat.  You’re gonna work harder than you ever worked in your life, and then you’re gonna work some more.  You’re gonna get down on the floor when all you want to do is sit in a chair, and you’re gonna go out in the back yard when all you want to do is stay in, and you’re gonna find things and fix things and do things you never thought you’d do.  And when it’s all over, you’re gonna wonder where the time went.  It goes by awful fast.

How do you know you did good?  How does anyone know?  You just know.

You know because I’ll be watching you, doing what you do, taking after you.  That scare you?  Yeah, it should.

But really, it shouldn’t. 

Because you’re gonna do an ace job of it.  I’m gonna remember, you see.  I’m gonna be where you are now someday, and when I’m stuck for what to do I’m gonna think, “How did my dad handle this?”  And I’m gonna know what to do.  I’m gonna do what you did.

And my kids will think I’m a good dad because of it.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rabbity Rabbity Rabbity

Today it was rabbits.

Most of the time that we spend in the giant reverberating emptiness that is the main building down at the county fairground it’s cats.  But all of the 4H cat shows are done for the year, and this time it was rabbits.

Lauren has been working diligently all year to prepare for this.  She feeds Hazel and Milo, cleans their cages, checks their water, and makes sure that they (mostly) don’t do any real damage to the house when they run around free.  So when it was time for the 4H Rabbit Fun Fair today, she was very excited.

Really, very excited.

Like, “can’t get to sleep until well after midnight” excited.  And also “up rattling around at 6am” excited.

Parents never get this excited about this sort of stuff.

I ended up taking Lauren and her bunnies over to the show at 7:30am because a) if we waited any longer she would explode and b) this way Kim and Tabitha could, theoretically, get some rest.  It’s not like anything was happening at that hour – we did manage to get a primo space on the floor to set up camp on, but nothing else happened until 9am, after Kim and Tabitha arrived.  They didn’t miss anything.

The bunny of record for these things is Hazel, a Holland Lop Senior Doe for those who know such things.  “Chocolate Tort” for those who know them even better.  Basically all this translates as “purebred brown rabbit with droopy ears who is more than 6 months old.”  Milo, being your basic mutt of a rabbit, is not show-worthy but Lauren brought him along anyway because she insisted that his presence would help calm Hazel down.  And Hazel was in fact fairly calm, so perhaps she was right.

This was the Fun Fair, which means it was a low-pressure run-through designed to get kids and rabbits ready for the upcoming County Fair, where the stakes are presumably higher.  There were a number of workshops for aspiring rabbit show contestants – things like “claw clipping,” “ear cleaning,” “cage cleaning,” and “how to fill out the bizarre array of forms that these shows require without getting frustrated and entering in useless data and vulgar puns in the spaces provided,” a class which I think has general application beyond rabbit shows, really.  And then there was the judging.

After that, Lauren took Hazel up to another judge for the Showmanship part of the day, where she answered questions about rabbits and their care and described Hazel in detail in order to demonstrate her rabbit knowledge.

Hazel got a Second Place ribbon in the Holland Lop Senior Doe category, and Lauren placed third in her category for Showmanship – not bad for her first ever show.

Nice work, Lauren.  I’m proud of you.

But tonight?  Let’s get some sleep, huh?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So, Darth...

Have you ever stumbled across a photograph and thought to yourself, “There’s a story here”?

Take a look at this one.

It’s the early 1980s here, possibly 1981.  I know this because the little rescue unit in the background was fairly new back then.  It’s a couple of years before I joined the company, but my dad is a member – that’s him, second from the right.  That isn’t the firehouse – it may be one of the local hospitals, which used to have events fairly often that we’d show up to and give presentations, or it may not.

Clearly we’re not there on any sort of emergency call.  Everyone is decked out in their parade whites, and nobody seems to be in any kind of hurry.  I’m not sure who the police officer is there on the left, but I do know that the guy next to him would eventually go on to become chief of the company.

It’s not the dress uniforms or the cop that make this photo so odd, though.  Did you catch the guy who stands out a bit?  It’s subtle, but I’ll give you a hint.  That tall guy in the middle?  That’s not regulation turn-out gear.

Not that the helmet wouldn’t do in a pinch, mind you.  The cape, though, that would be a problem.

No capes!

I have no idea why several members of our fire company are posing with Darth Vader on an otherwise unremarkable summer day.  I called my dad and he agreed with me – he has no idea either.

It’s a mystery.

A few photos later in the scanning process, I found another one from the same day, this one without the Evil Space Overlord. 

Again, my dad is on the far right, but in front you can see some of the equipment that was taken off the rescue unit and spread out for display.  The tall scissors-like thing on the right is the Jaws of Life, which was fairly new to us then.  I remember being trained on those a couple of years later – they open, they shut, and that’s about what they do.  The magic is how you position them.

I’ll bet Darth Vader didn’t need any Jaws – he could just hold up his hand just so, announce that he found the crumpled car’s lack of accessibility disturbing, and slowly open it up with a gesture.  So I suppose he’d be handy on an accident scene that way.  It would be a great second career if the whole Evil Space Overlord thing didn’t work out for him.

Maybe we were recruiting him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


You know what nobody does anymore?  Stoop-sit.

For those of you who did not grow up in or near a large urban area, stoop-sitting had nothing to do with crouching.  Your stoop was the set of stairs – usually concrete – that led from your front door down to the sidewalk.  There weren’t many of them – usually three or four steps was enough to bridge that gap – but they were all you needed to provide you with a place to sit and watch the world go by.

I come from a long line of stoop-sitters.

This photo was probably taken in the late 1920s, if I judge my grandfather’s age correctly.  That’s him in the middle, hanging out with his boys down in South Philadelphia.  They’re not really doing anything – maybe they’re waiting for the Sea Devils advertised in the broadsheet behind them, but I doubt it, since Sea anythings were rather uncommon on the streets of South Philly, unless you went to 9th Street and bought them fresh to eat for dinner.

This one is my great-grandmother – my grandmother’s mother – maybe a few years later and a few blocks over from the last photo.  It’s probably the early 1930s now, and she’s out on her stoop, taking in the day.

Her sons were also practiced stoop-sitters.  That’s John on the right – he would later go into the Army, and I’ve posted his service pictures before – and Joe on the left.

And you could always find Zaduck out on his bench as well, with a friend or two.  He’s the one on the right, and it’s probably sometime in the 1940s.

The family has long moved out of the city and into the suburbs, where there are no stoops.  The houses are bigger and nicer, and there’s less traffic and more space and green, but everything is oriented inward or toward the back of the house, away from the street and the people going by.  When we stoop-sit these days, it’s an occasion.

Kim and I honeymooned in New Orleans, back before it was destroyed by the twin demons of hurricane weather and administrative incompetence.  We spent a glorious week there, not doing much more than eating, drinking and taking it all in.  There’s no open container law in New Orleans, so we got into the habit of going down to Bourbon Street to a little walk-up store with what appeared to be a row of Slurpee machines, except that they weren’t Slurpees – they were daiquiris.  We’d get a 32-ounce daiquiri (we learned to split one, eventually) and sit on the nearest stoop and watch the people parade by.

It was a return to my roots.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Lauren and I finished A Wrinkle in Time the other night.

Lauren is still young enough that she likes it when we read bedtime stories together.  Once in a while she likes to read them to us, and thus we spend some time learning about the adventures of Babymouse or discovering new and fascinating facts contained in books that specialize in such things, but mostly she just likes to listen.

And ask questions.

It can be both difficult and entertaining to read to her, because she is constantly interrupting with questions that come at you from utterly oblique angles.  She has a future in investigative journalism, that one, because her mind thinks to wonder about things nobody else’s mind does.  Interesting questions are the leading cause of interesting answers.

The pendulum swung back to me for bedtime stories a few months ago, and I took the opportunity to introduce her to some Classics.  We read The Hobbit, for example, and she insists that eventually we will get to The Lord of the Rings as well.  We spent a happy few weeks delving through Rascal, whose adventures took place not all that far from here.  You can go visit Rascal’s house if you want – it’s a museum now.  It’s on our list.  And most recently we explored A Wrinkle in Time.

For those who haven’t read it, well, what is your problem?

It centers on the Murray family and their missing father.  Meg – what we would likely call a tween today – and her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace are each different from the norms in their own ways, and eventually they team up with a neighborhood boy (Calvin) and three eccentric women named Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit (who are more than they appear) to attempt to find and rescue Mr. Murray.  Except he’s on the other side of the universe - thus the title of the book, though perhaps the last word should have been "space" instead.  It’s quite a story.

Lauren liked it a lot.  There are three more books in this series, and they’re all on our list for future bedtime reading.

The funny thing about this book to me actually happened several years ago.

A friend was looking for recommendations for her child, I think, and asked us to name a few books.  Kim and I both thought of this one, having each read it in our own childhoods, and told her she should look into it.  “I’ve never heard of that one,” she said, “What’s it about?”

“It’s a love story!” Kim said.

“It’s a space adventure!” I said, at exactly the same time.

Our friend just looked at us.

“It’s a dessert topping!” she was no doubt thinking.

I don’t know if she ever did read the book, but she should have.  It’s both of those things, and it is astonishing how different people pick up on different aspects of books.

Now that I’ve read it again in my mid-40s, I can see a lot of things that I missed when I read it in grade school.  The whole love story angle, for example, which would not have made much of an impression on my mind then.  The overtly religious passages, which I have always tended to skip in novels, wherever I might find them and which struck me as jarringly out of place on this reading.  The thorough grounding of the novel in the reality of mid-20th-century American middle class life, in a way similar to but lighter than the way JG Ballard anchored his science fiction there.

It’s a book worth reading, though, especially if you are in late elementary or middle school.  You can find a lot of things in it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Stair Photos

Sometimes things take on a life of their own.

In the summer of 1983 we went down to Williamsburg VA to visit my cousins.  They’d moved down there not long before, spreading the family out from its Philadelphian roots.  We’d gone down there for a vacation a couple of years before my cousins moved, and now we could go back and enjoy the sights and activities of the area and visit family at the same time.  Win.

At some point in this process, the adults decided that all five of us cousins needed to pose for a group picture on the stairs.  There were a bunch of photos taken of us on those stairs, in varying configurations and degrees of catlessness, but this is the one that somehow became canonical.

We’re arranged in age order.

Elizabeth, the youngest, is at the bottom.  Then come my other two cousins, Paula and Chris.  My brother Keith is next.  And then at the top, with a grin that invites any number of mildly astonished adjectives, is the oldest, yours truly.

You will note the prevalence of earth tones.  They were stylish back then.

Seventeen years later, for reasons that even now I am not sure I could articulate, we decided to do this again.

My grandfather’s funeral was that day, and we had all gone back to my parents’ house outside of Philadelphia for the traditional food- and family-filled aftermath of such things.  Perhaps we just wanted to do something fun on such a day, though why that translated into reenacting an old Polaroid escapes me.

And then, of course, once you do something twice on purpose it becomes a tradition.

Four years after that photo we were back at my aunt and uncle’s house – this time in Tennessee – and decided to do it again.

We even convinced our parents to join in the fun.

That’s my Uncle Bob and Aunt Linda there at the bottom – the youngest of the group, as per tradition.  My parents are there in the middle.  And at the top are my Aunt Rita and Uncle Ed, who were a year ahead of my parents back in high school.  I once worked out that Rita was actually my first cousin once removed, but “Aunt” is a whole lot easier to say.

We liked that so much we had the cousins line up with their respective spouses.

Kim and I are at the top.  My brother and his wife Lori are right below us.  My cousin Chris and his spouse Chris are below them – at the time the State of New York held rather benighted views on marriage, but we considered them to be as married as the rest of us.  Below them are Paula and Randall.  And at the bottom is Elizabeth.

But Elizabeth was still single at the time.  So of course, as soon as she got married in the summer of 2007, we had to do it again.

First we got the cousins to pose, in as exact a replica of the old pose as possible.

And then we got Brian to join in.  You will note that Elizabeth is still in her wedding dress.  We wasted no time.

By this time, though, my brother and I had families of our own.  So a few months later, when we all got together for Christmas back at my parents’ house, we had the kids pose.

Again, they’re in age order.  Sara, the youngest, is at the bottom.  Then comes Lauren.  Sara’s brother Josh is above her, and there at the top is Tabitha.

It’s been almost five years since then, and it’s getting on time to do another round of these photos, though when that would be I don’t know.  People scatter, and as the group gets larger it gets harder and harder to gather everyone in the same place at the same time. 

But it needs to be done.  The kids are so much older as to be almost unrecognizable, and there are new ones to be included.  Paula’s Annelise is four now.  Elizabeth is due in the fall.  And the rest of us are older now too.  It’s an interesting thing, watching everyone get older in the same poses.

It’s a family tradition.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

And the Results Are In

Back in high school, I had a friend named Larry. 

Larry was one of those kids you find a lot in high school – extremely intelligent, fairly articulate, disaffected and out of step with the larger culture in which he found himself, a sharp observer (as those on the outside tend to be), somewhat cynical in the way of teenaged guys, but a good soul in general.  We were theater rats together, and thanks to the categorical imperative of alphabetical seating we spent four years in homeroom sitting one behind the other.

“The problem with democracy,” he once told me, “is that most people are idiots.”

I find that this is always a good thing to remember come election time, particularly when the results are so convincingly in favor of what is, by any objective measure, a stupid choice.

Wisconsin went to the polls yesterday for its eagerly anticipated recall elections.  I was there bright and early – voter number 81 in my ward, at 8:15am – and participation was heavy throughout the day everywhere in the state.  Everyone knew it would come down to turnout, and so it did.

Having outspent his rival by roughly 8:1, two thirds of which was siphoned into Wisconsin by out of state donors who don’t have to live with the consequences of their actions, Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) managed to pull of more or less the same victory he pulled off in 2010.

This says to me that even after the damage that he has caused to our schools, our business climate, our economy, our communities, our tradition of open and ethical government, and our system of checks and balances, the people who voted for him last time said to themselves, “Hell yeah!  That’s what we want!” and voted for him again.

So I was wrong about how close the election would be, since it was a far larger gap than 0.5%, and I was wrong about the results depending on the ideologically extreme suburbs of Milwaukee, since their vote totals were subsumed into the larger victory.  On the one hand, this is good – it means that this won’t drag on.  On the other hand, I have no doubt that Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) will interpret this as a mandate to crush his opponents even more than he already has, subvert Wisconsin’s institutions and laws even more than he already has, and in general accelerate the path toward destruction that he has already placed us on.

Because apparently that’s what the majority of the citizens of Wisconsin want.

It’s one thing to be fooled by a tin-horn petty tyrant.  It’s quite another to keep him in office voluntarily, knowing ahead of time what you're signing up for.

I am not sure I want to live among people who find his behavior acceptable.  This may require moving to a more American state, if I can find one in the current degraded condition of the republic.

Larry, you were more prescient than you knew.

Monday, June 4, 2012

That Old Gang of Mine

I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids.

It was a small neighborhood, really – for all practical purposes just the one-block-long street that we lived on, plus a few houses in the blocks at either end.  We didn’t have to travel very far to gather up a gang of like-minded peers, no matter what we had in mind.  It was the late 1960s and early 1970s, after the Baby Boom but not by much.  We were everywhere.

This is a group shot that someone – my mother, probably – took of the neighborhood kids in 1968.  That’s the common driveway that ran behind our house, bisecting the block the long way – in the background you can see where it rises sharply before exiting into the street.  The Mean Old Man’s sitting rock was up at the top of the hill, on the right.  This was taken from right behind our house – a three-bedroom twin built in the late 1940s.  That’s our driveway on the bottom left corner.

I’m the cute little tyke on the front left end (I know, what happened to me since?).  I’m about two and a half.  Alexandra – a sweet girl who was about my age – is in the red jumper next to me, and on the other end might be Chris, who was one of my best buddies well into grade school.  He lived on the next block over, right at the end of our street, so it was always an adventure going to his house and crossing the street.

Be still my beating heart.

Alexandra’s older brother Joseph is, I believe, the kid in the green shorts.  He was just one of those kids that every neighborhood has, and it is largely because of him that I inherited my dad’s lack of inhibition about disciplining other people’s children.  Apparently one day several years later, when my own brother was about the age I am in that picture, Joseph hauled off and whacked him with a whiffle bat.  My dad was out the door and running before the blow landed, and chased Joseph into his own house but he managed to get into his bedroom and lock the door first, which didn’t stop my dad from trying to get in anyway.  His parents were home at the time, too.  “What were they going to say?” my dad asked later, when he told me that story.

[Update, 6/12: Apparently Joseph was the kid in the plaid jumper next to his sister.  The kid in the green shorts was George, and it was George's younger brother Tadg who was most likely whacked by Joseph with a toy golf club.  Now I know.]

Nevertheless, I ended up going to his birthday party in 1970.

I’m the pirate in the middle, with the orange shirt.  Chris is on the left, then Susan, then Alexandra, then me.  Nick is in the black shirt next to me, then the birthday boy.  I’m not sure who the kid on the right end is.

Alexandra and Joseph’s mother was an artist, and she designed the whole theme of this party.  We each got a hat and a handmade wooden scimitar, which we were warned in apocalyptic terms not to use on each other, so we spent much of the party industriously sawing holes into the bottom of the swimming pool instead.

Worked like a charm.

This photo is from 1975 or 1976.  That’s Nick on the left.  I’m in the stripes.  Kate is in the blue tank top, and Kirsten – who lived on another street entirely and was thus somewhat exotic to us – is on the end.  We had been running around the neighborhood, doing whatever it was we did, when suddenly it was lunchtime.

I think it was Nick’s idea to make noodles.

So we had a picnic there, on the front step of my house, with a bowl full of buttered noodles and several bottles of 7-Up, and it was good.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the Upcoming Recall Election

And here it is, two days before the polls close in the recall elections here in Wisconsin.  It’s going to be an interesting couple of days, in the liberal arts sense of that phrase, the way three-headed frogs are, you know, interesting

Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and his minions – he’s apparently called in the shock troops from ALEC now, since he’s spent almost $30 million without any obvious effect – are blanketing the state with ads that range from ludicrous to libelous and have resorted to paying people to put up “We Stand With Walker” signs in their lawns.  Why bother trying to develop real supporters when you can buy fake ones that look just as nice?

They can stand with Walker if they want.  I’ll stand with the people of Wisconsin.  You choose where you stand in this world and you are judged accordingly.

As we approach the home stretch of this long, ugly and bitterly divisive process, a few things seem fairly clear to me.

First, that it will take a generation or more to undo the damage Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and his minions have done to this state. 

Wisconsin was known as a state with decent politics, sound fiscal policies and one of the best public educational systems in the nation  – all of which have been gutted in the last eighteen months.  It was known as a state where things got done – but we now live in a state so polarized that you probably couldn’t even get a weather report without an argument. 

This wasn’t true before Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) came to power.  None of that was.

Of course the Teabaggers insist that all of this polarization is the fault of the protesters – the ones who called Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) on his war of aggression against the rule of law – and this is just one way you know how truly deluded and desperate they are.  None of that happened until it was provoked.  I’ve never understood why it’s only a problem when people fight back.

Second, that the results of the recall election will not settle anything.  They just won’t.

If Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) loses, his minions will go on a rampage that I fully expect will be violent in more than just the rhetorical sense – these are the same simians who brought us the whole “Second Amendment Solutions” argument a few years ago, and there is nothing quite like a well-armed sense of entitlement to cause unnecessary suffering.  Given that the Teabaggers likely will retain control over the other branches of Wisconsin’s government, I doubt sincerely whether any of it will be prosecuted.  Until all traces of this rogue regime have been eradicated from the halls of power I will not trust the state to do what is right, legal or necessary.

File that under “polarization” too, if you wish.

Even if this violence remains limited or in the happy circumstance that I am wrong and no actual violence occurs, you will still see an all-out legal, political and media assault on the government and citizenry of Wisconsin the likes of which have not been perpetrated under American rule in all its history.  If you think these people will take defeat gracefully, you haven’t been living among them.

They’ve already threatened to recall the challenger for the governor’s seat if he wins.  The fact that this is unconstitutional in Wisconsin – only one recall per term – will not deter them, since these clowns have shown no particular understanding that such things as constitutional limits apply to them.

Furthermore, if Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) actually does manage to win, batten down the hatches because all hell will break loose.

He will interpret this as a mandate to gut every institution and legal precedent in the state until we are little better than Somalia with snow.  The voting rolls will be narrowed until only rich elderly white men are permitted any say in government (something that several national-level Teabaggers have publically called for recently).  Laws mandating government openness will be repealed instead of just ignored as currently done.  Public education will be abolished instead of merely starved to death.  And that will be only the beginning.

I’d really like to think that this is just me being paranoid, but as the immortal Doctor Johnny Fever once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not really out to get you.”

Third, this race is far closer than it has any right to be.

Never mind who his challenger is – this isn’t about the challenger.  The challenger might as well be a two-pound bag of carrots for all the relevance his specifics have.  This election is about Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and his unfitness for office.

This is a governor who has:

  • openly called for violence against his opponents.
  • openly circumvented both the state constitution and the state and federal court system in order to push his agenda through.
  • lied to Congress.
  • maintained a criminal defense fund, which under Wisconsin law he can only do if he is considered a legitimate suspect in an ongoing criminal investigation
  • bluntly declared to a wealthy supporter – on tape – that his goal is to “divide and conquer” the state.
  • and on and on; frankly it gets tiring remembering all of the things this guy has done that in a civilized society would have him tarred and feathered rather than accepting out of state money by the bucketful

The fact that there are people in this state who find this acceptable behavior is absolutely sickening, and a sure sign that the republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers is exactly as fragile as they always said it was.

People ask me if I want him recalled.  No, not really.  I want him on trial for subversion.  I’ll settle for recalled.

Let me tell you how this will go.

The election will be very close.  The total number of votes separating winner from loser will be just over 0.5% of the vote.  That is the difference beyond which a recount is no longer automatic but must be paid for by the losing candidate.

The election will come down to the counties of suburban Milwaukee, which will report their vote totals late.  Their totals will come to exactly enough to meet that 0.5% difference, and they will not be verifiable.

Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) will be crowned the winner based on this.

He will immediately begin attacking anyone who dares to question his victory as unpatriotic, wasteful, and probably a Socialist.  In any speech he or his supporters give in the first four weeks after this election, the words “healing,” “compromise,” and “working for all of the people of Wisconsin” will not be used.

And the state will continue on its current trajectory of becoming a black eye on the face of the American republic for the foreseeable future.

I will be immensely pleased to be wrong about this – about any of this – but I’m not holding my breath.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Standard Issue

Every night for the past few weeks, Tabitha and I have ended our goodnights with the same bit of conversation.  “You’re not issued dwarves, Dad!” she says as I walk out of her room.  “Couldn’t prove it by me,” I respond.

This probably requires some backstory.

Tabitha has recently acquired a fondness for a game she calls “Scenarios.”  Basically, she gives me a story set up and my job is to figure out what to do next.  Most of these scenarios borrow from fantasy literature tropes, which is appropriate since both of us enjoy reading that kind of thing.  It’s a fun kind of lateral thinking game, and her problem is that she is playing with an opponent whose thinking is so lateral it borders on inverse and who has read more of these books than she has.

These Scenarios rarely go as planned, in other words.

For example, the first one she gave me had me in a locked dungeon with only a rusty sword and two dwarves for companions, facing an angry fire-breathing dragon.  I chose to throw my dwarves at the dragon, in the fond hopes of confusing it.  After that it got weird.

At one point, with my dwarves all used up and my character in desperate need of a new trick, I had it reach into a desk and pull something out.  “Wait,” Tabitha said.  “You don’t have a desk.” 

I looked at her.  “Why not?” 

“Because you’re in a dungeon!  There are no desks in dungeons!” 

“Tabitha, you’re telling me that I’m in a dungeon with an angry dragon, a rusty sword and two projectile dwarves and the thing that strikes you as implausible is that there might be a desk?”

It’s that element of determined weirdity that makes it fun, I think – just pushing the envelope of what is expected until it bursts and we collapse into fits of laughter.  Keeping a straight face in these Scenarios is not even a goal.

I’ve noticed a pattern with these Scenarios, though.  I’ve always got two dwarves with me.  It’s like they’re standard issue.  You go to the quartermaster at the beginning of the story and he hands you things – hat, shield, sword, dwarves, boots, armor.  It’s all standard equipment; please try not to dent any of it.

My characters have been stranded at the tops of trees, locked in dungeons, marooned in seas of lava, and generally mistreated in entertaining and creative ways, but they’ve always got two dwarves with them.  And even when they don’t, they still do.  There was one Scenario where Tabitha didn’t mention any dwarves, so I asked about them.  “Where’s my dwarves?!?”

“You don’t have any dwarves.”

“What do you mean I don’t have any dwarves!  Of course I have dwarves!  I’ve always got dwarves.”

“Okay.  Your dwarf companions were struck by lightning and fried to a crisp.  Now you’re on your own.”

“Wait.  They gave me defective dwarves?”

“Dwarves aren’t fireproof!”

“Of course they are!  Why else would I throw them at dragons!  I have been issued insufficiently-fireproofed dwarves!  You’ve issued me bum dwarves.”

“You’re not issued dwarves!”

“Not high quality ones, anyway.”

We never did get to the rest of the quest.  We rarely do.  Eventually we arrive at our destination – so many of these Scenarios happen on our way to somewhere – or something else intervenes, and we leave it hanging. 

So every night as I leave Tabitha’s room, the argument continues.