Thursday, November 30, 2006

" The art of civilization is the act of drawing lines. "

Oliver Wendall Holmes


Gracie was barking. The dog's a good dog; she isn't a barker. Gracie's like us, 'cept she a canine. She's mostly quiet, 'cept when there's something to say.

Gracie barks and we look out the window. That's the drill. We think: It's probably one of those deer we've been seeing in the woods, just beyond the stone fence whose stone faces have been staring at us for the past twenty years. Whose stone, botox-like smiles mock us. Say to us, in so many words, " We been here, and we'll be here. Long after you've gone. "

The lines used to be drawn by building a wall. A stone wall. The kind of wall that separated the property we bought twenty years ago from the land just to the north and east of our land.

For twenty years we've been wondering: What if all that land to our easy is sold off and developed? There goes our place in the woods. There goes our privacy. There goes the neighborhood.

Someone once wrote that getting older is like a long, slow slog through enemy territory. I wouldn't say the neighborhood in which Donna and I live is enemy territory. We have had words with our neighbors to the south of us. The issues were, of course, of a territorial nature. Last month, we observed the guy and some of his friends constructing a catapult.

Ostensibly, this catapult was designed to launch pumpkins in a competition sponsored by the same local program that funds the creative writing workshop I facilitate.

My weapons are words. His are stale pumpkins. Would this be a fair fight?



The other day, a red truck pulled up and parked on the street where we live. Two people got out of the truck. A young man and a young woman. They were surveyors. Set up their equipment. To the south of our property. To the east and west of our property.

Donna and I stood on our deck, and felt like we were surrounded. By people whose job it was to draw lines. Determine where our neighbors' property ended and our property began.

We asked the surveyors: What are our neigbors planning to do?

" They're planning to expand, " the surveyor said. " Build an addition. "

The young woman asked for our permission to walk on our property. She and her partner would be in the process, all afternoon, of drawing the lines. Driving the stakes that would mark where their territory ended and ours began.

These past few years. What's the word? We've tolerated our neighbors, and they've tolerated us. There's that stone fence, that stone fence that's been there for years. Centuries in fact. It runs along the eastern edge of our property, and in a hard line unbroken, continues on, defining the difference between our neigbor's land and the land of his neigbor to his east.

I was home alone all day today. Donna was up in western Massachusetts visiting her mother. I was home, with Gracie. Gracie didn't bark much. She was quiet. There was no activity on our neighbor's property. It was quiet.

But it won't be for long. The sound of saws and hammers will be heard pretty soon.

And Gracie will bark. Gracie will bark.
My reading at the Westerly Public went fine. I had nearly as many people in the audience as the Pulitzer Prize nominated poet who read in the room two weeks ago. In other words, it was far from standing room only.

Westerly has a very nice downtown, the kind of downtown you want to take long walks through this time of year. There are candles in the windows and the storefronts are all decorated. The town has a Dickensian feel to it. What's missing is people. Of course the stores are all closed after 5 p.m. The owners and the clerks - I guess they're called Sales Associates these days - are all at the mall.

So traffic was light on the street. The library was far from packed. Donna was there. Four people from the writing workshop I facilitate were there. A couple of neighbors, some library people and a few locals who probably make a habit of attending these things.

This small local crew would probably show up if someone was reading aloud from the Westerly phone book.


But it was a good experience. A new

The Pogues Fairytale In New York - Google Video

It's the last day of November. Tomorrow's December. The bells are ringing out. For Christmas day. Ya can almost hear 'em.The Pogues Fairytale In New York - Google Video

Seinfeld "Lost Episode" Featuring Kramer's Racist Statements - YourDailyMedia.com

You may be thinking: I've had enough of the KKKramer story. Before you cut and run, ya gotta watch this. Seinfeld "Lost Episode" Featuring Kramer's Racist Statements - YourDailyMedia.com

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I visit my eye doctor every four months or so. A few years ago I was diagnosed with Glaucoma; I'm losing the sight in my left eye. Before I meet with the doctor a technician guides me through something called a Vision Field Test. Or a Field of Vision Test. Or is it Range of Vision? My aunt Ella had this done a few months ago. My mother asked her: What did they do at the eye doctor's office?

Ella said, " They had me do a Field of Dreams. "

Construct a room in the eye doctors's office, one in which a Pong like video game like contraption sits in the dark...

And they will come. The patients will come.

I have a very good memory. I watch Jeopardy and drive people crazy; I know the questions to answers I have no good reason to know. But for some reason, I can't, for the life of me, remember the name of that damn procedure. Range of Vision? Field of Range?

Maybe it's not my vision that's going. Maybe it's my mind...

Where was I?

Whatever it's called, that's the first part of the process. The tech has you look into this screen, at a bright light in the middle of the screen. What you see is a small universe, a solar system in whose center is this very bright sun on which you are ordered to focus. Then the tech hands you some kind of remote. Says every time you see a light flash, a small planet form, click it.

This is something to which I can relate. This is a solar system in which an American male can feel comfortable. This is like watching TV with a remote in my hand. Click, click, click, click. My guess is guys do better at this than women. Way better.

The results of this test do not please the good doctor. I've been doing this for more than two years. I have been dripping drops into my eyes for more than two years. Drops that are supposed to decrease the pressure in my eyes. Glaucoma is not unlike heart disease. There is fluid in the eyes, fluid that runs through channels. The channels are like arteries; they can become blocked. The drops are supposed to relieve the pressure, help the fluid flow better than it's been flowing. The drops have been doing the job for nearly two years.

But today, the good doctor tells me, the drops are like the Red Sox. They were doing a hell of a job, but now they're like...

Not pulling their weight. Not hacking it. Minor league drops in a major league field. Of vision.

The doctor didn't say that. Didn't make that analogy. It's a weak joke, my weak joke. I made it up. I'm glib when I'm nervous.

So. I made an appointment for laser eye surgery. It's scheduled for February 21, a week after Valentine's Day. The day when we all think about...

Hearts. Which are often diseased and often fail. Especially those lodged in the chests of men of a certain age.

Like, mine.

As I was waiting to pay my co-pay, standing there at the receptionist's desk, I noticed a new sign. It said: Dr. Z is now seeing patients in Mystic.

I had to fight back the urge to say this to the receptionist:

" Was he having trouble seeing them before? "

But I didn't. I just handed her the ten bucks, and felt my way, nervously, out of the building.
Michael Crichton's latest novel is titled, " Next. " The book is based on a legal case in which the University of California at Los Angeles was accused of using the tissue of a cancer patient to develop a money making cell line. The judges who heard the arguments for and against ruled that the patient had no " property rights " to the tissue in question. According to the court, UCLA, a government institution, had every right to claim the tissue under the doctrine of eminent domain.

Well! I guess this best seller will put a damper on the whiners in New London, Connecticut, whose homes last year were ruled to be fair game for developers by the U.S. Supremes Court.

In New London, the war cry was merely, " There goes the neighborhood. " Watch out! Trends, legal and otherwise, tend to ride high on the jet stream. They start somewhere outside of Santa Monica, then make their way, inexorably, eastward.

Google Image Result for http://images.worldofstock.com/slides/PPT1281.jpg

Mindfulness. Living in the present tense. No regrets, no baggage. No worries about what might happen tomorow. Dogs. God love 'em. And so do we.
Google Image Result for http://images.worldofstock.com/slides/PPT1281.jpg
Winter looms. Snow will cover the ground soon, hiding the line scratched in the dirt.

On one side of the line stand the dogs and those who defend them. On the other side of the line stand a growing number of outraged citizens who agree there is a place for dogs. That place is a kennel. A fenced in yard. On a chain.

A lot of places in the country have dog parks, places where pooch owners can let their pets run free. For every dog owner who loves this idea, there's a dog loather who doesn't. Dog park issues are being taken as seriously as taxation issues these days. Don't be surprised if the local guy you just voted for jumps on this bandwagon like a dalmation leaping onto a fire truck.

Social critics commonly mourn, and would have us mourn, the death of outrage. Yet outraged is definitely the word that best describes how those caught up in this canine debate feel. What is it about this issue that makes our blood boil?

One psychiatrist is quoted as saying dog owners tend to take personally any attacks on their pets. To what degree do dog owners identify with their targeted canine companions? A few years ago, at an Avon, Connecticut town meeting more than 400 dog owners showed up wearing collars, many of which had a leash attached to them.

As a dog owner, I understand some of the passion on that side of the line scratched in the dirt. My wife, Donna, and I have experienced the ire of those who did not wish our dogs to run free.

On the beach in Provincetown one summer we spotted a middle aged woman racing toward us like a greyhound. We had three dogs at the time, and all of them were frolicking in the surf. It wasn't a crowded beach, more of a sandbar really. And we were making sure our dogs were keeping their distance from those who had staked their claims in the sun.

But this woman wasn't satisfied with our efforts. As she approached she started blasting us for allowing our dogs to run free in an area where children were playing.

I thought her behavior was an overreaction to a situation that could have been handled in a more civilized way. The way I saw it, she was like an out of control mutt, an unleashed embarrassment begging to be hosed down.

There have been other incidents, in other places, where we've been admonished for slipping the leashes off our dogs. All of those places were appropriate places to let the dogs do what dogs love best to do. Run like hell and chase the wind.

I'm no shrink. I have no idea why people on the other side of that line feel so strongly about this issue. All I know is how I feel when someone yells, " You and your dogs better get the hell out of here! " Or some variation of that loud, nasty bark.

I feel really bad. Like I'm being judged and my dog's being judged. Bad dog. Bad owner. Bad!

It's ironic. Until I moved to Rhode Island a couple of years ago, I was the human rights officer on a psychiatric unit in Massachusetts. The mentally ill with whom I worked for ten years had much experience with being judged. Ignorant people believed they were dangerous when they were not. Stupid people believed they were bad people, just because they carried with them the heavy baggage of mental illness.

There is a school of thought among those railing against more freedom for dogs. In so many words, the idea is: Unleashed dogs tend to violate the rights of human beings.

I feel, at times, like I'm caught in the middle of this debate. Like a bone being fought over by two dogs - one on a leash, and one as free as the wind.

My Life as a Dog - New York Times

" George can respond to a handful of words, but our relationship takes place entirely outside of language...she is a mystery to me. And I must be one to her. "

Those are the words of writer Jonathan Safran Foer. They are part of an op-ed piece in the Times yesterday. I just read the words aloud to my dog, Gracie. She gave me a look that said, at least to me, " That's way over my head. Kinda like a frisbee tossed badly, with the wind at your back. Maybe next time you could read something from The Daily News or The Post. They're more my speed. "

The following is the op-ed piece in its entirety.

My Life as a Dog - New York Times

Monday, November 27, 2006

Colin McEnroe | To Wit: Is Anything Good?

collaborations: tellervo kalleinen & oliver kochta-kalleinen : complaints choir: birmingham

This is a choir in England called The Complaints Choir. There's something about this idea that I like very much ( In other words, no complaints )collaborations: tellervo kalleinen & oliver kochta-kalleinen : complaints choir: birmingham

Saturday, November 25, 2006

YouTube - We Can't Make It Here

Listen to this guy from Texas. Texas? Yup. Name's McMurtry. James McMurtry.
YouTube - We Can't Make It Here

Friday, November 24, 2006

I was bombarded with hundreds of emails today asking: What was the harmonica guy playing?

OK, not hundreds.

I was bombarded today...

OK. Not exactly " bombarded.

I got some...

OK. I didn't get any emails. Nobody cared. Harmonica Guy didn't hit a responsive chord with anybody but me. But before I move on, I have a few more things to say about Harmonica Guy. He was playing " God Bless America. " Just what I needed to hear as I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. A medley of Kate Smith hockey songs.

When I think back on this, I'll try to reframe it. Put a humorous spin on it. What was Harmonica Man playing someone will ask. And I'll say:

That traditional Thanksgiving song, second in popularity only to Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

Gobbles America.

Ya gotta laugh. Especially when you're having Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by strangers.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

First thing I want to say about today's Thanksgiving dinner is this. The guy playing the harmonica got on my nerves.

This was the first time since I can remember that my family ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant. For most of the past 50 or so years, my mother has cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and served it in her apartment on Main Street in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

The family gathered at a restaurant called Zoe's. Zoe's is located on the Easthampton/Northampton line. The place has been there for what? Twenty five years? Started out as The Gold Mine, run by a guy about my age. Huge success then it went under, as restaurants often do. You always wonder what happened. The place was always so crowded. We always had to wait to get in. The food was SO good!

What the hell happens to these restaurants?

Anything can happen. Often it's a result of the owner diversifying his portfolio, growing way too big way too fast, caving in to the pressure of working 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Health insurance problems.

Mom pulled the shade down on her place last year. Why? It was time.

So the family piled into a restaurant today and ate Thanksgiving dinner with other families. One of which had this old guy playing a harmonica.

I looked around the table. No one else seemed to be bothered. But I felt like getting up from our table, walking over to his table...

And strangling the old bastard.

But I took a step back. Reconsidered. Then was thankful the bastard wasn't sitting at our table.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It was one of those nightmare shift change admissions. Maria arrived on the unit at 3:29 p.m., a minute before the first shift, the shift I worked on, would pass the baton to the second shift, which started its tour at precisely, 3:30.

If they arrived before 3:30, they were our responsibility. Maria was mine. I was the unit's human rights officer. It was a role that gave me the power to confront anyone on staff whom I thought was treating patients with disrespect. From shrinks to social workers, I could get in their faces. If a patient was placed in restraints, I had to review the circumstances that led up to the decision to restrain. We billed ourselves as a safe place; it was my job to make sure that was true

A late arrival meant working some overtime. I hated working overtime. Eight hours on a locked unit was more than enough. Every minute of overtime was, at least for me, like one more step a runner takes at the end of a marathon. A step might not seem like much, but try taking one after you've just run 26 miles.

I knew Maria was coming. I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was what she was carrying with her. Five black plastic trash bags, stuffed with everything she had. All her worldly possessions. All of which I was responsible for inventorying.

Before I left to go home, I had to go through her bags. Log what she had. Make sure any sharp items were separated from the rest of her stuff.

Certain items were verboten on the unit. Anything that could be used as a weapon was confiscated. As I went through Maria's black plastic bags, I found a lot of stuff she wouldn't be able to keep in her room.

What was in those bags? Clothes. Towels. Face cloths. A few tooth brushes. A few hair brushes. Nails, the kind of nails carpenters pound into wood. There were lots of nails. A sharpened railroad spike. A hatchet.

I separated the nails from the rest of Maria's stuff. Put them in a small plastic bag, along with the spike. There was no room for the hatchet.

I'd inventoried everything Maria had carried onto the unit. I'd explained to her the rules, what was expected of her, what she needed to do to get out of here sooner than later. I picked up the small plastic bag containing the nails and the spike. Grabbed the hatchet, excused myself and left the room in which she'd be staying.

I walked down the hall, towards the nurses station. Put Maria's stuff, the stuff she couldn't keep in her room, in a safe place in the back of the nurse's station. Wrote a progress note, then left to go home.

The next morning, as I was sitting at the table in the room where we listened to the shift change report, a nurse who'd worked later than I had the day before this one said to me:

" Couple of the new patients came up to me yesterday, " he said.

" And what was it they said to you? " I said.

" Said who was that guy walking around the unit with an ax in his hand? "

" And then what did you say? "

" Said that was our human rights officer, " the nurse said, with a big shit eating grin on his face.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

YouTube - Harry Chapin - Taxi

This is a song that's haunted me for years. When I was in my 20s, there was this line I heard, this voice I heard in my head: " Whom the gods destroy, they first make promising. " This was a time when a lot of guys who'd majored in English were driving cabs up and down the narrow streets of Boston. This is, in my humble opinion, one great tune.

YouTube - Harry Chapin - Taxi
The title of this blog's Progress Notes. The name is based on the only writing I was required to do when I was a counselor on a locked psych unit up in western Massachusetts.

The average length of a stay on the unit was about ten days. During that ten day stay, patients were expected to do some work. Get out of bed, eat breakfast, take the meds the psychiatrists prescribed, attend the group therapy sessions. Promise not to hurt themselves or others. Tell us about it if the thought of doing that occurred to them.

That kind of work.

The progress notes I scribbled in the charts at the end of my shift reflected the patients' progress, or lack of it. I started writing these notes about a year ago. My plan was to write for a year, then see what I had at the end of that year. I wanted to see if I'd made any progress.

One of the books I've been reading lately is Richard Ford's novel, " The Lay of the Land. " Ford writes of a man he calls Frank Bascombe. I first met Frank Bascombe twenty years ago, in Ford's first book in what would become a trilogy. I was creative director for an ad agency in Hartford at the time. Bascombe was a sportswriter. Ten years later I was reintroduced to him in Ford's Pulitzer Prize winning " Independence Day. " I was working on the locked unit when I read that one.

In the third act of Ford's trilogy, Bascombe is reveling in the acceptance of " that long, stretching-out time when my dreams would have mystery like any ordinary person's; when whatever I do or I say, who I marry, how my kids turn out, becomes what the world - if it makes note at all - knows of me, how I'm seen, understood, even how I think of myself before whatever there is that's wild and unassuagable rises and cheerlessly hauls me off to oblivian. "

If Frank Bascombe existed, which he does not, he would be about my age. I've come to like Bascombe very much over the past twenty years. He's decent. Honest. And as E.B. White might have described him, " A good friend and a good writer. "

Has Bascombe made progress in the twenty years since Ford's first book in the trilogy was published? Some might argue, no, he has not. When I met him, he was a sportswriter who showed promise as a novelist. Then his son died. He and his wife divorced. He quit the writing business and went into the real estate business. Selling houses on the Jersey shore. He remarried. Then his second wife left him, reconnecting with her first husband, who resurfaced years after he was thought to be dead.

Some may see that as the slippery slope to beat all slippery slopes.

But the way I look at it, Bascombe's doing just fine. He's survived and has kept his sense of humor. I like him, despite his one glaring flaw.

He's not real.

Then again, I recall what that Joe E. Brown character said at the end of " Some Like It Hot. "

Nobody's perfect.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face
is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs
and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without
error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great
devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best,
knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the
worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his
place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither
victory nor defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt
Source:Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910



Just a few words about this KKKramer incident at the Laugh Factory, then I'll move on. It's not the end of the world as we know it. Although it may be the end of a career. Michael Richards, best known ( Only known? ) as Jerry Seinfeld's whacko neighbor in the long running Seinfeld show, unleashed a venomous tirade against some hecklers the other night. Used the N Word a lot. Folks in the audience were appalled, as they should have been. Much has been made of this, despite the sad fact that Richard's career has been pretty much in the toilet for years. Why is this such a big story? Why now and why him?

I'm not a prosecutor; I don't know the answers to the questions I ask. But This I do know: Comedy is hard. Stand up comedy, if one wishes to pull it off and be genuinely funny, is damn near impossible. If you don't believe me, just watch five minutes of Last Comic Standing.

It's awful. And you can't help but think: Why do they do that to themselves? Put themselves up there on that stage when their material is about as humorous as a Pentagon briefing. One answer ( Not mine! Remember, I don't have any answers ) may be that comics are brave. Studies reveal that the biggest fear Americans have isn't of the dark, or flying, or of terrorists hijacking the plane they're on.

Our biggest fear is standing up and speaking in public.

So. We watch these people do stand up, and we do what people do when they're nervous and don't know quite what else to do. We laugh. Which encourages stand up comics to keep doing what most of them do so badly.

But at least they get up there and try. We have to give them credit for that. But think about this: If you're nervous watching the act, imagine how THEY feel.

I'm not condoning what Richards did and said. I've watched the video clip of him screaming at the hecklers. He was out of control. In a rage. Stage Rage, if you will.

But slip out of your comfortable seat, walk down the aisle, hop onto the stage and put yourself in his clown shoes. Richards says he handled the heckling " badly. "

Indeed. But how would you have handled it? It's one of those questions. Academic in nature. Moot. Because odds are you would't be up there on that stage. You're not nearly that brave.

We've all heard the take on what the old Seinfeld show was " about. "

Nothing.

And maybe that's what this whole sorry episode is about. But maybe there is a larger point to be made. Next time you criticize someone for acting crazy. Shooting off his mouth ( Or his gun ) in the wrong place at the wrong time in a war or in some inner city combat zone...

Ask yourself: What would I do if I were in that soldier's, or cop's, or some kind of comedian's shoes?

FOXNews.com - 6 Imams Pulled From Plane After Saying Daily Prayers on US Airways Flight - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

And, of course, the movie about this incident is probably being casted as we speak. The working title?

Sheiks on a Plane

FOXNews.com - 6 Imams Pulled From Plane After Saying Daily Prayers on US Airways Flight - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm thinking of reading this one at the library next week...



Opening Lines




What do you like to be called? That was one of the first questions I asked of the patients I worked with. Nobody told me to do this; it didn’t come up during my orientation. But all things considered, it seemed like a pretty good idea.

I’d just made a career change. I’d been an advertising copywriter before landing a job in mental health. The advertising business is thick with confident, hail fellow well met types who approach you with a foot wide smile and an outstretched hand. There is no shortage of sociopathic charm in the thickly carpeted corridors on Madison Avenue. And all points north, south, east and west of that street.

How different can two places be? An ad agency. A locked psych unit. On the unit “ clients “ rarely approached me wearing a smile. Offering a hand? Forget about it.

I usually made the first move. Said my name is Terry, then asked, “ What do you like to be called? “ The response I got told me much about a new patient’s state of mind. If he or she said hello and gave me the name they liked people to use – well, that was a good start, an auspicious beginning.

If I got a blank stare, or an angry glare, that was another story. If my gambit was greeted with silence, that was a bad sign. On a locked unit, silence can be an alarm. I preferred “ Screw You “ and “ You can go straight to hell, “ to the silence.

Silence meant they were keeping it in. You don’t have to be Freud to realize that’s not a good thing.

So. If I could get them to tell me their name, the name they wished to be called – let the treatment begin.

I was frequently annoyed by colleagues who didn’t recognize the importance of names. I heard nurses refer to Humberto as Roberto. Gina as Tina. I wondered: Is this their way of distancing themselves from the patients? Is this one of the ways they cope with the frustration of working with the mentally ill?

Did getting to know them too well result in feeling their pain way too much?

Consider the opening line of what many consider to be the greatest novel of all time. Of all the first thoughts Herman Melville could have had his character utter, this is the one he chose:

“ Call me Ishmael. “

From the very beginning, we know something important about the man with whom we are about to set sail. He is a man who knows who he is, a man with whom we can trust and feel safe as our fragile vessel makes its way out to sea.

Melville knew the power of names.

Mispronouncing a patient’s name. Getting his or her name wrong. Forgetting a name. Those who did that were, in a way, reminding patients of the power they held over them. It was like wearing the key on the wrist. Each of us had a key that unlocked the locked doors on the unit. I kept mine hidden away in my pocket. But others wore the keys like jewelry, attached to rubber bracelets they pulled onto their wrists.

It was like saying, “ I can get out of here whenever I want. “

The implicit message being:

And you can’t.

One morning, just after I started my shift, the charge nurse informed me that there was a new patient she wanted me to check on. He’d been admitted during the night. Been assigned to my treatment team.

“ He’s still in bed, “ the charge nurse said. “ See if he wants some breakfast. “
I walked down the hall and into his room. He was in bed, but he wasn’t sleeping. I introduced myself. Said, “ My name is Terry. “

Silence.

“ I’m the counselor on your treatment team. You hungry? “

Silence.

“ OK, “ I said. “ If you need anything, if I can help you with anything. My name is Terry. “
Then I walked out of the room.

A few minutes later, the new patient appeared at the nurses station. He was getting into it with the charge nurse. His voice was loud, his speech pressured. He was trying to explain the government conspiracy, the web into which he and his family had been lured.

“ I’m not going to talk to you when you’re this angry, “ the charge nurse said.

“ C’mon, “ I said. “ Let’s walk back to your room. “

He grudgingly followed me down the hall. Just as we were about to turn into his room, he took a few steps back, then came at me. Punched me hard in the face. I bent over and saw my broken glasses on the corridor carpet. I saw blood dripping onto the glasses and blood puddling around the glasses. Then I saw him back off again, four,five, six or seven steps. Then he came at me again, this time using his feet. I’d been punched. Now I was being kicked.

Throughout this whole process, he didn’t say a word. And neither did I. Just another quiet morning on a locked psych unit in western Massachusetts.

Me being assaulted. That was the bad news. The good news? The assault took place right outside the clinical psychologist’s office. His name was Dr. Jenkins. The psychologist was a good guy; I liked him. But his star on the unit was hardly rising. There was, since I started working on the unit in 1991, a tug of war being waged. On one end of the rope were the shrinks who represented the medical model of psychiatric treatment. They believed pills were the answer. On the opposite end of the rope were people like the psychologist. People who thought talk therapy was the answer.

The psychologist had seen the nearly illegible writing on the wall. His days were numbered, and he spent most of them hidden away in his office. I’d walk by his office and peer in. There he’d be, at his computer, staring into the screen. Pounding the keys.

Every time I saw him doing this I thought of the writer Jack Torrence, that character in the Stephen King novel, “ The Shining. “ Jack Torrence. Remember him? He was played in the Stanley Kubrick movie version of “ The Shining “ by Jack Nicholson. Remember that scene where Jack’s wife discovers what Jack has been writing all those long winter months stuck in that old hotel.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Over and over again that one sentence. Three or fours months work and the result is one sentence.

Confined to that room, that office. Sentenced. That was how I saw that psychologist, who came to my rescue. He was in his office. Of course he was in his office. He was always in his office and thank God he was on that day.

Right after I got kicked, the door opened and the psychologist beckoned me in. I raced into his office and he closed the door. Then locked it.

The irony is not lost on me. I was saved from a psychotic man bent on killing me. A man who refused to say a word to me, who assaulted me in silence. I was saved by a man whose days on the unit were numbered. Because he prayed to the God of talk therapy.

I remember everything that happened that day. I remember the number of stitches the ER doc sewed into my face. I remember a nurse I worked with coming down to the ER and holding my hand. The one thing I don’t remember is…

His name. The name of the guy who assaulted me. I gave him my name, but he didn't give me his. We didn't talk. We never really talked.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006


A little more than ten years ago, Donna and I spent a weekend on Block Island. We'd booked the room months in advance, even though it was a weekend in October. Long after the tourist season ended. But as it turned out, it was a good thing we'd reserved a place to stay.

Because that same weekend, one of the Kennedys got married in a small church around the corner from where we were staying. The groom was none other than Ted Kennedy's son.

The small island, located about ten miles off mainland Rhode Island, is, in geological terms anyway, much like its tony cousins, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. But it's vastly different in myriad other ways.

For one thing, one doesn't immediately associate this island with the celebs that attach themselves like barnacles to Nantucket and The Vineyard. But on this weekend, the one we chose to hang out on Block, the island was thick with people who had more than their fair share of face time on shows like Access Hollywood and Inside Edition. Arnold was there. John John was there. Daryll Hannah was there. The whole Kennedy clan was there. It was like some kind of invasion and I'm sure someone shouted, at some point in time:

" The Kennedys are coming! The Kennedys are coming! "

Of course, Teddy was there. He was the father of the groom after all. But it was pretty interesting watching him as he made his way around the island, his entourage in tow. For instance, not once did we see him - and we saw him a lot - behind the wheel of a vehicle. We saw him get into vehicles. But always on the passenger's side.

Cynic that I am and always will be, I said to Donna:

" They're not going to get any pictures of Teddy behind the wheel, driving around, in party mode, on a small island off the coast of New England. "

You know what I'm sayin'.

I thought of that weekend on Block today as I read the morning paper. President Bush is in Viet Nam, but I haven't seen any pictures of him there. And, according to a front page story in The Times, the president hasn't been seen much and when he has been seen briefly, he's been in the back seat of a limo.

Block Island's a fur piece from Hanoi. But, at least for me, the two dots on the globe were connected this morning.

YouTube - Goodnight Saigon

Headline: George W. Bush Went To Nam. Better late than never...
YouTube - Goodnight Saigon

Saturday, November 18, 2006

YouTube - The Waterboys Fisherman's Blues Live

This one's for the guy who sold us the fish
YouTube - The Waterboys Fisherman's Blues Live
Donna and I went to the fish store in Pawcatuck today. We were looking for some clams and some shrimp for the dinner we planned to eat between the Umass and the Uconn games on TV. It's college basketball season and we're all over it. Like barnacles stuck to the rotting pilings of a pier.

We walked into the shop and stood in line. The woman in front of us was interested in the flounder, which was going for $6.99 a pound.

" What'll ya have? " the guy behind the counter asked.

" Six of the flounder fillets, " she said.

" OK, but I have to tell ya, they're not up to the usual standard. "

" They're not? "

" Nope. They're OK, but if ya get 'em, don't freeze 'em. "

The guy explained that the flounder wasn't absolutely fresh. Hadn't been caught this morning, or yesterday morning for that matter. The fish was OK. It just wasn't up to " the usual standards. "

That's why it was going for under $7.00 a pound.

The woman in front of us said " Thanks, " did a 180 and walked out the door.

" What can I do for ya? " the guy asked us.

" A dozen and a half of the little necks, " Donna said. " And a pound of the shrimp. "

The guy behind the counter started throwing clams into a plastic bag. We stood there watching him. There wasn't anything else to watch. This wasn't one of those fast food places where you can stand in line and watch Wolf Blitzer interview Nancy Pelosi. There were no TVs. Just an old radio on a table, tuned to a country western station.

The guy was tossing Little Neck clams into the bag when he said, " Oops. Counted them wrong. "

Then he dumped the clams he miscounted onto the counter, and started counting again.

I don't know this guy's name. But I should. We go to this place often when we're hungry for fish. He seems like an honest man. A business man with whom we can and do do business.

Friday, November 17, 2006

NPR : Remembering Spalding Gray

I'm getting a little too attached to this reading gig at the Westerly Library next week. I'm taking it way too seriously. Today I thought I'd read a few paragraphs from Spalding Gray's monologue, " Monster in a Box. " Gray was a Rhode Island native. Killed himself a few years ago. Tossed himself off the Staten Island ferry. Drowned in the same waters that reflected the skyline of the city he loved.

Anyway. I was thinking of reading something from " Monster in a Box. " I have the book version of that monologue. Pulled it off the shelf. Looked at the cover on which there was a blurb by Frank Rich.

" A triumph, Gray is a master. " Rich wrote.

Frank Rich and I are...

What the hell do you call us these days? We've been writing back and forth for two years. I write to him. He writes back to me. I comment on his columns. He says thanks. I send him stuff I write, he comments. Likes it. " Hilarious " is a word he uses often to describe his reaction. Last thing I sent him was my take on the mid-term election. " Priceless. This is terrific stuff, " he wrote back.

Frank Rich. The former New York Times Broadway theater critic. He likes my stuff. And he liked what Spalding Gray wrote.

Frank Rich. Spalding Gray. I may not attract a big crowd. But who's not there will be who I'll be seeing as I peruse the " crowd. "

I invited Frank Rich to my reading. He wrote back that he couldn't make it. He's still busy, on a book tour. His book, " The Greatest Story Ever Sold " has been on the New York Time best seller list.

" But I'll be there in spirit, " he wrote.

NPR : Remembering Spalding Gray

Library of Dust (Features) Julie Hanus

I've been trying to decide what to leave in and what to leave out. My reading at the Westerly Public Library is less than two weeks away. Should I read the stuff about my newspaper reporting days? Should I read about what it was like to be an advertising copywriter and creative director? Or should I share my experiences as a counselor and human rights officer on a locked psychiatric unit in western Massachusetts?

I only have an hour to read. So I decided that the psych unit stuff makes the cut. The following is something I just read in the latest edition of the Utne Reader. It's about the kind of place in which I spent some hard time in the 1990s.
Library of Dust (Features) Julie Hanus

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Donna and I went out to dinner last night. Then we went to a poetry reading in Westerly. At one point in the evening out Donna looked at me and I looked at her. Our eyes met, like we met back in 1972. At a bar called The Broadview.

" Life is good, " Donna said.

" Yeah, " I lied.

The Irishman in me thinks it's too fookin' good ta be true. Jesus, Mary and Joseph ( The trinity, dear reader, it'll always be with ya ), we're due for a category 4 storm or a 7.6 earthquake on whatever scale the bastards are using this year.

Still. It was a nice evening. And I thanked after it ended the God I'm not so sure I believe in.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I finished that short story. The one about the car salesman who passed himself off as some kind of writer. Here it is...






What I Did For A Living.


By Terrence McCarthy



I went to this party in Providence. A woman I’d met invited me to go with her there. I met her in a bar in Pawtucket. Told her I was a writer. I’m not a writer; I sell cars for a living. Put in 45 hours a week at the Tarbox dealership in Warwick.

I kept up the lie for a month. Janice – that was her name, Janice LaTroopiere - and I had been going out weekends. Went to bars, played a little pool. Talked to each other. Asked each other questions. You know how it is when people are getting to know one another.


I asked Janice lots of questions. I think that’s one of the things she liked about me. I seemed interested in her life. Actually what I was doing was trying to prevent her from asking ME questions. Because all of her questions had to do with my, uh, writing career.

Janice had majored in English at URI. Said she wanted to be a writer, but life got in the way. That’s exactly how she said it. Life got in the way.

I told her, that’s a pretty nifty line. You would have been a good writer, I said.


You should know, she said back. You being a writer and all.


But, of course I shouldn’t know. Wouldn’t know.


What did I know? I sold cheap Korean cars for a living.

Anyway. Janice and I were at this party in Providence. The people who threw the bash were connected in some way to Brown University. They weren’t professors or anything. I think they said they worked in admissions.

I know what you’re thinking. I said I like to ask people questions so they don’t question me. So why don’t I know much about these people? Asking them questions. That was my plan. But you know what they say about plans, even the best laid among them…

Where was I? Oh yeah, at this party in Providence, Rhode Island. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was passing myself off as some kind of writer, especially at a soirie like this one. Where half of the guests were telling people they were writers. And meaning it.

And where the host and the hostess worked in admissions. You don’t have to be an English major to recognize the irony in THAT! The last thing I wanted to admit was that I wasn’t a writer. That I actually sold Hyundais for a living.

All I really wanted was to play it low key. Go to the party. Have a few drinks. Listen to the music. Be as conspicuous as the pattern on the wallpaper. But wouldn’t you know, first thing Janice did when we got there was tell everyone, “ I’d like y’all to meet Jack. He’s a writer! “

So, of course, the whole time we were there people were coming up to me and asking me questions. What kind of stuff do you write? Do you write articles? Poems? Essays? Books? What are their titles? Can I find them at Borders? Are those book tours as grueling as they’re made out to be? What’s Joyce Carol Oates REALLY like?

Maybe you’ve seen that movie, Capote. You know those scenes where Truman Capote is shown holding court at all those fancy New York City parties. Where he’s the center of attention and all? That’s what it was like for me. Difference being of course that Capote was a real writer.

Only thing I’ve written lately is my name on a bill of sale for a Hyundai Elantra.


But a funny thing happened. All those questions I was being asked at the party. I was fielding them like Derek Jeter fields hard hit ground balls. When someone asked me what kind of books I write, I said:

Fiction. I write novels. When someone asked me why I prefer fiction to, say, non-fiction, I said:

I like making things up.





As for the titles of my, uh, books, I told people they tended to be long ones.


The State Trooper Who Came In From The Cold and Cracked A Cold Case; The Professor of Desire and His Middle Aged Mistress; There Once Was a Two Story Man From Pawtucket…

I said the names of the titles I made up real fast. Like I was speaking in tongues. So no one would remember them and be able to Google them, or walk down the aisle at Barnes & Noble and look for them. By the time they got to the bookstore, they would have forgotten the names of the books I didn’t write. That was my plan.

To make a long story short, I had a great time at that party. I felt like I was the most colorful petal in the conversational bouquets of which I was a part. I saw people looking bored with the talk in their bouquet. Casting their eyes my way, then excusing themselves and joining the guests who were paying attention…

To me. Surrounding me. Listening to what I was saying about writing and the writing life.

Even the writers were paying attention. One of them said, “ I just know I’ve read some of your books. Just can’t recall the titles… “

“ That’s all right. They tend to be long and, uh, rather easily forgotten, “ I said.

All in all, thinking back on that night, I think I did well. People were impressed. People liked the way I talked about my writing. And they liked my humility. I talked about myself, but didn’t go overboard. I wasn’t your typical self absorbed writer. I stopped a lot of the guests in their tracks. Said “ Enough about me. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What do YOU do for a living? “

Believe me. That line works every time.




Donna and I went to a poetry reading at the Westerly Public Library tonight. The poet reading from her latest book was Sue Ellen Thompson, who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2002. Thompson was also a Robert Frost fellow at the Breadloaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont.

Thompson and I are the two featured writers reading at the Westerly Public Library this month. Of the two of us, my reading has been given top billing. The readings are billed as those given by " renowned writers. "

Here we go again.

In 1989, after making a name for myself in the advertising business in Hartford, Connecticut, I started writing essays for the Hartford Courant. Got several published on the op-ed page. Heard through the grapevine that I was the talk of the town, writingwise.

The Courant sent a reporter to our house in Suffield. She interviewed me and a long profile, with a photo of me, appeared in the Sunday paper. Several people were quoted. They said nice things about me. Tom Lux, then a heralded poet and a professor at Sarah Lawrence said of me: " Terry's a social thinker, a classic satirist. "

Shortly after that happened, I quit the professional writing bidness, from which I had been collecting pretty good paychecks for fifteen or so years. Started working on a locked psychiatric unit at a large teaching hospital in western Massachusetts.

I spent 11 years there. Semi-retired and started writing to beat the freakin' band. Now this. Getting more attention this month that a poet who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. A former fellow at Bread Loaf.

Much will be expected of me when I read November 29. So what else is new? What else?

FOX Broadcasting Company: O.J. Simpson

OK. Let's take a step back and calm down. I know. I know. You're outraged by what Fox is planning to add to its schedule. Namely: An interview with O.J. titled:

O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened.

The interview, scheduled to be shown on Fox Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, has O.J. telling interviewer Judith Regan " how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes. "

Before you get too crazy about this, read the fine print in the promotional material. O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened. That's a working title. It's subject to change. If the title changes, the concept does, too. So the show could take a turn. It might not be as offensive as you might think. Then again...

It could get worse. This is, after all, Fox ( hole ) we're talking about. Who knows what depths these people will sink to?

My sources report the following are other " working titles " for the O.J. interviews.

Dancing With The Dead. ( O.J. Tangos with recently deceased starlets who bear a striking resemblance to his late wife )

Fear Factor. The O.J. Edition. ( A reality show in which participants eat the maggots they dig out of recent murder victims. )

OK, I'll stop there. Yes, those are pretty disgusting ideas. But you ain't seen nothing yet. Click on this

FOX Broadcasting Company: O.J. Simpson
The last Progress Notes entry was duplicated by accident. Sorry about that.
" Stephen King has written about zombies, vampires and the end of the world. He has imagined a killer car, a killer dog, a killer clown and killer cellphones. But when he really wants to put a scare into you, he brings on his most fearsome monster of all, that quivering mass of ego and insecurity known as ... the writer. "

From New York Times review of Stephen King's new novel, " Lisey's Story. "


A good writing workshop this morning. Norman was back after missing a few classes. Karen was back, with her daughter. Who is the most well behaved kid I think I've ever seen. Imagine a four year old amusing herself - quietly - for an hour and a half while eleven adults sit around a table talking about, of all things, writing.

And most of the regulars were there: Barbara, Jane Mac, Guida, RJ, Doris, Monica, Jane Max, and Gale. Only Helen and Terry were missing.

Norman piped up toward the end of the class: " Terry, that was the best assignment you've ever given us. " Others agreed. What was the assignment? To imagine yourself or someone else introduced at a party - as a writer. What's it like to be thought of as a writer? What's it like for those introduced to someone who plays that role?

Just about everybody tackled the assignment, which is unusual. Fifty percent is the norm. Half are normally on topic, half are off it.

Even I was included among those who were on topic. I started writing my piece at 9 am this morning. Class starts at 10 am, so I was on deadline. Here's what I wrote. It took about twenty minutes to do, and I did not finish. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't.



SO WHAT KIND OF STUFF DO YOU WRITE?


By Terrence McCarthy



I went to this party in Providence the other night. A woman I’d met last month invited me. I met her in a bar in Pawtucket. Told her I was a writer. I’m not a writer; I sell cars for a living. Put in 35 hours a week at the Tarbox dealership in Warwick.

I kept up the lie for a month. Janice – that’s her name, Janice LaTroopiere - and I have been going out weekends. We go to bars, play a little pool. Talk to each other. Ask each other questions. You know how it is when people are getting to know one another.

I try to ask Janice lots of questions. I think that’s one of the things she likes about me. I seem interested in her life. Actually what I’m doing is trying to prevent her from asking ME questions. Because all of her questions have to do with my, um, writing career.

Janice majored in English at URI. Says she wanted to be a writer, but life got in the way. That’s exactly how she said it. Life got in the way.

I told her, that’s a pretty good line. You would have been a good writer, I said.

You should know, she said back. But, of course I shouldn’t. Wouldn’t.

What do I know? I sell cheap Korean cars for a living.

Anyway. Janice and I were at this party in Providence. People who threw the bash were connected in some way to Brown University. They weren’t professors or anything. I think they said they worked in admissions.

I know what you’re thinking. I said I like to ask people questions so they don’t question me. And that was my plan. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was passing myself off as some kind of writer, especially at a party like this one. Where half of the guests were telling people they were writers. And meaning it. And where the host and hostess worked in the admissions department. Pretty ironic, I thought.

I don't write; I sell cars. That's an admission I wasn't quite ready to make.

So we arrive at this party at the admissions people's house, which is just off Thayer Street up on College Hill. And Wouldn’t you know it, first thing Janice did when we got there was tell everyone, “ I’d like y’all to meet Jack. He’s a writer! “

So, of course, the whole time we were there people were coming up to me and asking me questions. What kind of stuff do you write? Do you write books? What are their titles? Can I find them at Borders? Are those book tours as grueling as they’re made out to be? What’s Joyce Carol Oates REALLY like?

Maybe you’ve seen that movie, Capote. You know those scenes where Truman Capote is shown holding court at all those fancy New York City parties. Where he’s the center of attention and all? That’s what it was like for me. Difference being of course that Capote was a real writer.

Only thing I’ve written lately is my name on a bill of sale for a Hyundai Elantra.

But a funny thing happened. All those questions I was being asked at the party. I was fielding them like Derek Jeter fields hard hit ground balls. When someone asked me what kind of books I write, I said:

Fiction. I write novels. When someone asked me why I prefer fiction to, say, non-fiction, I said:

I like to make things up.

As for the titles, I told people they tended to be long ones.

The State Trooper Who Came In From The Cold and Cracked A Cold Case; The Professor of Desire and His Middle Aged Mistress; There Once Was a Burgler From Pawtucket…

I said the names of the titles I made up real fast. So no one would remember them and be able to Google them, or walk down the aisle at Barnes & Noble and look for them. By the time they got to the bookstore, they would have forgotten the names of the books I didn’t write.


To be continued?
" Stephen King has written about zombies, vampires and the end of the world. He has imagined a killer car, a killer dog, a killer clown and killer cellphones. But when he really wants to put a scare into you, he brings on his most fearsome monster of all, that quivering mass of ego and insecurity known as ... the writer. "

From New York Times review of Stephen King's new novel, " Lisey's Story. "


A good writing workshop this morning. Norman was back after missing a few classes. Karen was back, with her daughter. Who is the most well behaved kid I think I've ever seen. Imagine a four year old amusing herself - quietly - for an hour and a half while eleven adults sit around a table talking about, of all things, writing.

And most of the regulars were there: Barbara, Jane Mac, Guida, RJ, Doris, Monica, Jane Max, and Gale. Only Helen and Terry were missing.

Norman piped up toward the end of the class: " Terry, that was the best assignment you've ever given us. " Others agreed. What was the assignment? To imagine yourself or someone else introduced at a party - as a writer. What's it like to be thought of as a writer? What's it like for those introduced to someone who plays that role?

Just about everybody tackled the assignment, which is unusual. Fifty percent is the norm. Half are normally on topic, half are off it.

Even I was included among those who were on topic. I started writing my piece at 9 am this morning. Class starts at 10 am, so I was on deadline. Here's what I wrote. It took about twenty minutes to do, and I did not finish. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't.



SO WHAT KIND OF STUFF DO YOU WRITE?


By Terrence McCarthy



I went to this party in Providence the other night. A woman I’d met last month invited me. I met her in a bar in Pawtucket. Told her I was a writer. I’m not a writer; I sell cars for a living. Put in 35 hours a week at the Tarbox dealership in Warwick.

I kept up the lie for a month. Janice – that’s her name, Janice LaTroopiere - and I have been going out weekends. We go to bars, play a little pool. Talk to each other. Ask each other questions. You know how it is when people are getting to know one another.

I try to ask Janice lots of questions. I think that’s one of the things she likes about me. I seem interested in her life. Actually what I’m doing is trying to prevent her from asking ME questions. Because all of her questions have to do with my, um, writing career.

Janice majored in English at URI. Says she wanted to be a writer, but life got in the way. That’s exactly how she said it. Life got in the way.

I told her, that’s a pretty good line. You would have been a good writer, I said.

You should know, she said back. But, of course I shouldn’t. Wouldn’t.

What do I know? I sell cheap Korean cars for a living.

Anyway. Janice and I were at this party in Providence. People who threw the bash were connected in some way to Brown University. They weren’t professors or anything. I think they said they worked in admissions.

I know what you’re thinking. I said I like to ask people questions so they don’t question me. And that was my plan. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was passing myself off as some kind of writer, especially at a party like this one. Where half of the guests were telling people they were writers. And meaning it. And where the host and hostess worked in the admissions department. Pretty ironic, I thought.

I don't write; I sell cars. That's an admission I wasn't quite ready to make.

So we arrive at this party at the admissions people's house, which is just off Thayer Street up on College Hill. And Wouldn’t you know it, first thing Janice did when we got there was tell everyone, “ I’d like y’all to meet Jack. He’s a writer! “

So, of course, the whole time we were there people were coming up to me and asking me questions. What kind of stuff do you write? Do you write books? What are their titles? Can I find them at Borders? Are those book tours as grueling as they’re made out to be? What’s Joyce Carol Oates REALLY like?

Maybe you’ve seen that movie, Capote. You know those scenes where Truman Capote is shown holding court at all those fancy New York City parties. Where he’s the center of attention and all? That’s what it was like for me. Difference being of course that Capote was a real writer.

Only thing I’ve written lately is my name on a bill of sale for a Hyundai Elantra.

But a funny thing happened. All those questions I was being asked at the party. I was fielding them like Derek Jeter fields hard hit ground balls. When someone asked me what kind of books I write, I said:

Fiction. I write novels. When someone asked me why I prefer fiction to, say, non-fiction, I said:

I like to make things up.

As for the titles, I told people they tended to be long ones.

The State Trooper Who Came In From The Cold and Cracked A Cold Case; The Professor of Desire and His Middle Aged Mistress; There Once Was a Burgler From Pawtucket…

I said the names of the titles I made up real fast. So no one would remember them and be able to Google them, or walk down the aisle at Barnes & Noble and look for them. By the time they got to the bookstore, they would have forgotten the names of the books I didn’t write.


To be continued?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

YouTube - The Doors - Break On Through

Speaking of Joe Lieberman. This one's dedicated to him, The Wizard of ID...
YouTube - The Doors - Break On Through

Comics and Editorial Cartoons: Wizard of Id on Yahoo! News

Joe Lieberman was on Meet The Press this morning and proudly announced, " I'm an ID: Independent Democrat. " He continues to say he'll caucus with the Dems, but when asked by Tim Russert if there's any possibility of his slipping over to the other side of the aisle, Joe did what Joe does. He waffled. Joe Lieberman, Wizard of ID. Gives new meaning to " DC Comics. "
Comics and Editorial Cartoons: Wizard of Id on Yahoo! News

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Republicans all over are licking their wounds today. But if you're a GOPer who lost his seat or contest Tuesday, consider Lincoln Chafee's angst. He was beaten not by one, but two White Houses.

Chafee's pissed and feels betrayed by Rove and his gaggle of lame ducks. ( Is it a " gaggle, " or a " flock? " Whatever. Let's just call it a " shit load " and be done with it. )

Chafee was up for reelection. Who beat him?

Sheldon Whitehouse. What kind of name is that for a politician?
Dateline Los Angeles, California.

Children living in an apartment house in L.A. recently threw rocks at a 500 pound bee hive so huge it was threatening the structural integrity of the two story building. The childrens' behavior angered the bees, whose numbers were said to be nearly 120,000. Authorities report that many people were stung. Policemen, firefighters, newspaper and television reporters and building residents were targeted by the swarm of belligerent insects.

A spokesbee said today, " We had been living peacefully in the hive for years, and have had stones, both metaphorical and actual, thrown our way before. But the rock throwing reached critical mass on Sunday. "

" We're basically peaceful insects when left alone, but there's a line and it was crossed, " the spokesbee said.

Authorities report that more than 40,000 bees were killed in the assault that followed the stoning of the hive. For all intents and purposes, the hive was destroyed.

" They got this hive, but there are more, " the spokesbee said. He said that news reports of the battle will be seen on the cable news channel, El Beezera.

" The reports will do much to aid in our recruiting efforts, " he said. " Bees everywhere will join the Beehad. The next Sting you hear about will be the sting heard round the world. "

Alfred " Buzz " Belevacqua, a retired beekeeper now working as an analyst for MSNBC news, said today that he could not predict when or where the bees will strike next.

" They experience time differently than we do, " Belevacqua said. " For us revenge is a dish best served cold. For them? Well, you have to remember, the average lifespan of a bee is about three or four weeks. We're not talking generations here. "

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department said there are no immediate plans to raise the color coded threat level.

" It's at yellow now and will stay that way, " he said.

Asked what will happen if " chatter " increases, he said, " Well, it wouldn't exactly be chatter; but if the buzz level goes up we might think about raising the alert level to yellow...

With black stripes. "

Friday, November 10, 2006

My old journalism professor at Umass Amherst, Larry Pinkham, was always saying, " The trinity is always with us. " And, indeed, it is, yes it is. It is.

William Styron died this week. Then Ed Bradley walked off the stage, followed closely by Jack Palance.

I recall reading Styron's novel " Sophie's Choice " soon after I quit my job as a newspaper reporter. The narrator of that story was a guy name of " Stingo. " Stingo wanted to be a writer and, in the first chapter of the book, told us readers about this woman he'd met. Sophie. Whom the Nazis had offered a choice: Which of your two children do you want us to kill?

Great writing knocks the top of your head off. That's what the first chapter of Styron's " Sophie's Choice " did to me.

Ten years after that I landed a job as a counselor on a locked psychiatric unit in a large teaching hopsital in western Massachusetts. I'd just read Styron's " Darkness Visible. " The book is about Styron's battles with depression. The writer knocked the top of my head off. Again.

I remember trying to make an impression at the hospital. I was a rookie and had a mere degree in English and journalism. The people with whom I was working were psychiatrists, PhDs, people with degrees in psychology and social work. But I'd been working in advertising and public relations for nine years. Made some phone calls, made some connections that put the ad agencies for which I worked on the map.

I recall speaking with the psychiatrist who was responsible for Grand Rounds, a series of talks and lectures held every Wednesday. I told him I wanted to try to get William Styron to speak at Grand Rounds.

The shrink looked at me like I was crazy. I was a mere counselor, and a new kid on the block. The word " grandiose " probably occurred to him as he sat there listening to my idea.

I tried to connect with Styron, but failed.

I have no connection at all to Ed Bradley. I have no stories to tell. Same goes for Jack Palance, whose obituary I read this evening. Palance died. Among those he leaves are three grandchildren.

The trinity. It is always with us.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I think the country's about to fall in love with this guy, James Webb. The George Allen camp undoubtedly thinks otherwise. They must think Webb's a real life Manchurian Candidate, who billed himself in TV spots as " Soldier. Scholar. Leader. "

Missing was the word " Democrat. "

Not among the missing was Ronald Reagan, who in the same spot is seen praising Webb, who was Reagan's Secretary of the Navy. All cowboy hat/boot and no cattle George Allen did his best to look like Reagan, but it was Webb who made folks think of The Gipper.

I was watching Tucker on MSNBC this afternoon. Pat Buchanan was on and was asked his opinion of Webb. Buchanan loves the guy. Loves the guy who just shot George Allen, a Republican, out of his saddle. And Tucker Carlson couldn't disguise his admiration for the guy.

I'm making a prediction, placing a bet. Jim Webb for President, 2008.

An anti-war warrior, the most decorated man in his Annapolis class. How about that?
I went to a military college and spent four years in the Air Force. But I'm no former genderal and I don't expect to get any invitations from CNN, MSNBC or Foxhole News to discuss military strategy in Iraq. But this does occur to me.

The War in Iraq is not really a war; it's a battle in the global war on terror. That's right; it's a battle, and battles are won and lost all the time. You can lose the battle and win the war. Military history is thick with generals who made decisions to strategically retreat.

So. If I were a military expert, I'd say this. Admit it. We've lost the battle in Iraq. Retreat and regroup. It wouldn't be the end of the world as we know it.

YouTube - Pearl Jam On The Late Show w/ Letterman

I'm in a Pearl Jam state of mind. Here's one more. Consider it a farewell address aimed at Don Rumsfeld.
YouTube - Pearl Jam On The Late Show w/ Letterman

YouTube - Pearl Jam - I Am A Patriot (live)

Click on this one and hear a song I'd add to the celebratory medley. An even more powerful version of this tune can be heard on Jackson Browne's World in Motion CD. It's sung by Little Steven and will knock your red, white and blue socks off.
YouTube - Pearl Jam - I Am A Patriot (live)
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

It turns out George Allen is all hat and no constituency; the guy wearing his son's combat boots won the senate race by a crosshair. I caught a little of Laura Ingraham's act yesterday and she was, at least in the few minutes I listened, handling the defeat with class. Nothing like a good " thumpin' " to mute the shrill voices.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

" A plague on both your houses! "

From the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare


I have to give Bush credit; he did an excellent job today of managing the news. Bush held a 45 minute press conference at 1 p.m. That's a long time for him to be at the podium, answering questions from the White House press corps. His timing was exquisite.

I know what it's like for a news reporter the day after an election. I was a reporter for three years and covered my share of elections. It's a work all day, up all night experience and I sure wouldn't have wanted an editor to assign me to cover a press conference on a day and at a time I should have been in bed sleeping it all off. But there they were, the same reporters who'd covered the election, sitting there, waiting to get called on by a man who'd just awakened from a 10 hour sleep.

Eyes wide shut, as many of them have been during this second term of the George W. Bush presidency.

Hardball questions from the corps this afternoon? Sure. The kind of fastballs Pedro Martinez might be hurling in the 28th inning of a game in which he was the starter.

The camera panned across the press corps and it looked, at least to me, like a surveillance cam shot of a ragtag band of losers on the red eye flight from Vegas.

Bush said he was surprised by the outcome, and no wonder. Rove had been telling him to ignore the polls that were predicting a strong Democratic showing. Rove had his own polls. They predicted the V word, and Bush bought that pitch.

So maybe, just maybe, a section of Bush's bubble of denial was burst yesterday. Maybe he realized, at long last, that the info he's been getting has been wrong. Not just the intel info from George Tenet. Everything. Wrong. From a team of Rovian sychophants with agendas hidden in their pants.

Bush even gave Rove the needle. Said he must have been working harder during the campaign than Rove was. A joke? Unscripted? Hardly. The needle and the damage done and all that. Bush is pissed. He thought he was going to wake up and smell victory this morning. The scent was more like that of shit on the wall, flung by the blades of a fan.

But hey! Bush seized the day, grabbed the headlines. And then at 3:30 p.m. he did it again. Appeared in the Oval Office with Rummy and...

His replacement!

Yes. Rummy's history. Gone. And, along with rumors of war, there is much gossip heard, spread by the groundlings in this Shakespearian tale. Cheney, the surrogate father, his power diminished. Banished to some undisclosed location, out there somewhere, no one really knows where. Cheney wandering, lost in the thick mist on the moor.

And the real father, George the 41st, walking ( Or parachuting, Deus ex machina-like ) back onto the stage.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election night notes ( Continued )


Correction. A spelling error. It's Fallujah. If I had spelled it right, the joke would have been better. They're right; the Devil's in the details.


***


Santorum loses to Casey in the Pennsylvania senate race. This is interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which ( OK. It might just be the least of which ) is that Santorum was indorsed by Don Imus. Imus loves Santorum. Why? Because he kept his word, supported two bills ( Military benefits and autism ) Imus pushed. Didn't back down when it came to carry water for the I Man.

I'm getting tired of people who call in and stroke the I Man, do the I Man's bidding. Just because the I Man has a huge constituency, comprised by the way mainly of Nascar afficianados whose collective sense of humor leans toward flatulence and penile enhancement jokes.

Remember what Jonathan Franzen did when Oprah wanted his book " The Corrections " to be her book of the month?

He said " No thanks. "

Franzen might not be Tolstoy. He may not be likable. But he's his own man, and I haven't heard his voice lately when I listen to Imus.


***


Exit polls are suggesting that corruption is a major factor in this mid-term election. Of all the names in all the races, none may be more important than this one. Abramoff.


***

The Virginia Senate race is tight. If you're from Virginia and you're standing in line reading this ( Yeah, right ) remember:

Allen's the one wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Webb's the one wearing the combat boots his son wore in Iraq.


***


Don't It Make Your Red State Blue just may be the song sung tonight. Followed by Fleetwood Mac's Landslide. But it's still early ( 9:13 p.m. )


***


Lieberman takes Connecticut. His position on the ballot may have been awkward; voters had to squat to give him the nod. But in the senate his position will be better. Folks may be kneeling.


***


Massachusetts just elected Deval Patrick governor. The Bay Staters have come a long way since the Red Sox of the 1950s. Patrick is only the second Black governor in U.S. history. Somewhere, Pumpsie Green is giving someone else a high five.


That's all for now. I'll follow up with all this tomorrow. Put Miles Davis' Kind of Blue on the turntable and start spinning the disk. Then go gently to sleep, perchance to dream of things to come.
Election Night Notes


I drove up to Massachusetts today to take my mother to vote. It's a two and a half hour drive, but it was worth it. She 81 and still engaged in the world. Knows what's happening. I was proud to be walking into the polling place ( My old high school cafeteria ) with her.


***

On my way up to western Mass. I drove through Voluntown, Connecticut. It's one of those small New England towns with a village green and a big white church, a town in which you'd expect to see Bing Crosby leading a gaggle of carolers on Christmas Eve. And that name, Voluntown. Volun, as in volunteer. It's a place where you'd expect to see cadres of political sign bearers marching around town, but nope.

All I saw was one lonely woman, standing on a corner, across the street from a package store. Carrying a sign that read: Ned Lamont for Senator.


***


The numbers coming out of Tennessee don't look good. The Republican, Corker ( Corker? ) is leading Harold Ford by 12 points. Some people are whining that Corker played the racist card with those TV spots tying Ford to Hugh Hefner. Me? I think not. I think it has more to do with Tennesee voters being so stupid they see Harold Ford on the ballot and say to themselves:

Harold Ford? He's 93 years old. Not long for this world. What the hell's the point of voting for him. And he lives in Michigan, don't he?


***

The Rhode Island senatorial race is a story that could only have been written by Joe Heller ( Author of Catch 22 ). Or if this were a painting, it would be a Dali. It's surreal politics. Here we have Lincoln Chafee, a " moderate " Republican, whose TV spots have him distancing himself from our man ( OK. THEIR man ) in the White House, running against a guy whose last name is:

Whitehouse.

As of this writing, 6:54 p.m. EST, Whitehouse ( Sheldon ) was, according to polls, leading by 1 percentage point. About an hour ago the phone rang. I answered it. It was a recorded message, the voice of Sheldon, asking for our vote. Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang. It was a young guy, a canvasser. Encouraging us to vote for Sheldon Whitehouse.

We already had.


***


As I left the polling place late this afternoon, a thought occurred to me. The poll workers made a mistake. Didn't give me all the ballots. I didn't get a chance to cast a ballot for Jim Webb or Harold Ford. I didn't get a chance to kick the bastards in Ohio out. I didn't get a chance to think about voting for the Republican candidate for governor in Florida, the guy who didn't show up yesterday at a rally - a rally for him. A rally Bush flew down there to appear at. With himself, who had better things to do. Better places in Florida to be. Tip O'Neil said " All politics is local. " And that it is. But a news junkie like me watches cable news. I Know more about what's happening in Richmond, Virginia than I know about what's going down in nearby Richmond, Rhode Island. Know more about the issues in Faluja than those in Fall River. I have all these opinions on races with which I have absolutely no real political connection.

Think globally. Act locally. But don't be surprised if you're thinking as clearly as a schizophrenic ( disorganized type ) as you're pulling out of the polling place parking lot.


Well, that's the early evening take. I'll update this later.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I can't stand Laura Ingraham ('s persona ). There's no way I can say I can't stand her. I don't know her. All I know is what I hear on the radio. I know her act, and her act gets on my nerves. But what she said on a recent Larry King Show made a lot of sense. What she said was, essentially, that the democrats must do incredibly well tomorrow. Not just take the House. Take it in a big way, by which I assume she means picking up 25 to 35 seats. Not just taking control of the Senate. Picking up more seats than anyone's predicting.

In 1992, Bill Clinton had a Fleetwood Mac tune playing at his campaign appearances. That tune was " Don't Stop ( Thinking about Tomorrow. ) "

Ingraham is telling us that Fleetwood Mac's " Landslide " is the tune the Dems have to be thinking about tomorrow.

And if that doesn't happen? The Democrats lose. It's an interesting way to frame the mid term election. What she's saying really is that if the Democrats can't pull this off, in a big way, they are total losers. What she's doing is telling her opponents what the point spread should be, and it's not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Left Nutmeg :: When Joe Lieberman Calls

Y'all just have to see and hear this one. Before Tuesday night.
My Left Nutmeg :: When Joe Lieberman Calls

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Essayist Terrance McCarthy

The good news is that I'm getting my name out there. The bad news? They're spelling it wrong. Are Richard Ferd and Andruw Sullivan having this problem?

Essayist Terrance McCarthy
Maybe it was because I was walking the streets of Hartford last month, remembering when I lived and worked there. That might be it. Truth be told I'm in no way sure why Elizabeth came to mind, but she did and I Googled her.

Last time I saw Elizabeth, she was 17. I was 38. Elizabeth was a senior at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. Farmington's a tony town just west of The Insurance City. If it had a slogan it might be: Farmington: Gateway to Litchfield County.

Connecticut's the richest state in the union. How can a state that boasts the likes of cities of such as Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury be so affluent?

Fairfield and Litchfield Counties.

When I was a student at the University of Hartford back in the 1960s, I lived on Farmington Avenue. If you walked out of the building in which I lived, took a left and walked for several hours, you'd wind up in Farmington. I walked a lot back in those days, but I never took that long walk. I'd heard about Miss Porter's School. Knew Jackie Kennedy had graduated from there. Farmington. It was just a few miles away, but back in those days, it was like another planet. Classwise.

Fifteen years after I lived on Farmington Avenue, I landed a job as an advertising copywriter for an ad agency in Hartford. A couple of times a week, I would play tennis with my boss and a couple of bankers. Our offices were in the Gold Building on Main Street in Hartford. After work we'd drive out to Farmington and play tennis on the courts on the campus of Miss Porter's School.

A few years later I was working for another ad agency in Hartford. I'd been promoted to creative director and among my responsibilities was running the intern program. Some of the interns were students at Trinity College. One of the interns was a student at Miss Porter's School. Her name was Elizabeth...

Whose name I Googled the other day.

Long story short. Elizabeth wanted to be a writer and a writer's she's become. She's had a book published, founded a magazine. Got married. Had kids.

I emailed her the other day. It was going back twenty years and it felt real weird when she got back to me. It was going back twenty years. That's one way to frame it. Another way's this.

It was like walking out of that three story brick building in which I lived for a semester. It was like walking towards Farmington, getting there, and connecting with someone who'd one day turn out to be pretty special.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The late Thomas " Tip " O'Neil once uttered a few words that have been tattood on the arms of voters who use that arm to pull that lever. " All politics is local, " Tip said.

That just might be the most true thing a politician has ever said. It bears repeating:

" All politics is local. "

It's a given that everyone hates those goddam politicians. We loathe those inside the beltway morons we see on the Nightly News. The man and woman in the street are asked: Whaddya think of those Washington pols?

" Throw the bums out, they're corrupt, every last one of 'em. "

Yet 95 percent of incumbents are reelected. This all reminds me of what Linus said:

" I love humanity; it's people I hate. "

The reverse is true in the cartoon character infested world of politics.

EveryLinus, your typical voter, might just say, when interviewed as he stands in the potholed American street: " I hate Congress; but I love my Congressman. "

All of which brings me to the topic of Joe Lieberman. If the polls ring true, Lieberman will win the race for the Connecticut Senate seat Tuesday. It's a tight race. Lieberman lost the primary and has been running as an " independent. "

Joe's ahead in the polls, which is being framed as good news by those in Lieberman's camp. Here's what Hartford pundit Colin McEnroe has to say about that.

" No matter how you frame it, the truth is he's gone from a guy who was a presidential contender two years ago, a vice presidential contender six years ago, to a guy who can barely win his own state. So as vindications go, this one's a little Pyrrhic. "

Amen.

YouTube - Don't It Make Your Red State Blue

Pour yourself a glass of pinot noir Tuesday night and listen to this...
YouTube - Don't It Make Your Red State Blue

Thursday, November 02, 2006

YouTube - Emmylou Cambridge UK July 2006 - the sequel

The second song in Emmylou's set, Red Dirt Girl. It's a keeper.

YouTube - Emmylou Cambridge UK July 2006 - the sequel
Donna and I were at the URI/Merrimac basketball game last night. We're college hoop freaks, but watch mostly on TV. Hadn't been to a live game in a few years. We bought tickets for an athletic event but what we got was essentially a dancing show interrupted occasionally by a basketball game.

URI has 25 cheerleaders. 25!!! And that doesn't include the egregious " Ramettes, " whose talent obviously ain't on loan from the Godess of Modern Dance, Martha Graham. They were awful. The music was awful.

When I was a kid my dad took me to Boston Garden to see The Celtics play Syracuse. We sat in the top row and by the time the game ended The Garden air was thick with smoke, including the toxic fog generated by Red Auerbach's cigar. That was unpleasant, but not nearly as annoying as the freakin' time out and half time dance extravaganza that held us hostage at the Ryan Center last night. Smoke is one thing, what we were subjected to last night's another. Smoke's bad for your lungs. That crap blackens the soul.

Back in the days before the dancers and the music, you could actually talk to the person sitting next to you during time outs and the halftime break. Talk about the game you were watching, pick it apart and maybe learn something from one another.

Red Auerbach died the other day. If the morons had their way, pretty girls would be dancing on his grave.
When you hear the word " Conservative, what media figure's name comes to mind? I'll bet a lot of people think: Rush Limbaugh. Which, if you are a true conservative, is a shame. Limbaugh is to conservatism what Willard Scott is to meteorology; he's a joke. Lately, when the word " Conservative " comes to mind, I think:

Andrew Sullivan.

If I were a true conservative, I'd like Sullivan in my corner. Here are some reasons why, in the form of reviews of his new book.



The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back
by Andrew Sullivan





From Publishers Weekly

As editor of the New Republic and on his blog The Daily Dish, Sullivan has been a major conservative voice in U.S. politics for 15 years. Now, he attempts "to account for what one individual person means by conservatism"—not repudiating his former political beliefs but trying to "rescue" modern U.S. political conservatism from "the current [Christian] fundamentalist supremacy" that now dominates it. Sullivan (Love Undetectable) has a breezy, readable style that allows him to address such diverse issues as religious fundamentalism's reliance on "the literal words of the Bible," the "excessive witch-hunt" surrounding Clinton, and the secular Enlightenment foundations of the Constitution. He's most approachable when he writes autobiographically through a critical lens—"Looking back I see this phase of my faith life as a temporary and neurotic reaction to a new and bewildering school environment." But that reflection is not as readily apparent when he makes sweeping pronouncements on politics ("post-modern discourse... opposed basic notions of Western freedom: of speech, of trade, of religion"). Much of the book is a meditation on his own evolving faith as a devout Catholic and will appeal most to readers interested in personal religious evolution. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
I don't spend much time in Washington; maybe it's different down there. But let me tell you, out here in the wilds of the New Jersey suburbs, it is pure hell being a Republican these days, or a conservative, which used to be the same thing. The party I grew up in, which stood for fiscal discipline and strong defense and avoided the sloppiness and stained dresses of so many good-hearted Democratic administrations, seems to have been conquered by people who think stem-cell research is murder, who want to ban unpopular sex acts and who have proven incapable of managing such basic government tasks as disaster relief and a war. A war! That used to be the one thing you knew the GOP could run efficiently. Now, well, now it's gotten to the point where I'm just too embarrassed to admit that I'm a Republican.
Conservatism is facing a crisis that won't be solved, one suspects, merely by switching presidents. To those of us far removed from Beltway philosophical battles, Andrew Sullivan -- a columnist for Time magazine, a prominent blogger and a senior editor at the New Republic -- might seem an unusual candidate to parse the problem. He's British. He's Catholic. He's gay. But Sullivan is also smart and well read, and in his new book, The Conservative Soul, he calmly and rationally attempts to deduce the malady that in barely 15 years has rendered Reagan-era conservatism all but unrecognizable.

The pathogen he identifies is Christian fundamentalism. The Conservative Soul, in fact, is one of several similar books issued this fall that collectively serve as a call to arms to American elites to put down their New York Times crossword puzzles and their glasses of Fumé Blanc and wake up to the idea that the fundamentalists most dangerous to our future are not Islamic and foreign but Christian and homegrown. Sullivan's is at once an obvious yet much-needed siren; his text calls to mind the book Mary Lefkowitz wrote several years back, Not Out of Africa, to rebut charges that the foundations of ancient Greek culture were built by black Africans. Afrocentrism was so nutty that most intellectuals couldn't be bothered to answer it. The same, I fear, is true for Christian fundamentalism. Its political tenets are so addlebrained and its leaders so difficult to take seriously that it's only now -- after the country has been run by a born-again Christian for six years -- that thinkers like Sullivan realize that it's time for reasonable people to do something about it.

The Conservative Soul, unfortunately, is not only too polite but too high-minded to galvanize anyone without a graduate degree in philosophy. This is not a bad thing, just a warning. If you belong to the Elks Club, apply catsup to your scrambled eggs or have ever read anything by Ann Coulter, this is not a book for you. It is written by a card-carrying intellectual and aimed at card-carrying intellectuals. Sullivan wades deep into the high grasses here; he is more interested in Hegel, Hobbes and Leo Strauss than anyone you've seen arguing on television, much less voted for. Further, the book doesn't really explain how conservatism lost its soul, just that it did, and it doesn't offer any real prescription for getting it back.

Instead, and this is the book's great value, Sullivan takes us back to basics -- we're talking Plato here -- to remind us of the bedrock differences in the two schools of belief that, like squabbling conjoined twins, inhabit the Republican Party's tortured body. The first half of The Conservative Soul, which explores the philosophical underpinnings of Christian fundamentalism and explains how they are anathema to a free society, made me as angry as anything I've read in months. That there are people in 21st-century America who believe the Bible is literally true, who believe the Earth was created 6,000 years ago, and who believe that our lives today should be dictated by codes of conduct written by people who lived 2,000 years before modern medicine, electricity or equal rights -- and that these same Americans have influence in national affairs -- should infuriate anyone with a functioning mind. Fundamentalism, Sullivan reminds us, is the antithesis of reason. Its adherents -- Christian, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise -- have been handed The Truth and cling to it, facts be damned. Quoting figures as varied as Pope Benedict XVI and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Sullivan repeatedly emphasizes how fundamentalism abhors the thinking mind, insisting that an individual's conscious choices -- whether to have an abortion or what to order at Burger King -- amount to moral anarchy.

In the book's second half, Sullivan switches from anger to nostalgia, reaching back to remind us of the things that made Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher's brand of conservatism so appealing and so successful as a mode of governance. He traces the influence of fundamentalists to Bill Clinton's various personal deficiencies, which triggered a moral counterattack from Christian leaders who felt they knew something about morality. It's a good story, but Sullivan doesn't tell it with any narrative grace. Instead, he gnashes his teeth in frustration at the changes this period brought to conservatism. It's the hallmark of his book -- a fine intellectual effort that, for all Sullivan's clear thinking and clear prose, probably won't change any minds that fundamentalist beliefs haven't already ossified.

Reviewed by Bryan Burrough
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.





another conservative shows that Bush is not conservative, October 14, 2006
Reviewer: another reader "anonymous" - See all my reviews
Sullivan does excellent work in showing how far from traditional conservatism George W. Bush is with his emphasis on heavy government spending without commensurate taxation, his unconscionable expansion of executive power at the expense of other branches of government and against the U.S. Constitution, as well as his putting religious ideas, themselves without rational basis, in the place of reasonable, skeptical inquiry. The only fault of the book is that it makes Reagan a more competent president than in fact he was: Reagan's fiscal profligacy in expanding defense spending while cutting taxes doubled the national debt in the eight years of his administration.

Sullivan's book joins Bruce Bartlett's Impostor as a debunker of Bush's supposed conservatism.






Sullivan's writing is ultra-accessible, and transforms previously dry and boring academic philosophies into something anyone can understand. His critique on the state of conservatism in America is refreshing and much needed. He presents a viable argument for doubt and faith to exist side by side, soemthing I didn't think possible.

His commentary on the current Republican party is insightful and brutally honest. A must read.







--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



This book purports to claim that conservatism has lost its moral compass. It does so by saying that Christian 'fundamentalism' is a threat to 'real' conservative values and that the present Republican party is far from conservative, the only 'real' conservative is apparently found in the democratic party.

This fallacy is fascinating and is part of a new flood of assaults on the Bush administration from those masquerading as the 'real' right. The idea is clear, since Bush can't be assaulted from the left without offending right wing people, it is better to pretend to be a rightist and assault the administration. The key here turns on religion, supposedly ascribing views to Goldwater and others that they never had.

The idea is that the 'real' conservative disapproves of bush, hates faith based schools approves of abortion and gay marriage and is fiscally irresponsible and is not isolationist enough.

But this is a fabrication. The word conservative is both new and old. It describes those traditionaltists and those paleo-cons who were isolationists and anti-communists. It is NOT however the opposite of the classical liberal, that is a mistake, neither is it pro-monarchy. It is true that Goldwater was a conservative. However he was called a radical fascist in his time, and only now is he dragged up as being the opposite of Bush. But it is part of a lie. Goldwater was no neo-con, but he was also not the radical liberal he is protrayed as being, and one wonders why the same people who hated him and called him 'nazi' now claim him as thier intellectual heritage.

This book is simply a fabrication which is why leftists like it. It has nothing to do with being conservative. It is true that the Bush admin is not the same conservaitve as Pat Buchanon or Goldwater or Buckley, but neither are they the same as this book. Which is how we know this isn't conservatism, because somewhere between Bushanon, Buckley, Goldwater and Bush is the real thing.

Seth J. Frantzman








Soulful and thoughtful, October 26, 2006
Reviewer: Dr. John Laughlin (Glenn Dale, MD) -

An outstanding read, hard to put down, Conservatism is presented in the the clearest writing yet. Gay and Roman Catholic, Sullivan writes his from his heart and mind and presents the dangers of fundamnentalism in all its forms and makes one proud of the wisdom and brilliance and fairness of our Founding Fathers, whose thought is presented in an election today would be political suicide. A great book, hard to put down.








another opinion, October 25, 2006
Reviewer: Leo J "Leo" (Chicago) - See all my reviews
A well written book. Conservatives could learn a little by reading this book. As Sullivan notes conservative fiscal responsibility seems to have gone. As he also notes, there really is no absolute truth, and he especially refers to religion.
With that being said, I am personally tired of reading opinions. A writer can slant his work by picking and choosing evidence to fit his opinion. It seems everybody is writing, and why not, lots of money being made. Even Mushariff is doing a book.
Read this book, but I hope people stop and think about what is being said.








Andrew Sullivan wants you to try just a little humility. , October 24, 2006
Reviewer: Gregory Mills "Greg" (Berkeley) -


There's a critique of conservatism that is an ahistoric ideology. That is, it's concerned with the sustaining of institutions, rather that than betting on some grand narrative that will sweep us to a brighter tomorrow.

It's a critique that can be claimed by both old-line National Review conservatives like Bill Buckley and Marxist theorists like Terry Eagleton. I'll leave it to whoever is reading this whether or not this is a useful approach to engagment with the world.

So where is conservatism now? Andrew Sullivan, a Thatcherite conservative, asks and doesn't like the answers he gets.

Sullivan thinks the GOP has largely abandoned the libertarian/Federalism lite (very, very lite) Gingrich vision of that launched the ascendancy of the modern GOP.

Suddenly "conservatives" are very comfortable with the idea of federal intervention in what were state domains, education, domestic contracts, etc.

Sullivan merely argues, contrary what other commenters have stated, that conservatism could do well to reclaim some skepticism and humility, to stop claiming a mantle of absolute truth.

Seems like a reasonable thing to me.

Sullivan's prose is direct, thoughtful, and he's not afraid to engage readers with thorny issues. A satisfying book.