Strange Brouhaha

Friday, March 31, 2006

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...

This is a multi-part story. I'll be doing a timing trick to get them all to post in the right order.

On Wednesday, we all drove down to Chicago to see the opening night performance of the American Ballet Theatre's Chicago engagement. They're doing Le Corsaire for the rest of the run, but opening night was a combination of a sort of "Ballet's Greatest Hits" performed by some of ABT's principal dancers and, in the second half of the evening, a performance of Copland's Rodeo.

The show was at the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago. It's a great venue, easily one of the nicest theaters I've ever been in. (In a moment of Madison pride, though, I do have to note that the lighting was nowhere near as good as it is in the Overture Center. We can chalk that up to the fact that the O's lighting system is brand-new, but still.) The acoustics were really great, and the seats were comfortable.

I think I've said this before, but I'm not really a big fan of ballet. We have a lot of videos, and while I'm glad that Savannah and Lani enjoy them, I just don't get into it. To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to this trip: the drive, the traffic, the city...the drive back. Ugh. It all seemed like a lot of hassle for something that I wouldn't really enjoy.

WAS I EVER WRONG. The show was incredible. I do not have words for it. We had great seats on the left of the house, twenty or so rows back. The orchestra was live and superb. The dancing was fluid and expressive. There is literally no comparison between what these people were doing and what we saw here in Madison in January. If I was to try to compare them, I'd say something like "The Russian National Ballet were in seventh grade, and the ABT dancers were studying for their second Ph.D." or "The Russian National Ballet were the High School varsity baseball team, and the ABT dancers were the '61 Yankees." I might even venture a "Paradise versus Metallica" comparison, but I think only one person would get that.

The "Greatest Hits" format was really perfect for a person like me. It had a lot of dazzling physical pyrotechnics--spins, leaps, "how the hell did you do that" moves--and no endless "okay, we get it" moments that classical ballet usually has. These were superb dancers doing amazing things, and that's it. I was thoroughly engaged by the whole thing. That's not to even mention "Rodeo," which has a very sweet and touching storyline that was beautifully danced and acted. No real dazzlers in the second half, but it didn't need it and in a lot of ways it was better than the first half program. (It didn't hurt that, like I said, the orchestra was great. They really brought a lot of life to the Copland piece and somehow managed to keep it from sounding cliched, which it's sort of become. Copland is one of my favorite composers; you can really hear, especially in this piece, how huge an influence he had on Leonard Bernstein, one of my other favorites.)

All in all, it was an excellent performance, and I have to say that I think we had a really great time in Chicago.

Up until about 10:00. was the play?

So, what happened at 10:00?

The ballet got out around 9:30, I think. It was so good that 1) I didn't want it to be over; and 2) I was surprised that we had been in the theater that long (curtain was shortly after 7:00). We had gotten parking right across the street, and we were able to get to the car and leave the parking garage without too much hassle, just a bit of a wait. We pulled out of the parking garage onto Canal street, and followed the signs to the onramp for Interstate 90. The highway, at the Canal street ramp, splits into 290 and 90.

The car lurched once, twice, and then stopped responding to the gas pedal.

Right before the highway split, the engine died.

I'm going to spare you a lot of the details. Suffice it to say that we had a dead car in the right lane of a busy Interstate highway interchange with no shoulder and hordes of traffic racing by. Not an ideal situtation to be in, especially not with a frightened 7-year-old in the back seat.

We waited for a while. At least two police cars went by without stopping. Finally, and I say this as an act of supreme generosity towards myself (which I am allowed, since I'm writing this account), Savannah prevailed upon me to abandon the vehicle. It was fortunate for us that there was a Holiday Inn about a minute's walk away from us: the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown.

A couple of years ago, my father-in-law got us a AAA membership. I've kept it up, and it's come in handy a number of times, including this one. I was able to get a tow truck from Road Services Inc. Eddie, the driver, was really friendly and nice. We dropped the car off in front of a service station within walking distance of the hotel. He then drove me back to the hotel--he didn't have to do that--where I had left Savannah and Lani with instructions to check in. We obviously weren't going anywhere that night.

We barely slept. I dozed for a few minutes here and there, but mostly lay awake riding a wave of adrenalin and anxiety. I had left a wake-up call, because we ended up dropping the car in a tow-away zone: the Midas location opened at 7:00, and the tow-away zone started at 7:00, so I knew it was critical to get there *before* 7:00 to keep from getting towed.

Thursday we spent waiting for the service people to call to tell us what was up with the car. I finally called them in the afternoon, after we had already renewed the hotel room. There was no way that they were going to be able to fix the car on Thursday, they said, but "definitely" long as they could get the part they needed.

I spent most of that day just staring at the walls. This was a combination of the two things that I'm probably the worst at: coming up with things to do when there's nothing to do, and waiting for other people.

The short resolution is that we left Chicago this morning, the part still unavailable. I decided that we couldn't wait any more, and we rented a car and came home. The part they needed--it turns out that the timing belt had broken, and they needed to replace the belt and pulley but didn't have a pulley on hand--is on order and should show on Monday, when it's back to Chicago for me.

I want to talk about a few of the things that this episode has taught me.

  • We are not going without cell phones anymore. (Yeah, it's shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.)

  • Every single person we met--and I mean *every* one--was unfailingly friendly and kind. This is not the impression a person usually has of "the big city". I was impressed, and I'm going to try and work that part of the whole thing into an article.

  • Not that I'm in any way trying to compare our situation to the situation of people who have been displaced by disasters, but I have a new understanding of what Hurricane Katrina victims are going through. It was pretty tough for me--I don't know about Savannah and Lani, they seemed to hold up really well--to wear the same clothes for three days. I managed to go buy some clean socks, and just that alone made a huge psychological difference. I can't imagine what it's like to go without clean clothes or a place to stay or anything like that. Seriously, the best part about coming home was getting out of my suit and into clean clothes.

  • People need help. Everywhere. Not just big-scale help, but small-scale help. Do what you can--and I mean small things, too, like the tow-truck driver who drove me back to the hotel and made sure that I knew how to get back to the service place, or the hotel desk clerks. Even if it's just a co-worker who's stuck on a difficult problem. I know that we all know this already, but it bears repeating.

If I think of anything more--and there's a lot I've left out--I'll come back with it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I just have one comment about an article I just read on CNN about profanity: If "fuck" and "shit" aren't in Irene Kramer's dictionaries and thesauruses, then she must either have pretty small reference books or not be able to actually read.

Okay, okay, another comment: Blame television? I've been listening to a comedy radio station on the Internet, and some of the foulest stuff comes from forty and fifty years ago! I don't think television was the culprit back then, and I think people are kidding themselves if they think that profanity is some sort of recent phenomenon.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Twenty-five signs...

Terry sent this along today. Most of it is humorous, although I find number two more puzzling than funny. Why would it be out of the question in the middle of the day? I can't imagine a circumstance where that would be the case so categorically. I mean, say it's Saturday and the kids are out of the house or something.

I have unbowdlerized the cusses.

Twenty-five signs you have grown up.

  1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them.

  2. Having sex in the middle of the day is out of the question.

  3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.

  4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.

  5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator.

  6. You watch the Weather Channel.

  7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of "hook up" and "break up".

  8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.

  9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up."

  10. You're the one calling the police because those goddamn kids next door won't turn down the stereo.

  11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.

  12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.

  13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.

  14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.

  15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.

  16. You take naps.

  17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.

  18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset,rather than settle, your stomach.

  19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.

  20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good s***."

  21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.

  22. "I just can't drink the way I used to" replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again."

  23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.

  24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.

  25. When you find out your friends are pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking "Oh no, what the hell happened?"

Bonus: You read this entire list looking desperately for one sign that doesn't apply to you and can't find one to save your sorry old ass. Then you forward it to a bunch of old friends 'cause you know they'll enjoy it and do the same.

Friday, March 24, 2006 made your bed, man.

In 2001/2002, if you'll recall, the United States fought a war in Afghanistan. The Taliban--until that time the Bush family's partners in Middle East oil--had provided training camps for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden (remember him?) and the 9/11 hijackers. We replaced that government with one more friendly to our interests. Its legal system is based on Sharia, Muslim law.

One of the tenets of Sharia? Convert from Islam and die.

Foresight is not this Administration's strong suit, I realize, but in considering the problems that the Little Emperor now has with the first government he installed in the Middle East, perhaps the Administration will take a second look at the theocracy it's installing in Iraq.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Well, what's been going on?

Blogger/blogspot has had some downtime over the last couple of days, so I haven't been able to post. Naturally, I've forgotten everything I've wanted to post. That's probably not exactly a bad thing. Here are some quick hits...

  1. I have learned more about Eva Longoria than I ever wanted to know. It made me vaguely ill to see the "I'm the love teacher," "No, wait, HE'S the teacher!" articles over the past week or so. It makes me queasy just typing about it. Whoever this Longoria person is, she can feel free to shut the hell up. TMI!

  2. Prince's new album, 3121, is not worth listening to. How he got that incredible live performance of "Fury" from what's on the record is a mystery to me. The songs are all slow, pointless, and feel like mishmashy sludge. I doubt I'll be listening to it again. Good thing it was only ten bucks. I didn't really want "Musicology II," but I didn't want "Rainbow Children II" either.

  3. The Supreme Court said the other day that if a police request for a search is denied, a second party cannot immediately give authorization to search. (Specifically, IIRC, police asked a man suspected of cocaine posession if they could search his house [without a warrant]. He said they could not. His wife then--in his presence--gave them permission and showed them where he kept his stash.) Now, to me, this is a no-brainer: the most-restrictive answer should apply. I mean, the guy was standing right there! The argument from the dissenting side that it would interfere in domestic violence cases is bullshit: somebody screaming "Help!" gives police the right to enter, doesn't it? Oh, and surprise, surprise, Roberts was one of the dissenters who wanted to just give the police the right to search homes without permission. Perhaps someone smarter than me can explain why anyone could think that this wasn't a Fourth Amendment issue. Besides, come on, if they still want to cheat, there are ways. The guy was RIGHT THERE, saying "No."

  4. The South Park season premiere was great. Here's Kyle's eulogy, reprinted from the Times online:

    “A lot of us don’t agree with the choices the Chef has made in the last few days.... Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can’t let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile . . . We shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.”

  5. George W. Bush is still a moron. I'd offer up a shred of proof, but honestly, if you just go to or Google news or wherever, you'll see a story about Bush and any story about Bush, from any source, will be proof enough.

  6. Mythbusters proved that the soda bottle jetpack was dangerously false, and indeed, it looks here like the guy is on a wire of some kind. Plus, bellyflopping from that apparent height would have to be quite injurious, wouldn't it?

  7. I heard this one the other day: A woman walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre, so the bartender gives her one.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Why am I not surprised?

We have one of the greatest enablers of injustice as the head of the Department of Justice.

We have a bumbling fuckwit who can't secure a goddamn thing as the head of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Defense is spearheading massive offensive operations, and preparing for Bush's idiotic first-strike nonsense.

Our "ambassador" to the United Nations is doing everything he can to subvert the United Nations.

The President himself took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, which apparently means in fact ignoring said document.

So I guess it fails to surprise me that the Little Emperor's nominee for Interior Secretary is someone who would "preserve" our national forests by razing them.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Somebody please help me

After seeing those little tiny puzzles in the newspapers and in the bookstores and online and saying "Naaaaah, that looks like it sucks," I actually tried a few Sudoku puzzles.

I'm hooked. Somebody please help.

(My favorite thing about Sudoku: so far, it has been the case that when I finish a puzzle correctly, I just *know*. No need to check my answer. It just looks right. It's kind of freaky.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

GOP Straw Poll

I read an article on CNN this morning about a Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll, which Bill Frist won. As for the poll itself...whatever. Here's the part that scared me:

Frist overcame an 11th-hour attempt by Sen. John McCain of Arizona and other GOP leaders who urged voters to write in President Bush as their choice in a symbolic sign of support for the embattled leader. Bush tied for third place with Sen. George Allen of Virginia. Each received 147 votes, or 10 percent.

Bush is going to take that 10 percent as a mandate! PLEASE, GOD, SOMEBODY IMPEACH HIM.

Update: It looks like the Rude Pundit took on this issue, too.

The perfect solution

So let's say you're the little emperor, perched chimp-like on your little throne, feeling the waves of hate coming off of two-thirds of the empire's subjects. Your rule-by-fiat act has worn thin with all but your most ardent sycophants.

Your illegal domestic spying program is under fire from all sides. It's illegal and immoral. It "fixes" a problem which wasn't broken in the first place; all it does is prop up your "because I said so" theory of government ("because I said so" is what "unitary executive theory" means in plain English). So what do you do?

You stop the program, right?

Silly. Of course not. Instead, you make it illegal to talk about it. There, problem solved.

Friday, March 10, 2006

No, really, she said it.

Laura Bush, as quoted by The Rude Pundit: "There are encouraging signs for progress for women in many parts of the world, and I'm proud to be married to a man whose policies promote this success."

The rest of this post is left as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I know, EVERYONE is linking to this

It's just so good, I had to do it too. Natalie Portman makes up for all of those horrible Star Wars movies with another SNL rap video.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Simpsons as you've never seen them before

Check out the dead-on live-action "Simpsons" intro. Prepare to be amazed.

Update: Looks like this was on Slashdot this morning too. So you've probably already seen it. It's making the rounds.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sit down before you read this

Remember in the debates, when Bush said that he's been a "good steward of the environment"? That was a howler, wasn't it? Here's another one: he hopes his presidency will be viewed as "an agent for peace." No, really, it's the last line of a CNN article that reveals what should probably be either the fourth principle of Ingsoc or the first principle of the new Bush Doctrine: failure is success.

I'd go with the new Bush Doctrine myself. Although if you think about it, it's probably also at least heavily implied in Orwell, even though it's not explicitly stated.