How hot is it?

July 21, 2018

” ‘How hot is it?’ Hey, do I look like Johnny Carson to you?”

No tin roof for this cat.

 

The return of O.T.B. Jacques

July 19, 2018

A blast from the past — specifically, from the 1995 Tour. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. …

It’s a long hard road, to be sure. Especially when you’re sliding along it through clusters of howling drunkards and clouds of noxious smoke while wearing a thimbleful of Lycra. This shit keeps up and they’ll be awarding the final yellow jersey to a moto driver, a journo’ or Bernard Hinault.

 

Vlad gets a little face time

July 16, 2018

Well, there you have it. And to think people went batshit when the black guy bowed to the emperor of Japan. At least he didn’t blow him in front of the whole world.

Henceforth, voting Republican shall constitute prima facie evidence of treason, as well as incontrovertible proof of brain death, and whoever is standing closest to the decedent should be empowered by law and paid at the prevailing medical wage to pull the plug. We can settle the treason issue afterward, perhaps in the obituary.

Charlie Pierce makes an excellent case for how to proceed from here. Sadly, his advice makes so much sense that no one will take it.

Bucket (play)list

July 14, 2018

It never rains, but it pours. Enough to fill up that bucket, anyway.

The rain gods finally heard our prayers this afternoon. Or maybe they heard the Tom Waits. I was playing “Small Change,” but it might be time to cue up “Rain Dogs.” For I am a Rain Dog too.

The river of dreams

July 12, 2018

Lately dreams are sliding right out of my brain-pan as I awaken, like eggs from a non-stick skillet.

It’s slightly irksome, on a par with an overzealous server who whisks your plate away before you’ve mopped up the final toothsome tidbits. “Hey, I was still savoring that. …”

I’m pretty sure I’m being entertained as I sleep, but maybe it’s a lowbrow sort of dreaming, like some off-brand Netflix movie you’re trying to describe for a friend.

“It was pretty good. It had whatsisface in it, you know, that guy who’s in everything, and there was that gal from what the hell’s that TV show that never really took off? It wasn’t a rom-com but there weren’t any car chases or fight scenes either. It was based on a book by that dude from Spokane, or is it Reno? You know the one. No, not that one. The other one. Can’t remember the name of it but yeah, it was pretty good.”

Or maybe the dreams are simply being overwhelmed by reality, like the aftermath of an election. Herself is still in Flawduh, taking care of business mom-wise, and so instead of lounging around in the sack of a morning, reviewing the work my subconscious did overnight, I have to get up, feed and water the cats, empty the dishwasher and the litter box, make the coffee, and like that there.

Speaking of cats, ours will be giving me poor marks on Yelp. Herself is generally up and at ’em around 4:30, but in her absence I don’t spring into action until 6. None of us has a job, and we’re not going anywhere fast, so what’s the rush?

Try explaining that to a cat sometime. They have a finely honed sense of justice, which they perceive as “just us.” You can see them mentally counting down the days until you croak of an aneurysm while reading The New York Times and they finally get to eat your lips.

We should sit like a cat

July 9, 2018

“I heard there are alligators in Florida,” says Darby. “I’ll be taking my meals right here, thank you.” Photo: Herself

“If anything is more irresistible than Jesus, it’s Mickey.”

Carl Hiaasen, “Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World.”

Herself the Elder has gone to Mickey.

It happened the way Ernest Hemingway described going bankrupt in “The Sun Also Rises” — “gradually and then suddenly.” One minute she’s in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the next, boom! Mouse Country. It was that quick. Except for when it wasn’t.

Herself the Elder retired a couple years back and decided shortly thereafter that it might be nice to be closer to one of her three daughters. I could dig it, as I live fairly close to one of them myself.

She checked out a few places in the Duke City, and did likewise in the Greater Orlando Mousetropolitan Area, and unless you acquire a concealed-carry permit, a theft-proof auto and an ocean with attached beach, Florida is going to win that matchup two falls out of three.

And then things just sort of stalled out, because moving is a huge pain in the ass and doing nothing is always an option. As far as I’m concerned, anyway. Gives a fella time to think.

“Why did you sit around all day?”

“I am the Buddha known as the Quitter.”

Jack Kerouac, “The Dharma Bums”

This laissez-faire approach doesn’t work for everyone, of course. It seems particularly ill-suited to most women of the female persuasion, who appear to have an innate compulsion to take hold while the menfolks sit around scratching themselves, farting, and hooting contentedly. And thus, eventually, the creaky familial machinery started rumbling to life.

Beth, the Florida daughter, stood, rolled up her sleeves and said something to the effect of, “Are we doing this or what?” HtE replied in the affirmative, a strategery was devised, and they were off to the wars.

Herself booked a flight to Florida to help set up the new digs. Beth ordered up the movers and jetted to Oak Ridge to supervise the packing up, then flew back with HtE in tow. And Heather, the Tennessee daughter, collaborated with family friend Janet to chauffeur Darby the cat to Mousesylvania by auto.

It’s not that simple, of course. Nothing is. But for the moment, everyone’s settling in. Even Darby, who was not consulted about any of this.

We should

sit like a cat

and wait for the door

to open.

“Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry,” by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison

R.I.P., Steve Ditko

July 7, 2018

Without Steve Ditko, this Marvel-origins collection would have been a good deal slimmer.

As a polyglot lot of colorfully clad heroes comes to blows in France, displaying superhuman powers acquired from Stan Lee only knows where, we bid farewell to the co-creator of many another costumed combatant, comic-book artist Steve Ditko.

With Lee and Jack Kirby Ditko had a hand in the debut of, among others, The Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. The young Ditko dug Will “The Spirit” Eisner, and you can see a bit of Eisner’s noirish style in his work; this admiration clearly filtered down to some of the undergrounds, like Rand “Harold Hedd” Holmes and Dave “Dealer McDope” Sheridan.

Doctor Strange as imagined by Steve Ditko.

Unlike Lee, who had (and maintains) a flair for showmanship, Ditko apparently was a recluse who declined interviews, snubbed comic-book conventions, and spurned invitations to movie premieres.

“We didn’t approach him,” said Scott Derrickson, director of the 2016 movie “Doctor Strange,” a yawner in which Benedict Cumberbatch played the title role. “He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight.”

According to Lee, in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” Ditko got the job of drawing Spidey after Kirby’s take on the character proved “too good” to depict the tormented teenage geek Lee had in mind.

“All those years of drawing superheroes must have made it a little difficult to labor so mightily and come forth with a superloser, or if you will, a supershnook,” Lee wrote.

“Steve’s style … was almost diametrically different from Jack’s. Where Jack would exaggerate, Steve would strive zealously for total realism. Where Jack made his featured characters as heroically handsome as possible, Steve’s forte seemed to be depicting the average man in the street. I decided to play a hunch. I asked Steve to draw Spider-Man. And he did. And the rest is history.”

Ditko died alone in his Manhattan home, age 90.

 

One less cracker in the barrel

July 5, 2018

Scott Pruitt is going back to lifting twenties out of the collection plate at First Baptist in Broken Arrow, sneaking tips off nearby tables at Cracker Barrel, and surreptitiously peeing in Tulsa’s municipal pools.

As Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Well shucks. It makes a man’s eyes damp, for sure.”

The Good Doktor was speaking of Nixon fluffer Pat Buchanan, who was whimpering publicly about the harsh treatment afforded The Boss as the hyenas of Watergate gnawed on his political carcass, and what Thompson had to say about that administration 44 years ago goes double for this one:

“By bringing in hundreds of thugs, fixers and fascists to run the Government, [Nixon] was able to crank almost every problem he touched into a mindbending crisis. About the only disaster he hasn’t brought down on us yet is a nuclear war with either Russia or China or both but he still has time, and the odds on his actually doing it are not all that long.

“This is the horror of American politics today — not that Richard Nixon and his fixers have been crippled, convicted, indicted, disgraced and even jailed — but that the only available alternatives are not much better; the same dim collection of burned‐out hacks who have been fouling our air with their gibberish for the last twenty years.

“How long, oh Lord, how long? And how much longer will we have to wait before some high‐powered shark with a fistful of answers will finally bring us face‐to‐face with the ugly question that is already so close to the surface in this country, that sooner or later even politicians will have to cope with it?

“Is the democracy worth all the risks and problems that necessarily go with it? Or, would we all be happier by admitting that the whole thing was a lark from the start and now that it hasn’t worked out, to hell with it.”

I’d let Pruitt run the siren all the way back to Oklahoma, if he didn’t mind that his personal vehicle was a splintery rail. Meanwhile, his replacement as EPA chief is a former coal lobbyist, because of course he is. Right again, Doc.

• Bonus Extra Credit Venom: Read HST’s obituary of Richard M. Nixon, who many of us thought — wrongly, as it turned out — was as bad as a president could get. 

 

Yankee doodling

July 4, 2018

Sam hasn’t been keeping the place up. Why, I remember when they used to call it “The White House.”

Uncle Sam has become that neighbor nobody likes.

Mind you, Sam has always been prickly. All over the map politically, and a stickler for the letter of the law as defined by the neighborhood association, though truth be told he’d been known to cut a few corners himself.

But he subscribed to the newspaper, walked the dog morning and evening, and kept up his property. From time to time he might have some pointed advice as to how you might improve your place, too. But Sammy meant well. Plus he was always good for a box or two of Girl Scout cookies.

Now he’s old and querulous, and if there’s a loon campaigning for something, you’ll see his sign in Sam’s yard, which is not nearly so well kept these days. Fox News is on what appears to be an endless loop, with the volume cranked to the max so he can hear it out in the garage, where he’s perpetually working on … something. The dog has likewise gone gray and mean, and stays chained up out back in what’s become more salvage yard than back yard.

And when the Girl Scouts come calling he runs them off, threatening to call the cops, or worse, especially if the kids are Brownies.

His old pals from the war don’t come around anymore. But there’s this new crowd nobody’s too keen on. Loudmouths with attitude, the sort you don’t dare turn your back on, guys who break things because it’s fun, and because nobody cares to stop them.

The neighbors all hope the family takes charge, because property values are dropping like a stone and it’s just plain bad for business. But they have their own problems and don’t seem to much care what goes on in that old white house any more. They’ve got the time to put on this big barbecue, though. It’s a national holiday or something.

Albatross!

July 3, 2018

The Soma Double Cross in townie configuration.

Lots of bikey stuff going on around here lately. It makes a welcome distraction from the news, which as per usual is mostly bad. And likewise from the weather, which is mostly hot.

Since my Voodoo Wazoo has become a kinda-sorta 700c mountain bike, I decided to turn the Soma Double Cross into a townie for short hops hither and thither, or even long ones.

The Double Cross had been rigged as a light touring bike, with XT triple crank and eight-speed XT rear derailleur, drop bar, bar-end shifters, and aero levers (augmented with top-mounted brake levers) to operate the Paul’s Neo-Retro and Touring cantis. Now it sports an Albatross bar and Dia-Compe SS-6 brake levers from Rivendell, and of course the bar-cons stuck around for the ride.

Albatross!

At 27.2 pounds it’s nearly 5 pounds lighter than either of my Soma Saga touring bikes, so it makes for a sporty little errand boy.

The Bianchi Orso 105, up against The Wall of Science.

Meanwhile, the next bike in the Adventure Cyclist review pipeline is a Bianchi Orso with 11-speed 105 STI, hydraulic stoppers and thru-axles. Quite the technological advance from eight-speed XT with bar-cons, rim brakes and quick-releases, or so the industry would have you believe. Engineers gotta engineer, marketers gotta market. Still, I wonder when we’re going to run out of 50/34 cranks and 11-32 cassettes so a brother can get a touring drivetrain up in this bitch.

All this wrenching and riding and whatnot makes a feller hungry, so last night I whipped up a mess of chicken tacos in salsa verde with a side of Mexican rice. Anybody who thinks I make a shambles as a mechanic should see what I did to the kitchen. It was worth it, though. And now we have leftovers. Huzzah, etc.