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I play the stock market of the soul --
and I sell short!
Sunday, December 25, 2005  
OKAY, ENOUGH PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN. The Perfesser celebrates Christmas Eve with this:
How ironic,a guy who supports a party that promotes Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,land-use restrictions,zoning,open space laws,and unions is unable to buy a house in the very Blue area of Northern California.All this from a guy who's got a law degree.What is it about Blue America that hates people that aren't rich??? Attention Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga :did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston(that doesn't have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let's say Berkeley,California.Also,Houston residents don't have a state income tax that they are paying.It appears Kos can't afford the very values he promotes,which is regulation of markets which leads to artifically high real estate prices.
We leave the response to Mr. Bobby Dupea:
I'm sittin' here listenin' to some cracker asshole lives in a trailer park compare his life to mine. Keep on tellin' me about the good life, Elton, because it makes me puke.
For further related information, see Supply & Demand, Law of.

12:23 AM by roy


Saturday, December 24, 2005  

AND WE'RE GONNA GET BORN NOW. I am a Christmas crank from way back. As recently as last year I was collecting negative Xmas carols. Old-time fans may even remember my 2000 Charlie Brown Christmas parody, now lost to the internet, in which Linus and Good Ol' Roy Edroso predicted with malign glee an oncoming war and the opportunity for satire it would present (Join the old Jim Baker chorus/"Fuck the Jews! They don't vote for us!"/Pundits shake their tiny fists/What a time for satirists!/Hark the hare-brained George Bush reign/Government without a brain!).

The Christmas scam plays to my strong suit, namely intolerance of nonsense. Let's face it, no one knows when Jesus was born, and anyway it would seem, from the way modern Christians observe the holiday, that it has far less to do with Jesus than with Santa and (as with all big events in this country) with money.

So, when the War of Christmas was declared unilaterally by crackpots, I with grim pleasure volunteered myself to the Santa sniper squads. Christmas has become an obvious racket meant to goose Western economies, shove unhappy families together, and force into the general consciousness the image of Jesus, who in our depraved era is no longer the revolutionary bringer of the New Law of Love, but an avatar of reactionary politics. And, by that reading, what a perfect guise in which to bring him to view -- in his infancy, before he could manage any inflammatory talk of exalting the humble!

But while in public I have always blown the raspberry, in truth I have always been a closet Christmas fan. Privately, every season, I have watched It's a Wonderful Life crying like a child, and the Alastair Sim A Christmas Carol blubbering like an infant. ("Forgive me, Fan! Forgive me!") I even take a moment each December 24th to contemplate the meaning of that invented nativity scene: the despised and outcast family that nonetheless brought forth a child who became a Prince of Peace and the Light of the World. Though the wonder Christmas brought me as a child has long since been burnt to cinders, I have yet guarded a tiny flame preserved from its holocaust. But I would not expose it to public view, lest the fart-winds of our discourse blow it out.

This year, I can't say why, when the Christmas season came upon us (was that Thanksgiving? Or Halloween?), I found myself less grouchy about it. The inflatable snowmen and snowflake arches that graced Greenpoint were less noxious to me than they had been. To even the aggressive, obnoxious commercials ("Happy Honda Days!") I had no objection. It may be that, in the course of maintaining this site, I have witnessed so much stupidity, venality, and crassness that the Christmas variant seems too innocuous to guard against. Or it may be a kind of fatigue. Or it may have been something else. Human hearts, even one's own, are a mystery. In any event, I hunched my shoulders less against the pine-scented incursion.

I started shopping early for presents, which allowed me to space out some of my spending on them, and also allowed me to put more thought into my purchases. This is really new; I usually follow my traditional barroom romantic behavior, and get busy at last call to sort through leavings. But now I threw myself into the fray, and got more enjoyment than anxiety from it. I experienced some wonderful commercial-Christmas moments, too, like the skinny back guy in a Santa suit outside Island Cellular in downtown Brooklyn, singing into a karaoke machine to a Caribbean steel-drum soundtrack, "We wish you a Merry Christmas/We wish you a Merry Christmas/We wish you a Merry Christmas/Come get your free phone!" Or the Macy's saleslady who, upon hearing that I didn't know it was a coupon day (I don't really know how to shop), took a coupon she had lying by the register, swiped me a discount, and flashed me a beautiful smile.

Though I hated, as always, the force-feeding of carols via public address speakers, I let myself remember the pleasure those songs gave me as a boy. I even allowed a tiny, metal tree to grace my bedside bureau, hung with little red globes. And do you know? This Christmas is not such a bad thing.

Everything that is inane about it remains so, of course. But unto you I say, that the ridiculous public hijacking of this old holiday by the lowest scum need not keep one from keeping Christmas, or whichever of the cleverly-disguised solstice festivals you prefer. As has been known since long before there was a Christ, the deepest part of winter is a natural time at which to consider the coming invigoration of spring. Even so, as our own government sinks to new depths of rapaciousness, cruelty, and stupidity, it is worthwhile to remember that seasons change, days lengthen, the exalted may yet be humbled, and the humble exalted.

I'll be playing my favorite Christmas carol -- on vinyl, if you please -- when I get up tomorrow morning. Alex Chilton for y'all. Peace out.

9:10 PM by roy


Wednesday, December 21, 2005  

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT... I'm a grimly purposeful type, but now that I'm on a mini-vacation I am going to do some meaningless things and, as one of my pre-New Year's resolutions is to be less charitable toward other people (a profoundly moral decision, you'll agree), I am going to inflict at least one of them on you good people. That would be this blog thing which caught my fancy and to which no one invited me.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Messenger dispatcher, busboy, Subway sandwich "attendant," freelance writer.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Bad Lieutenant, Strangers on a Train, Taxi Driver, Strange Brew.

Four places you've lived: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Bridgeport, CT.

Four TV shows you love to watch: "Two and a Half Men," "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons," "Like It Is." (If only someone would show reruns of "Don Kirschner's Midnight Special.")

Four places you've been on vacation: Chapel Hill, New Orleans, Berkeley, London.

Four websites you visit daily: Instapundit, The Corner, Lileks, OpinionJournal. (The fury of the hour/Anger can be power/You know that you can use it.)

Four of your favorite foods: Pizza, beer, steak, wine.

Four places you'd rather be: Heaven, Valhalla, Nirvana, wherever they gots the 47 virgins.

I hate myself! Next, I'll be writing about movies I haven't seen.

UPDATE. There's some discussion in comments about "Two and a Half Men." I do like Charlie Sheen and the jokes are okay, but I now that I think about it, there's something else about the show that's appealing.

The Sheen and Cryer characters are stuck between two amoral poles -- their awful mother and Alan's surprisingly awful son. (Credit to the creators for making a pre-pub kid so unappealing on a prime-time show.) They're also stuck with each other.

Alan is very aware that he's stuck, and complains about it all the time. Now, if he were the only lead, this show might be as bad at "The War at Home" -- all kvetching. But Charlie's main goal in life is to rise above -- or, to use Mel Brooks' phrase, rise below -- his problems. He's very comfortable ignoring and even exploiting those problems -- like using a gig as Alan's receptionist as an opportunity to turn his brother's chiropractic business (boring!) into a massage parlor. And he usually gets away with it.

What's most appealing about Charlie is that he obviously cares about his family but, also obviously, he determined long ago not to let them bring him down. Thus, the episodes rarely culminate in maudlin lesson-learning resolutions; while Alan works his way into a frenzy, Charlie works his way back to his own lazy horn-dog stasis.

Such moral purity is rare on network television. I can't think of another sitcom character that works quite the same way. It's as if Maynard G. Krebs became fully self-actualized and took over "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."

10:25 PM by roy



WELL, THAT SUCKED. I walked today from Greenpoint over the Williamsburg Bridge, up to 40th Street on the West Side, and back. That's a shade less than what my route to work would be if I weren't off today -- 14 miles all told. And I was just shopping and observing; I didn't have to do any work in between the two treks. My legs ain't exactly feeling youthful.

The sales clerk I dealt with at CompUSA walked in from near Prospect Park. He told me that the Manhattan Bridge wasn't crowded coming in -- "and there are tons of cabs," he added, "Chinatown's wide open." The Williamsburg wasn't bad, either. I note with interest that the citizens steadfastly ignored the bike/walk lane assignments.

I came in late -- a day off is a day off, and I refused to get up early -- but returned around midtown rush hour, which from the looks of things started earlier than usual today, about 4:15 pm. Car traffic was heavy but moving; the sidewalks were clogged, and the usual bear-right patterns transmuted into a more blended arrangement of vortex flows. New Yorkers are awfully good at threading.

Bike traffic appeared slightly up, much of the overage coming from middle-aged gentlemen trying to make those gym sessions pay off. And yes, there were skateboards and scooters. Cab travel was about negotiated settlements, as the drivers were taking multiple fares, so there was a lot of urgent conversation over slightly-opened passenger side windows.

The atmosphere, as it always is here during all but the most dire public exigencies, was one of grim festivity. The ancient struggle between pedestrians and oncoming cars was kicked up a notch. I heard a few people discussing the details of the strike, but most of the related chatter was about how the fuck to get from here to there, and what about dinner.

Of course this crisis has more easily identifiable culprits than does, say, a blackout, and on TV you see a lot of anger toward the union. Tonight's CBS national report featured a commuter who wished Reagan was back to fire everybody, and the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas, a noted proponent of the "work or starve" theory of labor relations. (I thought they were all supposed to be commies at CBS.) My favorite of these moments came yesterday, when a little guy came up behind a local reporter and brandished a very visible FUCK THE TWU sign.

The shift in the national consciousness from "Good for you, buddy, get what you can" to "If I can't have it, neither should you" occurred long ago, and I doubt there is much public sympathy for motormen who have struck to retire at age 50. But more important than what we peons think, of course, is what the City and the MTA and the TWU management think. I don't know whether a jail term will make Roger Toussaint more agreeable toward binding arbitration, or whether the proposed individual fines of $25,000 a day will convince workers to throw up the struggle. I expect, times being what they are, that the government will try to wear down and possibly break the union; that would take time, but management stands to gain from it, and Bloomberg, a management type, appears down for an siege.

UPDATE. Commenter Chuckling calls New York "the biggest fucking drama queen on the planet." That's very funny because it's very true, and where I think the grim festivity I mentioned comes from. New Yorkers like to brag on their inconveniences. If you can make it here, etc.

Some idiots think we should respond to our crises by moving to the sticks and becoming right-wing. Nothing against other jurisdictions (despite my reflexive use of perjorative terms -- I'm learning!), but folks are still flocking to New York despite our relative inhospitability. Some people apparently think there are higher values than comfort.

6:40 PM by roy


Tuesday, December 20, 2005  

STRIKE DAY ONE. I'm off work this week, so I am not feeling the strike much, though I expect to try hoofing into Manhattan tomorrow.

The 1980 strike was easy on me: I walked from East 11th to East 59th Street every working day. That's right, back then low-life bums like me could easily afford Manhattan apartments.

But those days are gone. The City reports that "To find affordable, high-quality housing, workers are moving further from their jobs. As a result, commute times in the New York region are the longest in the nation. The average commute time into Manhattan is 48 minutes." Another commutation study finds "that people appear to be commuting longer distances [in 27 counties near New York City]. Between 1980 and 2000, the proportion of jobs filled by residents of the same county declined in every county except Manhattan (Figure 2)."

So more of us are coming into Manhattan from farther away. The last strike was in April -- a very warm April as I recall.

Well, my share of the suckage is reduced by fortune, but we'll see what we see tomorrow.

6:53 PM by roy


Monday, December 19, 2005  

DUMBSHOW. The strange thing about the Leader's speech last night was that it contained nothing to elate, inspire, or terrify ordinary people. Bush is at his best when he is looking the proles straight in the eye and telling them, for example, that "it would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known" -- or, on the brighter side, yay everybody, we get tax cuts and lots of domestic spending all at the same time!

But last night's speech sounded as if it were pitched to "opinion leaders." You've heard that term before -- it's what small-circulation political magazines boast of instead of subscription figures, on the grounds that their small audience counts for more with advertisers than a larger, less exclusive one might.

What did he give ordinary Americans last night? Yet another version of his case for war; yet another declaration that he is, if nothing else, more right than his critics. It was slightly more Jesuitical than prior versions, true. But this isn't Debate Club -- this is Sunday night TV, with viewers thinking about going back to work and Christmas. Who turned to his or her spouse afterwards and said, "Well, he certainly re-framed his arguments effectively"?

He even slid through his 9/11 reference. If I were in his place, I'd be running footage on the wall behind me of people falling out of the World Trade Center, with the words HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN? strobing over them. But Bush didn't even slow down or choke up.

I don't think he was talking to the People (as in American People) at all, but to the people with pads and pens who are either predisposed to worship his every fart, or who, striving mightily not to look biased, respond to the change in PR strategy as if it were a substantive policy shift -- e.g., the Washington Post headline, "Bush Brings More Realistic View of War to Forefront."

The more reliable GOP propaganda disseminators, of course, hail the speech as a breakthrough, indeed a case-closer ("Checkmate, Mr. Murtha," declares John Podhoretz). They would of course do that if Bush threw up on his shirt ("visceral approach favored by voters 18-35"). But the logic, or lack thereof, of their arguments doesn't count for nearly as much as their volume, frequency, and reach.

Increasingly our traditional forms of public politics -- speeches, debates, rallies, etc. -- seem like set-ups for the real stars of the show, Spin and Hype. Maybe one day a President will just come on our PDAs or brain-implanted chips and go "Blah blah blah, Hugh Hewitt has the story," and sign off. And maybe we'll be grateful to have had less of our time wasted. 'Cause I have a feeling we'll all be working really hard.

9:44 AM by roy


Friday, December 16, 2005  

MY WAR ON IDIOCY, HOWEVER, PROCEEDS APACE. Rod Dreher, former film critic of the New York Post and professional Ned Flanders impersonator, tells his fellow anti-aesthetes at NRO why he don' gotta see no Brokeback Mountain to know them critics only like it because it's gay and thus appeals to their insatiable hunger for novelty:
Without quite realizing it--this happened to me as a conservative -- critics become suckers for novelty, especially of the transgressive sort. At its worst, you end up with a theater full of the most important film critics in North America at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival, roaring their approval of the creepy and misanthropic Todd Solondz's film "Happiness," which featured, among other transgressive delights, a comic set piece showing a suburban dad trying to drug his son's little playmate so he could anally rape him (he succeeded). It was one of the sickest movies I've ever had to sit through, but it received rave reviews--and, unsurprisingly, flopped at the box office.
The critics had to be wrong, see, because John Q. Public preferred.. what? Let's look at Happiness' opening week U.S. grosses. The box office champ was Eddie Murphy in The Holy Man, by the noted auteur Steven Herek. The title has the word "Holy" in it, so maybe Dreher interprets this as a victory for his pal Jesus. Also, #2 was One Tough Cop, starring noted Republican Stephen Baldwin. Clearly America was sending Solondz a message.

Yeah, critics are frequently out of step with the People. Like that arty-farty Citizen Kane? Those fairies still think it's some kind of masterpiece, but us normal people know better. Hell, it ain't even in color!

Fortunately we have people like Dreher around to tell us that his opinion and, he includes generously, the opinions of all professional critics, from Manny Farber on down, are no more meaningful than that of any brain-damaged cineplex trawler. That's the kind of conservative he is -- the kind that apparently really needs to identify with the LCD, despite his book-larnin'.

Just don't let the boys know ole Dreher gave thumbs-up to American Beauty. In no time he'll be screaming "But I was suckered by its trangressive novelty!" as they back him up against the fag-killin' wall.

UPDATE. I will point out that Dreher hasn't even seen Brokeback Mountain -- though that should go without saying, as the new schtick in rightwing circles is to mouth off about pictures you haven't watched!

For instance, get a load of this Freeper thread about Munich -- it's almost semiotic: they don't know what happens in the movie at all, but boy do they respond to the signifers "Palestine" and "Hollywood"! (Favorite quote: "I love movies about historical events. I would like to see this, but if it becomes a platform for making excuses for what these terrorist scum did, I'll ask for my money back." Oh, boy, wouldn't you love to be there: "Ah done come all the way down t' the city, leavin' behind mah wife an' kids an' giant TV an' the hitchhiker I was rapin' and torturin', an' ah has to put up with this here moral relativism? Fill mah hand, you son-of-a-bitch!")

And there's always Ann Althouse, who blows a gasket when one of her commenters asks why she's talking so much about (unseen by AA) King Kong:
...I'm not "posting a review." I'm blogging, which means I can write about my thoughts however I see fit. I try to make it interesting for myself and for readers. Dutifully seeing movies and reviewing them -- why would that be better? Because I ought to be fair to the guys who make movies? They don't deserve fairness! They try to con us into going to see junk that we end up not liking -- and they get our money all the time for that.
"Seeing movies and reviewing them -- why would that be better?" And a college professor is asking this question! The next time someone tells you that blogs are the wave of the future, show him that. He may still think they're the wave of the future, but he won't be so happy about it.

UPDATE. Professor Althouse declares me a "silly man," links to a movie timetable in Madison, WI, and issues what I believe is called a bleg ("Any examples of an actor or actress that does nostril-flaring spoofily, for deliberate comic effect?"). A commenter notes that Ellsworth Toohey is a bad guy in The Fountainhead. The blogosphere: is there anything it can't do?

1:56 PM by roy



HAVE A GROOVY HATE FUCK CHRISTMAS! Last weekend I went to a Feast of St. Lucia party in Greenpoint. St. Lucia is an Italian saint (there is a church in Carroll Gardens called Mary Star of the Sea) whom the Swedes have adopted as their patron, maybe because her very name means "light," and her martyrdom and feast day fall on the solstice as reckoned by the old calendar; in December the Swedes need every reminder of light and warmth they can get. It is also said that, during a terrible famine in Sweden, Lucia appeared on the bow of a boat on Lake Vannern, lighting its way and bearing food to the people on shore.

We ate smorgasbord and drank and stood around the piano singing Christmas carols (old ones like "Good King Wenceslas," with all the verses). Then at a certain hour, as is the custom, with the room lit only by candles, three girls in long white gowns came among us. One of them, the most beautifully Swedish girl you ever saw, with thin eyes and a blockish nose and long, fine blond hair, wore a crown of seven large candles, all ablaze. We sang "Santa Lucia" and dedications were spoken: to absent friends, to the Lutheran pastor who had died that year, to an end to the war in Iraq.

I was feeling pretty damn warm and Christmasy over this. Let's face it, all cold-clime people need a winter carnival -- even the irreligious. When you aren't particularly God-bothersome, but open to human experience of all kinds, any taste of ritual and transcendence you allow yourself will be especially potent. (Moderation is good for some things, after all.) Though I don't worship Jesus, I observe his values -- can't help it; cultural thing -- and I enjoy being among folks who not only observe but celebrate them.

Then I got home and turned on the WB-11 News, which had yet another story about the War on Christmas. Apparently some library somewhere gave out a "Season's Readings" card and the card was festooned with Kwanzaa and Hannukah greetings, but while the words "Merry Christmas" were also there in "several languages," an English version was not included. This drew condemnation from some local asshole, and from some Catholic League asshole, and from some asshole teenager who said that it was messed up because "I don't read those other languages."

This was followed by a "health report" about a new form of tummy-tuck

Then you have all the crap like this. (When Sam Johnson said that bit about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel, he obviously never considered the possibilities of the War on Christmas.)

And for a while, of course, I was saying fuck Christmas, fuck Santa, fuck that bitch Mary who got this whole mess started by pretending it was God who knocked her up instead of the cute shepherd boy, etc.

But of course, on sober (or at least slightly less drunken) reflection, I can see that Jesus, Santa, and the whole charming cast of cartoon characters should not be blamed for the degeneracy of those who exploit them. And, in fact, those of us who are inclined to enjoy any of these Festivus appurtances should be doubly grateful this year.

After all, these War on Christmas nuts are out there bellowing on the steps of cathedrals about how evil we are, while we get to stay indoors wrapping gifts for our loved ones. While the WOC guys are using Santa and Jesus as weapons -- indeed, seem only to know that use for them -- we get near-exclusive use of them as symbols of hope, humanity, and good fellowship. When they watch "A Christmas Carol," they think, I'll bet those dirty hippies would have a heart attack if they saw me watching 'A Christmas' THAT'S RIGHT I SAID CHRISTMAS! 'Carol.' We, on the other hand, actually get to watch the movie, and share in the lushness of Dickens' conception, the hammy charm of Alistair Sim, and the marvelous spectacle of a man brought back to his lost humanity.

They get, because they chose it, a Day of Wrath, leaving Christmas to us. Thanks, morons!

10:01 AM by roy


Thursday, December 15, 2005  


In related news, one wingnut working group has been tasked with indoctri-ma-cating our young on the gloriousness of the Iraq War and democracy at the point of bombardment. Check out these bits from their lesson plan for today's Iraq elections:

United States:
Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, July 4, 1776 (amidst war).

Iraq: Liberation from Saddam Hussein, April 9, 2003 (amidst war).
Have fun explaining how Pulaski and Lafayette carpet-bombed America's cities in order to liberate us (and our rich maple-syrup fields) from George III. Show woodcuts of French dirigible leveling Boston, and grateful citizens waving wooden limbs in tribute.

3. Do you think it is more or less difficult for a country to form a democratic based constitutional government today than in 1787?
Hella simple now! Consent of the Conquered is easier to secure that the support of a bunch of pesky revoltionaries. There'll be no Shay's Rebellion this time, I can tell ya! The money's good, too!

Still more questions for discussion:
Why do you think voter turnout in Iraq has been 60-65% and the average U.S. voter turnout is much lower?
No electricity, no TV. Duh.
Wars are often controversial: many colonists opposed the American Revolution; Abraham Lincoln resisted enormous pressure to compromise with the Confederacy and allow slavery to continue in order to end the United States Civil War; there was opposition to the Vietnam War. Discuss the war in Iraq in light of the goals of the December 15 election. Are there similar moments in United States history that can help us understand the moment?
...and by the time you get to the end of the question, of course, the students forget whatever hint they may have noticed that many (and maybe most) Americans disapprove of the war. Especially when your PowerPoint presentation flashes the Dirty Hippie icon on the word "Vietnam."

Best of all: class projects!
(K-5) Create a dramatization of voting day in Iraq. Have students take the roles of different persons: Iraqi men and women who come to the polls, Iraqi security forces, American soldiers, terrorists, international observers.
SHAUN as U.S. Soldier: Welcome to voting! Everybody vote for freedom! Come to my voting party!

TIFFANY as Iraqi Lady With Scarf Like In The Picture: I want to vote, Mr. Soldier! I want to play with the purple ink!

DYLAN R. as Ahmed Chalabi: Vote for me and my American friends will give you all ice cream!

DYLAN L. as Terrorist: I keel! I keel!

(DYLAN L. gestures with gun; several students fall dead. TIFFANY screams. SHAUN kills the terrorist and several other students.)

TIFFANY: Mr. Soldier is hot! Thanks Mr. Soldier!

DYLAN R.: Now I am President! Ice cream for everybody!


TEACHER: I'm sorry, kids, there's no ice cream!

EVERYBODY: Awwwwwww.

TEACHER: Now everybody help clean this up, and Tiffany, you wash off that purple ink before we start Jesus Made Science class.

DYLAN L. Democracy sucks!

Say, this lesson plan may go better than I thought.

10:11 AM by roy