Important: Read this before sending email

My Amazon Wish List




Indexed Archives

Portal (links)

Contact me

Who am I?


The diary of
Iseema bin Laden

Secret Arafat
Phone Transcripts

Greatest Hits




A dog's tale

Dogs in front of fireI didn't really manage to capture the essence of Worf, but I do have a shot of him (right) and Willow (who used to be known as "the Pillow" and who is now almost thinner than Worf) sitting in front of the woodstove last night. (That's not fat on Worf. It's the way he's sitting. He hasn't got an ounce of superfluous flesh. He runs two miles a day.) See, what I'm trying to do is get a shot of all three dogs following Heidi from room to room, which is absolutely hilarious if you're not Heidi. She goes downstairs to do laundry, and Worf, Willow, and Sparty all pile along after her, their toenails click-click-clicking on the hardwood floors. She changes sheets and makes beds, and the dogs all stand around watching. Heading for the garage? Quick, she may not notice us going for the bag of dog food, follow her! They dog her heels (so to speak) in the kitchen as she's trying to, say, bake a cake. As I said, it's hilarious to watch if you're not Heidi. She's rather annoyed with the whole situation and may be envying me my cats. That's because at least one of them generally hides when I have company, and Tig doesn't follow me when there are other people around.

In the meantime, all I have so far are portraits of the dogs, with one of Sparty looking like Damien's watchpoodle, what with those devil eyes. (I thought my digital camera was supposed to flash once to get rid of the redeye effect. What, it doesn't work on dogs?Sparty, the devil's playmate

Yesterday, as it was raining when Sorena and I got to her house, I sent her inside while I parked the car so she wouldn't have to walk in the mud, in spite of her protestations that she likes walking in the mud.

When I got to the house, all three dogs were waiting at the front door, and Heidi told me they were whining for me to come inside. You've gotta love a house where even the dogs miss you. I went home with (sigh) dried dog drool on my pants legs, as Worf insisted on putting his head in my lap as Heidi and I chatted at the table after supper was over. You don't suppose the real reason they were whining is because they knew that it was Friday, and the menu for Fridays is always some kind of meat, do you? No, no. Let's be positive. They miss me, not the food. The dried dog drool on my pants is a sign of affection, not bribery.

Just a little while longer, and I ought to be able to capture Worf and Willow play-fighting. I'll be spending the night there in about a week or so, and the after-dinner routine is generally a pretty noisy dog-playing session. Seeing Worf and Willow standing on their hind legs, barking and growling, lips drawn back to expose their fangs, is quite a sight. You'd swear they were going to kill each other, and yet the worst they've ever done is accidentally knock over Sparty, who yips at their heels the entire time.

Making a book list or, That's the way to do it

A bunch of people have added their thoughts to the Children's Gift Book List (hey, it's not too late for Chanukah! It's never too late to give a child a book). Lesley at Plum Crazy, Andy at The World Wide Rant, Mac Thomason (there's your Narnia recommendation, Bear), Michele at A Small Victory (How could I have forgotten The Phantom Tollbooth? Yikes!). Jim hasn't gotten his list up yet, but that may be because there's a chorus of "Ooh! Ooh! How about this one?" from the Blogosphere. We're making Jim's list redundant.

Oh, I know why I forgot The Phantom Tollbooth. Because I just ran a list off the top of my head without a whole lot of time on the subject. I'd add Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, and reader HTom adds Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome, and a series of books about Freddy the Pig by Walter Brooks.

You know, there was a book I simply adored as a teenager titled Black and Blue Magic that I received from the Scholastic Book Club, but I doubt it's in print anywhere anymore, and I don't know who wrote it. I also loved Gentle Ben, by Walt Morey. Much better than the book or TV show. Oh. And The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey, which wasn't really by Del Rey, but it was my first-ever SF novel, and I adored it. I do not want to go into why I have almost none of the books I grew up with, as it will start me on a long rant about my mother and her obsessive-compuslive disorder about not having old things around, and about my aunt, who wanted my things out of "her" cellar (we shared a two-family house).

Stopping now.



Tolkien time

Chris Newman sent me an email asking for comments on this Tolkien post (I'll get to it a bit later, but any Tolkien fans can peruse it ahead of time), which led me to renting the extended version of Fellowship of the Rings, which led me to watch it this afternoon and evening (there was a long break in between to pick up Sorena, bring her home, have dinner at Heidi's). I'm digesting Viggo Mortenson's and Peter Jackson's interpretation of Aragorn before I can comment on Chris' post, although I can say that I agree completely about the Mirror of Galadriel scene—I thought it was simply the lowest point of the film, and that's a damned good scene in the book.

Anyway. I received another email from Jack White informing me that January 3rd would have been Tolkien's eleventy-first birthday, which, as all Tolkien fans know, is the age Bilbo turned in "A Long-Expected Party," the first chapter of the LOTR. So we decided we're going to throw a Tolkien Blog Burst, similar to our Buffy Blog Burst. Sign up by dropping me a line if you want in. Write something about Tolkien, or about the films, or about any of the books, or about how Chris Newman isn't nearly the Tolkien geek I thought he was if he only read the Silmarillion once and failed to finish it (Unfinished Tales III before I gave up, dude). I'll be Tolkien Blog Burst Central, and on January 3rd, after you're all recovered from your New Year's hangovers (I don't do that anymore), we'll post Tolkien posts. It'll be fun, in a geeky, Tolkienian sort of way.

That reminds me...

More letters from readers giving me ideas for posts. This one was Jennifer C., who reminded me about the New Jersey/Virginia lifestyle changes.

I was lying in bed a couple of nights ago, half asleep, listening to the sound of a nearby train passing . There are a few sounds I love to listen to in the nighttime. Running water is one of them. So are trains.

In New Jersey, living in the some of the most densely populated areas of the most densely populated state in the nation, the only trains I ever heard were commuter trains, and those stop running fairly early in the evening. You can hear the occasional early-morning train whistle, but it barely registers in your get-ready-for-work routine. But here, everywhere, it seems, there are trains. When I stay at Heidi's, I can hear the trains pass by the foot of the hill about a mile away from her house. I hate catching that train crossing in the afternoon, because that's when the fifty-car freight trains pass by. Here in my apartment, the train tracks are about half a mile down the main road. Once I switch off the television or open the windows, and most especially once I'm in the bedroom in the front of the house, the trains pass by frequently.

The noises that I do not hear often, and that I don't miss at all, are the sirens and low-flying airplanes. Richmond is a small city, with a less-than-busy airport, and the airport is some miles away. The planes are so few and far between that whenever I hear one I look up and watch until it's out of sight. Twice in the past week I've seen military planes and helicopters heading north, the last time flying quite fast. There is significantly more military air traffic here. It makes me feel uneasy, actually. I don't really worry that we're being attacked. I think instead of the pilots and crew, and realize they may be over in the Middle East soon, risking their lives.

That's another thing that's different about Virginia. There are many more military folks around here. In New Jersey, you need to live down south near Fort Dix and Maguire Air Force Base in order to be around military people. Here, my best friend's husband works for the military, many of the people I know have relatives in the Service, and even many of my weblogging friends are in uniform. I've celebrated a few of the last several Fourths of July on an Army base, mixing with thousands of soldiers—many of whom were from New York and New Jersey. It's a small world, indeed.

Books for kids that kids will never read

Jim Miller writes about a Christmas books-for-kids list that sounds worse than getting clothes for Christmas from that aunt you never really liked, anyway. Rather than duplicate his effort, I'll just send you over that way so your jaw can drop in horror like mine did.

In the meantime, Jim, my picks for some of the best kids' books for Christmas:

  • The Harry Potter books, by J.K. Rowling
  • Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events
  • The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Encyclopedia Brown, by Donald J. Sobol
  • Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
  • Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, if you can find the original versions. If not, well, the newer ones will do, I guess.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  • The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry

Books not to get children: Bambi, Watership Down, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Kidnapped! (come to think of it, any Robert Louis Stevenson novel), Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels. I realize that some people will think that Alice in Wonderland is a children's book, but I maintain that it is not, and should be read at an older age. And Bambi was never a children's book. It is about archetypes and survival, and trust me, the death of Bambi's mother is the least frightening part of that novel. There's even a chilling exchange between two leaves on the cusp of winter that has stayed with me my entire life. Felix Salten was a genius, but a depressing one. It's like giving kids Kafka, but easier to read.



So it's a week late. I'm cooking latkes on Sunday.

I found this via Grasshoppa, and it's just so cute and amusing that it doesn't matter that Chanukah ended last Saturday. You really should check this out. Here's a hint: Click on each candle in turn, leaving the Shamash (the tall one in the middle) for last. Or you can click on the Shamash first. I just like making them sing in turn.

Update: Imshin wants me to warn you all that the singing menorah is also a come-on for an online casino. I found that out by mistake earlier tonight when I clicked on the base of the menorah. But the casino site is in Hebrew, so I wouldn't advise any of you to play it. Not that I advise you to play English casinos, either. I lived in NJ most of my life and never once went to Atlantic City after it built the casinos. Voted against legalizing gambling, too. Oh, and clicking on the link below the menorah sends email. I wouldn't. Dangerous, this foreign-language stuff, eh?

Imshin on being an Israeli

One thing I think anti-Zionists fail to understand is that however Zionism began and whatever it meant to accomplish, and however you feel about all that on a philosophical level, it’s ancient history. There is now an Israel. The great majority of its citizens were born here. They are Israelis. They have no memories of the countries their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents came from. The Israeli nation may have been artificially created; it may have been a great mistake (I don’t believe that but I can respect others that do), but the fact is that now there is an Israeli people.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft talks of “One early Jewish opponent of Zionism, the ardently assimilationist Austrian writer Karl Kraus, thought the notion nonsensical: it was absurd to imagine that German, French, Slavonic and Turkish Jews had a common bond, or that any interest united the caftan-wearing tradesman of the Galician shtetl with the literary poseur of the Viennese cafés”. Well today’s Israel proves him wrong. While his literary, Viennese, café-frequenting descendants were probably exterminated by the Nazis, this descendant of caftan-wearing tradesmen of the Galician shtetl is happily married to a descendant of Turkish rabbis and wealthy Bukharans. We get on just fine and we have a lot in common, thank you very much.

We are here. We don’t want to assimilate into a Palestinian state. We are not Palestinians. This week a whole nation held its breath as thousands searched for a lost baby. While I was waiting for my youngest daughter to finish her dancing lesson on Sunday afternoon, a man rushed past me towards the TV corner there, calling urgently, as if she was his own daughter “Have they found her? Have they found her?” A whole nation was horrified when the tiny body was finally found and the unbearable truth came to light. A father had done this to his own offspring. Fathers all over the country rushed home to hug and kiss their children, newly appreciative of their relatively normal lives.

We are here. This is our home. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents may have spoken many languages. We speak Hebrew, the language Karl Kraus may have known only as a language in which to utter prayers he probably couldn’t understand. Contemporary anti-Zionists, rush past Israeli inhabited areas, on entering the country, lest they be contaminated by our moral deficiencies. They hurry off to show their solidarity with the Palestinians and to console them for the great injustice of the theft of their land by the Zionists. They fail to see, in their haste, that we are not like the French in Algeria, who returned to France; and that we are not like the British in India, who went back to England. We are home. We have not transported “life at home” to a new venue. Everything that went before is gone. The Galician shtetl has gone forever, as has the Jewish neighborhood in Baghdad. Now there is something new. This is our home and I, for one, love it dearly, corrupt politicians and all.

As we say in America: Amen to that, sister.

Around the blogosphere

Armed Liberal, in the midst of a tiff with Avedon Carol (which I am staying completely out of, thankyouverymuch), has a definition of liberalism that I think is absolutely perfect:

I’m a liberal because I respect pretty much everyone. I was taught this by my father, who was always as polite and respectful to the poor and low as he was to the rich and powerful (in fact, maybe a bit more so). I think that the poor and powerless are typically pretty good human beings who are on the wrong side of circumstance, and that part of the job of government is to make that condition bearable, and to make sure that it isn’t structural…that you’re not on the wrong side of circumstance because your parents were, or because of your color or sex. That way their kids will have a chance at living in big houses and spoiling their children into insensibility like I do.

But at root, it comes from a feeling that the least of us are as human and worthy of dignity as the best.

You two play nice now. No sharp implements, and put away the guns, A.L.

I want to go back to Floyd and visit with Fred and Ann for a spell. The valley must be gorgeous now. Up for another long ride, Susanna? Plus, Fred's answer to marital arguments. Quite amusing. But very sensible.

Rick Heller profiles hate in the Garden State: Anti-Semitism in the Muslim community of Paterson, and one Muslim's fight against it. Calling CAIR and MPAC... don't worry, I won't hold my breath for their denunciations.

Dr. Weevil showing why his weblog is so esoteric: First, he tells the blogosphere they're catching onto the wrong organ fad to predict the weather, and tells us which organ is the right one, and why. Then he points out that December 7th is not just the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is also the anniversary of the murder of Cicero. He even has an obit for him. I swear to God, if this guy starts giving out tests, I'm going to quit blogging. He's like my worst college nightmare come to life. Thank heaven reading him is voluntary.

Mike Sanders is blogging about—software? Well. That's not gonna stop the controversy, Mike. It will only get it from a different crowd. Then again, perhaps Some People will get over their problem with you. (Yeah, right. I wasn't serious.)

Did I mention the latest Carnival of the Vanities? Well, I'm mentioning it again.

America's ally, Israel

Here's a fact you can use the next time a neo-nazi or anti-Semite asks you what Israel is doing for the U.S.: She's helping make sure that no American dies from being inoculated against smallpox.

The United States closely watched Israel's smallpox inoculation campaign before going ahead with plans to protect some 1 million military and public health workers against the fatal disease, an Israeli official said Thursday.

In September, Israel began inoculating more than 15,000 health, military and rescue officials against the disease to prepare for the possibility that Iraq will attack with biological weapons in response to a U.S. strike on Baghdad.

[...] Israel has completed its inoculations successfully, said Health Ministry spokesman Ido Hadari. During the three-month campaign, U.S. officials have been in almost daily e-mail contact with their Israeli counterparts, he said.

"Both sides are learning from one another. The Americans have a lot more resources and money and therefore we are learning from them how best to do logistics, and they are learning from us how we did this in the past few weeks in all different areas...including in public relations," Hadari said.

U.S. officials were last in Israel two weeks ago, acquiring hands-on experience, he said.

During the Israeli campaign, only four people suffered side effects and were briefly hospitalized, Hadari said. Two of those were not inoculated themselves, but came into contact with family members who had received the shot and developed small boils on their hands.

And of course, there are the unpublished exchanges of information—such as the IDF's experience in city fighting in places like Jenin—that will help save American soldiers' lives if they have to go house-to-house in Iraq. That, and sharing information that will save civilians—yeah, those are the actions of a state that cares about nothing but itself. Have I mentioned lately that anti-Semites should all just die already?

Answering the mail

My father instilled in me an attitude that is either my best or worst feature, depending on exactly how crazy it makes me, and what the end result is. It's the ability to rise to a challenge. I led a student strike that shut down the state college system of New Jersey because a Rutgers student legislator with an extremely condescending attitude told me that there was nothing I could do about the tuition hike, Rutgers was handling it, and no, a protest wouldn't accomplish anything. And no, I'm not making this up, and anyone who went to Montclair State College with me in the '80s can vouch for it. Especially Brian Cige, who still owes me a bottle of champagne for my successful actions. (The flip side of this is when it makes me think that I have to do something on being challenged for some stupid reason like, oh, because I was challenged. I think I've about outgrown that part, mostly.)

Terry Oglesby (also known as the Possumblogger) dropped me a line asking for more possum stories. I know it was a tongue-in-cheek request, but Terry didn't know two things: One, that "can-do" attitude I got from my father. Two: I actually have a possum story. Two, come to think of it. Possums are ubiquitous in New Jersey. You just can't get away from 'em. So here you go, Terry. For you. (When you're done here, go read this one by Terry, and if you're not laughing by the end, there's something really wrong with you and I wish you would stop reading my weblog and I'll just quietly walk away now.)

When I was a teenager, my then-best friend lived across the street, and she had a mutt that I would feed and walk when she and her family were away. One night I went over there to walk the dog, and she literally burst out the front door as I opened it, ran furiously to the side of the house, and started barking like crazy. I followed her and found her barking at a possum lying on the ground—playing dead. I was shocked that it was actually playing dead. I thought that was myth. But no, there it was, occasionally opening an eye to see if the dog was gone yet, then quickly shutting it. I thought it was hilarious, but after a while, I grabbed the dog and took her inside so the possum could go about its business.

Story number two: I worked the night shift at Applied Graphics in Carlstadt for years. Carlstadt is a little town next to Rutherford, home of Giants Stadium. I drove past the stadium on my way to and from work every day. There's a long loop you have to take to get off of Route 3 East to get onto Route 120, which takes you to Washington Ave. and where I worked. The loop is in the swamp, as is much of Rutherford. Well, every weeknight at 11:20, I'd be on that loop. And one summer, every single night at 11:20, there was a possum crossing the road at a certain curve on that loop. So every night for weeks, I'd slow down and let that goddamned possum cross the road. It got to where I was expecting him to be crossing, and sure enough, there he was. It ended suddenly, and I didn't see a body on the side of the road, but I sure was glad when I didn't have to slow down to let a possum cross the road anymore. They walk awfully slow.

There ya go, Terry. Possum stories. We aim to please.

Carnival of the Vanities

I forgot to link to this yesterday. It's over at Lair's today. And I should have linked to Michele last week, too. Mea culpa. Time to tear my shirt and pull my hair. Or is it pull my shirt and tear my hair? I always forget.



Quick response blog team

In response to my post below, Lair asked for more cat posts. Well, I wasn't really thinking of one, but Tig decided it for me. New Cattales.

The problem with Europe

First this: Chirac wants 'road map' adopted on Dec. 20

French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday he wants the Middle East "road map" to be adopted and published on December 20 when representatives of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States (the Quartet) gather in Washington.

The Quartet wants to adapt the road map as its blueprint for reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the PA.

Chirac's wishes were expressed at the close of a meeting in Paris with Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Ahmed Qurei, also known as Abu Ala.

"The international community must remain mobilized," said the presidential palace through a spokesman who was not named. "That is why we want the rapid adoption of the road map ... and its publication."

Then (via Lynn B., who has more to say on the subject, and sorry to hear about your abscess, but—ew) this:

Shin Bet documents terrorists' misuse of UNRWA facilities

A secret Shin Bet report documenting how UNRWA facilities are used by terrorists was prepared long before UNRWA worker Iain Hook was killed by the IDF during clashes with Palestinian gunmen in Jenin last month, senior Israeli officials said.

[...] According to the report, the facilities of UNRWA the UN body charged with running the Palestinian refugee camps have been used both to hide terrorists and aid terror activity.

The report stated that a number of Palestinians who have been arrested say that they have used UNRWA facilities and vehicles to plan and carry out attacks.

For instance, the report stated that Muhammad Ali Hassan, who was arrested in February, used an UNRWA school near Nablus for target practice and to store ammunition.

The report also documented the use of a UNRWA club in the Jabalya refugee camp and a social club in the El Aroub refugee camp as meeting points for Tanzim members.

In addition, the report stated that numerous UNRWA schools were used to hide suspected terrorists. According to the report, Nidal Nazal, an UNRWA ambulance driver arrested in July, admitted that his ambulance was used to transport ammunition between terror cells. Other detainees admitted that UNRWA vehicles were used by terrorists on their way to attacks.

The thing is, the Euros and the UN will deny the above. Just as they've denied the link between Arafat's Swiss bank account and misuse of billions of Euro and UN dollars.

Road map by December 20th? I'm going to take an educated guess on this one: Uh, no.

The mystery that is you

On a weekday, I look at my website statistics and wonder if someone isn't really messing with them. On a weekend, I pretty much do the same. I am constantly amazed that so many people drop in each day to read what I write. Lately, the stats have been pretty consistent. The chart over on Sitemeter was practically a flat line last week, and Monday and Tuesday of this week had identical hit counts, a thing that has never happened in a year and a half of blogging. The hit count is about to reach the plateau I've worked for for some time: An average of a thousand hits per day—without an Instapundit link. I hesitate to mention my exact stats, usually. I can't tell if that's modestry, a desire for secrecy, or fear of jinxing myself. Probably all three, with a bit of "Oh, gawd, now I'm going to get a million emails asking me to link." Oh, well.

The hit counts remain the same whether I post once, or seven times, or three times a day. The only time the count has gone down was during the week of my move, when I had the time and energy to write about my move, but nothing else. (I get it: Boring. I'll try not to move to a new state anytime soon.)

I get letters from many of you, but the ones who write are still only a small fraction of the total visitors per day, and many of you are fellow bloggers. So I have to write these posts from time to time, because longtime readers know that although this is my website, structured the way I want it to be structured, it's not just for me. I try to make it accessible and interesting and amusing to all of you, and I'm always looking to fine-tune it so that we all get pretty much what we want.

I know I have a fair amount of Jewish readers, and some bloggers have listed under "Middle East" or "Jewish bloggers." Well, that's a large part of what I write about, but that isn't all it is. I know not all of my readers are Jewish, and I can't even begin to guess what percentage are. I did count my posts by content a few months ago and discovered that about 25% of them are on Jewish or Israel-related themes. That means 75% of this weblog is not on Jewish or Israel-related themes. Yet another example of the whole being more than a sum of the parts, and also of the power of typecasting. [shrug] Whatever. I don't care what category they put me under, so long as the word gets out.

So here come the questions to what I used to call my "invisibles" and what some refer to derogatorily as "lurkers," but are really those known here as my readers. You can't be a lurker at this weblog. There are no comments, and I've no plans to institute them anytime soon. I've outgrown my old BBS attitude of looking down on lurkers, because, well, I grew up and learned a few things. In social situations, there are talkers and there are listeners. "Lurkers" are like the people who like to sit quietly on the sofa and listen to the talkers tell their stories, spout their ideas, act out their jokes. There's nothing wrong with that. If everyone were a talker, we'd have a cacophony of noise that no one would be able to understand, with no one listening to it, either. And, well, I just don't see the point in insulting your readers. I don't keep reading a weblog that insults me, and I expect none of you would, either. Yeah, there are those kinds of weblogs out there. There are a lot of websites like Tubcat, too, and I only go there once in a blue moon when I want to laugh.

On to the questions: Are you happy with the weblog as it's been lately? Are there things you'd like to see that I'm not writing about? More humor? (I'm working on that all the time.) Fewer links? More links? More current events? I really don't care to get into the political situation much, the post below being a rare exception. I hate the nasty partisan attitudes rampant throughout the blogosphere.

More personal essays? More pictures? Fewer pictures? (Yeah, we know you got a digital camera, spare us the heavy bandwidth, are the thoughts from the dial-up crowd. I know, I know. That's why I put the latest ones into their own windows.) More cattales, yeah, I know. That's one you always complain about. But how many times can I write about the stupid things Tig did today? Oh, okay, I'll try. And I'll probably be able to capture the dog parade over at Heidi's. Winter break starts soon, and we're planning on spending a lot more time together. Dogtales. Cattales. Promise.

Anyway. If you've got ideas, I've got email. Drop me a line.

The silence of the Dems

The voices calling for the head of Trent Lott on the heels of his speech at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday, in which he said if America had voted for Strom in '48 instead of that Truman guy, we wouldn't have had "all these problems." The statement has been interpreted as support of segregation and racism. I'm not going to argue interpretation, but I do know why the Dems have not stepped up to the plate on this one, except for a half-hearted statement of support by Tom Daschle: They're not nuts, and they're not stupid. Oh, Al Gore is. He expressed his opinion that it's time for Lott to go, thus reinforcing to one and all how ill-suited for the Presidency he is. But why aren't the Dems roaring for Lott's head?

Because he makes the Republicans look like racist idiots. Because they can use this issue as a cudgel in the next election, and because if Lott remains the Senate Majority Leader, he is bound to say more stupid things that will make the Repubs look bad.

There's no nefarious reason for the silence from the other side of the aisle. It's just good politics. Well, unless you're a Republican, that is.

Wish granted

NZ Bear surprised me with a late Chanukah gift: The first three volumes of Lemony Snicket's series of Unfortunate Events, as well as Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography were in a box by my door this afternoon. (For those of you who are missing the joke, that's an unauthorized autobiography.) The autobiography has a reversible cover to protect readers from being discovered by Mr. Snicket's enemies. The fake cover is a bright, cheery children's book in a series about "The Luckiest Kids in the World!" and is called "The Pony Party!" The author bio reads as follows:

LONEY M. SETNICK loves children, cupcakes, pretty songs, and sunny days. When she is not writing the gleeful adventures of The Luckiest Kids in the World, she often works as a volunteer teaching children to skip.

Hm. Loney M. Setnick has the exact same letters as Lemony Snicket. How 'bout that for a strange coincidence?

I think you're all beginning to see why I like these books.

Thanks, Bear, for a gift from my wish list. I'll be giggling my way through the books for the next few days, and will have plenty of time to read more on my winter break from teaching. I've only read the first one to date, and am looking forward to reading the others.

By the way, if you want some giggles yourself, visit the website. Check out the page on Count Olaf. Click on the song, it's priceless: "When you see Count Olaf, count to zero, scream, and run away" is one of the lyrics. One of the signs of a great children's book writer is the ability to capture that kind of whimsy—count zero and run says all that a child needs to hear about how dangerous Count Olaf is. Counting to three would be too late. Counting to one would be too late.

That kind of logic is probably why Mr. Snicket is still alive today, in spite of being pursued by Olaf's legion of associates. With any luck, he'll survive to finish writing the tale of the Beaudelaire orphans.



Two hilarious Flash games

First via Tim Blair: Smug Guy. Don't let his head explode

Then via Damian Penny: The Michael Jackson baby-catching game. Don't drop 'em.

Both of them will make you laugh your head off.

A few links

Diane E. has an account of her experience with the Rittenhouse Review, and it wasn't pretty. He threw public hissy fits long before he announced his delinking of LGF. And yeah, I still have the screenshots. What a baby. (Diane, I publicly apologized to Maggie Smith. You really didn't have to make me feel even worse. I shall have to iron my hands if this keeps up.*)

That Wilde guy is keeping track of how many of you I send him. Can I beat an Instalanche echo effect? Only my readers know for sure. You can read more about him here. Or just scroll down, whichever's easiest.

(*Harry Potter reference. I won't, really. On the other hand, look, another reason to despise Vanessa Redgrave. There are so many, one doesn't know how not to loathe her.)

A request for help with the UN bureaucracy

If anyone out there knows where I can find a list of the names of the members of the UN Security Council, please email me. I know the names of the countries, but damned if I could find the names of the representatives of each nation without a whole lot of clicking around, sometimes fruitlessly. In the meantime, I'll start writing the piece with just the country names and do a search and replace later.

Oh. The name of the piece is "Condi Rice, Warrior Princess," and the context is, well, humor. If I can get the effing names of the representatives down, that is. It'd look stupid to have her say, "Mauritius" (Mauritius? Where the eff is Mauritius and how the eff does it rate being on the Security Council?) instead of "Mr. Mauritius." Er, you get what I mean.

Much appreciated.

By the way, the UN website is so lame they don't have DNS redirects set up. Try typing in "" without the "www." Schmucks. Billions for terrorists, but not enough money for a decent website.



What didn't suck about The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Well, not a whole hell of a lot, actually.

Sometime last year, Heidi told me that I should read the above-mentioned book. So I got it out of the library, started reading it, and wondered what was wrong with her that she liked such a godawful piece of crap. When I was about halfway through it, I asked her that question. She told me she didn't like the book, and that she hated it. "Then why did you make me read it?" I asked. "Because I wanted to see if you thought it sucked, too." Well, I did, but I'd invested so much time in it by then that I decided to finish it. If you've never read it, it's about a woman in her thirties who incurs the wrath of her mother after saying some nasty things about her in a magazine interview, and who subsequently has to isolate herself in a cabin in the woods somewhere because she doesn't understand why she can never be happy and why she can't marry the man she's been living with and oh, what a horrible life she had and on top of everything else, her mommy was mean to her. Throw in a bunch of "sisterhood" propaganda, some New Age-style rituals, goddess worship, a bunch of women who apparently only need the men in their lives to sustain their alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine habits, and you have an Oprah Book Club Selection and a NY Times best-seller.

In the meantime, both Heidi and I decided the book was appalling. There was no there there, to steal a phrase. The lead character was as unsympathetic as they come. We both wanted to smack her upside the head and tell her to shut up, marry the guy, and enjoy her privileged, upper-middle-class lifestyle. (Playwright, being produced on Broadway, living The Good Life.) We also agreed that all four members of the Sisterhood were selfish, self-centered, spoiled, egotistical brats who should not have had their lives thought of, let alone chronicled, even in fiction.

The only thing that didn't suck about the book was that the movie didn't suck as much as the book did. The screenwriters wisely toned down the lead character (played by Sandra Bullock), cutting out the self-pity and having her be a victim of her selfish, self-centered, egotistical, spoiled, and unsympathetic mother, as well as being kidnapped by the Ya-Ya's instead of going off on her lonesome because she was afraid to let herself be happy. (And please—how much pop-psychology can you get in one book? "Oh, pity me, woe is me, I don't know how to be happy." Puh-leeze.) Anyway. Ashley Judd, one of the most underrated actresses of our time, played the role of young Vivian, but even she couldn't make me like the character. (Although I publicly apologize to Maggie Smith for hating her throughout the movie because I confused her with Vanessa Redgrave until the credits rolled, a mistake I shall never make again. Sorry, Maggie, but you just didn't have a big enough role in Harry Potter to make me remember what you looked like.)

Maybe the book appeals to the kind of women who think that Lisa Guernsey's article in the Times was so, like, right on, woman! Grrrl Power! Those goddamned men are just keepin' us down! Equal time for XXBloggers!

Or maybe the book just appeals to people that don't know good writing when they see it.

Hey, I love a good "chick flick." I own two versions of "Where the Heart Is" because I bought it first on video, then on DVD when it was reasonably priced. I bought the novel and loved it. Ditto for "Fried Green Tomatoes." But the difference between these two novels/films and the abominable Ya-Ya is that you actually cared about the characters. And the characters experienced real growth, not feel-good epiphanies due to finding out Mama's deep, dark secret. (Ohmigod! She had a nervous breakdown, she didn't really leave us because she wanted to! Everything's all better now that I know what a hard life Mama had. Plus, the love of her life was killed in the war. How awful! Poor baby!)

I'm not convinced by Heidi's explanation as to why she wanted me to read the book. I think the real reason was that she wanted me to suffer the way she'd suffered, and that misery loves company. I should have made her sit through the movie with me, too. I rented it the day of the snowstorm. I love Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd too much not to watch almost anything they're in. But I'll be damned if I accept a Heidi recommendation on another book anytime soon.

Happy birthday to Lynn

She foolishly admitted to me that today is her birthday. Go send her birthday wishes. Good ones, please. The rest of you can talk to the hand. I could tell you how old she is, but then she'd have to kill me. And I really do want to try that bottle of wine she's got waiting for me in her cellar, so nope, I'm not gonna tell.

I'm just wild about Wilde

We have these things known as referral logs. They track referrers, which, in layman terms, are the names of the websites where you click on a link to my site. So when you're over on Lynn B.'s place, and she mentions me, and you decide that you wanted to read my weblog anyway today, and now you don't have to go to your bookmark or type in the name yourself, or maybe you might even want to read the post she's linking to, after you click, the software that tracks my website captures Lynn's site as the referring entity. Thus, the name. (See? Programmers aren't always obtuse.) It was built into the hypertext transfer protocol (http), for reasons I have forgotten (I can only remember so much information that they made me learn in my programming classes). ((I'm going somewhere with this, trust me and follow along.))

A few weeks ago, I got a bunch of referrers—and I mean a surprisingly high amount—from this guy who goes by the name of Wilde. Apparently, he was getting delinked by someone for being a Democrat, or something like that. I'm really not clear on the facts, because I find public delinkings childish and, well, just plain stupid, which is why I delinked myself in the wake of the Rittenhouse delinking of LGF. (Rittenhouse will get a link from me on the same day that I shake hands with Yasser Arafat. Diane E. had a fun time with the idiot that runs Rittenhouse, and I have the screenshots to prove it. But not the desire to waste my bandwidth on them.) Well, Arthur Silber must have tipped Dustin off to my delinking myself, because that's the post he linked to, in spite of the fact that I begged everyone not to link to me—nobody ever listens to me. (Thankfully!)

So anyway. I found out about his weblog, and I was going to write a post about delinking, but instead, all I can think of (besides that long, wandering explanation) are a few riffs on the name. I think that's more fun, anyway. I mean, where's the name from? Is it in homage to Oscar Wilde? Should we expect acerbic quotes and oblique references to homosexuality? Is the author, perhaps, an Afrikaaner, and named the blog after the wildebeest? And isn't that a great word? "Wildebeest who left his antlers underneath the table by the fireplace please call the hostess?" "Wildebeest that owns the van, license plate GNUSTUD, please move it? You're blocking the fire lane."

Did you know that the wildebeest is also known as the gnu? Nu? Who knew? News to me.

While I was thinking of this post, I was wondering about the first Afrikaaners who saw the animal. I imagined this conversation between its discoverers:

"Look! A wilde beest!"

"Yes, it's a wilde beest. What should we name it?"

"Let's call it a wilde beest."

Then I went to this site and found out that, well, that conversation probably wasn't very far off from the real conversation.

The wildebeest - also known as the gnu - is a large antelope. The bull's deep grunts sound like a giant croaking frog. Because of its appearance and spirited behavior, Dutch settlers in South Africa named the animal wildebeest, which means wild beast.

Hoo-wee, those Dutch were really inventive thinkers, weren't they? They must be tons of fun at parties. Dutch humor must be a real knee-slapper.

Mind you, I could easily find out more about the author by simply clicking on his about link, but where would be the fun in that? I'd much rather imagine him as the gay (not that way), witty, Wilde-like fellow in the center of the room at parties, amusing us all with one bon mot after another, and topping the evening with terribly funny jokes.

Well that, or the guy wears a Viking hat, drinks beer, scratches his crotch in public, and belches a lot. Either way, go say hello to him. We have a contest going, we do, to see if I can send him more visitors than he sent me. And, uh, by the way—he writes a pretty good weblog.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Fine. If Arafat wants to go to Bethlehem for Christmas, I say let him. With one caveat: I want to see Ariel Sharon allowed to visit Mecca. Too extreme? Okay, then I want to visit Mecca.

What's that you say? No non-Muslims allowed? Jews aren't allowed to set foot in Saudi Arabia?

Fuck it, then. Arafat can't go to Bethlehem.

All right. Now I'm sure Lair has taken over my brain. How'd you do it? Please stop.


Please, please, please let it come to be so... Pals! Ignore this guy, he's lying to you! Keep on using those guns to settle your disputes.

A senior Palestinian Authority official on Monday called for putting an end to the continued fighting between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in the Gaza Strip and warned that the clashes, which are occurring almost on a daily basis, could spark off a civil war.

Hasan al Kashef, director-general of the Palestinian Ministry of Information, condemned the use of firearms in the street clashes, particularly in Gaza City, where a father and his son were fatally shot last week. Several other people have been killed and injured in a series of violent clashes that have plagued the Gaza Strip over the past few months. Most were victims of gun battles fought between activists belonging to Hamas and Fatah.

"The use of firearms in personal disputes and factional clashes has become widespread and can no longer be ignored," said Kashef.

Hey—did that sound like I'm channeling Laurence Simon again?

Promises, promises

I think I'll combine two or three of the promised posts.

Happy birthday, Mom! (She doesn't read my weblog.)

That was one.

Tom Paine is one of the bloggers who paid attention to the moron in the Guardian who wrote an article declaiming the racism in The Lord of the Rings. Well. As a confessed Tolkien geek, I could write a long, fact-based essay defending the Professor and insisting that LOTR is not racist, unless you count the fact that many of the mythical races don't like each other much, but, well—it's an effing fantasy novel, shit-for-brains. If your article were tongue-in-cheek, then I'd say bravo. As it is a serious article meant to take down a movie based on—say it with me, folks—an effing fantasy novel, then I just have to say: Who the hell cares what some moron writing for the Guardian thinks?

That was two. Okay, that's enough for this post.


One of the things that my joining the Richmond Jewish community full-throttle has done is put me on the lists of the women (and it seems to be mostly women) who manage the area volunteers. In the last three months, I've written two press releases for the Kristallnacht services, helped run one of my synagogue's Bingo nights, and last night, helped serve the holiday dinner at Beth Sholom, the "continuing care" center that consists of a nursing home, assisted living, and senior citizen apartments in a huge complex on the west side of town. And about two weeks ago, our religious school students went to the nursing home and gave a Chanukah concert to the seniors, most of whom were in wheelchairs and many of whom kinda scared the little ones.

Well, last night I got to flash back on my teen years, when I used to help my then-best friend serve dinners at the Club Navajo Manor, a catering place in Irvington, NJ that is no more. Mostly I did it because at the end of the night, I'd get a free roast beef dinner and maybe a few bucks, and the Navajo had the best damned roast beef I ever ate. Good fried chicken, too. And there was a soda dispenser where you could increase the ratio of syrup to seltzer and give yourself the best Coca-Cola you ever drank. My friend's nephew used to disgust us both by drinking a near 50-50 concoction. Ew. Too sweet even for me.

Anyway. Serving the dinners was pretty easy. We put out glasses of wine. There was a catering staff who had already cooked the food. They served it onto plates and took the platters into the dining hall, with one or two of us following along and giving out the plates. When everyone else was served, we could eat, then we served coffee and helped clean up. I'd brought my digital camera, so I went around taking pictures and impressing the old folks by letting them see the picture I'd just taken. Huge hit. Today I plan to print out the pictures and get them over to Beth Sholom sometime later in the week. Hm. I may have to load the Sony software after all—I haven't a clue how to put them on the special photographic paper myself.

Anyway. So there was this one old guy who was heading my way as I was sitting down. He was pushing a walker. I asked him if he needed me to get out of his way. "I need you to sit on my lap," he said. Shocked the woman I was with (the leader of the volunteers). Eh. I got used to seniors saying wild things while visiting my grandfather and mother (a 70-year-old woman can only have rehabilitative care for hip surgery in a nursing home, apparently) over the years. I did ask the staff who the wicked old man was, and mentioned what he'd said. "Oh, that's Dan," they all told me. "Watch out for him."

Well, here he is. Wicked old man, singing a duet with a former local TV star. I've forgotten his name, but Dave probably remembers who he is. Don or Bob or something like that, and Captain or Trainer or Sailor or something like that. (So sue me, I grew up in NJ with Chiller Theater and Dialing for Dollars and Captain Jack McCarthy.)

Hey. Here are a preview of posts I intend to write tomorrow (today!), with the caveat that I reserve the right to not write them if I don't feel like doing so, or if they don't work: Mom's birthday, The Wilde Beast, Who Cares What Morons Write in the Guardian?, What Doesn't Suck about the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? and maybe even What About Naomi?

No, wait, already wrote that last.



Lazy Sunday afternoon

It must be the day, because I can't think of a thing to write about. Well, that's not quite true. I can think of a lot of things to write about, but I haven't written them. Perhaps I should say I can't think of a thing to post. Well, except now I'm writing and posting about something, so perhaps I should say I can't think of more than one thing to post. Well, except that's not true, I can think of more than one thing, and damn, I'd better stop before you wind up spinning this one into yarn.

That is an expression I first read in a Patricia McKillip novel. She's one of the most underrated fantasy writers, and the woman who wrote two items that are on my top ten list (just below Tolkien, in fact): The Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. She has newer work, but those are her best. The Sorceress and the Cygnet and its sequel are also excellent.

Actually, there are probably many outrages I could write about, but as it's 2 p.m. and I just finished lunch a little while ago, and before that I was out teaching my religious school class and then doing a bit of food shopping, I haven't surfed the web at all, so my level of outrage is quite low. Unless you count the annoyance at Tig, who keeps going out and coming in and going out and coming in and going out and coming in. And then he yowls in his "I'm bored, play with me tone" while he's in, until I throw him out again. Somehow, though, I'm thinking you folks really don't want me to write a five hundred word essay on how pissed off my cat can get me. Well, come to think of it, there are people out there who would like me to write that, but, well, sorry, not gonna happen. That's on my list of Things To Do If You're Ever In Prison For Life, and as I haven't killed anyone yet, I expect that list will just have to wait.

Stream-of-consciousness used to annoy me terribly when I had to read or write it for the many English classes I took. I always felt that stream-of-consciousness was pure bullshit and lazy writing.

And then I started writing a weblog.

Opinions change, especially when you're staring at a blank screen that needs to have little squiggly black lines filling it up. Of course, if it weren't for the fact that (sigh) seventy percent of you insist on dialing out on the weekends, I could get away with a blank screen. Seventy percent. You know, friggin' Instapundit says he gets like a fifty percent dropoff, and yet the majority of my readers insist on making me work on the weekends, too.

Oh. Wait a minute. A smaller dropoff than Instapundit—that's a good thing.

Never mind.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.