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March 11, 2009


If it were a sandwich, it'd be a Rueben at least
Eh. Maybe a Rachel. It could have been epic, if it were 'The Sweetest Pain', because then I'd be listening to Dexter Wansel all night. Oh wait. . I am.
I shall be arming myself for the coming Nerf Apocalypse.

How long until we have to deal with the existential threat of Nerfclear weaponry? Once the Nerfclear genie is out of the bottle, it's impossible to put back in, which argues for preemptive strikes on Hasbro factories in order to eradicate these and any other Weapons of Mass Spongestruction.

Oddly, pain perdu may be the least terrible pain.

The pain that is all but a pleasure will change
For the pleasure that's all but pain,
And never, oh never, this heart will range
From that old, old love again!

Gilbert & Sullivan, Patience

Puts me in mind of Fafblog:

There are some people who say it is an apple pie, homebaked by beaming housewives and smiling hardworking legal immigrants and up-from-the-bootstraps entrepreneurs and cigar-smokin CEOs and lobbyists representing the coal and arms manufacturing industries, and it is good and wholesome and pure and do not touch it you will soil the pie with your horrible pie-staining fingers! There are others who say no way man, it is a big messy potluck pie, it has got mixed fruit and vegetables an tomatoes an onions an some meat an gravy an somebody baked some weed in there an pretty much everythin you can think of and boy it is a weird screwy messed-up pie but we like it anyway, and it was baked by organic farmers and high-minded crusadin civil rights attorneys an People for the Ethical Treatment of Pies an monks who are pepetually on fire somehow an quit oppressin us with your hierarchical structures! All of them want the pie for their own but all of them do love the pie, regardless of their many many differences.

What I am trying to say is Americans are fat. Thank you and goodnight.

Since this is an open thread, let me advert to a closed theme.

To wit - tonight, for the first time, I had a captive audience.

Literally. (Yes, Gary, literally literally.)

I gave a seminar ("Introduction to Asia") to some inmates at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, NC.

Some left the room.

No one left the building. ;}

Is that part of a university degree program, Dr. Ngo?

I'm taking dog training lessons. I am taking tow dogs through dog lessons which means I am learning how to teach the dog lessons while teaching the dogs. It is very fun and rewarding. My two dogs are from a dog rescue--Bubba the goldie/chow mis and bandit the mutt. Both have been in resuce for qauite a while due to poor presentation skills. bandit growls at unfamiliar people while bubba hurls his eighty pounds of hairy,slobbery dogginess right in people's faces. He hasn't actually knocked anyone on their ass yet, but he's trying.

Both are outstanding students and know sit down stay leave it and heel. We are working on excessively enthusiastic greetings.

Inspired by Jesurgislac's Eliot reference in the Action Figures? thread, I went and dug up the following bit of doggerel, which John M. Ford once tossed off in the comment threads of Making Light.

The Naming of Dogs is a hard algorithm,
It isn’t the sport one pretends it to be;
For canine cognomens and all that go with ‘em
Do not come as singletons; there must be three.

First of all, there’s the name that’s inscribed on the collar,
Such as Bruno, or Asta, or Rinty, or Spike,
Such as Toto, or Spot — look, I’m sure that you foller,
All of them names that are very dog-like.

There are fancier things to engrave on the pendant,
The Terhunish monickers, raffish and gay:
Such as Darbyshire, Fardels, perhaps Co-defendant —
The stuff that your dog will be glad he can’t say.

But I tell you, a dog needs a name that’s generic,
A name that is shared across doggiedom’s lines,
For the discourse of dogs falls quite short of etheric,
It’s yelping, and snarling, and sniffing behinds.

Of names of this kind, I can ladle a bowlful,
Such as Barker, Droolbucket, and Bumponnalog,
Such as Fleabitten, Mangy, and Stop Looking Soulful,
Names that all know mean the subject’s a dog.

But there’s one name more, for why should we be frugal?
For words, as all writers will tell you, are cheap;
The name you can’t ask for, or wiretap, or Google,
Because the dog knows it,, and boy, is it deep.

When you notice your puppy has eaten your wallet,
You must be aware of the root of the plot:
He’s thinking quite hard of his whatchamacallit,
Of the bark that is worse than the bite he has got:
His ceteris paribus
Name all his own, that he’s long since forgot.

Nooobody expects a mid-week open thread. Might as well take advantage of it.

Over in the Reagan/Thatcher thread, JanieM (catalyst for our upcoming Cambridge ObWi gathering) ponders the different rates at which (she claims) typos show up in blog comments versus other formats. That reminded me of something I came across years ago, which only an open thread could accomodate:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnat tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Fcuknig amzanig huh?

Incidentally, if von is going to drag French/English wordplay in here, let me get a pet peeve off my chest: the finishing blow, the final shot, the culminating point, is the coup de grace, pronounced "koo de graass", and not as almost everybody on TV including the estimable Rachel Maddow pronounces it, "koo de grah". The only plausible French phrase pronounced that way would be coup de gras which means, if anything at all, "a drink of fat". You have been warned.


Regarding pain, now that you have brioched the subject, all I can say is that we'll be croissant that bridge when we come to it...

A.J. thanks for the laugh.

Tony P. one of the differences between a fluent reader and an inefficient one is the ability to recognize a word based on just hte first and last letters, plus context of the sentence, of course. Elementary school special ed classes abound in worksheets for practice in this skill.

I contriubute my share of lessons in reading comprehension to you all because I'm a lousy typist and too lazy to correct all of my mistakes.

Wonkie: No, this isn't for a degree program. As far as I can figure it out, some grad students in cultural anthropology at Duke just decided it would be a good thing to offer something at Butner, and cobbled together a sort-of syllabus on something like "society and culture" which could include just about anything any of them wanted to talk about. This year they asked around for others who might contribute, and I volunteered.

The students/inmates seem to appreciate this course, even without credit, because it gives them something to do, and it can be kinda interesting, I guess. At any rate, the dozen or so who showed up were appreciative, and kept asking questions the whole two hours, ranging from "What is life like in Hong Kong?" to "Where did 'Pakistan' come from?" to "What do Asian parents teach their kids about religion?" to "Have you ever eaten cat or dog?" A perfect opportunity for a retired professor to improvise (AKA b*llsh*t) at length!

Actually it sounds like fun. A former teacher of my acquaintence told me that the easiest teaching position she ever had was in a juvenile detention center. Class attendance was a privilege, not a requirement, and the students were interested in everything and enthusiastic.

If the post title was a rap verse...

pain o choklat
a terrible pain
no portrayin da toxic shock
of sayin
on an open thread
yo scoping blends
of mixed up remedies to send

This was so bad I couldn't delete it after sounding it out. Could probably go another sentence or two, I got nothing.

And since it's an open thread, here's a helpful video about managing your time well in traffic, and increasing your efficiency.

True, von, the not pain part of pain au chocalat in the U.S. is ABSOLUTELY terrible in my book.
Traveling over the U.S. this summer I asked myself "how can the people in the KING of cultures these days be satisfied with the shit they are fed under the label "chocalat" ?
Somebody clue me in...
Fun doggy posts.
But from ME and MY DOG'S point of view (yes I am one of those types who hangs my mug out of the window when riding in the car...) just a little bit undignified. I certainly wouldn't want to sport one of those names.
Rather, Caesar, or Cleopatra. Yeah, I like THOSE names...

I have never been able to make croissants successfully, but Elizabeth David points out in her bread book that the original pain du chocolate was just leftover bread dough wrapped round a stick of chocolate - one of the many ways of "using up" the leftover dough after making a batch of bread. I don't know when the change to flaky croissant dough was made, but presumably some time between the 1930s and 1970s...

I like making it with plain dough and 99% chocolate. Intense.

I hope you meant "terrible" in its modern French meaning. (i.e. : "wicked")

dr ngo,
Ian Buruma had a similar gig as well and wrote about it here

I had some pain au chocolat once in a truly excrable French restaurant in Madrid--it made me violently ill.

Yes, the pain in Spain went mainly down the drain . . .

Tony P -- I was making claims only about my own typos, not anyone else's .... ;)

Rea - I burst out laughing, then decided to rush up and give my wife a good laugh. She was brushing her teeth. A poor decision on my part.

wonkie: Thanks to von putting up this mid-week open thread -- I probably would have forgotten by the weekend -- I can share this with you and everyone else. I find Newsweek's "My Turn" essays to be consistently good and this one is so much more than a dog story. Dare read it and not get a lump in your throat at the end.

AJ: Thank you for Mr. Ford's wonderful bit of doggerel. Delightful.

Yeah, we get Newsweek and I read that story. And, yea, I was moved by it..

What's up, folks?

No Open Thread thoughts/ideas/suggestions/gripes/recipes to share this weekend? (I'm in the mood for something sweet.)

Just read the whole "Bad Things" thread and that damn near wore me out.

Anyhow, I've got a little buzz going on and -- for those who favor Pinot Noir at affordable prices -- I recommend Bad Dog. (Yes, Turb, I've just recommended a bottle of wine named after a bad dog; hopefully, one that is still alive and not having been run over by a car driven by a blind man. I pity any blind man, especially one who attempts to drive a car.)

Anyhow, Bad Dog -- priced at $9.99 at Olympic Liquors down the street where Suresh always makes you feel all is right with the world with that kind, gentle manner of his at checkout, where if you're lucky little Scotty might let you pet him (first he's got to know you're OK, and dogs really do have a way of sensing "dog people" from the get-go, even my CoCo could do that and, hell, she nearly murdered good ol' Hamilton, and she wasn't even blind) -- is very, very smooth, a bit rich, with a nice hint of vanilla, and no bite. The wife favors bite in her wines; I prefer gentle and easy-going.

So there you have it: Bad Dog. Give it a try.

Also, I forget the name, and I forget where I purchased it -- not at Suresh's -- but recently I enjoyed a bottle of wine with three monkeys on the label (you know, the whole hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil). For all I know, it was called Three Monkeys, but I don't think so. (Didn't Brad Pitt play in a movie called "Six Monkeys"?)The wine Three Monkeys was quite good, and also under $10. If someone has had this wine and knows the name, please let me know -- I'd like to find it and enjoy it once more.

For now, it's Bad Dog.

Down, boy.

Hey, I'm sittin up in bed with a head cold and a bit of a wine buzz, too, form CoveyRun Merlot. My neighbor is into wines. I do her grocery shopping for her (she is an invalid) which means scouring the wine racks for exaclty the bottl eo red she wants this week. She's working her way through a book of underrated reasonably priced wines.

Tney all taste alike to me. But I don't say so becaue part of our weekly ritual is to have a glass after I put the groceries away.

Since I have no head one glass is enought to send me staggering off homewards to be comletely useless for a wasted evening.

I am intermittently reading a biography of Eleanor of Aquataine--politics was very persnal in those days. So the evening isn't a complete waste.

So here's to underrated wines at a good price!

Yes, indeed, wonkie, underrated wines at a good price are to be saluted.

I was never a wine drinker until I married Olga five years ago.

Everyone associates Russians with vodka for all of the obvious reasons, and let me tell you, her father and I shared a bottle of his homemade pinkish brew back when we were courting and it nearly lit a fire in my stomach.

It was February 2003, and the last winter here in Newark, Delaware, that was marked by substantial snow and cold. I figured I was ready for Russia. Then I got off the plane and instantly realized our 20 degree temperatures were no match for zero degrees, and snow that clearly had been stuck here, there and everywhere since late October.

I was worried about meeting Dad. I kept wondering what a former sailor in the Soviet navy, who called one of their mighty submarines home for several years, must look like.

Before our visit, I first picked the biggest bottle of vodka off the shelf until Olga grimaced and gave me that now familar what-are-you-doing-honey look. I opted for a handsomely suitable bottle in size and eye appeal.

Dad was absent as we arrived at his Soviet-style, fourth-floor walk-up. But Tatiana, Olga's younger sister who lives with Papa, and Sergei, now her husband, greeted us like royalty and sat us down for some small talk.

It was Saturday and I could make out even as they spoke Russian that Dad was at what we would call the VFW hall, and there was no telling when he'd be home. Turns out Dad has a great allegiance to Russia's famous spirit.

Just as we sat down to eat, Moanie, the chubby, old orange-and-white tabby, got all excited, just as one of my cats does as I am about to make an entrance. I took that as my cue to head to the door and stand tall.

Slowly, a small man emerged, a twinkle left in his blue but fading eyes, slight of build, yet warranting my respect. I put my hand out and, instead, found myself engaged in a long embrace with Dad, partly because he was happy to meet his daughter's future husband, but also because he needed some propping up, having clearly saluted Russia's famous spirit a bit too much at the hall already. (It suddenly hit me why Olga didn't want me to buy the world's biggest bottle of vodka.)

I escorted Dad to the table and the vodka came right out. Thankfully, so did the food. It was wonderful and I was happy we finished the bottle of vodka I brought without incident, realizing I had enough -- until Dad disappeared for several minutes and emerged with his pinkish homemade brew, and by the time we had killed that bottle, I was clearly part of the family.

The girls looked on at our vodka-inspired foolishness and enjoyed red wine, as most all of the Russian women I have met do. (The clear exception being a Russian party girl I met on my first, single visit to St. Petersburg, and was amazed to meet someone who could be so devoted to Bailey's and drink it in such copious amounts, yet manage to say reasonably sober, lovely and fun.)

We don't keep vodka at home -- Olga has clearly seen enough of what it can do to an otherwise good man, and if I need that kind of effect, I'm heading for good, ol' Kentucky whiskey. But she is quite happy when I bring home a good find -- a good Pinot Noir (I managed to get her off Merlot, which I found simply too dry) for under $10.

Bad Dog just made the cut at $9.99.

Suresh had a clearance sale not that long ago and I bought the last bottle of Fat Cat (succumbing to the whimsical label) and, for $7.99, we declared it a winner but -- like those Three Monkeys -- haven't been able to find Fat Cat since.

Sometimes I wonder what my wife has done to me when I come home after a hard day at work and have a hankering for a glass (or two) of red wine instead of a cold Yuengling.

That's a great story. I have never had much of an affinity for alcohol I suppose because back in the day alcohol was for straights. I associated liquor with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and so on. It simply never occured to me to get high that way.

When I finally did get around to drinking I discovered that I have no head for it. My preference, so much as I have one, is for really sweet stuff like Irish creme or port--the sort of drink you sip at for desert. I know that's probably lowbrow as all get out.

However Paul is into wine so we make the rounds of local wineries and even have a stash of pretty expensive reds in the closet. Well expensive by middle class standards.

wonkie: It's funny what you say about alcohol, in your (our) day, being for "straights."

When I went off to college in 1980, I had been straight in high school: No pot (I left that to my two younger brothers, who once got caught stealing a whole plant out of a neighbor's basement). No beer. And I was pretty naive about girls, so caught up in baseball at the time.

Freshman year caught me up on the girls pretty quickly -- or I should say, they caught me up. Thank God, when It finally happened, I was with a senior who was more than happy to take the lead; she even offered to go get a girlfriend as events were unfolding -- figuring I had my hands full, as it were, I persuaded this feisty redhead to keep things one-on-one. (Had I been a little more drunk and experienced . . .)

Anyway, my introduction to liquor came from an upperclassman as well. We called him Serb since his roots were from Serbia and he had a passion for Scotch -- JB, in the green bottle.

I was more than just a little impressionable and his passion became mine. John could drink it straight or, as I later favored, showed me how drinking it with water was also a good way to go -- never soda water or club soda. H2O, mixed with your Scotch, never produced a hangover, as Serb explained, and he was correct.

But neither Serb nor I knew when to quit. Scotch-drinking always seemed to get me in trouble. So I turned to beer like a normal college kid and was first introduced to Rolling Rock -- it, too, in a cool green bottle, with the little story on the back, ending in the mysterious "33" -- by Spike, another upperclassman who hailed from Greensburg, Pa., near the Latrobe plant that produced both the beer made in the glass-lined tanks and Arnold Palmer.

By senior year, I had become taken in by boilermakers, beer with your shot of whiskey right in it, favored at The Post, which became my hangout and called so because it was favored by the ink-stained guys who worked the printing press for the nearby Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, maybe the best bar I've ever known.

If I continued to drink in the real world the way I did in college, I would not be here. I even enjoyed a stretch where Herb, an editor at the P-G, turned me on to wicked Manhattans -- Herb drank them the way I drink Iced Tea today -- at a fancier bar I also frequented called Froggy's.


wonkie, I think I just committed an offense right out of the Husband Handbook of Good Etiquette.

A few minutes ago, Olga came home with a pamphlet from the YMCA. We have determined the pool we belonged to the past three summers is too expensive given our current financial situation. Well, I cut her off before she could begin, saying, right now, I am simply worried about how we are going to pay the April mortgage and the rest of the bills that will soon flood the mailbox, mentioning that we just might need any money she spends on the Y for more important stuff. Honey did not like this answer and I think was too gruff in giving it. So I better go and hear her out. Good day, my friend.

I've been worried about you. I hope you all can stand united against adversity. Hard times.

Any way I have to work tonight but on St Pat's Day I'll be drinking something so I'll give a little toast to you and yours. Later!

Hitting up the computer one last time before bed as Olga irons the boy's school shirt for tomorrow (Newark Charter requires a uniform) . . .

Since I just saw a clip of the news -- and saw the full thing this morning on John King's new program, "State of the Union" -- I was wondering if anyone else watched his interview with Dark Cheney on CNN. (Perhaps a front-pager will be Monday posting on it since we seem to be in a bit of a news lull and the economy talk is becoming tiresome, although we could keep griping about the big, bad AIG, which sucks in taxpayer millions the way Herb used to suck down Manhattans.)

One thing about Cheney: He is consistent.

Consistenly arrogant.

Actually, he seemed to be less Dark than usual, perhaps retirement will be good for the former veep; I'm sure it will be good for his bank account.

Iraq, in his book, is and has been a success, a big success thanks to the Bush Admin.

He allowed that he and former President Bush have talked three or four times since Obama took over, even though King's prying made it clear that he was unable to convince Bush to pardon Scooter Libby, much to Dick's dismay.

I have nothing good to say about Dick Cheney, other than this: I find no fault in his strong desire to have seen Scooter pardoned (and, please, I know Scooter was guilty and, therefore, deserving of what he got). My remark is only to note that Cheney has been loyal to a fault regarding his longtime friend and I'm sure he knows better than anyone than Libby was the biggest scapegoat of the whole administration, wherein there were much bigger fish to fry, starting with the vice president himself. (My remark is more of a rumination on friendship than politics).

Good night.

P.S. wonkie -- We settled the Y thing. I hate to see Olga upset, so I simply said we'll figure a way to work it out with everything else, and we will. The alternative is too undesirable and I've lost enough sleep these past weeks anyhow. What will be will be and, so far, it's been meant for us to stay in our home, which is my biggest hope these days.

"(Didn't Brad Pitt play in a movie called "Six Monkeys"?)

Twelve Monkeys.

Terry Gilliam. One of the rare and few movies that is actually good science fiction. GF recommends.

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