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Saturday, March 29, 2003
NOTE: If you're logging on via the 03_01 archive URL, be sure to check out the latest posts via 04_01 archive or main page URL...
-

[ EMINEM: A Translation (for White People) ]

When "Lose Yourself" (from the film '8 Mile') won the 2003 Academy Award in the "Music (Song)" category, many people might've been asking themselves, "Who is that award-winning fresh faced talent that raps so well?"

He was born Marshall Bruce Mathers. But he's since thrown off the shackles of his "slave name", and now goes by Eminem.

This bright-faced youngster Eminem has little in common with the sweet treat his moniker resembles, save for the fact both are candy-coated on the outside yet darkly chocolate on the inside.

To further facilitate greater understanding between the races, we here at "The Institute of Racial Harmony and Understanding" have been hard at work translating Eminem's lyrics for white people who might otherwise be confused by his sometimes highly literate, yet paradoxically streetwise allegoric, words.

Our staff of highly paid, well-trained, white men over fifty years of age has only begun to "crack the Shady Code" so to speak. But, now, we bring you what has been translated thus far.

We hope it helps older white folk understand, and truly appreciate, the genius that is Eminem.

We begin with some choice cuts from... 'The Marshall Mathers LP':

[ From (the song) "Marshall Mathers" ]

EMINEM: "Plus I was put here to put fear in faggots who spray Faygo root beer / And call them selves clowns cause they look queer / Faggots who don't but silent gay / Claimin' Detroit, when y'all live twenty miles away / And I don't wrestle I'll knock you fuckin' faggots the fuck out / Ask them about the club they was at when they snuck out / After they ducked out the back when they saw us and bugged out / Ducked down and got paintball shot at they truck, plow"

TRANSLATION: While I have nothing against homosexuals personally, I don't approve of their lifestyle / Heck, some of my closest friends are gay / As long as they don't force themselves on me, everything will be ok / If you're gay and you make a sexual advance toward me, I won't appreciate it. / I might even get upset with you

[ From "Kim" ]

EMINEM: "Quit crying bitch, why do you always make me shout at you? / How could you? / Just leave me and love him out the blue / Oh, what's a matter Kim? / Am I too loud for you? / Too bad bitch, your gonna finally hear me out this time..."

TRANSLATION: My wife, Kim, had an extramarital affair / I'm kind of mad at her right now / Doesn't she know I'm a sensitive human being who just wants to be loved? / I really need to talk right now

EMINEM: "...Get the fuck away from me, don't touch me / I HATE YOU! / I HATE YOU! / I SWEAR TO GOD I HATE YOU / OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU / How the fuck could you do this to me? (Sorry!) / How the fuck could you do this to me?"

TRANSLATION: I need my space / I'M VERY UNHAPPY WITH YOU RIGHT NOW! / I'M VERY UNHAPPY! / I SWEAR TO GOD I'M MISERABLE / NO WAIT, I STILL LOVE YOU, DESPITE YOUR INFIDELITY! / Was it my fault? Was I not attentive enough to your needs?

[ From "The Way I Am" ]

EMINEM: "The most meanest emcee on this - on this earth / Cause since birth I've been cursed with this curse to just cursed / And just blurt this bezerk and bizarre shit that works / And it sells and it helps in its self / To relieve all this tension dispensing me"

TRANSLATION: I am a rap "artiste" / Sometimes my mouth gets me into trouble / Ironically, it has also made me a lot of money / Go figure

EMINEM: "don't know you and no I don't owe you a motherfuckin thing / I'm not Mr. NSYNC and I'm not what your friends think / I'm not Mr. Friendly / I can be a prick, if you tip me my tank is on empty"

TRANSLATION: I might be a sensitive artist, but I'm still human. / Like you, I, too, have my bad days.

Next, we move on to the latest CD, "The Eminem Show"...

[ From "Cleaning Out My Closet" ]

EMINEM: "Have you ever been hated, or discriminated against? / I have, I've been protested and demostrated against / Picket signs for my wickid rhymes, look at the times / Sick as the mind of the mother fucking kid that's behind..."

TRANSLATION: Sometimes, I am misunderstood / Certain people just plain don't like me / It really hurts my feelings / Please understand, I am but a product of the times I live in / It is not my fault

EMINEM: "I'ma expose it, I'll take you back to '73 / Before I ever had a multi-platinum selling CD / I was a baby maybe I was just a couple of months / My faggot father must've had his panties up in a bunch / 'Cause he split, I wonder if he even kissed me goodbye / No I don't, on second thought I just fucking wished he would die"

TRANSLATION: My father didn't live up to his parental responsibilities / He abandoned the family when I was quite young / I'm a little bitter about it

[ From "Drips" ]

EMINEM: "That's why I ain't got no time / For these games and stupid tricks / All these bitches on my dick / That's how dudes be getting sick / That's how dicks' be getting drips / Falling victim's to this shit / From these bitches on our dicks / Fucking chickens with no ribs / That's why I aint got no time"

TRANSLATION: I had unsafe sex / This can lead to a whole host of health problems, including sexually transmitted diseases / So, please practice safe sex / No love without the glove, kids

EMINEM: "Now I don't wanna hit no women when this chicks got it coming / Someone better get this bitch before she gets kicked in the stomach / And she's pregnant, but she's egging me on, begging me to throw her / Off the steps on this porch, my only weapon is force / And I don't wanna resort to violence of any sort / But why's she shoving me for? Doesn't she love me no more?"

TRANSLATION: It is socially unacceptable for a man to hit a woman / If you, yourself, are in an abusive relationship, please seek help / Sometimes I get a tad upset with the women in my life / When that happens, I take a "time out" until I've calmed down

[ From "Superman" ]

EMINEM: "Don't get me wrong / I love these hoes / It's no secret / Everybody knows / Can't we fuck? /Bitch so what?"

TRANSLATION: I have the utmost respect for all women / I enjoy making love with a woman / I'm most satisfied when I know I've satisfied HER sexually

EMINEM: "Girl you just blew your chance / Don't mean to ruin your plans / But I do know one thing though / Bitches they come they go / Saturday through Sunday Monday / Monday through Sunday yo / Maybe I'll love you one day / Maybe we'll someday grow / 'Till then just sit your drunk ass on that fuckin runway hoe..."

TRANSLATION: I have 'commitment issues' / I am seeing a therapist to work out these problems / I hope you will wait for me because, deep down inside, I really love and care about you

[ From "Til I Collapse" ]

EMINEM: "For shizzle my whizzle this is the plot listen up you pizzles forgot slizzle does not give a fuck."

TRANSLATION: ???

Actually, we are still trying to decipher this lyrical line. We think, when Eminem says "slizzle" he might be referring to himself. But we don't yet have a clue as to why the "pizzles" might want to "shizzle" his "whizzle".

So, after relaxing with a few martinis and listening to Yanni on the Institute stereo-system, we'll try tackling that one again.

To recap the translation project thus far, we have found that Eminem is certainly a so-called "Nigga with Attitude" but, mostly, we think he is just misunderstood by some white folks who simply don't take the time to truly listen.

We hope our translations, thus far, will help to facilitate better understanding when listening to Eminem's oeuvre.

We will bring you more translations in the future and, in conclusion, thank you for harmoniously understanding our mission.

THE INSTITUTE OF RACIAL HARMONY AND UNDERSTANDING
"Eminem Translation" Project Staff

[]

(The preceding was first e-published on blogcritics.org, a site of pop culture & politicorporate news & reviews. See link to that site at left of screen.)

posted by Pete 9:22 AM
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
EMAIL QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "You're the Most Cynical Man in America today! Yet, I find myself laughing... despite sometimes knowing better."
- some old nobody

With all the violence in the news these days, I bring you some good old-fashioned sex. Or at least the implying of sex. With a dash of violence to lend a little spice...

Readers under 18 should not read some of these "random bits" without adult supervision. Okay, now that I've covered my ass as far as legal culpability goes, let the bits begin...

[ RANDOM BITS IV: (HANGING MYSELF FROM) A NEW ROPE ]

= Whatever Happened to Kaj? =

I haven't talked about my good friend, Kaj, in some time.

He's lived many tales of manly danger since we last spoke, and here are but two of them...

1. "I've Got Your Change Right HERE, Pal!"

The other night, Kaj was headed home from the convenience store - with his bottles of Jim Beam and pack of Lucky Strikes in tow - when he passed a homeless man.

The bum said, "Can you spare some change?"

Kaj gave him all the change he had, which amounted to twenty-five cents - all in pennies.

The bum screwed up his face real good, and spat, "What the hell am I suppose to do with pennies?!?" He threw the pennies into the street.

Nobody likes pennies anymore. Not even the down and out.

I ran into Kaj shortly thereafter. After we inhaled much noxious - but oh-so enjoyably relaxing - smoke and consumed a powerfully anesthetizing beverage or two, Kaj showed me a lead pipe he had hidden under his jacket.

He had picked it up somewhere after that little Tete de Tete with the homeless man.

A real man always knows where to find a lead pipe when it is truly needed.

His anger now fueled by large quantities of nicotine and alcohol, Kaj was all set to go "kick the bum ass" of the penny-tossing guy he felt had "disrespected" him.

"Yeah, Kaj," I replied, "that sounds like a good plan. Go take the last thing the homeless alcoholic has - his dignity."

Luckily, for all concerned, Kaj urinated himself and passed out on the couch before he could start any real trouble.

2. "Waylaid by Dating"

Recently, Kaj was telling me about his alleged supposed girlfriend. Actually, I guess they'd only been flirting - heavily - up to that point.

"Should I ask her out?" he said. Truth be told, there was much preceding THAT question, but mostly it was of the "I haven't gotten laid in so long" variety so I won't bore you with the details.

"Tell me about her," I replied.

"Well, first of all, she's Catholic."

Then, he told me that she had asked him out, by using what has to be one of the most unique dating lines I've ever heard: "Do you want to go with me to the 'Stations of the Cross' (church) service?"

Any time you can get a girl on her knees, eh, Kaj?

It reminded me of a disco-hit I once heard: "Do a little genuflecting... make a little confession... get down tonight!"

Or something to that effect.

I sat Kaj down for a long talk. I made several points - good points, I think - not the least of which were:

...She's Catholic, so don't expect to "get laid." Unless, of course, you marry this nice Catholic girl first. But let's not do anything crazy now, ok?

...If you do "get laid", know full well you'll be wearing a condom. Good Catholics don't use birth control. But American Catholics do.

...Even if condom-wearing sex does - by some miracle - occur, the next thing to get laid on will be the guilt. Them Catholics sure love that guilt. Whether it is their own or yours, it doesn't matter. Guilt is always good.

He didn't bring the woman up for about a week. Then, it was back to the same old routine - Kaj is hot for the Catholic chick. He wants to ask her out. He hasn't "gotten laid" in a long long time. Blah blah blah.

Finally, fully exasperated, I said, "Do you actually ever listen to my advice, or do you just ask because you like to see my gums jawing from time to time?"

Yup, I'm pretty sure if Kaj doesn't give up on this hopeless pairing, he is going to hell.

He might even go there AFTER he dies too.

(Kaj's past manly adventures were chronicled in my 11/19 column and one other time too, but heck if I remember the date... Oh yeah, 1/6/03.)
-

= They Shoot Camels, Don't They? =

Two recent stories from Agence France-Presse:

"Iran was hit by two coalition rockets yesterday, an Iranian commander said. Abadan city governor Jamal Alemi said three people, including a security guard, were hurt when a bomb or missile fell on the petrochemical depot in Abadan on Friday." (Mar. 23 03)

...then...

"A US colonel in charge of the Patriot battery that shot down a British Tornado jet in the belief it was an Iraqi missile has apologised for the blunder that killed two amid assurances it cannot happen again..." (Mar. 25 03)


Come on, guys, learn to use those fancy killing machines safely! It's not like this is rocket science or something!

Oh, wait a second... I guess it IS more or less rocket science.

Sorry.

My bad.

Carry on with the bloodshed. Don't mind me.
-

= PORNOGRAPHY =

This bit has absolutely nothing to do with pornography.

It is just a blatant attempt to get my web log to show up in "search engine" searches, through the gratuitous use of the word 'pornography'. Or (keyword) - porn - for short.

I suppose I could've used other phrase-strings to lure in unsuspecting perverts. Two that come to mind are: "horny sluts who love sloppy wet sex" and "innocent girls with incredibly large fake boobs"

But I try to keep things simple here. Hence, I went with "pornography."

The most popular item searched for, and viewed, on the web is pornography and, quite frankly, I want on that particular gravy train.

If you happened to find this site while doing a search for porn, then shame on you! Double-double shame, you pornographic purviewer of smut, you!
-

= Steal This Book! =

I was at a local (Tempe AZ) mom-and-pop turned large outlet-style bookstore the other day.

It used to be a little "hole in the wall" kind of place, where you could always find a hidden gem. It recently moved.

It is now a "clean, well-lit place." I'd tell you the name of it, but don't want to get myself in trouble. However, if ownership should ever change hands, I'll name the bookstore at that later date.

In any case, as I headed into the restroom there, I spied a little laminated card taped to the door.

It read: "We will prosecute Shoplifters to the full extent of the law per A.R.S. 13-1805. Please DO NOT STEAL our merchandise. If you do, understand that we will attempt to send you to jail. Shoplifting hurts everyone - our staff, our customers, our profits..."

Needless to say, I couldn't help myself. I just couldn't help myself.

I stole the 'No Shoplifting' sign. It was a - as the kids say - bookstore bling-bling. So, I slipped it in my pocket and got the heck out of there.

Later, when my friend discovered what I had done, he was not as amused as I. He said, "That's so wrong!"

I am currently using the card as a bookmark. In books I actually paid for, purchased at other bookstores.
-

= Web Cam Fun! =

Lately, I've been using Yahoo! Messenger. Some nights, I "message" with my friend, Mia. She is a big flirt, but plagued by Massive Indecision so like anything's ever going to happen there, right?

Besides being indecisive, there's also the small matter of her husband, Bob.

Or, as I call him, "The Only Thing Standing Between Me and Mia."

So, anyway, she promised to call me one afternoon but never did.

When "messaging" the following night - with her Web-Cam ON - she asked, "Are you mad?"

I wrote back, "I'm not mad. Just disappointed."

Looking at her web cam image, I noticed she was then standing up. The next thing I knew, she was completely topless.

It was a swingin' good time on the ole web cam that night.

Next, she's down to her panties. I'm gawking at tattoos that nobody but her husband had seen in years. (Of course, she DOES have a web cam, so maybe others have seen 'em... I just don't want to know about it!)

Damn, I thought to myself, she's one fine-lookin' broad. Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming.

That was the exact moment when my loins literally burst into flames.

I wondered what the hell I'd gotten myself into.

She then wrote, "Any less disappointed now?"

Yes, that definitely took the edge off of my previous disappointment.

Then, it was all over. Mia was fully dressed again.

The whole thing lasted less than two minutes. That brought back some bad memories, most of which involved torturously disappointing nights with other women.

But we needn't go into my overwhelming feelings of deja vu, performance anxiety and sexual doom.

Now I find myself getting "disappointed" with women more often, but only if they own a web cam. I'm no fool.
-

= Pride of the Lion... but NOT 'Gay Pride'! =

My friend, The Artist Known as Jake Martinez, is concerned that other people think he is gay. To the point of it almost being an obsession with him.

After the first time I met him, he later said to me, "I think you thought I was gay, but I'm not."

Just for the record, The Artist Known as Jake Martinez is not gay. He is very very not gay. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but as it so happens he is straight.

In October '02, The Artist Known as Jake Martinez was profiled in 'Phoenix New Times'. In the article, the reporter wrote, "He (was) that kooky kid in high school, the slightly delicate man-child that the boys thought might be gay and the girls knew wasn't..."

See, he's so not gay it isn't even funny. Just ask the girls.

The girl reporter also wrote, "Martinez looks like a lion, with a mane of tousled black curls, broad shoulders and a soft belly that begs to be scratched..."

What the hell? Scratched by whom? Is that some kind of reporter-centric subtext, or just a colorful description on her part?

I'd take a guess, but I could be wrong and would then come dangerously close to libel. Then, a reporter SUES, SEE?

Recently, The Artist Known as Jake Martinez had surgery to correct a bad case of "sleep apnea". The doctors tore open his esophagus, effectively widening his entire throat so he could breathe more easily.

Too bad he's not gay, huh?


Boy, am I ever going to get the hate mail over that one.

Now, he has trouble swallowing. Sometimes liquids go up his nose. Think of your own "double entandre" here.

All kidding aside, he's a pretty stand up guy. For not being "bent", that is. Check out his artwork at--

http://www.jakemartinez.com/

So, you might be asking yourself, DID I think he was gay the first time I met him?

No, I did not. Nor do I think he is gay now.

But he can act a little fruity from time to time.

In conclusion, all I can say is I'm glad The Artist Known as Jake Martinez has a good sense of humor. Otherwise, he might've gone "hakuna matata" on me, and kicked my ever-lovin' ass.

Also, as an artist he is (like most artists) a "media whore". So, ANY press is good press as long as they spell your name right. That's my friend, The Artist Known as Jay Martinic.

(The Artist Known as Jake Martinez has been mentioned previously, in my columns on 2/17 & 3/1 respectively.)
-

= Late-Night Talk =

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a friend who lives out-of-state. A female friend.

After a night of the particularly delightful making of wild monkey love, we were going to sleep.

But I couldn't sleep. So I started to talk. I went on and on. I just couldn't shut up.

Her part of the conversation consisted mostly of the random uttering of "Uh-huh" from time to time.

But my chatter was going full-tilt. I couldn't seem to stop.

Finally, she said, "Of all the guys I could've slept with, I had to pick the one that actually WANTS to talk after sex."

End of conversation. Other than us both laughing out loud at that particularly witty retort.

But, now that I'm back in Phoenix, I've hardly heard a peep out of her. When she does email me, her mood can be charitably described as "catatonic."

I guess she got what she wanted when I visited, and now I've been kicked to the curb.

Not that I wanted a "long-distance" relationship or anything. I can barely handle "little- to no-" distance relationships.

Heck, I don't even know if I'm looking for a girlfriend anyway. I'd rather hang out with friends.

Or, if they're female, what one woman I know calls "friends with privileges."

Insert the proverbial "wink wink, nudge nudge" here.
-

= Warring Catch Phrases =

No sooner was the phrase "shock and awe" applied to the recent beginning of the sustained attack in Iraq than the media (both mass- and Internet-) managed to run that little nugget right into the ground.

It's all "shock and awe", or slight variations thereof, these days.

It was only two days into the war when I saw the phrase used in the local SPORTS page, as in... "I was in SHOCK AND AWE at the game upset that occurred on the field last night."

Amazingly, that's one of the least appalling examples I've seen in a veritable sea of "shock and awe."

And so that little catch-phrase joins the formerly popular "weapons of mass (use your own variation of "destruction" here -- distraction, consumption, whatever) on the trash heap of popular culture.

It took less than a week, which is neither shocking nor awe-inspiring.

It's just sad.
-

= Dinner & A Movie =

Last weekend, I went out on a date with a beautiful woman. (Note to Self: Never ever pick up women at the library again. They may be well read, but that's not going to help if you yourself are "dating illiterate.")

After the movie, we went for coffee. At some point, she turned to me and said, "You're one of those freethinkers or something, huh?"

This is NEVER a good sign on a first date. Believe you me. It pretty much went downhill from there.

The date ended with her saying, "I'll call you later."

Translation For Men: "I'll never call you. Even if somebody breaks into my apartment and attacks me, and my choice is between calling 911 and you - and 911 is busy - I won't call. I'd rather die than call you."

Of course, "I'll call you later" is better than the last line I heard. After dating this other woman for about two weeks, we broke things off. The last thing she said to me?

"Let's keep in touch."

She hasn't. In fact, the only "touching" going on these days takes place in the privacy of my own bed.

But that's probably a little more than you wanted to know.
-

= Top Headlines =

The "top three headlines" read on, and emailed from, the website of the 'Arizona Republic', for the week ending March 21, were:

3. "Arizona nuclear plant subject of terrorist threat"

2. "Palo Verde plant secure from attack, officials say"

...and...

1. "Cat goes psycho, traps owner in bathroom"

No matter where we turn, we're being terrorized. Whether it be "Al Qaeda" or "El Gato", it makes little difference.

As Emperor Dubya hisself once proclaimed, "If you're a terrorist, you're a terrorist... I can't make it any more clearly than than that"."
-

= Fan Mail =

This week I got a rather sweet letter from a fan. I don't get much fan mail. Hate mail, yes, but not so much with the supportive ones. I guess the people who like my writing don't feel the need to write. But if it's somebody who's pissed off -- hoo-boy!

The email read: "Hey Pete! I'm a newcomer to your site and let me tell you I am thrilled that I discovered it...

...In case your wondering who the heck your talking to I'll give you a little general info. I'm a kid/teen and that's pretty much it. Now I know you're probably rolling your eyes right now saying 'why should I be listening to some wacky kid who I could care less about.'"

I didn't roll my eyes. I always enjoy hearing from the young people.

She finished with, "...so long for now and I hope you respond and at least read this - mainly because I'm just so weird but in a good way and I think you sort of have that weirdness in you (and I mean that in a good way). I take being weird as a compliment."

So now I'm a role model for the kids. The so-called "weird" kids, but still...

It kind of gets 'ya right in the ole ticker, don't it?

A word of advice to those kids: Just remember, as Kermit the Frog once said, "It's not easy being green."

Lord knows I know that to be true.
-

= Final Tally =

Rereading these "Random Bits", let's tally up everybody I've offended this week:

Catholics? CHECK

Fans of Pornography? CHECK

Law-abiding citizens? CHECK

The sexually repressed? CHECK

Friends & lovers? QUADRUPLE CHECK

Feminists? CHECK

Homosexuals? CHECK

Cat Lovers? CHECK

Parents? CHECK

The Humorless? BIG BIG CHECK

...I think my work is done here.



posted by Pete 8:08 PM
Sunday, March 23, 2003
As the 'War with Iraq' draws to its foregone conclusion, let's take a brief look at the...

[ WINNERS & LOSERS ]

= American Business =

WINNER: Oil-Services Companies

From 'The Wall Street Journal' (Jan. 2003): ""With oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's, Iraq would offer the oil industry enormous opportunity should a war topple Saddam Hussein. But the early spoils would probably go to companies needed to keep Iraq's already rundown oil operations running, especially if facilities were further damaged in a war. Oil-services firms such as Halliburton Co., where Vice President Dick Cheney formerly served as chief executive, and Schlumberger Ltd. are seen as favorites for what could be as much as $1.5 billion in contracts."

Further noted by Bob Herbert, in a 'New York Times' Op-Ed piece (Mar. 20, 03): "private companies are lining up to reap the riches of rebuilding the very structures we're in the process of destroying...

Companies like Halliburton , Schlumberger and the Bechtel Group understand this conflict a heck of a lot better than most of the men and women who will fight and die in it, or the armchair patriots who'll be watching on CNN and cheering them on.

It's not unpatriotic to say that there are billions of dollars to be made in Iraq and that the gold rush is already under way. It's simply a matter of fact."

LOSER: American-brand Products in the World Market

From 'The New York Times' (Mar. 17, 03), even before the bombing started, "franchised stores such as McDonald's and KFC have been attacked, threatening to halt a recent surge of investment in franchised businesses, many of them originating in the United States.

At the same time, a growing number of knock-off products have appeared in Europe, imitating popular American brands but appealing to anti-American sentiment in Europe's large Muslim population and among other Europeans opposed to American policy in Iraq."

I guess we won't be seeing a Starbucks in Baghdad any time soon either. But, a boy can still dream, can't he?


= NATIONS =

WINNER: Cuba & North Korea

The muckity-mucks running Cuba are taking this "opportunity of war" to clean house. The Castro regime is sweeping up all stray dissidents while the rest of the world is preoccupied. While in North Korea, things have been awfully quiet. Suspiciously so. It makes one wonder.

LOSER: United States

Whoever said, "What we need is a good war to bring us all together" didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Thanks to the 'War with Iraq', Americans are more split than ever - politically and socially. I'm just guessing here, but that can't be a good thing.

LOSER: France

According to the 'The Guardian' (Mar. 21 03), "Britain released figures yesterday showing that Paris had exported goods worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraq, prompting a government to allege that France was "stretching" the rules of UN sanctions.

In a parliamentary written answer, Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary, claimed that in the first six months of last year France exported goods worth $212.5m (£135m) to Iraq.

Germany exported goods worth $203.8m. In the same period Britain exported goods worth $27.8m."

No wonder French president Jacques Chirac has been so moody lately. For his country, this war will be bad for business. To make matters worse, now nobody wants to buy champagne either.

DEBATABLE: Iraq

After Hussein is toppled, Iraq will be one, big happy United Country. Well, except for those pesky Kurdish groups in the north and the Shi'a dissidents to the south. Oh, and the vengeful Hussein supporters hiding out in Baghdad itself. But other than that, Iraq will be 'Party Central' for all freedom-lovin' people.



= PRO- & ANTI- WAR FACTIONS =

WINNER: Pro-War Supporters

If you thought they were voracious BEFORE the war, I'll bet we ain't seen nothing yet. There's nothing like a little killing to get those pro-war creative juices flowing.

LOSER: Anti-War Protestors

Protesting the war AFTER it's started is like going for an AIDS test AFTER being diagnosed HIV-positive. That is, it's a waste of time and, quite frankly, just plain stupid.


= BIN LADEN & HUSSEIN =

WINNER: Osama bin Laden

Osama? Osama who? Hey, we've got a war to get on here, pal! Bin Laden can search for himself right now. We're busy.

LOSER: Saddam Hussein

I guess all those years of living in paranoia - the sleeping in different palaces each night and having aides pre-taste his food in case it was poisoned - have finally paid off.

Now, they really ARE out to get him. But, due to years of "Paranoia Training", Hussein is prepared. As long as they don't bomb the bunker, he'll be okay... Oops. Too late.


= FREEDOM =

WINNER: Propaganda

When U.S. House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) called a news conference on Wednesday, March 12, to announce the deletion of the word "French" and the substitution of the word "FREEDOM" alongside fries and toast on the menus of House restaurants, I just thought it was another case of American politicians being humorless nut jobs.

But it was part of a larger plan, evidently, which came to fruition a week later with the start of "Operation Iraqi FREEDOM."

This is a classic example of the Propaganda Technique known as 'Transfer':

(quote) "Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept... In the Transfer device, symbols are constantly used. Those symbols stir emotions..." (unquote)

Thus, the word 'French' - which connotates the France-led opposition to a U.S.-led war against Iraq - is struck from the American lexicon. It is replaced by the more patriotic-sounding, "Pro-American" word, 'Freedom'. A symbolic 'freedom', if you will.

Then, the 'War with Iraq' is dubyaed "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to make it more acceptable.

LOSER: Actual Freedom

When a word is co-opted by sloganeering propagandists, it kind of loses its shine. "Freedom is just another word for..." well whatever you want it to mean, apparently. It has nothing left to lose.


= DAYTIME TV =

WINNER: Network News

Because nothing makes for better high-ratings television than things blowing up real good, the daytime schedule has turned into "War TV."

LOSER: Soap Operas

There's no "love in the afternoon" during wartime.


= WEB LOGS =

WINNER: War Blogs

The "war blogs" are in hog heaven these days. Plenty to write about on these web logs. But what's going to happen, say, next week or so, when the war is over?

Will "war blogs" morph into mere "political blogs", carping on silly politicians and government overspending?

Or discuss the so-called "War on Terrorism"? That would be so 'yesterdays news', if you know what I'm saying.

Of course, there are always OTHER "rogue nations" the U.S. can bomb the hell out of.... North Korea. Iran. Possibly even France, if those no good froggies don't shape up.

Yes, 'War Blogs' are a big winner right now but, before too long, they may trade places with the...

LOSER: Other Web Logs

Blogs covering pop culture, personal politics, and the regurgitation of (nonwar-related) news headlines aren't quite as popular with a war on.

But their day will come again.


= IRAQI WAR DEATH POOL =

Last month, this web log announced its "Iraqi War Death Pool". Loosely based on the Celebrity Death Pool contest, readers were invited to pick what day and time the first American combat casualty would occur in Iraq.
Hundreds entered but only one could win. Here's our...

WINNER: "Jeff"

His pick was closest to the actual day/time of the first death. So what fabulous prize does Jeff get? Actually, there are two prizes I'll soon be snail-mailing to him: First, a bag of green-plastic Army Soldiers. Also, I have this big envelope just stuffed full of Anthrax spores, in my freezer, which I've been meaning to mail for, like, forever now. So Jeff can look forward to opening both prizes real soon. Now that I've announced the prizes, I can see the 'National Enquirer' headline already: "Found in Blogger's Freezer: Anthrax... and the body of an Extraterrestrial!"

LOSER: Well, not really a "loser". In fact, not one at all. More like "the guy who lost his life" so Jeff could win:

From 'Fox News' (Mar. 22, 03): "A U.S. Marine was the first to die in action... He was from the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Lt. Col. Neal Peckham, a British military spokesman in Kuwait. He died in the sweep on the Rumeila oil field in southern Iraq, where acrid smoke blackened the sky... President Bush was informed of the death early Friday and expressed his regrets."

So, congratulations, Jeff! And I extend my condolences to the family of the man - and to those of all the soldiers in the coming weeks - killed.


. . .THUS CONCLUDES MY ROUND-UP OF THE IRAQI WAR "WINNERS & LOSERS"

posted by Pete 12:34 PM
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Here's the text of a purported "secret letter" from Saddam Hussein, sent to George W. Bush just days prior to the world premiere of CNN's epic miniseries "War in Iraq". . .

[ FROM SADDAM TO GEORGE, WITH LOVE ]

"Dear Georgie,

Sorry I haven't written in a while. Things have been kind of hectic here in Iraq.

I tried phoning a couple of times, but you wouldn't take my calls. Are you mad at me or something?

I really don't understand why you're so upset with me. The only people I've killed have been my own. It is, as they say, an "internal matter" and really none of your business. As I see it, they re-elected me - it was a landslide, by the way - so, obviously, my people had no complaints about the way I've been running things here. Heck, they knew about the 'Kill All Enemies of Hussein' plank in my re-election platform before going to the polls. So they don't have the right to complain now.

If they didn't like it, they always could've voted for the other guy.

Oh wait. I forgot... I had the other guy tortured and murdered years ago, long before he could even consider declaring his candidacy.

Never mind.

But, like I was saying, I've managed to keep it in my own backyard. Don't ever let it be said that Saddam airs his dirty laundry in public. I have some class, after all.

It's like I was telling my old pal, Osama bin Laden, way back in August of 2001.

I hadn't heard from him in years but, out of the blue, he called me. He called 'collect', by the way, and my personal secretary accepted the charges. Needless to say, I had that secretary - and his entire family - executed the next day. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's poor job performance. But I'm sort of getting off the subject here...

In any case, Osama called and he was jabbering on and on about how he had this 'master plan' to strike America. It was all "jihad" this and "Great Satan" that. Yadda yadda yadda. While he wouldn't share the details, I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be bad.

So, I told him, "Osama, don't do it, man! It'll bring on nothing but a world of hurt."

So, did he listen? Hell, no! But what do you expect from a guy who has been living in caves all his life?

He's not civilized, like you and I am, George.

By the way, now that I think of it, I really wish you'd stop calling me "evil" in the press. It really hurts my feelings. You know I'm basically a decent human being. So I've gassed a few Kurds from time to time. Big deal. Kurds in Iraq are like anti-war protestors in America - powerless and expendable, politically speaking.

As far as the things I've been quoted as saying in the last couple of months go, hey, I've been misquoted! I swear. I swear to Allah, I have!

So don't believe everything you read, George. Sometimes, it just ain't so!

I know I can be a little hard to get along with at times. Frankly, I just don't work well with others. But I've been trying, just ask Hans Blix.

Every now and then, when the pressure gets too great, I do what my psychiatrist called, "Pulling a Nutty." I can't help myself, that's just my way. That same doctor later said I suffered from megalomania. I thought to myself, "Doesn't he know who I am? I am an important man! I'm the great Saddam Hussein, linchpin to stability in the Middle East! How dare he?" Obviously, I was none too pleased with that diagnosis. The next day I had him - and his entire family - executed. Problem solved.

But I have been attempting to work on my bad habits. Through the miracle of video-conferencing, I even attended my first meeting of "Dictators Anonymous" last month. Or DA, for short. So, there I was, when this infidel named "Idi from Uganda" (no last names, it is a program based on anonymity) decided to share his experience, strength and hope. He said, "You can't go around slaughtering your own people, Saddam. That's just plain wrong. It's not like the good old days, when the world didn't much care as long as you kept it within your own borders. You have a problem, my friend."

Gee, thanks, Idi, for taking my inventory. Now I don't have to.

I'll be honest with you, George, I so felt like executing that guy - and his entire family - right then and there. But I didn't. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

It seems everybody wants to take my inventory these days. Whether it be personal or weapons of mass destruction. I wish they'd just lay off! The way I see it, if the U.S. government didn't want me to have these weapons in the first place, then it shouldn't have given them to me back in the 1980s. It's a little too late to start bellyaching about it now.

But that's just me.

George, I've heard you not only want me brought up on "war crimes" charges after this little conflict, but my two sons as well. Please leave my family out of it. I hate nothing more than people who go after their enemies' families, just out of spite. Uday and Qusay might have their share of problems but, at heart, they are good boys.

As a father yourself, I'm sure you understand.

Your twin daughters might a little problem with the alcohol, while my sons might go too far with the torturing and killing and such. But, they're still our children and, despite any faults they might have, we still love them, right?

By the way, I understand you don't want me to light the oil fields on fire this time. Like you said, they aren't really mine, they belong to the Iraqi people. I'm sure, years ago when you lived in Texas, you told the people there pretty much the same thing about "your" oil fields. But I can't make any promises. We have to make this "war" look good - if for no other reason than to give CNN, 'Time' and 'Newsweek' some nice photo-ops - so I'll have to do what I have to do, you know?

Well, I better wrap this letter up. My aides are all a-titter about getting me into a secret bunker. For some reason, they've been extremely nervous as of late. I know I can be hard on them at times, which generally makes for a nervous staff, but I think it's more than just that. I could be wrong, I suppose. But, then, I rarely am, so...

Write back, and give me the rest of the details on our pre-arranged 'surrender agreement'. Which day of the war was I suppose to let myself get captured, again? I don't have my calendar in front of me; I think I might've left it at one of the palaces. I'd send somebody to retrieve it later this week but, by then, the palace probably won't be there anymore. So let me know. I'd hate for us to screw up this "war" thing this late in the game, after all the months of careful planning we've both put into it. Just remember my two requests:

No tricks, a la having a soldier "accidentally" kill me in a so-called "firefight". I'm trusting you here, George.

Also, I want better prison accommodations than Manuel Noriega got.

Well, I must be going. Once again, thanks for this "war". I'm only one man and, even with a good-sized army, I can only kill so many of my own people each day. So many enemies, so little time. You know what I'm saying! So, thanks for bringing in your country's fancy killing machines and doing my job for me. I won't forget it, George. I owe you -- big time!

Your pal,

Saddam Hussein"

[]


posted by Pete 10:17 AM
Saturday, March 15, 2003
[ LET'S DISMANTLE THE STATUE OF LIBERTY - 'CUZ IT WAS A GIFT FROM THOSE NO GOOD FRENCH! ]


House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) called a news conference on Wednesday, March 12, to announce the deletion of the word "French" and the substitution of the word "Freedom" alongside fries and toast on the menus of House restaurants.

This latest government action closely followed the same substitution occurring in a small, but growing, number of privately owned restaurants around the U.S.

Never mind that the French can't take responsibility for inventing the fry. That honor goes to the Belgians.

Or that "French toast" was named after its inventor, Joseph French of Albany NY (that's the one in the good ole US of A; not the similarly named Albanyny in France.) Unfortunately, French's working knowledge of English was questionable at best, so when he decided to name the dish after himself he should have written his creation as "French's toast" (i.e., the toast of French). However, because he didn't know how to use the possessive apostrophe, it became known simply as "French toast".

And that is how, some 270+ years later, an international culinary incident is born.

It's also a fine example of what makes America so great:

The attitude of, "We're right, we know we're right, and the facts be damned!"

But that's not all. Now, restaurateurs are pouring French wine and champagne down the toilet, to express their anger at France's lack of support for the US position on Iraq. Hey, they tasted terrible anyway, right? Instead, vintages from California, Oregon and Australia are being served.

Yup, no two words are more romantic at an intimate dinner than, "Australian Wine."

But, I guess in time of war, we all have to make sacrifices.

Just more examples of the American credo: "Style Over Substance."

And of the knee-jerk reactionary mindset many of its citizens hold.

However, if we Americans really wanted to show those French weenies, we'd go after a more profound symbol than potatoes, bread and wine.

Yes, I'm talking about dismantling the Statue of Liberty.

America probably could not have won its freedom from the British during the American Revolution without the help of the French. France provided arms, ships, money, and men to the American colonies.

But almost a century later, people were asking, "What have the French done for us LATELY?"

Enter the Statue of Liberty.

The genesis of "Lady Liberty" came at a dinner party in France hosted by Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, a scholar and jurist, shortly after the end of the US Civil War.

Attending that evening was sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

After quite a few bottles of fine French wine, Laboulaye noted there was "a genuine flow of sympathy" between France and America, and called the nations "the two sisters."

Typical drunk talk, in other words, from a typically pretentious Frenchman.

As he continued speaking, reflecting on the centennial of American independence only 11 years in the future, Laboulaye commented, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if people in France gave the United States a great monument as a lasting memorial to independence and thereby showed that the French government was also dedicated to the idea of human liberty?"

Bartholdi replied, "I will try to glorify the Republic and Liberty over there, in the hope that someday I will find it again here."

After visiting the U.S., the idea of the Statue of Liberty came to fruition.

And now, just over a century later, we Americans are again asking, "What have the French done for us LATELY?"

Not much, apparently.

So to hell with their fries, their toast, and their overpriced wine!

And to hell with that lousy statue they foisted on us over a century ago!

I say, "Tear it down and ship it back!" to those pathetic 'surrender monkeys'. Return it C.O.D. to boot, just to show 'em who's in charge.

Or, we could simplify things: Just remove any security around the Statue. Maybe some forward-thinking foreign malcontent-types will see an opening, and blow the damn thing up in an act of terrorism.

Sadly, in the present climate, they wouldn't even be considered "Terrorists".

In the eyes of the American people, they'd be "Heroes".

For sticking it to those no-good French.


posted by Pete 8:27 AM
Thursday, March 13, 2003
=*= TEXAS DIARIES =*=

In THREE Parts:

Plane Hijinks [] Bush Presidential Library [] Random Texas Bits

[ Part 1: WORK HARDER, FLY BETTER ]

I was going to Texas. I had to catch a flight from Phoenix (AZ) to Houston, then from there to Austin where a friend would pick me up.

I was told to get to the airport two or three hours early. Apparently, there was some kind of mishap involving a few planes a while back and it now takes longer than usual to get through security. Whatever.

The first thing I saw upon walking into Phoenix International Airport was a whole gaggle of clowns. About a half dozen people in full clown regalia were gathered in the terminal. Their luggage was standard, not of the "vagabond-hobo" style so popular in clowning circles years ago, which made me think they were on their way to an out-of-town "clown convention" or planned to meet up with a traveling circus elsewhere.

That encounter pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day because, while I didn't know it at the time, I was on my way to the center ring.

An announcement blared over the PA system:

"Do not leave your luggage or personal belongings unattended. Any unattended items may be treated as a danger to the facility."

No announcement, however, on what they'd do with small children left unattended. Just shoot them, I suppose.

We can't be too careful these days.

While waiting in line at the departure checkpoint, I saw a sign, which read: "Those refusing inspection will not be permitted past the security checkpoint."

Well, duh!

The security staff gave everybody a good looking over. Some people even had to remove their shoes and send them through the X-ray machine. Luckily, I didn't.

Note to Self: Next time you take a plane trip, be sure to wear socks.

After passing through the checkpoint successfully, I walked by the area where "questionable" passengers were being scanned with the metal-detecting wand. Or, as I call it, the "terror meter".

A white couple in their seventies were being scrutinized. I don't know about you, but nothing says "terrorist" to me quite like really, really old white people. It warmed my cockles to see the airport staff agreed.

There was also a young man dressed like a clown. The loud shirt, the oversized pants held up by extra wide suspenders, the red-ball nose, and huge clown shoes.

The airport police seemed most interested in those shoes. They were really checking them out. I guess big shoes would be a great place to hide explosives. Just ask Richard Reid, that clown with the exploding sneakers.

But, I really couldn't say.

Just don't tell Osama bin Laden what I saw because there's nothing more frightening than the concept of "Terrorist Clowns." Like we really need to give THAT guy any more bright ideas, right?

Once on board, the airline spokesman on the 'pre-flight' video informed us that we'd be flying on a (quote) "modern jet airplane."

Gee, thanks for clearing that up.

In case of an emergency landing, after which we'd have to quickly disembark from the 'modern jet airplane', the video explained, "an exit sign will indicate when you've reached an exit."

Oh my god, was I on-board with stupid people? The airline video seemed to suggest that. I guess they know their customers better than I do.

The 'modern jet airplane' started revving up its engines and peeled down the runway. Then, we were airborne.

"This isn't so bad," I thought, "its kind of like being on a really crowded, very narrow bus."

Except that buses don't slam into the ground at hundreds of miles per hour.

It's those little differences that make life so interesting.

Soon, the flight attendants came by offering drinks. The sodas were free, but the booze was four dollars a pop. And it was those tiny bottles - you know, just the right size for alcoholic children. I would've liked nothing better than to be "three sheets to the wind" just so I might've actually enjoyed the flight, but I wasn't about to spend eighty bucks to get there. I'm a really really nervous flier, so I'd be looking at an eighty dollar minimum here.

During the flight, I met this really hot chick. We got to talking and, soon, we were making wild monkey love in the lavatory. Those 'diaper-changing' tables mounted on the lavatory wall have multi-use capabilities, I came to find out.

Afterward, neither of us smoked a cigarette because smoking on the plane was prohibited by federal regulation.

I can deal with the "no smoking" bit, but the day they outlaw the in-flight making of wild monkey love is the day I stop flying. Mark my words.

By the time I got back to my seat, I had worked up quite an appetite. As it so happened, lunch was being served.

**WARNING: Paid product-placement advertising alert!**

The ham sandwich was from Hormels. The mustard was French's. The miniature carrot sticks were courtesy of Grimmway Farms ("Carroteenies - Neat. Sweet. Ready to Eat"). The after lunch mint was provided by Russell Stovers.

** End Warning **

A fine meal was had by all.

The plane landed some thirty-five minutes late, arriving at 3:35pm. My connecting flight's departure time was 3:30pm.

It doesn't take a fancy math degree to figure out what happened.

I was put on the NEXT flight out - some two hours later.

Note to the F.A.A.: Now that you guys have that post-9/11 security problem fixed, how about taking over flight scheduling? You couldn't do much worse than the airlines are now. At least half the people on my flight missed their connection.

Note to the Airlines: If you thought potential terrorist threats were awful for business, keep pissing people off with bad scheduling and you'll really feel the pinch.

While waiting, I made the mistake of going outside to smoke a cigarette. I did mention I had to wait for TWO whole hours, right? Okay, then! So, I had to return through a security checkpoint.

They sure do things differently at Houston's George Bush International Airport. Here, EVERYBODY gets magic-wanded and his or her carry-on bags are thoroughly searched. Hell, even the hardcover book I was carrying was searched, practically page-by-page. The guy really gave it a good thumbing through.

I guess you never know when some yahoo is going to try to sneak a "book bomb" on board, huh? And here I thought it was "Books NOT Bombs", rather than "Books AS Bombs". But I guess the airport police in Houston weren't up on the latest fad in high-school anti-war protesting slogans.

Or, maybe they just don't mess around in Texas. Of course, all the extra security precautions might've had something to do with the fact that the facility was named after the 41st U.S. president. Yeah, that was some good planning there. There's nothing like making yourself an obvious target for terrorism.

And here I was under the assumption that airports were named after former presidents after death. I know they made an exception for Ronald Reagan but, for all intents and purposes, he's already dead, so I don't know if that one counts.

The second flight was uneventful. No sex, no lunch, but it landed in Austin on time.

I'm just kidding about that "on time" part. Obviously.

I don't want to name the airline I used, for fear of losing those lucrative on-blog paid product-placement ads, but let's just say if I had taken a morning flight they'd have served a 'continental breakfast'.

After this, I swear to god, I'll NEVER fly again. In fact, I walked back to Phoenix. I left about the same time my return flight was departing.

I beat the plane home.
-

[ Part 2: CIRCLING THE WAGONS AT THE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY ]

While in Bryan, Texas, I had a chance to visit the multi-million dollar facility known as 'The George Bush Presidential Library'.

On the way there, driving down 'George Bush Boulevard', I saw where that road intersected with 'Coke Street'. Do I really need to insert a joke at this point? The juxtaposition speaks for itself, I think.

As you might've noticed, a lot of things in Texas are named after the first President Bush. Yes, in Texas, they really like Bush. Men love Bush and, from what I understand, some women do too. More or less being in Texas demands it. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.

After going through the library security checkpoint (metal detector and x-ray machine), I entered a large rotunda. On prominent display was a white Cadillac convertible, done up Lone Star style. The seats were white leather with black spots. A set of horns from a longhorn steer was mounted on the hood. Yes, they used the WHOLE cow to make that car. Standing nearby was a wooden Indian. Oops, I'm sorry - I meant "Wooden Native American." You know, like the kind taken off display at tobacco shops years ago, for being so offensive? This one was saluting. Or maybe he was wiping the sweat off his worried brow, because he knew what was coming.

Within a minute of entering, a 'staff greeter' was at my side, telling me I should really see the "introductory film" first, so I'd be "properly oriented" for the self-guided tour.

I went to see the film. While in the theatre, I listened to the people around me. I learned a lot from these obvious Bush fans. Did you know, for example, that they differentiate between the father and son by calling our current president "George W." while his dad is simply called "Herbert"? Neither did I. Also, as a child, our current president (or, "Emperor Dubya", as I call him) was nicknamed "Georgie". Who would've guessed?

The film covered the rich history that is the Life of "Herbert". His formative early years; the WWII years; the congressional years; the presidential years (both vice- and not); and, of course, the defining moment of his career - the Gulf War. The original, obviously, not the upcoming sequel. Which is good, because sequels never live up to the original.

That movie was really well done. Leni Riefenstahl would be proud. It contained lots of archival footage, photo stills with voice-overs, and straight interviews. It was about "faith, family and friends." Oh, and "common decency." The same stuff "Herbert's" years of public service were about, or so he said.

According to a staffer, there was a chance that, on any given day, tourists could run into the former president or first lady in the library. I guess when the Bushes have nothing better to do, they visit.

"Oh, Barb," I can almost hear 'Herbert' muttering, "I'm no good, dad-gummit, and nobody likes me."

"Oh, George," she replies, "let's get you over to that little library of yours. It always seems to brighten your mood."

"I don't know if that would be prudent, Barb..."

Once I entered the Library proper, the first display was "The Gallery of American History." On the wall leading to the gallery entrance were sepia-toned rodeo pictures, circa the 1920s. The bucking broncos helped to set the mood. Inside was a large cowboy boot display. Never in my life have I seen so many boots in one place. Not even at a country and western bar on a Saturday night.

Some of "Herbert's" actual boots were included, such as the pair embroidered with 'Father of the Year' and a set featuring a white leather White House replica. I could almost smell the power he wielded while in office.

A flat-screen TV was mounted on the center wall of the gallery, on which John Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" played.

And that, my friends, is all one apparently needs to know about "American History." If it ain't in the gallery, it ain't real history. 'Nuff said.

The rest of the library-in-the-round alternated between displays, TV videos, and various quotes/info on the walls.

Walk through it with me, will you?

I saw a display case in which the leather swivel chair used by Bush in the Oval Office sat. The display was titled 'The Seat of Power'.

Random quotes alert:

"He was a golden boy. Everything he did, he did well." - a classmate from Yale

"I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell my children this they just about throw up." - Barbara Bush, on marrying 'Herbert'

"I am a Texan and an American... what more could a man ask?" - George Bush

There were TVs showing various Bush-related news footage throughout. Oddly, all the videos were subtitled in English, even though everybody in them spoke English. Chalk another one up for the Barbara Bush Literacy Corps, I suppose.

There were big displays, with lots of pictures and text, on "Herbert's" days as a congressman, an ambassador to the U.N., the Republican Party chairman, and as Liaison to China.

The "CIA Director" display was a bit smaller. A portrait, copies of "Herbert's" job acceptance and farewell speeches, and a rather curious timeline which named some 'fun facts' that happened during those CIA years...

"1977 - New movies: 'Saturday Night Fever', sparking the disco craze; 'Star Wars', which becomes the biggest box office hit of all time.

1978 - Dolly Parton is Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year."

In other words, a timeline that puts Bush's CIA years in proper perspective. Hey, I suspected the CIA was behind a lot of bad stuff but now that I know it was evidently responsible for disco, plus the popularity of 'Star Wars' and Dolly Parton, well... frankly, I'm scared.

The Reagan-Bush-Quayle years got prominent mentions.

A quote on Bush becoming Vice President: "Hello, George," said the voice soon to be familiar worldwide, "this is Ron Reagan, I'd like to go over to the convention and announce that you're my choice for vice president... if that's all right with you."

It hits you in an "Aww, shucks!" kind of way, doesn't it? It makes one a bit nostalgic for the simpler days of the 1980s, when we knew who our enemies were - those pinko commies. Oh, and those rich Japs who were buying up corporate America.

When Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981, just three months into his presidency, Bush displayed (as the sign noted), "his usual calm, good sense in a crisis."

By the summer of '88, polls showed the Republican Bush-Quayle ticket anywhere from 10-20 points behind in the presidential race.

However, the "Bush-Quayle Team" won handily, garnering some 42 states.

If you recall, they had run against Dukakis-Bentsen.

There's probably an obvious joke in there somewhere, other than the Dukakis-Bentsen team itself, but hell if I can think of it right now.

Next up was "The History of the Berlin Wall."

A section of the wall, presented to Bush on Wednesday, April 21 1993, sits in the library.

The building of the wall, and the years it separated East and West Germany, was well documented.

However, the part of the wall exhibition titled 'The Fall' had a sign in front of it that read "Exhibit Under Construction".

The wall was up for some 28 years. Hopefully, the display on its fall won't take quite that long to construct.

Let's move on to Iraq and its evil dictator, shall we?

In the 'more things change, the more they stay the same' department, here's a quotable quote:

"By August 1990, Iraq had poured money into developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Of these, Saddam was known to have used poison gas on his country's own Kurdish minority and against Iran. There was evidence of horrible biological weapons as well, but Iraq had not yet developed a nuclear device."

Just before the start of the Gulf War, in a personal letter to his children, Bush displayed his sensitive side... Just before bombing the hell out of Iraq, that is:

"I can't begin to tell you how great it was to have you here at Camp David (during the holidays).

I hope I didn't seem moody. I tried not to."

In explaining his march toward war, Bush referenced the Nazi regime of the late 30s/early 40s:

"How many lives might have been saved if appeasement had given way to force earlier? How many Jews might have been spared the gas chambers?"

Near the end of the letter, he stated, "So, dear kids - batten down the hatches."

Still sound advice today, as the current president gears up his fancy killing machines as part of "Emperor Dubya's Folly".

Near the end of the self-guided tour, one saw a display of gifts given to the president by other world leaders. As the sign noted, "The exchange of priceless and unusual gifts between leaders and countries in an age-old custom."

Other than porcelain and crystal, the popular gift item during those years seemed to be sharp objects.

Ceremonial swords from both the leaders of Republic of Djibouti and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; a Viking sword replica from the Ambassador of Ireland; and a dagger from the State of Bahrain.

World leaders love them swords, apparently.

I guess now we know what the Bushes did with their "white elephant" gifts - they put 'em in the library.

The last hall contained a large photo display of New York City, in the days right after 9/11. ("It's just been added to the tour," a staffer explained after the introductory film, "to show how America has recovered." I wasn't aware that the U.S. *had* recovered, what with fear and paranoia running more rampant than ever. But what do I know?)

As I looked at these powerful photos (by Joel Meyerowitz), a security guard walked by. He was whistling, "Hail to the Chief" as he wandered past.

My last stop on the tour was the gift shop. Besides the usual assortment of "Herbert and Barb" paraphernalia, there was plenty of items celebrating the life of first-dog (and best-selling author) Millie. From plush toys of various sizes to key chains.

However, there was only one copy - a display copy - of Dan Quayle's book, "Worth Fighting For". Not one coloring book, or a copy of "Dan's Lil' Dictionary of Really Hard Words to Spell", could be found. Quayle really got shafted.

One book taking up plenty of shelf space, however, was Chris Andersen's recent "George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage".

So, in the minds of visitors, the father has now passed the torch of "Faith, Family and Friends" on to his son.

And let's not forget "Common Decency", pesky though it may be at times.

As I went back into the real world, I couldn't help but feel a bit patriotic. My heart swelled with pride and my brain felt thoroughly washed.

I was a true-blue American once again.
-

[ Part 3: LONE STAR TALES ]

Just some random Texas bits, to cleanse the palate...

= Don't Mess with Texas =

A couple of months ago, a dear friend I hadn't heard from in years got in touch. Her and I bantered back and forth. The next thing I knew, she's sending me a plane ticket so I can come visit.

As rumor has it, I can be a bit of a recluse. Some days, just stepping out the front door is a big deal. So, actually leaving the house and flying to a whole other state is a major step.

Yup, I guess what they say is true: Guys will do pretty much anything just to get laid.

As I contemplated going to Bryan, Texas (pop: 65,000; and which is located about 90 minutes outside of Austin) I couldn't help but think of a novel I once read which went something like this: Big city man meets woman. Woman talks man into moving with her to small Texas town, where her family lives. Big city man isn't cut out for small town living. The man slowly goes insane.

I think it was either a book by Charles Bukowski or Jim Thompson, I don't remember which, but that really isn't the point. The point is: The man slowly went insane.
-

= War Protest, Day Yet to be Determined =

From a flier at the local Unitarian Church:

"The Day War On Iraq Starts

We will meet at the Unitarian Church at 6pm and march from the Church to the George Bush Presidential Library to protest this unlawful act of aggression!

If the war starts after 5pm, then the same plan holds for the day after."
-

= A Mighty Fine Dessert, Dad-Gummit! =

A recipe from the "White Trash Cookbook":

"CHERRY DESSERT

1 can cherry pie filling

1 large can crushed pineapple

1 can sweetened Condensed Milk

1 lg container of cool whip (8oz.)

Mix together and put in a 9x13 pan. Put in freezer just to cool it. Do not freeze."

Them there's good eats, paw! All you need is a can opener.
-

= Texans R Us =

In Texas, if a word ends in the letter R they don't pronounce the R.

I found this out one morning when I went to a motel, the sign for which also read "Coffee Shop".

I couldn't find the coffee shop, so I went into the office and asked the young blonde white girl working at the front desk, "Is the coffee shop still here?"

She answered, "No sah, it ain't been here for ten yeahs."

From that point on, I didn't pronounce word-ending "Rs" just so I'd fit in while theah.
-

= Radio Talk =

Also while in Bryan, Texas, I appeared on the community radio station (KEOS 89.1FM) morning show, "Eclectic Coffeehouse".

I read some of my work, including (the clean version of) the ever-popular "My Guide to a Woman's Heart" (see archives, Feb. 10 '03, for the original.).

Afterwards, a couple of people called in. They always commented on that piece.

One woman said, "I think I was married to that guy" that Pete described. The DJ replied, "I guess WAS is the operative word here."

I also got to fulfill a few radio fantasies while on-air. For example, I was able to work the phrase "to all you lovers out there in radio land" into the conversation. Also, I instructed the listeners to "roll out of bed, or get up off that couch, and come over to your radio. (pause) Are you by the radio? (pause) Good! Now lay your hands on top of the radio, and FEEL the healing power of my lovin' words!"

Amen, brothers and sisters! Amen!

[]



posted by Pete 11:24 AM
Monday, March 10, 2003
Here are some upcoming measures which you may or may not have heard about...

[ 'New and Improved' Anti-Terrorism Measures ]


According to a Reliable Government Source of mine, the Bush Administration has a few new "anti-terrorism" measures slowly crawling up the pipeline of America.

Since I'm wearing my "Journalist" Hat at this moment, obviously I won't be able to reveal the identity of the federal government employee who is my source. Suffice to say, I believe him or her to be very reliable.

This is what I've been told:

COLOR-CODED BOARDING PASSES

The latest scheme in the works by Attorney General John Ashcroft, and cohorts, is additional airport security.

The plan is to implement "color-coded boarding passes" for all passengers. So, before you're allowed to board a plane, you'll be issued just such a pass.

It will be patterned after the five-color Homeland Security Public Threat Advisory system, currently in use.

The color of your particular pass will depend on how much of a "security risk" you've been determined to be beforehand.

So, for example, if you're a "frequent flier" businessman with a family and ties to the community, you'll get a "Blue" pass.

Of course, if you're ALSO white, you'll automatically be upgraded (or, "security downgraded") to "Green". Otherwise known as the "free pass".

If, however, you're a businessman of Middle Eastern descent with no ties to the community, you'll definitely be given the "Red" pass. Plus, they'll be watching your Terrorist Ass the entire flight!

I guess, because "racial profiling" has worked so well for various police departments in the U.S., somebody at the federal level thought it just might work on planes too.

Yeah, yeah... I know, it's not a race issue. It's a homeland security issue. You just keep telling yourself that, if it makes you feel safer.

While this next part isn't part of the official program - well, not yet anyway - I wonder if all those with "red" passes will have to sit at the back of the plane.

I mean, it worked so well with buses in America during the first half of the twentieth century, right? Well, at least until some people started getting uppity about it.


SMOKING OUT TERRORISTS

The second measure I've learned about involves possible terrorist attacks on buildings.

Watch for a government warning, detailing the "fake smoker" terrorist threat.

See, the plot goes a little something like this:

Some terrorists target a building. A federal building, a big corporation, or any building with large numbers of people in it.

Then, they locate the outside "smoking area" of said building.

On the day of the attack, one of the terrorists - presumably wearing an oversized coat, under which explosives are hidden - walks up to the smokers gathered outside and mingles with them.

Perhaps he bums a cigarette, or asks somebody for a light. Whatever it takes to "blend in" with the workers who're puffing away.

Then, when the group heads back into the building, the terrorist simply follows them in.

The next time he lights up, it isn't a cigarette. Instead, the building goes boom.

Perhaps all these anti-smoking ordinances - banning smoking in public buildings - that local governments have enacted in cities across this great land of ours, as of late, just might come back to bite us all in the butt.

Yes, in America they came first for the "potential terrorists" who didn't actually do anything yet and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a potential terrorist. Then they came for members of homegrown extremist/fringe groups who shot their mouths off one too many times and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an extremist. Then they came for the antiwar protestors and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a protestor. Then they came for the anti-social malcontents and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a malcontent. Then they came for me and the other smokers - and by that time no one was left to speak up.

[]

After reading this entry, you might be thinking, "That's TOO crazy, he's got to be making this stuff up."

Hey, I'm a good writer... but even I'm not that good! Just watch the news in the months ahead - you'll see who has the last laugh.

Me? I'm not laughing

posted by Pete 4:51 PM
Sunday, March 09, 2003
[ CONFESSIONS OF AN INTERNET JUNKIE! ]

While visiting a friend in Texas, I wasn't able to get online most of that time because her computer was down. However, it's not like I'm an "Internet Junkie". I don't suffer from, as the mental health community terms it, "pathological internet use". I swear. Hey, just because I get online everyday doesn't mean I have to!

I can stop logging on any time I want. Damn straight I can. I just don't want to.

Here's the journal I kept while offline. Amazingly, I was able to document my activities with these primitive tools called a "pencil" and "paper". It's kind of hard to explain what those are, but, suffice to say, they're a bit like a keyboard and computer - except you don't have to plug them in to make them work. I'm not making that up. It's true.

OFFLINE JOURNAL

DAY 1: I'm feeling good. Other than not being able to read the news on the BBC, CNET, MSNBC, CNN, Drudge Report, Australian Broadcasting Corp., Google News, Reuters, 'Best of the Web Today', AP, Yahoo News, worldnetdaily, Ain't-It-Cool News, and CBC.ca websites (not to mention dozens of web logs), I'm A-ok.

Other than feeling isolated in a very scary and unfamiliar world, in other words.

Instead, my friend offers me the daily paper. Ink printed on big sheets of paper; can you believe that? Before I get to the end of the first section, my fingertips turn black. As it so happens, this ink rubs off! Hey, if it’s not in an ink-jet printer cartridge, it's not ink in my book.

Maybe I need to 'Refresh' my attitude.

So, I go to the park. However, it smells funny. It doesn't smell sterile. It leaves me anxious and confused.

On the way home, I get lost. It's not my fault, as I wasn't able to get online and print out a "neighborhood map" beforehand. I have to rely on street signs to find my way. Yeah, like that's gonna work. Talk about a crazy and complicated way of doing things. Street signs - sheesh!

DAY 2: Spend most of the afternoon remembering the good ole days. I first got online in the mid-80s. Back then, all we had were Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). Simply put, these were single computers, often in somebody's home, with one phone line to connect. If somebody else was online, the line was busy and you had to wait your turn. I started at 300bps, and then went to 1200bps. But it was never fast enough.

Eventually, Al Gore invented the Internet. Thank God for Al Gore.

After that, I was "off to the races" as the saying goes.

I first got on the Internet about five years ago. I have a dial-up connection. However, I no longer get that euphoric high I used to get when logging in via phone. I'm afraid I'm going to have to mainline DSL/Cable soon, just to recapture that high. I'm frightened. I'm very very frightened.

Last month, I sold my car just to afford to set up a website of my own. Now, I'm thinking about pawning the stereo so I can upgrade to a bigger Yahoo mailbox. Where will it end? As they say, "One log-in is too many, and a thousand never enough."

Oh no, I just realized - I haven't backed up my files in over 48 hours. Talk about your stressful situations.

DAY 3: The Internet withdrawal symptoms are kicking in. The cold sweats come and go. I'm shaking uncontrollably at times. I can't focus my eyes. My joints ache. I can't seem to concentra...

...If only I could log onto internetaddict.org and get some help! Maybe I could join of one those "Internet Addict Support Group" mailing lists I've heard so many wonderful things about.

Still anxious and confused. Even more so, in fact.

DAY 4: I find I'm now sleeping more than four hours a night. However, I still wake up at three AM and think, "Time to get online and check that email." Old habits die hard, apparently. Thereafter, my sleep is restless.

I awake this morning, after having a strangely fevered 'net dream.

I dreamt Matt Drudge and Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds were standing at the foot of my bed.

Drudge held a mouse in the palm of his hand, and said, "Just one click. It'll make you feel good."

Reynolds added, "The first log-in is free, but then it's gonna cost 'ya. Only $19.95 a month!"

I wake with a start, to find my bed drenched in stale sweat. I feel very cold and alone. If only I had another human being to talk to - but I don't have access to Yahoo! Messenger right now.

My first thought this morning is "How much unsolicited sex-related email has piled up?" I'm horny as hell, and have no way to look at online porn. I feel as if I'm going to explode from the waist down. Damn.

DAY 5: My friend has been trying to get me to eat something all day. I won't touch that food. It smells funny. I feel nauseous.

She says she walked up to the store and bought the food especially for me. "You went where?" I ask. Evidently, this so-called "store" has food on shelves and people go there IN PERSON and place the items they've chosen in a cart. Then they go through what's called a "check-out line" and pay CASH for the food. I'm not pulling your leg here. Evidently, some people do that. Go figure.

I only buy food via grocerystore.com, paying by credit card. If its been pawed by human hands, I want no part of that so-called "food."

DAY 6: My friend went to work today. I've been sitting here, trying to figure out how I can get across town to the library. There are computers with Internet access there. I don't have a car. Maybe I can walk. It'll only take about two hours. Or maybe I can borrow somebody's car. Or steal one. Whatever it takes, man. Whatever it takes.

But, the diarrhea has set in. I haven't been able to leave the bathroom, much less the house, all day.

And now that I finally feel up to it, my friend has come home.

I've heard rumors about men in trench coats, lurking in dark alleys behind office buildings closed for the day. They run long extension cords and phone lines out of the building, and have old computers - with Internet access! - set up there.

I spend a good part of the evening looking for these guys.

I told my friend I was just going for a short walk, to get some "fresh air." Yeah, like I want any part of that funny smelling air. However, not being an addict herself, she buys my story. What a sucker!

That was hours ago. She's probably pretty worried by now, but I don't really care. I've got to get online if it's the last thing I do.

DAY 7: My friend finally gets her computer repaired. Oh sweet Jesus, thank you! She turns on her computer but it takes forever to load up. "Boot up," I scream, "boot up, damn you!"

Now I'm online, typing in and posting this journal.

I'm no longer anxious and confused. I'm feeling A-ok.

I got my terminal fix.

posted by Pete 5:29 AM
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
[ RANDOM BITS III - The One That Just Won't Quit! ]

Here's another installment of my irregular "random bits" column. Some true tales that only add to the "Mythology of Pete" --

= The One About My Pants =

It never fails. Every time somebody knocks on my front door, I'm not wearing pants.

I'd like to say it's because I have an incredibly hot woman waiting in my bed, but I can't. It's just a case of not wearing my pants at that particular moment.

I'll be wearing underwear, but the pants seem to be elsewhere. Resting over a chair. Sitting in the hamper. Hanging out back, having a smoke. Visiting friends. Whatever.

If only we lived in a pantless society, I'd be the cat's meow.

As it is now, I'm just another pantless slob.
-

= The One About Priests =

At the end of the last two graveside funeral services (Catholic version) I went to, a family member went up to the officiating priest and handed him one-hundred U.S. dollars. In cash or by personal check.

Just so there is no confusion, this payment was not to the church but to the priest himself.

I came to find out this is the regular practice.

See, conducting Mass and hearing confessions is the priest's regular job but funerals are done on a "freelance" basis

So, now, I'm thinking to myself: "I need a job like that. It's sounds like a pretty sweet gig."

My qualifications? I was raised Catholic, so I pretty much know the ropes. I'm a halfway decent public speaker. Also, I like children.

Just to be absolutely clear here, I DON'T like children in ANY sort of sexual way. Not at all. Never. Nada. Zip.

But, I can 'bluff' with the best of them. So, when all the priests are gathered around the rectory water cooler, shooting the holy breeze about the new altar boy, I'll simply make stuff up.

"That boy's got an angelic smile that makes me hot."

Etcetera, etcetera.

I just want to fit in with my priestly, yet pedophilic, pals. I just want to be liked!

Being a decent public speaker and liking kids - plus the fact I'm white - might also qualify me for the position of being Michael Jackson, but I understand that one has been filled. They hired some nut job. Tee-hee!

So, I looked into this priesthood thing.

I knew there was a "Clown College", but I came to find out there's also one for priests.

It is called a "seminary". Is it just me, or does that sound vaguely sexual?

However, years of schooling - so I can talk the God Talk - just isn't for me.

Instead, I registered with the Universal Life Church (ULC) - a non-denominational church - and became a full-fledged minister. It cost nothing and, via the Internet, took only a few minutes to do.

But now I can legally marry people, and conduct funeral services, for anybody who asks.

It'll only cost them $100.
-

= The One About the 'Sleep Over' =

Some time ago, I was dating this woman Shelley. Things got kind of "spooky" real quick. You know how, when a couple has been together for a while, they start finishing each other's sentences? For us, that was Day Two.

Before things turned ugly.

But that's another story.

This is a sweet story; so let's try to keep it civil, ok?

I invited Shelley over for an old-fashioned "sleep over". You know, like when we were kids.

No hanky-panky involved. Just good, clean fun. Like when we were kids.

When she arrived, I had her take her shoes off as 'When You Wish Upon a Star' played in the background. Then, I helped her up onto the bed.

"To let go of your workaday worries, you have to remember how to fly."

We jumped on the bed. We leapt so high it was like flying.

After scampering off the bed, we sang and played along to a 'Sesame Street' record.

'Rub Your Tummy, Pat Your Head'

We did as instructed.

'Everybody Wash'

We were clean again.

As the night wore on, we blew Magic Bubbles. You know, the soapy liquid in a bottle that comes with a magic wand and plastic corncob pipe?

With only candles lighting the darkened room, the bubbles glowed as they drifted by.

Then, I pulled the kitchen table into the middle of the room. We spread blankets over the top of it, and put pillows underneath.

Yes, we built a fort. Under which we read books by flashlight.

It was almost 'bed time'. I said, "Close your eyes", and then placed a chocolate-covered cherry half way in her slightly open mouth. I already knew she had loved chocolate-covered cherries as a kid, so there you go.

"This is the fruit of childhood. It'll be eaten, and digested, and as it's absorbed by our bodies so, too, will be the childhood lost. It will remain in us forever now."

Infatuation often leads to pithy and pretentious
statements. Please forgive me for that last one I quoted.

We kissed, simultaneously biting the treat in half. It must have been a perfect union, because not one bit of chocolate fell to the floor.

It was time to go to sleep so, as we lie in bed, I turned and kissed her good night.

The next thing I knew, it was all animal lust and stark nakedness. She got on top of me like nobody's business. I was hot for teacher.

The next morning, I happened to look at her notebook which was open to the page titled, 'Sleep Over To-Do List.' There was only one item on her list. It read:

"Play Doctor"

I guess girls are kind of sneaky.

The boys rule the playground or so they think. They only think that because the girls let them.
-

= The One About the Death Pool =

Reader response to my little "Iraqi War Death Pool" column (Feb. 19) continues to mount. Here are some choice quotes:

"In my humble opinion, it's about the most grotesque goddamn thing I've ever heard and I'll have no part of it."

"Sad that I would get a prize for someone's death... But ya know, they are the crazy ones that decided to enlist. I might as well get something out of it! ;-) "

"You're not funny, Pete."

"I'm a guy but, when I read your 'Death Pool' article, I cried. I cried just like a little girl."

"I hope YOU die first!"

That about covers that. As Emperor Dubya's Folly continues its march toward war, be sure to enter the contest. Win fabulous prizes. Yadda yadda yadda. Until then, as the hippies used to say, "Peace out, brothers and sisters!"
-

= The One About the Phone =

I usually don't ask people to call me on the telephone. I'm funny that way. Sometimes I'll even say, "don't call me" but they call anyway.

To paraphrase Charlton Heston (in 'Planet of the Apes'), "Damn them! Damn them all to hell!" for calling.

Mostly, they call to talk shit. So we spend time talking that shit and all. Then we stop talking shit, and somebody hangs up. But, obviously, the phone would be very busy while that shit talking is going down. At least, for that brief moment, nobody else can call, as I don't have "call waiting". One person calling at a time is more than enough, thank you very much.

Whoa, I think I've typed "shit" way too much in this entry.

Shit, I've gotta stop doing that.

Usually the person who calls has their "panties in a twist" over something or other. I'm not sure what, because I spend most of the conversation not listening.

Whatever it is, it involves much hand wringing and the proverbial muttering of "Woe is me! Woe is me!" on their part.

However, I do punctuate their conversation with random utterings of "Right!" "Yes!" and the ever popular "You don't say?"

Then they feel much better for having had somebody to talk to, a "good listener" as it were.

Nobody's caught on yet, and called me on my shit. Damn, there I go again with that word.

After writing this, however, I guess the jig is pretty much up with the phone thing. Maybe they'll be so upset that they simply won't call me anymore.

How clever of me, considering I basically don't know what the hell I'm doing, huh?
-

= The One About Porn Stars =

These are the "top five" porn stars I'd like to "meet and greet". I'm not exactly sure why I'm telling you this. Maybe I'm just in a sharing mood today.

As for any one of these actresses - I'd meet her anywhere. At a cafe, where she could drink coffee. At a bar, where she could drink wine. Or anywhere else, for that matter, and she could drink whatever it is she loves to drink. I'm easy.

5. Shauna Grant

Actually, I guess she's dead. She was poked hard by a .22 rifle at age 20. In the head. Ouch. I guess that's why she ranks down at number five, what with being dead and all.

4. Kacey

Because I like celebrities with only one name. Cher. Madonna. Kacey. Plus, she has a real nice smile. Her teeth are always very white.

3. Cherry Rain

One hell of an actress. I don't know what other emotions she can enact, but she's got that "moaning" one down pat.

2. Paige Sinclair

I have one word to describe this hot Latina firecracker: Flexible. What more needs to be said, really?

1. Aurora Snow

She has beautiful eyes. She appears to enjoy her work. If you haven't seen Snow, she kind of looks like a cross between actress Rebecca Herbst (TV's "General Hospital") and singer Fiona Apple. The only difference: Snow gets nekkid a hell of a lot more when in front of a camera.

That's my list. Now hose yourself off, and continue reading...
-

= The One About Toys =

The other night, I ran into my old friend, Rex.

Over at his house, he had a big box filled with novelty toys. Somebody he knew had brought them over, to be used as prizes for the children who had come to Rex's daughter's birthday party a few days earlier.

She had turned six.

Suffice to say, a lot of the cooler toys were gone by the time I got there. Some items left in the box:

There were the 'Moo Cow' and 'Cat Meow' cans. You turn them upside down, and they make animal noises. Except these were evidently broken. The cow did not say 'moo'. The cat did not go 'meow'. Instead, both made the sound of the animal that goes 'clunk'. Whichever one that is.

The plastic 'gag lit cigar' and the related 'cigar eraser' were still there. Funny, I guess the kids didn't want those. Maybe those anti-tobacco ads on TV work after all. Who would've guessed? I, however, was soon hankering for a smoke. I couldn't find the 'gag glass of brandy' that usually goes with the cigar. I looked through the whole box. More than once. No brandy.

There was a set of "Pick Up Sticks". If you're older than, say, thirty then you probably remember the game of pick-up-sticks. The kids most likely passed on this one when they saw batteries weren't included. If you're younger than thirty, I should point out that pick-up-sticks were popular in the era BEFORE all toys needed batteries to operate. That was the joke there. Ha, ha. You gotta love that "multi-generational gap" humor.

But the most excellent gift left was the curiously dubbed "Inflatable PVC Toy". Yes, that's what it actually said on the bag. I guess another company held the trademark on the phrase "Beach Ball"(tm), so the jokers in marketing at this company really brainstormed and came up with the next best thing.

Somebody probably got fired over that one, when the company ended up losing millions. And the CEO most likely got a fat yearly bonus. Only in America, huh? It's the Land of Opportunity and Inflatable PVC Toys.
-

= The One About My Whereabouts =

I know today's entry was rather random. That's because I'm getting ready to fly out to the Austin, TX area tomorrow, to visit friends and (hopefully) record some spoken word material.

I've already made a list of what I need to bring:

1. Electric shaver, so I don't look like a homeless bum by Day Three of the visit.

2. Shoes, the non-exploding pair, to wear on the plane.

3. A couple of good books, to head off boredom. Members of "Pete's Book Club", please note, I'll be reading Charles Wilkins' "The Circus at the Edge of the Earth". It is the account of his "three-thousand kilometre journey into the outrageous and shadowy world of one of North America's most beloved and fragile institutions: the travelling circus." Or so it says on the inside cover blurb. I'll also be reading "Freemasonry Illustrated: Full Ritual and 'Secret' Work of the Three Blue Lodge Degrees", published in 1947. So, even though I'm not a Mason, I'll soon know the "secret Masonic handshake." I'd tell you what it is but, if I did, I'd then have to slit my own throat from ear to ear.

That's my list so far. Oh wait..! Clothes! I almost forgot to put clothes on my list. Yes, I'll definitely need some of those.

I'll be back early next week. Until then, if you haven't yet read the archives here, now would be a good time to do so. Guffaws-O-Plenty in there, believe you me.

Also, I've added many new links (and now, we have web-cam links!) so check those out too. There's much to keep you busy here. So stay busy. And, while you're at it, why not forward my main page URL to a few friends? Share the joy, people. Share the goddamn joy already.

PERSONAL NOTE TO GEORGE W. BUSH: If you're reading this, try not to blow up the planet while I'm gone. I'd very much appreciate that. Thank you. - Pete


posted by Pete 7:29 AM
Saturday, March 01, 2003
[ Ode to the Lost Art of Dining ]

Diners have littered the American landscape for close to three-quarters of a century. They provided a respite for harried and hungry millions along the country's desolate highways and throughout overpopulated cityscapes.

All with good food, at reasonable prices.

Since the late 80s, however, every year dozens of vintage diners have been demolished, moved or given a sterile makeover after being bought out by a large restaurant chain. "Joe's" becomes Coco's. "Rosie's" turns into the last thing that's needed, JB's. The "Lucky Strikes" transforms into another bland International House of Pancakes.

Where, I ask, will it end? For the moment, I regale you with some of my own diner tales...

-

= Kiss Mah Grits =

This morning, I finally had the chance to visit the "New Yorker" in west Phoenix. I hadn't eaten there in quite some time, and was really looking forward to it.

When my friend, The Artist Known as Jake Martinez (see archives, 2/17 entry, for more on Jake), and I got there - well, you probably saw this one coming - it had closed its doors.

Even worse, the diner was having a liquidation sale. Viewing the assortment of bric-a-brac inside, I saw a microcosm of America's lost dreams.

Once fine china, now chipped and cracked along the edges. Coffee cups forever stained brown from all the servings of "caffeinated courage" over the years. Forks and knives scratched, in silent testimony to meals enjoyed.

Viewing the leftovers at "New Yorker", I soon felt a tightness in the pit of my stomach. Part of it was a profound sadness, but it also could've been simple hunger.

At that moment, I felt as if I'd never eat again. At least, not good food that was reasonably priced.

The "New Yorker" had always had daily breakfast specials. A meat and cheese omelet with home fries and toast on Mondays. Two eggs, bacon or sausage, home fries and toast on Wednesdays. Two eggs, pancakes and home fries on Fridays.

Each meal was only $2.45. Now, at your run-of-the-mill establishment, you'd expect to pay at least $4 for the same meal. As high as $7 if you're at Coco's or IHOP.

Maybe I needn't wonder why "New Yorker" went out of business. Do the math. Damn. Still, it's a shame.

In the midst of my crying jag, The Artist Known as Jake Martinez carried me back to the car. We made our way across town to the Waffle House.

However, it was no longer in the stand-alone building it had long occupied. Instead, it had moved across the street, into a 'strip mall' - right next to Domino's Pizza.

I should've taken that as a bad omen.

Within a minute of seating ourselves, the waitress - a seventy-something woman who, despite her age, was apparently just bursting with energy - hovered over us like a hungry vulture.

"Have you decided what to order yet?"

"No, give us another minute or two."

I just couldn't decide. It seemed *everything* came with grits. Eggs and grits. Pancakes and grits. Grits and grits.

I hate grits.

After another sixty seconds, she was back.

"Are you ready yet?"

"No, I still need some time to collect my thoughts here. Try again, please."

Soon thereafter, I decided on the egg and chicken plate. It came with hash browns and toast. But no grits, thank 'ya lordy!

Of course, at that point, the waitress was nowhere to be found. The seasons changed. Years went by. Many people were born; while others eventually died of old age.

Finally, we ordered. We still had the menus in our hand when, as the waitress turned to leave, she barked at us, "Put 'em against the wall."

No, it wasn't a raid, with cops looking for illegal cholesterol or some such. She meant the menus. They went against the wall, held up by the salt-n-pepper shakers and other assortment of bottled condiments. I guess we were a little slow in putting them back in their proper place.

We got our food. It wasn't as reasonably priced as I had hoped, I might add. It was all delicious, except for the fact I was served white toast when I had specifically ordered wheat. Or maybe it was just really, really *light* wheat toast. Who's to say?

During the meal, the coffee refills weren't as forthcoming as I would've liked. Let's just say the "bottomless cup" did, in fact, have a bottom. Take my word for it, I saw it.

Just as we were finishing breakfast, the waitress was back with the check.

"Can you pay that now, because I get off work in less than five minutes," she asked. She even offered to take our money up to the register herself, and bring back the change.

All in less than five minutes. What a gal.

The Artist Known as Jake Martinez and I soon had a discussion about the 'tip' we were going to leave.

My suggested 'tip' was, "Slow the hell down, lady, and try to be a little friendlier to boot!"

The Artist Known as Jake Martinez wanted to leave her a dollar. Eventually he won out because, as he explained, "She's in her seventies and still working. At the Waffle House, no less... so just imagine how bad her life must be. Every dollar helps, I think."

Maybe every little bit does help.

Or maybe not.
-

= Diner Diary =

Dear Diary,

I'm still riding the Greyhound bus across the western United States, making my way home to Phoenix.

This morning, as we headed down another lonely stretch of asphalt, the sun broke over the mountains of Idaho and soon illuminated the valley in all its multicolored splendor. Blah blah blah, and all that.

Excuse me, diary, for being a bit snarky, but I can't seem to sleep on this bus. I've been awake for two days now. On a bus. In the middle of nowhere. Seemingly going nowhere fast.

We've pulled into another stop. It is a small town. Actually, it's not so much a town as a small gathering of buildings. A diner. A post office. A bar/casino. A run-down motel. In other words, all the necessities of life.

The diner is a clean, well-lit place. It is called the "Blue Bird" Diner. I shit you not, diary. Methinks somebody here was a fan of 'The Andy Griffith Show'.

I seat myself at the counter. The waitress is appropriately sassy. I have the eggs and steak, with home fries and toast. Please note, diary, this diner has home fries and not hash browns. God bless America. I order my eggs over medium, and my steak "bloody rare". It is, as the kids say, all good. The whole meal (including coffee) costs less than five dollars.

The other people in this diner, besides my bus-traveling compatriots that is, are your usual assortment of truck drivers and small town Americana. Where these locals come from, I don't know. There's a whole lot more of them than it looked like the "town" could hold, so one can only guess what woodwork they crawled out of this morning.

The sounds of eating-inspired contentment fill the air. Again, more blahblahblah here.

The whole diner is a-quiverin' with wholesome goodness.

This is the true Counter Culture, to turn a phrase.

After breakfast, with some time still to kill, I go over to the casino. I play video-blackjack. I win more than five dollars, effectively meaning I got a free breakfast.

Boy, do I love this country.
-

= Dining Emergency =

I sat at the counter at the "5 & Diner". The place reeked of stainless steel, tile and glass - all done up in the stereotypical art-deco architectural style.

I wasn't sure if I was in an actual diner, or on the set of the classic movie "Diner".

As I sipped my cup of cream and sugar, with just a splash of coffee, I noticed the people in the booth behind me.

It was an assortment consisting of an older woman wearing a bright green t-shirt, a twenty something white man dressed in the latest "gangsta rap" style, and a moderately successful looking couple in their thirties. They were eating a hamburger with fries, roast beef and mashed potatoes, and some 'blue plate specials' respectively. They weren't just eating that food; they were eating the hell out of it.

I sipped my coffee.

All of a sudden, the older woman started moaning, "I'm having a heart attack! I'm having a heart attack!"

Then, all hell broke loose. The younger woman and kid jumped from the booth. Much shouting ensued. The older man continued eating methodically, staring blankly. I think he was in shock.

Some of the "5 & Diner" staff started to come over. They looked worried. Yup, this could be bad for business.

Somebody shouted, "Call 9-1-1!"

The kid ran over to the pay phone. He paused, then turned and screamed, "What's the number? What's the number?"

And I thought that only happened in 'urban legends'. My bad.

Soon, the ambulance arrived. The woman was loaded onto a gurney, and wheeled out of the diner.

All of a sudden, I realized, I wasn't in the movie "Diner". I was on the set of TV's "ER". This was Doc Magoo's. A couple at the other end of the counter began to resemble Noah Wylie and Maura Tierney.

I sipped my coffee.

Soon things began to settle down. As the rest of that group got ready to leave, to follow their friend to the hospital, the owner of the "5 & Diner" came over to the afflicted booth. The owner looked a lot like actor Vic Tayback (of TV's "Alice"), if Tayback had been a short Chinese man with thick, wavy hair. Also, unlike Tayback, this man was very much alive. I wondered how he had come to own this particular "5 & Diner"; but then I remembered my friend Joe O'Connell, who owns a Chinese food restaurant.

The universe has a way of balancing things out, I thought.

He urgently whispered to the three remaining, "It wasn't the food, was it?"
-

This was a simple ode to the lost art of dining, documenting the vanishing breed known as the vintage diner, told through my own true-life tales. Or, perhaps, it was a metaphor for the diminishing soul of America.

Take your pick.

[]

(In honor of this column, I've added a special 'Lost Art of Dining' LINKS section at left. It will remain up for approximately twelve days. So, "Let's Eat!")



posted by Pete 2:50 PM



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