"[My relationships were] like I was in these movies where the script was only half-written. When I’d get to the end of this half-script, the other actors wanted me to ad lib. But I had never gotten the hang of that. That’s why these movies were always box-office failures. Six of them in the past twenty years. I always blew the lines." ~ from my horrible first novel "Learn How To Pretend." (unpublished)(obviously)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ourosbouros

This is a second draft of a short story I wrote for one of my creative writing classes. It started as an exercise in writing a rant about a pet peeve. In the end though, it seemed it needed a little more motivation and I added in the Pyramid Scheme angle.

___________________________________________________________________

The store was situated opposite an eight-story retirement center for “active seniors.” It was 10am and the residents were trekking across the road towards the Albertson’s, like turtles returning to the sea after laying their eggs. The ones in the walkers were only barely crossing the dashed yellow line in the middle of the road when those in the Rascal and Hoveround electric wheeled chairs were jockeying for position at the automatic doors. Millicent Vibrato noted them with mild disdain. Live with Regis and Kelly must be over, she thought, as she wheeled the pink Cadillac into the grocery store parking lot.

She sized up the “Compact Car” parking space. It was a tight fit and she briefly considered heading for the next nearest space, three cars further down the line. “No. I am not parking out in East Bhumphuk, Egypt,” she told herself determinedly, as she slid the huge boat of a car into the closer of the two slots. There was not enough space to easily exit the car and she had to suck her stomach in to squeeze out the door, mashing her breasts as painfully as any mammogram she’d experienced. A tiny corner of jagged metal on the door frame created a long rip in her new blouse, a blob of greasy dirt on the rocker panel smeared across the back of her white stockings. She was determined not to let this stop her. The bag she carried—one of those screened nylon affairs used to carry particularly pampered dogs—stuck between the car door and its frame. She tugged and it released with a violent jerk. Her arm swung back, the bag arcing through the air and hitting the neighboring car with a thump. She peered cautiously into the bag. No harm—no foul, she thought as she turned towards the store, tripping over the cement parking stop and laying herself out firmly on the asphalt. Struggling to her feet, she observed with not a little dismay, the large globs of chewing gum and, what was quite possibly, phlegm, which now dotted her clothing.

Inside, she fixed her face as best she could. She’d had to walk the length of the store twice to find the restrooms—tucked away as it was through the double swinging doors marked “Employees Only.” There were only minor dirt smears across her cheek and a slight scuffing on her chin. It was the mascara that had run, as she wept over the great muck-up the whole thing had become, that had made the biggest mess. If she had known the makeup was not waterproof, she would have purchased some from a real store, and not taken it from her own stock.

She and her husband, Theodorus “Ted” Vibrato, had built one of the largest multi-level marketing empires in the region. They did them all; Amway, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Avon, Melaleuca, HerbaLife, Mia Bella, Pampered Chef. And not one at a time, either. Once Millicent sold her first box of SA8 detergent (“It makes water wetter!”) to her sister, she was hooked, and within a two-week period, she’d added the makeup distributorships. When, after a mere four months, she got her pink Mary Kay Cadillac, Ted quit his job as assistant evening-manager at the Dollar Store and joined her. They quickly signed up for the other programs, with Ted helming the vitamin, cooking, and candle arms of their network.

In the otherwise empty Albertson’s restroom, Millicent sighed. At 39, she was too old for this shit. She told the mirror as much as she worked to wipe the eye makeup off. She tucked back a few strands of red hair that had escaped from beneath her streaked brunette wig, gave her skirt and blouse another quick brushing and returned to the store.

A pirate ship-shaped cardboard display of spiced rum and bottles of cola guarded the entrance to the liquor section. The one and three-quarter liter rum bottles were stacked in the form of the ship’s sail, the colas serving as its cannons. A life-size accompanying cut-out of a pirate captain asked if she had “a little Captain” in her. She snickered. At the sales meetings they held for their downline, Millicent always introduced Ted as “The Captain.” Part of her purpose in coming to this store this day was to purchase a pregnancy test. If her suspicions were correct, she really did have a “little Captain” in her. Nonetheless, the cardboard pirate’s bold stance made her think that perhaps rum and cola should become her signature drink. It could make a daring statement about who she was. As she selected a bottle of the rum, the display teetered like a drunk on roller blades. The bottles shifted precariously and then tenuously settled. Millicent scurried away as fast as she could to the pharmacy.

For five years, the Vibratos worked tirelessly to build their domain. They struggled to fight against the popular misconception that what they were doing involved a so-called pyramid scheme. “Of course it’s not a pyramid,” Ted would tell potential new members as he drew a diagram on a white board with a dry-erase marker.
 “Pyramids are illegal.” He would draw a star, indicating himself and Millicent. Then beside that, two more stars, one above the other. Then next to that, four stars, and so on. “See?” he would say, with an enthusiasm that bordered on religious zealotry. “These levels are side-by-side—in a sideways triangle! In a pyramid scheme, they are one level under another.” Despite this horizontal movement concept, members recruited by the Vibratos were referred to as their “downline.”

Their mantra was “Each One Reach Two,” and so they did. Every member was required to recruit at least two more members. At its peak, Milli-Theo Enterprises, as the business was called, was thirteen layers wide, and had over eight thousand associates in its downline. Peak earners became members of the elite Diamondelle Inner-Circle Club®, receiving exclusive audiences with the Vibratos to ask questions about what it was like to be able to take off to any country in the world on the pink Mary Kay jet, or to set sail to Amway’s exclusive island nation at a moment’s notice. At these audiences, the men talked about golfing at St. Andrews and deep-sea fishing with Fidel Castro. The women members (the Diamondelle-ettes) wanted Millicent to tell them what it was like to wear a new designer original every day and hang out with other shining stars of the multi-level marketing world, or to not have to stand in line for anything. And she never tired of telling them.

The heck-on-wheels grandparents that Millicent had observed when she drove up to the store were now in line at the lone open register, their baskets piled with Little Debbie cakes, and bottles of Mogen David wine. It was behind a group of them that she found herself, juggling her bottles of cola and rum, several pregnancy testing kits, and her animal carrier. In front of her, an old man sniffed at the air. It seemed he had detected a precious flower or, possibly, a fresh-baked cinnamon roll. He rotated the captain’s chair of his off-brand mobility device to have a better look. The effort was hampered by a slipping, flesh-toned eye patch which he continuously slid back into position. With the working eyeball—rheumy but apparently functioning—he ogled her, taking in the gaping tear in her blouse.

 He smacked his gums. “Dollface, I’ll be danged if you’re not the hottest thing since sunburn.”

&nbsp Get a grip, gramps, she thought. You’re old enough to be my grandfather. Hell, you’re old enough to be my grandfather’s grandfather. At the front of the line, the cashier chattered loudly with each shopper. It appeared she knew them—along with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren unto the tenth generation—by name. Each decrepit patron was buying only three or four items and the checkout time was averaging a minute and a half per item as chit-chat, excavation of exact change from tiny clasp-purses, or the writing of personal checks dragged the process out. Adding insult to injury, three times so far, the cashier had called for a price check on the same item. She checked her watch. There was not much time left before Ted would be taken into federal custody.

&nbsp The Vibratos’ fairy-tale-dream-come-true life took a turn the day they got recruited into an exclusive new MLM plan. It was in the Sky Lounge of the Sheraton Hotel in Kowloon, where they were enjoying a plate of fresh oysters and champagne after speaking to a conference of their newly developed China downline. A well-dressed African approached them—a friendly, almost familiar face. Thrusting out a lanky ring-bedecked hand, he introduced himself as Dr. Clement Okon, a Nigerian businessman. He was a member of an MLM plan known as SPREE, whose program was designed for the “best of the best.” He’d heard them speak that evening, he said, and felt Ted had what was needed to really take off. Furthermore, since the Vibratos’ already had an established downline, they were naturals. Over several more bottles of champagne, Dr. Okon explained the plan, drawing a series of diagrams on the tablecloth. Millicent didn’t quite understand how the plan worked, but Ted nodded excitedly. All she gathered was that it involved mortgages. As a member, you made no-money-down low-interest mortgage loans to families unable to attain conventional mortgages. After a month, you sold the loan to your downline for a tidy profit. After another month, they could do the same and, like any MLM plan, everyone up the line got a percentage of the sale. It was a win-win/can’t-miss deal.

&nbsp The line of geezers with walkers behind Millicent in the grocery store was extended up the Plastic Wrap/Aluminum Foil/Waxed Paper aisle. She fumed silently. There were twenty people in the line and only one register open. She vainly searched for a manager, but none were in the store. She believed the head of a man on the cell-phone appearing through the front window—now on the third cigarette since she’d first spotted him—was the manager, but she had no way of attracting his attention.

&nbsp It was in early 2007 that Millicent began to suspect something was wrong. While they were still sending money to their upline, via Dr. Okon, the money from their downline was disappearing. She scanned their financial records and ran a few graphs on the computer to see if there was a trend. There was. Exactly one day after they’d sold their first loan, their finances began to level off and then drop, then rise, level, drop. It was a monthly cycle. Before calling Ted, who was in St. Louis signing paperwork on a dozen new loans, she did some research—she Googled “SPREE.”

&nbsp Sometime around 11:00, Millicent’s turn in the checkout line was imminent. From the locked office at the front of the grocery store a fresh-faced cashier walked out with a cash drawer. Oh, like Hell, Millicent thought. Like Hell you are going to hold up me up while you switch out drawers. She was ready to get nasty now. But the new cashier set up at the next check stand. Millicent watched as the woman placed the drawer in the register and began cracking various paper-wrapped coin tubes open. She applied several coats of lip-balm, ran the rubber-belt a few feet as if checking its tensile strength, rotated her neck, ran in place, touched her toes, cracked her knuckles, and put on fresh lipstick. Finally she flipped the switch lighting her check stand number and announced, in a voice displaying cultivated boredom and disdain, “I can take whoever’s next.”


&nbsp “Hi, Mill,” Ted said, when Millicent called him with the news about their fluctuating finances. “Make it quick. Were just finishing up and I—.”

&nbsp “Stop,” She yelled into the phone. “Do not sign anything.”

&nbsp It took a few minutes to get Ted to realize she wasn’t playing around. SPREE, she’d found out, was an acronym for Sub-Prime Real Estate Enterprises. Yes, she had told him, like the companies in the news that are filing Chapter 11.
&nbsp “OK,” Ted said. “It’s OK. I just signed these new contracts. Just flip a few more loans to the downline and we’ll be—.”
&nbsp “Oh, Ted, it’s worse,” Millicent wailed. “Dr. Clement Okon is in our downline!”
&nbsp “In our downline? And our upline?”
&nbsp “Yes! We recruited him in Macon last year. No wonder he looked so familiar when we met him in Kowloon.”

&nbsp Millicent’s own cashier, after talking nonstop for the last thirty-five minutes, had now become a mute, possibly a deaf one. She picked up the bottle of rum and ran it over the scanner. Then again. And again and again and again. Millicent mentioned that the sign on the display she’d gotten the bottle from read $25.99. The cashier ignored her in the manner of a pediatrician who has listened to one to many mothers’ diagnoses and began dragging the barcode across the scanner even harder, determined to come to her own conclusion on the price. All good things must come to an end and, sighing heavily, she picked up the intercom. Giving Millicent a sideways glance, the woman turned her back, as though on a personal call. She shrieked into the microphone her need for a price check. Rather than simply say what the item was, she summoned a zitty bagboy from the back of the store. Millicent and the cashier looked down the aisle to watch the boy’s meandering progress toward the check stand. The fifteen people in line behind her, now wobbly on their walkers, glared at Millicent.

&nbsp “It’s like that snake that eats its own tail or something,” Millicent said when Ted returned from St. Louis. “It’s a circle. All our money is just going in a big circle. The trick is that we have to catch it while the largest amount is ours.”

&nbsp One might have thought the rum bottle was a relic from an alien spacecraft the way the bagboy examined it, turning it every which way. “Where did you get this?” he asked her. She suppressed the urge to tell him “from the seafood department” and instead directed him toward the display where he spent the next five minutes looking for the neon pink 1 x 2 foot sign with the price written in bold marker.

&nbsp The boy returned with the news. “$25.95.” The cashier made no effort to stifle her smug grin as she keyed the price into the register. “Saved you four cents,” she noted.
&nbsp Millicent hoisted the animal carrier onto the counter.
&nbsp “Is ’at your purse?” the cashier asked in awe.

&nbsp Millicent did some calculations and figured out when their money should be back at its peak. They had a custom-built program for their computer which showed them the current status of their entire network, upline and downline. All they needed to do was sit on the computer and when the funds went through, transfer them to a different account and shut down the network. Which is what Ted was doing the night the Treasury Department kicked the door in and arrested him for running a Ponzi scheme—more commonly known as a Pyramid Scam.

&nbsp He called Millicent from the jail. “I’m innocent,” he hissed. “I watched the money move. When it hit Clement Okon, it disappeared. He took it out of the loop. No money, no evidence.”

&nbsp She went to the bank to withdraw bail money for Ted, but the account was frozen. She called a few members of their immediate downline for help, but was met with repeated silence. In desperation, she dialed a contact number for Clement Okon, the Nigerian businessman who seemed to be the source of their problems. The phone rang, clicked, rang again.
&nbsp “Federal Bureau of Investigation, Western Regional Office,” chirped a young woman. “How may I direct your call?” Millicent hung up.

&nbsp “Biggest damn purse I ever saw,” the cashier said. Millicent unzipped the bag and reached inside. Her hand shook as she pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. Ted had bought it at an auction of Hemingway memorabilia; it was the very one the great author had used to commit suicide. Millicent had to saw off the barrel in order to fit in the carrier, and now she thrust it at the cashier. “Fill it up,” she snarled. She waved the gun at the other cashier. “You too.” Both women opened their drawers and began withdrawing cash and checks. The store manager passed by, talking on a cellphone. He put a hand over the receiver and, in a stage whisper to Millicent’s cashier, informed her he was going out for a smoke.

&nbsp What she would do next, Millicent Vibrato didn’t know. She hoped the registers held enough money to at least get her safely a state or two away from here. Surely she could pick up a job. Maybe get into a downline. She’d heard of the remarkable income to be had selling pre-paid legal services.


Copyright 2008 Rick Raab-Faber

Friday, December 26, 2008

Haiku

Flakes of snow flutter
Sandhill crane pair flies onward
The cold sends me back in

Yeah, I know. Cheap. But I was just out on the deck at work and... well, that's what happened. I believe that that is what Haiku is supposed to be about. Things we see in the natural world.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Espaliered Apple Tree



I like the creepy effect of this shot. I've been very interested in the quality of light around dawn and dusk in New Mexico this Autumn. This shot was, of course, tweaked a bit, though not much. Mainly, I pulled the light up a bit, sepia-ed it (or desaturated) and added the blur at the edge.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Deer in the Target

by Robert Fanning

I only got a ten-second shot,
grainy footage of the huge deer
caught in the crosshairs
of a ceiling security camera, a scene
of utter chaos in a strip mall store,
shown on the late local news.
The beautiful beast clearly scared
to death in this fluorescent forest,
its once graceful legs giving out
on mopped floors, think Bambi
as a faun its first time standing.
Seeing the scattering shoppers,
you'd think a demon had barged
into this temple of commerce,
as they sacrificed their merchandise,
stranded full carts and dove for cover.
And when the aisles were emptied
of these bargain hunters, who was left
but an army of brave red-shirted
team members, mobilized by
the store manager over the intercom
to drive this wild animal out.
I wager there's nothing on this
in the How to Approach
an Unsatisfied Shopper
section in the Target employee handbook,
but there they were: the cashiers
and stockers, the Floor Supervisor,
the Assistant Floor Supervisor,
the Store Manager,
the Assistant Store Manager,
the District Associate Manager,
the District Supervisor,
the District Assistant Supervisor
and visiting members from
the Regional Corporate Office,
running after it, it running after
them, bull's eye logos on their red golf shirts,
everyone frenzied and panting: razor hooves
clattering on the mirror-white floor tiles,
nostrils heaving, its rack clearing
off-season clothes from clearance racks.
All of them, in Target,
chasing the almighty buck.


"A Deer In The Target" by Robert Fanning. Reprinted with permission of the author. Borrowed from Writers' Almanac

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Free Range Kids

“Increasingly, American children are in a lose-lose situation. They’re forced, prematurely, to do all the un-fun kinds of things adults do (Be over-scheduled! Have no downtime! Study! Work!). But they don’t get any of the privileges of adult life: autonomy, the ability to make their own choices, use their own judgment, maybe even get interestingly lost now and then.” The L.A. Times

What do you think?

Here's a post from a blog called Free Range Kids (http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2008/04/06/why-i-let-my-9-year-old-ride-the-subway-alone/) by a woman who let her 9 year-old ride the subway alone in NYC.

As a parent, I know it's hard to let go and not panic whenever the kids are out of my sight. (hearing is not such a big deal). But is the world really that different from when we were kids? Or is it just "Different"?

The Happy Dumbing Of America

January 22, 2007
Source: New York Sun

Maybe we've been pointing to the wrong culprits when we attempt to assign blame for the dumbing down of America. (What is it this week — too much testing in the schools? Working mothers? Fox TV? It's hard to keep track.) It is quite possible that…

Read the article here: http://www.nysun.com/new-york/happy-dumbing-of-america/47126/

I'm out of the closet: I admit it. I'm an Archer's Addict


The Archers is a radio soap opera -- the world's longest running -- on BBC4. I listen to it via a podcast from itunes.

The show is about the residents of the fictional town of Ambridge and... Oh, hell. Here. This is lifted straight off the BBC Archers site.

What is The Archers?

* The Archers is a radio soap opera set in the fictional English village of Ambridge. It provides contemporary drama in a rural setting.

What will I hear?

* Ambridge is portrayed as a 21st century village, with all the pressures of modern rural life. You'll become involved in the characters' personal and business struggles, love affairs - happy and troubled - and village activities. And there are plenty of lighter moments too.

Who is it about?

* Several of the main characters are farmers: David and Ruth Archer at Brookfield Farm (dairy and beef), their cousins Pat and Tony Archer who farm organically at Bridge Farm (dairy and vegetables), and well-off Brian and Jennifer Aldridge at Home Farm (arable, sheep and deer), the biggest in the village.
* The Archer family is related to the Aldridges and to several other Ambridge families, including the Hebden Lloyds (riding school and vet), the Pargetters (stately home owners) and the Woolleys (retired business people).
* And there are lots of less well-off characters. Most of them live and work in and around Ambridge: on the farms, in the local pub (The Bull), at the village shop, the swanky Grey Gables hotel or St Stephen's church. Others might be found in the nearby market town of Borchester.
* Full details can be found in the Who's Who.
* And there are family trees for the main families .

How can I hear it?

* The 13-minute episodes are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 every day, Sunday to Friday at 7 pm, repeated the next day at 2pm (except Saturdays). There's an omnibus edition of all the week's episodes on Sunday morning at 10.15am.
* BBC Radio 4 is on 92-95 FM, 198 LW, and on digital radio and television
* You can also listen online , or get the programme sent to your computer in a podcast.


Anyway, it is highly addictive. Unless you are a total anglophobe, which many American's are.

I guess I should mention that I'm not an "official" addict (that is to day that I haven't actually paid my £10.00 to Archer's Addicts. There is also an alternative club known as the Archers Anarchists, whose motto is "The Archers are real - there is no cast."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Presshah Time!

Thanksgiving is only a week away. The semester is nearly over. I'm not sure if that's where the pressure is coming from or if it's just because I've got a lot going on/due this week.

I had a 13 page short story due this week -- though that got turned in last week, but we are critiquing it in class this week. I've got a quiz in my Hitchcock class today (Hitchcock is a hard word to type.) This afternoon I've got a meeting with my advisor and tomorrow a meeting for an independent study course I'm trying to get into for next semester. I've got another 100 pages to read for tomorrow on a book that I haven't found all that good. And, of course, there are more things coming up.

Roll into all that that I'm feeling sick (bronchitisish)and heading towards a bout of depression, and, well, there's my life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Autumn Leaves 2


Autumn Leaves 2
Originally uploaded by rraabfaber
The colors, though they are in the brown mustard range, are still pretty stunning.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rio Grande from Alameda Bridge

 

Rio Grande from Alameda Bridge, Albuquerque, NM
November 15, 2008




Posted by Picasa




Creative Commons License
This work by Rick Robb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

North Beach, Corrales

 

Sandia Mountains from North Beach, Corrales, NM
November 15, 2008
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

SITREP:SNAFU

It’s been kind of a rough day. Spent most of it trying to fill in the last bits of a short story that is due tomorrow. I should have insisted on doing it last weekend, when the squeezes family was here, but I was being the good guy and hanging.

The story itself kind of depressed me. Well, that and the weather. And my friggin iPod, when I pulled it out of the little charger/remote player thing we’ve got, froze up. It won’t reboot or even shutdown. And there is still glass in my ass from when some punks smashed my windshield at Halloween. And it’s time to start looking at next (final) semester’s classes. And it’s also time to get my grad school applications in order. And the bank just hit me with an NSF fee. And I’m practically broke.

I feel trapped. Not in my life with the squeeze, but in life in general. (This is all the result of that story, and the one I wrote before that, no doubt.) The economy’s got a lot to do with it. I just found out that the last place I worked has filed Chapter 11. The place before that folded. The place before that filed Chapter 13. My resume looks like shit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music Review

I ran across this review today -- though it is a couple of years old. I've been a huge Springsteen fan for years and years, something that is no mean feat in a city like Albuquerque, where we only knew of The Boss by articles in Rolling Stone, or from covers by Manfred Mann's Earth Band.

As it happens, I'm also a folkie, and work as a research assistant for David Dunaway, Pete Seeger's biographer, so Ron Radosh's review of The Seeger Sessions in American Interest Magazine is doubly appreciated. Radosh has a conservative - or at the least cynical - bent to his review, saying of Springsteen,
Perhaps realizing that the song hardly says “U.S. out of Iraq”, which is how many have portrayed its message, Springsteen has added to his tour Seeger’s old anti-Vietnam War song, “Bring ’Em Home”, in which he sings, “If you love your Uncle Sam, bring ’em home, bring ’em home/ bring them home from abroad” (Seeger had sung “from Vietnam”). Springsteen is entitled to his views, and he has made them clear. But do his audiences really believe that the United States should pull its troops out of Iraq immediately? Do they believe, as Seeger used to, that the singing of left-wing and antiwar songs has the power to change American foreign policy? For those who are antiwar (and certainly at least a minority of Springsteen’s audience is), the song works as catharsis. But as before, even in the political folk heyday of the Vietnam War, most of the audience shows for the music; the performers, meanwhile, show up to make it—and to sell records.
Ummm... Yeah, Ron. I think his audiences do. Maybe not people who dislike anything after Born To Run, but certainly his newer fans. We've had enough of being pushed around. Enough of having our lives (both actual and metaphorical) being sacrificed on the altars of war and corporate greed.

I don't know what sort of magazine this American Interest thing is, but their current issue has an article titled When He Wins: Three programs for a McCain presidency by Lawrence Eagleburger, Newt Gingrich & Charles Hill. It's a hoot! A scary hoot, but a hoot nonetheless.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Totem Frankenstein


Back in Chili, New York, when I was in 6th or 7th grade, my friend, Dave M., admitted to us that he'd sent away for the lifesize Frankenstein with glow-in-the-dark eyes. Unlike the paper model advertised on your site, this one was advertized as polyethylene. We were all amazed that he'd had the balls to order this thing -- I mean, we all always wondered how cool these things from the comic books could be... especially the lifesize Frankenstein with glow-in-the-dark eyes.

With the Frankenstein, we confused "polyethylene" with "polystyrene," the hard plastic that was used to make the football players for the vibrating football game we all had.

A few weeks after the order, we were hanging around in Dave's room. His mom poked her head in the door and handed him en envelope that had just arrived in the mail. It was a standard manila size and the return address was the same as the one he'd sent off to for the the lifesize Frankenstein with glow-in-the-dark eyes. We were all a little confused. How could you put a life-size 6 foot Frankenstein in an envelope?

He opened the envelope, reached inside and pulled out a folded piece of plastic. As he began to unfold it, we could see the face of a screen-printed green and black drawing of Frankenstein. I fell apart laughing and snatched it away, dancing around the room with it. It just hit me. "Polyethlene's not what they make the football players with. It's what they make Totem Trash Bags from!" The eyes weren't glowing though... until we shook out the envelope and found a little sheet with two round stickers of glow-in-the-dark material. I guess that the manufacturers saved money by not paying someone to pre-apply these -- thus passing the savings on to the consumer.

Frankenstein was renamed "Totem Frankenstein" and Dave and I (who were both budding cartoonists) drew many exciting and hilarious adventure with this new hero -- usually somehow involving him blowing down the street in the breeze.

(Thanks to Steve Conley for the reminder!)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hrorscope: Taurus

Taurus April 20 - May 20

Enlightenment and confusion will both be yours this week, when a tree falls in the woods only to make the sound of one hand clapping.

From The Onion

Bring 'em home



I'm writing here as a 6 year veteran of the armed forces. This crest shown here is from the 5th Cavalry Regiment, which I served in during the Cold War.

I want to say that I understand the desire of certain politicians to finish the job, that to leave now is to admit defeat. But I also want people to understand what they are asking of our servicemen and women... Wait. Let me rephrase that. We aren't asking them to serve longer. We are ordering them. We had a spate of young people who, in the patriotic fervor of the times, enlisted to help fight America's common enemies. We repay them for this by abusing them heart, mind, body, and soul. Sending them back, extending their tours, holding national security as a higher ideal over their health and families.

This somehow reminds me of the corporate Fat Cat who gets rich by the labor of his underpaid employees. Substitute "General Public" for "Fat Cat" and "soldiers" for "underpaid employees." Don't make me spell out the entire analogy, let me just say that it is easy enough for the corporate CEO to ask for extra hours from his employees for the sake of the company, when he's enjoying the fruit of that labor.

And after all is said and done, that Fat Cat is floating to safety thanks to his Golden Parachute, while the employee is stuck without health care and trying to live on unemployment benefits.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lemmings in trouble



I love this photo (as a photo.) See the related article at science.com. The little rodents, famous for pushing one another off cliffs as a way to control populations are now in trouble.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Some thoughts on change

The following email arrived in my box today....

Worth passing around

Some thoughts on change:

In the late 1950s, most Cubans thought Cuba needed a change, and they were right. So when a young leader came along, every Cuban was at least receptive. When the young leader spoke eloquently and passionately and denounced the old system, the press fell in love with him. They never questioned who his friends were or what he really believed in. When he said he would help the farmers and the poor and bring free medical care and education to all, everyone followed. When he said he would bring justice and equality to all, everyone said, 'Praise the Lord.' And when the young leader said, 'I will be for change and I'll bring you change'; everyone yelled, 'Viva Fidel!'

But nobody asked about the change, so by the time the executioner's guns went silent, the people's guns had been taken away. By the time everyone was equal, they were equally poor, hungry, and oppressed. By the time everyone received their free education, it was worth nothing. By the time the press noticed, it was too late, because they were now working for him. By the time the change was finally implemented, Cuba had been knocked down a couple of notches to Third-World status. By the time the change was over, more than a million people had taken to boats, rafts, and inner tubes. You can call those who made it ashore anywhere else in the world the most fortunate Cubans.

Fortunately, America would never fall for a young leader who promised change without asking, what change? How will you carry it out? What will it cost America? RIGHT?

Remember these words from Thomas Jefferson 'A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.'



To which I responded...

Back in the 1700's, most colonists living in North America thought the Colonies needed a change, and they were right. So when a group of patriots came along with an idea called the Declaration of Independence, every colonist was at least receptive. When the young leaders spoke eloquently and passionately denounced the old system, the press fell in love with them.

You think nobody asked those questions of Obama? You think he wasn't scrutinized as much as McCain? You think we need more of the same? Yeah, America is just floating along on a sea of prosperity and happiness, isn't it?

This is one of the weakest bits of propaganda I've seen in a long time. The Republicans couldn't get the Muslim label to stick, so now they will compare him to a dictator? It is as easy to compare the Bush administration to the fascists of the 20s and 30s, or the KGB of the Kruschev era. Please. Give me a break.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Death to the Consumer Culture


IMG_1547
Originally uploaded by rraabfaber


What a great title for this shot. Of course when I think of the little punks who stole the shopping cart and dumped it in the arroyo I get all pissy about the cost of groceries and the overhead that is created by this senseless vandalism. God, I'm old.




Creative Commons License
This work by Rick Robb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Rio Grande Autumn


IMG_1576
Originally uploaded by rraabfaber
This is just a test to see how well posting shots from my Flickr account works.

I took this photo a week or two ago as the leaves were changing.... and the water was flowing.... and stuff.

When was the last time you heard this after an election?

Crowds danced in the streets, wept, lifted their voices in prayer and brought traffic to a standstill. From the nation's capital to Atlanta to Los Angeles, Americans celebrated Barack Obama's victory and marveled that they lived to see the day that a black man was elected president.

Jubilation stretched into the early morning Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and a large crowd paraded on Pennsylvania Avenue with drums, balloons and a life-size cutout of Obama.

By 4 a.m., a few young revelers lingered among the reviewing stands being built for January's presidential inauguration.

"I heard that he won and I instinctively came here," said Hollis Gentry, 45, who lives about six blocks away. "I came down here to make a prayer... that we'll be able to change the nation and the world." (Source: AP via Breitbart.com)(italics mine.)

For so many years when the election's been called, we've heard people say "Thank God" as they breath a sigh of relief that the lesser of two evils did not win. For the first time in I don't know how long, people are saying "Thank God!"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

'Change has come to America'


Wow. I can and can't believe it happened. I honestly never thought it would happen in my lifetime.

But it's not just the race issue. It feels like here is a man who will be able to get things done. At the least, for a brief moment in time, we can have a sense of hope.

The Squeeze mentioned to me that she wondered how many people voted for him because he's black. I reminded her that it probably got balanced out by the number of people who voted against him for the same reason.

It may not work. It may all blow up and go to hell. But I felt like if we went with McCain, it was just a guarantee of that. It's slippery slope time. Time to tread lightly.

As of tomorrow, I will remove all political content from this blog, with the exception of this post and the Obama tag on the right-hand column. That one I'll keep up there until January 20th.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Picture of the Week


From Wonkette.com comes this wonderfully crazy story of the Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies.

Here we have Christians seemingly praying to the golden calf (all grown up now into a bronze bull.)

Of all the things I've heard that signal a time of judgment for the church in America, this has got to be the most blatant.

Not surprisingly, this event is affiliated somehow with the Pat Robertson influenced 700 Club.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nice Try, Republicans

 

  Coming home from school today I was riding the bike trail that runs along the main north-south arroyo. Under one bridge I saw three or four various Obama yard signs floating in the bottom. No doubt someone had been pulling out quantities of them and tossing them.

  A little further along, I turned onto Alameda and spotted this poster on a wall.

  Later on, the squeeze told me she heard a joking comment made (by an "adult") that the person was going to collect up some Obama signs and get rid of them.

  Nice. Funny, but I don't seem to see this happening to McCain signs. It seems just another outward sign of the vitriolic spirit of the GOP.

  It's pretty sad, really, what they've become. At least when I felt they were driven by the evangelicals, I thought there was some sort of belief system backing it. Now it just seems to be hate and spite.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rio Grande riverside

IMG_0089

I took this back when I first got my Canon. It was shot along the banks of the Rio Grande near the Alameda bridge in Albuquerque. I'll have to track down the original which is much sharper.

Creative Commons License
This work by Rick Robb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Read to your kids

 


Alli and the boys share a story.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 25, 2008

6 ways mushrooms can save the world

Paul Stamets is one of my heroes (in a nerdy science kind of way.) Paul probably knows more about fungi than any other human on the planet.

This video is just under 20 minutes, but it's got some interesting information in it.

More of my photos to see on flickr

Here's a link to my new Flickr account.

Here. This. Click this. This one here. Yes. This.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WelfareQUEENS: When Poor Women Are the Experts on Poverty


Wednesday, October 15, 2008 6:05 PM

by Danielle Maestretti (original article on utne.com)

Blog Action DayWriting for the new issue of make/shift (article not available online), Keidra Chaney profiles the welfareQUEENS, a performance art group that aims to “make poor women of color visible and vocal in the U.S. dialogue on poverty,” adding their stories and experiences to the opinions of policy makers and “experts” who have rarely (if ever) experienced poverty themselves. (The welfareQUEENS’ name, of course, is a reclamation of the hideous term popularized by Ronald Reagan during his first presidential campaign.) Chaney writes:

At a time when the gap between the wealthy and the poor seems insurmountable, poverty remains misrepresented in both mainstream and independent media. Poor people, often demonized as criminals or infantilized as charity cases, are rendered silent. The voice of experience is quieted in favor of the voice of so-called expertise. Academic scholars, social workers, and pundits are allowed to represent the poor in the media while those who actually experience poverty daily go unquoted.

Back in May, I pointed to an excellent FAIR study that backs up this argument. In fact, the study notes, “If you’re poor and want to get on the nightly news, it helps to be either elderly or in the armed forces.”

The welfareQUEENS are neither, so they communicate their stories another way: Last year, the group wrote a play based on their experiences with poverty, then performed it at the U.S. Social Forum and at San Francisco’s Brava Theater.

Chronologically structured around the experiences of three generations of women, the play looks at the herstory of the welfare system. The performers speak of the lives of their grandmothers and mothers, who experienced domestic abuse, discrimination as single parents and women of color, and separation from their families through domestic work.

The Bay Area–based welfareQUEENS are part of the POOR News Network, a grassroots media organization that includes the online POOR Magazine and tons of other poverty-related projects.

For more alt-press dispatches from Blog Action Day, click here .
This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty

Blog Action Day: Putting Poverty Back on the Agenda


Note that I missed this on the official day. Maybe next year....

_________________________________________

10/15/2008 11:55:57 AM (Original article on Utne.com)

by Hannah Lobel

Blog Action DayToday is Blog Action Day, an annual event that taps thousands of bloggers across the globe to tackle a single pressing issue. This year, the focus is on poverty. We’ll be spotlighting excellent alternative press coverage of poverty throughout the day here. Let’s get started with this rallying call to progressives from In These Times:

One of the finest traditions of the American left has been its historic commitment to solidarity with the oppressed and poverty-stricken peoples of the world.

In the last few years, however, the progressive movement has become far too insular. As a result, we have too often neglected our internationalist responsibilities–especially when it comes to confronting the ravages of world poverty.

Ken Brociner argues that while other concerns have understandably drawn progressives’ focus—namely, the war in Iraq and electoral politics—the movement is in danger of succumbing to a deadly domestic myopia.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 18 million people die each year due to poverty-related causes. This staggering figure represents about one third of all deaths that occur throughout the world on an annual basis. And these are deaths that could be easily prevented through better nutrition, safe drinking water, and adequate vaccines, antibiotics and other medicines.

It’s a point that’s proved particularly salient in the last few weeks, as headlines warming of Great Depression II have Americans gnashing their teeth over their disappearing retirement funds. As folks see their budgets increasingly squeezed, it’s easy to ignore the dire needs of those abroad. This dismissal has infected the campaign trail as well, with both presidential candidates confessing that the economic crisis likely will force them to roll back their foreign aid plans.

Which is all the more reason why, as Brociner notes, progressives must not lose sight of their internationalist obligations. Because if they don’t keep global poverty on the U.S. agenda, then who will?

For more alt-press dispatches from Blog Action Day, click here .

Assigning U.S. Troops to U.S. Soil and Other Presidential Power Grabs


10/13/2008 4:27:06 PM

by Chelsey Perkins (originally accessed at Utne.com)

At the beginning of this month, something quite extraordinary occurred in the United States, something that—despite its clearly controversial nature—went almost entirely unaddressed by mainstream media outlets. On October 1, the U.S. military assigned the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division to the United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM). This means that U.S. soldiers will be operating on U.S. soil, seemingly in direct contradiction of federal law.

The Army Times broke the story early in September, reporting that the unit “may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack....” Since the story ran, NORTHCOM officials have backed off from the “crowd control” and “civil unrest” purposes. As Col. Michael Boatner told Amy Goodman on the Oct. 7 episode of Democracy Now!, “We’re proud to be able to provide this capability. It’s all about saving lives, relieving suffering, mitigating great property damage to infrastructure and things like that, and frankly, restoring public confidence in the aftermath of an event like this.”

Questions remain, however. Why here and why now? With Homeland Security funding already helping to militarize police forces throughout the United States, what additional purpose would a U.S. military unit serve? Well, consider this possibility: The country is facing its most frightening economic crisis since the Great Depression, and civil unrest is more than a looming threat for the government. Then there's the question of whether the maneuver is even legal. Critics of the unit assignment—including Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Amy Goodman, and author Naomi Wolf—cite a longstanding law that appears to be violated by the Pentagon’s recent assignment.

The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 following Reconstruction, prohibits federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity in the United States, except if authorized by constitutional amendment or Congress. Also important to note is the Insurrection Act of 1807, which authorizes the president to deploy federal troops to quell lawlessness, insurrection, or rebellion, yet seriously limits his powers by indicating that a state government must first request assistance.

In 2007, Congress amended the act to include the authority to deploy troops in the instances of a natural disaster, epidemic, public health emergency, terrorist attack, or “other condition”—a vague phrase leaving open the possibility of wide-ranging interpretation. Although Congress repealed the amendment via the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, President Bush attached a signing statement essentially claiming his constitutional authority would allow him to act as he saw fit.

Since September 11, 2001, the executive branch has been slowly chipping away at civilian protections against martial law, possibly rendering both Posse Comitatus and the Insurrection Acts impotent. For example, as noted in 2005 on the Balkanization blog, a footnote in the 2005 book Torture Papers references a memo written by federal judge Jay Bybee in 2001 indicating his (and apparently Alberto Gonzalez’s and John Yoo’s) interpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act as not forbidding the use of military force for the purpose of preventing or deterring terrorism within the United States.

There's also National Security Presidential Directive 51, an executive order issued in May 2007 that defines the president’s unilateral authority to maintain continuity of the government in the instance of a “catastrophic emergency.” In the directive, a “catastrophic emergency” is defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function.” As Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive, points out, by using the word “or,” the directive could read “any incident... that results in extraordinary levels of... disruption severely affecting the U.S.... economy.” Sounds like a “catastrophic emergency” could be declared today, with a domestic military unit at President Bush’s disposal.

Although Wolf and others go so far as to argue that President Bush has executed a coup and should be arrested or that he could potentially call off the election in the name of an emergency, the chances that we’ll be living in a full-fledged military dictatorship anytime soon are probably slim. It isn’t that the soldiers will suddenly begin patrolling polling stations or shooting fellow citizens; it’s that this action and dramatic expansions of presidential power set a dangerous precedent that could be exploited through hazily legal means.

Because President Bush defined the whole world as a battlefield in the “War on Terror,” the United States is a battlefield, too. And as commander-in-chief, the president’s orders to the domestic military unit could theoretically supersede the law of the land. Whether a president with ill intentions would act on this authority remains to be seen, but even though it hasn’t occurred, we shouldn’t be any less frightened about the possibility of it occurring at any moment. And we should make sure our laws protect against such abuses of power.

Image by Army.mil, licensed under Creative Commons.

Gah!! It's 12:03 in the Ay-Em

  Fashiz! I can't believe it's this late. I'm still working on this midterm take-home. This thing is (or will be) roughly 10 pages when through. It's 5 questions with a 500 word essay for each. That's in the range of 2500 words. That's a lot for a mid-term.

  I'm just hung up on this last bit. Trying to pull something right out of my ass to finish it up. This is the beginning of the last essay...

I believe that what Benjamin is trying to say in his quote regarding film’s social significance is that this relatively new medium strips away former preconceptions of what art “does,” as well as what the role of an artist is. Film vulgarizes what was seen as the role of art. Whereas in the past there was a sort of perfect standard with which to evaluate what was reproduced in the art, with the coming of film, this was no longer possible. Film is specific to the time it is viewed, the context within which it is viewed, and the function it serves. Art in former times was part of a cultural heritage, but the coming of film challenged this and moved art towards the political realm.


  Yeah. I know!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Old School texting

  I was half-watching an episode of That 70's Show the other night. Three of the kids were talking to some girls on a CB radio and it got me to remembering those days.

  Of course, the CB radio was not in as widespread use as cell-phones or computers today, but there were a fair amount. It had been popularized by a song called Convoy by C.W. MCall, and was about a group of truckers in, duh, a convoy. Most of the song was in the form of truckers talking on their CB. ANd of course, there was the film Smoky and the Bandit,which also featured the late Jerry Reed as a truck driver, and Burt Reynolds as his Firebird-driving redneck-ass friend. After that, there was a huge interest in truck driving and everyone who was anyone had a CB.

  I didn't, but only because I didn't have money to buy it with, or a car to put it in. But some of my friends did.

  Anyway, I got to thinking about how kids who did have CBs were kind of like kids who text now. It was this form of distance communication -- sort of like a Voice Chat Room. (Does anyone even do chat rooms anymore?.) People had, what were called, "handles," that is a name they were known by, similar to the logon names we now use online. Talking on the CB was a way of group chat that parents were not privy to.

  It's also gotten me to thinking, what was it before that? What is it about this desire, especially for the younger population that inspires a need to communicate with one another though not really anyone else that drives this sort of communication technology?

  No. I'm asking. What it is?

Blogging from your cell: not

Blogging from your cell: not as cool as it sounds.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Welcoming Angels

From Writer's Almanac for Oc. 17, 2008
To read more, or subscribe, visit writersalmanac.publicradio.org/
_________________________________

Welcoming Angels
by Pat Schneider

Between the last war
and the next one,
waiting for the northbound train
that travels by the river,
I sit alone in the middle of the night
and welcome angels.
Welcome back old hymns, old songs,
all the music, the rhyme and rhythm,
welcome angels, archangels,
welcome early guesses
at the names of things,
welcome wings.

I have grown tired of disbelief.
What once was brave is boring.
Welcome back to my embrace stranger,
visitor beside the Jabbok.
Welcome wrestling until dawn,
until it is my hip thrown out of joint,
my pillow stone, my ladder
of antique assumptions.
Welcome what is not my own:
glory on the top rung, coming down.


"Personal Address" and "Welcoming Angels" by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Medallion

From Writer's Almanac
To read more, or subscribe, visit writersalmanac.publicradio.org/
_________________________________
Medallion
by Michael Heffernan

I'm going to go out and walk around a little,
because it's a nice day, in the seventies,
after a night where the temperature dropped
just below freezing. There isn't much here
in the anteroom of the self, I don't think,
so why should I go on investigating
what last night's dream meant, or the subtleties
of the numerology of the soul as evidenced
in cryptanalytical encodings in the poems
of Bertran de Montségur? I'm out of here,
and off on a little walk in the neighborhood,
but first I'd like to tell you I appreciate
your letting me share. It meant a lot to me.
Quite candidly, I'm not sure what to do
on days like this, or any day, really.
It all runs together, into a place
the good seem to have occupied as their own
and spruced up so nicely others of us who aren't
so good, but not the worst of citizens,
can't help but feel a little out of pocket,
as the saying goes, and I for one would like
to reach into my pocket and pull out
the ruby medallion my mother gave to me,
which fell out of my coat into the grate
by the front tire of the bus I'd waited for
across the street from the Shubert Theatre
in Detroit in 1959. I'd say,
to anyone around inclined to listen,
here is a little something you can have.
I hope you like it. Why don't you just keep it
and give it to another good person some day.
Tell them it used to be Bertran's, who came here once
on a horse all spangled with rubies and golden bells.


"Medallion" by Michael Heffernan from The Night Breeze Off the Ocean. © Eastern Washington University Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

50 things you should know about Barack Obama

OK, It's fluff but it doesn't hurt anything.

_________________________________________________________

50 things you should know about Barack Obama
From Dallasnews.com

08:09 PM CDT on Friday, October 17, 2008

1. Barack Obama's father was a black Kenyan and his mother was a white Kansas native. The two met while attending the University of Hawaii.

2. Mr. Obama grew up in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia for a few years. From age 10 on, he lived with his maternal grandparents in a Honolulu apartment.

3. He admits that as a teenager, he used drugs such as marijuana and cocaine to cope with questions of racial identity.

4. Mr. Obama played forward on his high school basketball team and was known as "Barry O'Bomber" for his left-handed double pump shot.

5. He wasn't the first in his family to attend Harvard. His father, Barack, also attended the university.

6. Mr. Obama has been a first black president before. He was elected president of the Harvard Law Review.

7. He stopped going by the nickname "Barry" in college after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

8. He had a pet ape named Tata when he lived in Indonesia as a child.

9. Mr. Obama is only the third black U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

10. His wife, Michelle, agreed to allow him to run for president only if he agreed to quit smoking. But he recently admitted that he still has an occasional cigarette.

11. Mr. Obama is quite the "Renegade." That's the code name he chose for his Secret Service detail to use.

12. Ms. Obama once told Glamour magazine that her husband is smelly in the morning.

13. He has never faced significant opposition from a Republican opponent.

14. His desk in the Senate once belonged to Robert Kennedy. Mr. Obama was only 6 when Mr. Kennedy, who was running for president, was assassinated in 1968.

15. If elected, he will be the third president in a row without sons. Mr. Obama has two daughters: Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10.

16. Mr. Obama says his daughters made him promise that, as a condition for running for president, they can get a dog after the election, win or lose.

17. He was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996. He initially had a hard time fitting in because the chamber was controlled by Republicans, and some of his fellow Chicago Democrats thought he was pretentious and "a white man in blackface."

18. As a state senator, he was selected to give his now-famous keynote speech at the Democratic convention in 2004 after presidential nominee John Kerry heard him speak in Chicago.

19. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall, and his wife is almost 6 feet in heels.

20. He once joked, "I'm so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse."

21. As a kid, he collected Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics, and as a teen, he listened to jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. and Earth, Wind and Fire.

22. He grew up without any particular religious beliefs. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was not religious, and his father was an atheist. Mr. Obama joined the United Church of Christ as a young man in Chicago, saying he was inspired by the good work of Christians he had met and "felt God's spirit beckoning me."

23. Mr. Obama earned a starting salary of $13,000 a year as a community organizer in Chicago in the 1980s. In 2007, he and his wife made $4.2 million, according to their tax return.

24. He won a Grammy award this year for the audio version of his book The Audacity of Hope.

25. In 2000, he lost by a landslide when he challenged former Black Panther Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, for his seat in the U.S. House. Mr. Rush is still in office.

26. Mr. Obama easily won his 2004 U.S. Senate race, defeating Republican Alan Keyes with 70 percent of the vote. Mr. Keyes was a late replacement for primary winner Jack Ryan, who dropped out of the race when after his divorce records revealed sex club allegations from his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan.

27. Mr. Obama formally announced his presidential candidacy in February 2007 on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., where Abraham Lincoln once declared that "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

28. Throughout 2007, he trailed Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom many pundits characterized as the Democrats' "inevitable" presidential nominee. He found an opening in an October debate, when Mrs. Clinton gave a convoluted answer to the question of whether she supported driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. After that, the race became more competitive.

29. Oprah Winfrey joined Mr. Obama on the campaign trail in December for a series of rallies starting in Des Moines, Iowa. Nearly 30,000 people came to see them in Columbia, S.C.

30. Mr. Obama wasn't an overwhelming favorite among black voters early in the campaign. Some didn't think he was "black enough," and others doubted that an African-American could be elected president. But his victory in predominantly white Iowa convinced many black voters that he could win the nomination.

31. Mr. Obama's campaign inspired many music video spin-offs, including "Obama Girl" from the Web site barelypolitical.com. Hip-hop star will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas also wrote a song, "Yes, We Can," based on a speech given by Mr. Obama after his loss in the New Hampshire primary and made it into a video for the Web.

32. In February, Mr. Obama racked up 11 straight victories and gained the lead in the number of delegates needed to win the nomination.

33. Mr. Obama lost the Texas primary to Mrs. Clinton but drew big crowds, including an estimated 15,000 at Dallas' Reunion Arena in late February. He ended up winning a majority of delegates in the Lone Star State because his supporters flooded precinct caucuses on election night.

34. Mr. Obama did well in states with large numbers of black and college-educated voters. But he struggled to draw working-class whites, Latinos and rural residents, especially after making comments in San Francisco that some rural voters "cling to their guns and religion."

35. Ms. Obama stirred up controversy after saying that for the first time in her adult life, she was "really proud" of her country. She later said she misspoke, and others, including first lady Laura Bush, defended her.

36. During the primaries, tensions grew between Mr. Obama and former President Bill Clinton over the ex-president's comments that seemed to belittle Mr. Obama's victory in South Carolina.

37. The tension between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton grew as well. The New York senator released a TV ad that questioned whether Mr. Obama would be ready for a "3 a.m." foreign crisis phone call, and Mr. Obama criticized her judgment and derided her as a Washington insider.

38. Mr. Obama's association with longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright proved troublesome during the primary season. Dr. Wright was criticized for racially incendiary sermons and views. Mr. Obama initially tried to defend him and gave a widely praised speech on racial relations in America, but he later renounced Dr. Wright after the pastor made controversial remarks at the National Press Club. The Obamas left Trinity United Church of Christ soon afterward.

39. Opponents – most recently the McCain-Palin campaign – have criticized Mr. Obama's association with 1960s radical Bill Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were involved with a Chicago education reform group, and Mr. Ayers hosted a party for Mr. Obama when he announced his Illinois Senate run. Mr. Obama has denounced Mr. Ayers' "detestable acts" but says he was only 8 years old during Mr. Ayers' bombing campaign.

40. Mr. Obama clinched the nomination June 3 and claimed victory in a speech in St. Paul, Minn., later the site of the GOP convention. Four days later, Mrs. Clinton suspended her presidential campaign and endorsed Mr. Obama.

41. A few weeks later, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton campaigned together for the first time in the appropriately named town of Unity, N.H. But he struggled to win over her supporters, including white blue-collar voters.

42. Mr. Obama spoke to a huge crowd in Berlin this summer, just as former President John F. Kennedy had done decades ago.

43. In a campaign ad, Mr. Obama talked about his mother's death from cancer in 1995 and how, in her final days, she was more worried about paying her medical bills than getting well.

44. Mr. Obama's momentum stalled during the summer when the McCain campaign ran ads – including one with Paris Hilton – accusing him of being a vapid celebrity without substance or a proven record of leadership.

45. Mr. Obama selected Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate to help bolster his foreign-policy credentials, disappointing many Democrats who favored Mrs. Clinton. Early in the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden had questioned Mr. Obama's readiness to be president.

46. Mr. Obama was the first presidential candidate since Kennedy to accept his party's nomination at an outside venue. He gave his acceptance speech at Denver's Invesco Field on Aug. 28, drawing a crowd of 85,000.

47. Mr. Obama was accused of sexism and disparaging Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin when he referred to Mr. McCain's policies as "lipstick on a pig." His campaign denied the allegations, saying he was referring to Mr. McCain's policies as the "pig."

48. Campaigning in Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama tried to connect with blue-collar voters by bowling, but ended up with an embarrassing score of 37. "My economic plan is better than my bowling," he told fellow bowlers. "It has to be," a man called out.

49. Mr. Obama told 60 Minutes earlier this year that every time he played basketball before a key primary, he'd win. He said he plans to play before the general election.

50. If elected, Mr. Obama will be the fifth-youngest president ever at inauguration.

Compiled by John Riley and Talia Sampson from wire and Internet reports.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beautiful

Bizarro now on Blogspot (since January)



Bizarro is one of my favorite cartoons these days. Dan Piraro, the creator, is the next generation in a line of truly offbeat single-panel story-tellers. But more than that, Dan has got a social conscience, so you'll see a lot of cartoons that, while retaining his odd sense of humor, also make brilliant points.

And, he can draw. He's got a very distinct style. As an added bonus, every cartoon has one or more of the following scattered around the image: a slice of pie, an eyeball, a stick of dynamite, a bunny head, and/or a flying saucer.

Now I find Dan has got a blog here on blogspot. Check it out at http://bizarrocomic.blogspot.com/

P.S. In his first post back in January, Piraro delivers a much-needed true assessment of MySpace, saying, "Badly designed, impossible to navigate, ugly, loud, depressing, reeking of death. How did this beast that is eating the fabric of our civilization and puking it up on the shoes of our future achieve such popularity? I might be talking about the Bush War, but in this case I'm referring to MySpace.

I had a blog on MySpace for a while and it made my colon throb. And not in a good way." (italics mine.) Truer words were never spoken.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Image

The squeeze and I were watching TV last night. We were switching through the channels on our way to watch CSI when we paused on PBS. It was a program about Iraq war vets and the guy talking was showing photos from his time there. He was in, I guess you'd call it the second wave, after the initial forces swept into Baghdad.

One of the pictures he showed was of a pile of charred bodies. The squeeze turned her head away and said "I don't want to watch this." I didn't blame her. We turned to CSI. Here, a girl jumps from a building and lands on top of a bus breaking every bone in her body. As the coroner moves the body, we see the jelly-like legs flopping around. Nearly as revolting.

The difference in watchability, of course, is that we know that one is real and one is fake.

But also, one is for titillation and one's for eduction.

For the briefest moment I was disgusted that PBS would run something like this right before an election.I mean, isn't it a federally funded organization?

And then, I thought... Who gives a rat's ass? Who cares if a federally funded organization shows the horrible truth of war right before an election? The shame is that it was on the network the liberals are already watching. It's a shame that those images of war weren't running on every network. Screw the campaign ads. Just show us this image for 30 seconds at a shot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another class assignment

How to Ride After 40

This is what you will do, knowing that you’ll have to start out with one you like; one that fits you. Don’t go with one of those cheap ones like you see at Wal-Mart. They’re garish and they’re loose in all the wrong ways. Your friends tell you that if you want it just for the functionality—a low-priced one where you don’t care if someone else takes it—by all means, have at it. “Hell,” they’ll say, “if you don’t care that it’s been used and abused by another guy, just look online.” The thing is when you go that route—again—you’ll keep trying to fool yourself into thinking you’ve got a good clean ride. In the long run, it will be a lot higher maintenance than if you’d gotten the right one in the first place. This is a lesson you will learn over and over, again and again.

Before you go out looking you will need to know what you want, and what you’re willing to settle for and so, you’ll do your research. You’ll want the right size. When you straddle, you want some wiggle room between crossbar and crotch. In the saddle, your leg should not be fully extended, but leave a bit of a bend so you can push. You want a saddle built for comfort, not for speed. Too long of a reach is not good. It’ll be hell on your back and arms. Some of these young bucks ride bent over into crazy positions. But they don’t ride for long stretches. They’re on and off in a couple of minutes. At your age, you’re thinking that if you’re going to take the time to get on in the first place, you might as well go somewhere.

If it’s been more than a few years, you’ll be a little surprised. You’ll find that it’s true; “it is like riding a bike,” though your first few rides are shakier than you expected. The newer models seem different, more sleek and sporty than the old clunkers you rode in your youth. Way more responsive, too; they have a mind of their own. And these days, you’ll have to wear protection. Somehow you’ve made it to middle-age without it, but you know you’re just tempting the fates if you ride without some kind of covering on your head.

With all that in mind, the best thing to do is get a bicycle. Most anyone will do. At first you’ll have to deal with the many gears. You’ll have that Granny-Gear on there that’ll get you up anything without breaking a sweat, though you’ll be spinning your wheels like a madman. Easy, but as you shift, the chain starts riding up and catching on the chain-rings and it’ll get harder. You’ll only dream of using 21st gear on the downhills, and it will become discouraging. You’ll want to ride more often, but you’ll need some motivation.

So this is what you will do. You’ll set a goal. Figure maybe you’ll start with a 20 mile ride. You’ll find a woman you like who lives maybe eight or twelve miles away. Maybe your regular waitress at Applebee’s. Maybe the new bariste at Starbucks. Or better yet, that young girl that works in accounts payable. Whichever one, she’s cute and single, and you’ll bet she’s in the phonebook. Look up the address on MapQuest and find her house. It’s only five miles away, but it’s uphill and you can get a good workout. She will smile at you when you tell her you’ve been riding. Not in a laughing way, but like she’s impressed. She has a bike in her garage that she hasn’t been on since she graduated from college five years ago. She’ll confide this last in a longing way that says she misses riding, but also there’s a hint that she’s trying to let you know she’s a little more experienced than her looks belie. She’ll smile at you again and, depending on which woman it is, will hand you either your Fiesta Lime Chicken, a venti Frappacino, or an August Expense Report to be signed by your district supervisor.

Before your first ride, you will need prepare yourself physically. Shower and splash on some Old Spice. Don’t shave; the two-day growth of stubble gives you a more rugged quality and from the covers of the magazines you see, women seem to like that. No matter how unappealing the idea seems, you’ll put on a pair of shiny, black, spandex compression shorts. It makes you look more like a serious cyclist. You’ll want to wear a looser fitting shirt though, since the shorts really make your gut look big. Nonetheless, the shirt should be somehow sports or outdoor related. Wearing a promotional t-shirt from work will mark you as a poseur. As will your Florsheims. As will the black socks. Speaking of socks, suppress the urge to stuff a rolled-up pair in the bike shorts—it doesn’t fool anyone.

The point is that you’ll have to begin with a goal when you ride and you’ll figure her house is as good a goal as any. Riding gets you closer to her. Of course, you’ll want to avoid seeming like a stalker, so you’ll make many false starts. You’ll ride by her house without looking at it directly. You’ll glance out of the corner of your eye to see if she’s watching, and if she is, you will already have rehearsed what you’ll say. “Hey, I didn’t know you lived up here,” will be the start. You’ve got to sound convincing because if you don’t, you’ll have stalker written all over you. It’s bad enough you’re going to get caught with a hand in the cradle if she agrees to go out with you.

She’ll say one of two things. Three things, if you include “Hello. 911? Yes I’d like to report…” But she’ll either say, “See you later,” or “Let me change real quick and I’ll go for a ride with you.” If the latter, you’re screwed. She’s 25 or 26. 27 tops. You’re… Well, you’re old enough to be her father with room to spare. In fact, your own daughter is… Yeah. Shit. Shit is right. Point is that right about then is when you get that sudden sinking feeling that despite the fact that she hasn’t ridden in five years, she is after all only 25 or 26—27 tops—and that means that she is young and able. You’ve spent countless hours watching her, and you know she looks as good coming as going and that you don’t look that good if you’re out of shape. You realize that when she comes out of the house in her bikes shorts, jersey and fingerless gloves, you are going to be made to look like a very, very old man. And you also realize that unless you get on the bike and ride like a man, you’re never going to get to ride like a man. You hop off the bike and deflate your tire before she returns

This is what you will do, knowing that you’ll have to start out with one you like; one that fits you. Don’t go with one of those cheap ones like you see at Wal-Mart. They’re garish and they’re loose in all the wrong ways. Your friends tell you that if you want it just for the functionality—a low-priced one where you don’t care if someone else takes it—by all means, have at it. “Hell,” they’ll say, “if you don’t care that it’s been used and abused by another guy, just look online.” The thing is when you go that route—again—you’ll keep trying to fool yourself into thinking you’ve got a good clean ride. In the long run, it will be a lot higher maintenance than if you’d gotten the right one in the first place. This is a lesson you will learn over and over, again and again.

Before you go out looking you will need to know what you want, and what you’re willing to settle for and so, you’ll do your research. You’ll want the right size. When you straddle, you want some wiggle room between crossbar and crotch. In the saddle, your leg should not be fully extended, but leave a bit of a bend so you can push. You want a saddle built for comfort, not for speed. Too long of a reach is not good. It’ll be hell on your back and arms. Some of these young bucks ride bent over into crazy positions. But they don’t ride for long stretches. They’re on and off in a couple of minutes. At your age, you’re thinking that if you’re going to take the time to get on in the first place, you might as well go somewhere.

If it’s been more than a few years, you’ll be a little surprised. You’ll find that it’s true; “it is like riding a bike,” though your first few rides are shakier than you expected. The newer models seem different, more sleek and sporty than the old clunkers you rode in your youth. Way more responsive, too; they have a mind of their own. And these days, you’ll have to wear protection. Somehow you’ve made it to middle-age without it, but you know you’re just tempting the fates if you ride without some kind of covering on your head.

With all that in mind, the best thing to do is get a bicycle. Most anyone will do. At first you’ll have to deal with the many gears. You’ll have that Granny-Gear on there that’ll get you up anything without breaking a sweat, though you’ll be spinning your wheels like a madman. Easy, but as you shift, the chain starts riding up and catching on the chain-rings and it’ll get harder. You’ll only dream of using 21st gear on the downhills, and it will become discouraging. You’ll want to ride more often, but you’ll need some motivation.

So this is what you will do. You’ll set a goal. Figure maybe you’ll start with a 20 mile ride. You’ll find a woman you like who lives maybe eight or twelve miles away. Maybe your regular waitress at Applebee’s. Maybe the new bariste at Starbucks. Or better yet, that young girl that works in accounts payable. Whichever one, she’s cute and single, and you’ll bet she’s in the phonebook. Look up the address on MapQuest and find her house. It’s only five miles away, but it’s uphill and you can get a good workout. She will smile at you when you tell her you’ve been riding. Not in a laughing way, but like she’s impressed. She has a bike in her garage that she hasn’t been on since she graduated from college five years ago. She’ll confide this last in a longing way that says she misses riding, but also there’s a hint that she’s trying to let you know she’s a little more experienced than her looks belie. She’ll smile at you again and, depending on which woman it is, will hand you either your Fiesta Lime Chicken, a venti Frappacino, or an August Expense Report to be signed by your district supervisor.

Before your first ride, you will need prepare yourself physically. Shower and splash on some Old Spice. Don’t shave; the two-day growth of stubble gives you a more rugged quality and from the covers of the magazines you see, women seem to like that. No matter how unappealing the idea seems, you’ll put on a pair of shiny, black, spandex compression shorts. It makes you look more like a serious cyclist. You’ll want to wear a looser fitting shirt though, since the shorts really make your gut look big. Nonetheless, the shirt should be somehow sports or outdoor related. Wearing a promotional t-shirt from work will mark you as a poseur. As will your Florsheims. As will the black socks. Speaking of socks, suppress the urge to stuff a rolled-up pair in the bike shorts—it doesn’t fool anyone.

The point is that you’ll have to begin with a goal when you ride and you’ll figure her house is as good a goal as any. Riding gets you closer to her. Of course, you’ll want to avoid seeming like a stalker, so you’ll make many false starts. You’ll ride by her house without looking at it directly. You’ll glance out of the corner of your eye to see if she’s watching, and if she is, you will already have rehearsed what you’ll say. “Hey, I didn’t know you lived up here,” will be the start. You’ve got to sound convincing because if you don’t, you’ll have stalker written all over you. It’s bad enough you’re going to get caught with a hand in the cradle if she agrees to go out with you.

She’ll say one of two things. Three things, if you include “Hello. 911? Yes I’d like to report…” But she’ll either say, “See you later,” or “Let me change real quick and I’ll go for a ride with you.” If the latter, you’re screwed. She’s 25 or 26. 27 tops. You’re… Well, you’re old enough to be her father with room to spare. In fact, your own daughter is… Yeah. Shit. Shit is right. Point is that right about then is when you get that sudden sinking feeling that despite the fact that she hasn’t ridden in five years, she is after all only 25 or 26—27 tops—and that means that she is young and able. You’ve spent countless hours watching her, and you know she looks as good coming as going and that you don’t look that good if you’re out of shape. You realize that when she comes out of the house in her bikes shorts, jersey and fingerless gloves, you are going to be made to look like a very, very old man. And you also realize that unless you get on the bike and ride like a man, you’re never going to get to ride like a man. You hop off the bike and deflate your tire before she returns