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My Brain is Counterclockwise

The other day, a colleague made a forward-moving gesture to complement what she was saying about the year progressing.

Even though her hand moved from left-to-right (that’s the direction in which we read, B&E readers), every fiber in my being felt like she was moving backwards with her gesture.

Then I realized that I visualize the year as a circle. January and December straddle the top of the circle, and the year progresses counterclockwise. My birthday, in May, lies on the bottom left-hand part of the circle, as the year progresses through me an onward around the circle away from me back counterclockwise toward the top of the circle again.

And yes, through me, so the circle is also sort of three-dimensional. Warm months near me, cold months away from me.

In this meeting, then, I asked, to much confusion, if anyone else imagines the year as a counterclockwise circle. I’m sure you’ll be surprised that no one did.

But it goes back to my preschool in North Carolina. We sat in a circle in the order of our birthdays. The teachers stood at the top of the circle. And we had a months-of-the-year song, during which you would stand up when it got to your month. The circle moved counterclockwise around the room.

And today I still imagine the year progressing in that same counterclockwise circle.

This random bit of nonsense is just for you, my three faithful B&E readers. You’re welcome.

More Interesting, Less Depressing

One of the reasons I can’t seem to get motivated to write more posts on B&E is that the 2012 election — in terms of candidates and coverage — depresses the hell out of me. Bat-shit crazy has become the mainstream. And we’ve got almost another year of this fucking bullshit. Ever since we re-elected Bush (or elected him for the first time, depending on how you look at it), I will not overestimate my fellow citizens again.

So Mitt, Santorum, Newt, Ayn Rand… They all freak me out.

A story like this, then, seems downright fun to me. The short of it is that David Cameron, current Tory Prime Minister of the UK, seems to want to give Alex Salmond, current Scottish Nationalist Party First Minister of Scotland, a fully binding opportunity for Scotland to declare full independence from the UK.

Naturally, there are catches. The first is that Cameron wants there to be only two options on the ballot: full independence or the status quo. Salmond would like there to be a third option that is devolution that stops just sort of full independence, an option currently very popular with the Scottish people.

More significant, perhaps, is that Cameron is demanding that if the outcome is fulling binding, it must be held in the next 18 months, at least a year earlier than Salmond would like. Right now, almost a third of Scots want full independence. But that number is growing. Salmond is hoping that by 2014 he’ll have a majority on that. Cameron doesn’t want to give him that time.

But it’s the first time that the UK Prime Minister has agreed to a fully binding resolution. So now Salmond has to figure out his options.

I’m rather a fan of the idea of Scottish independence. Part of it is that I don’t really understand how the countries are connected in the first place, so sure, why not be independent? Also, I’m American, so it’s not like I’d get a say in the matter. But the missus and her family are all Scottish Nationalists and have been wanting independence for, well, centuries, probably.

A month or so ago, this article appeared, revealing some of Scotland’s post-independence plans. In short: Strong ties with Scandinavia.

I tell you what, B&E readers. It makes for interesting (and not just a little exciting) reading. Way better than all of this fucking bullshit surrounding the Republican presidential primary. It pains me that one of these Dickheads could actually become the next POTUS.

Christmastime MCI to LGA

Someone suggested that perhaps I rename the blog Bald & Sporadic. Since I like B&E as an abbreviation, Bald & Elusive may work better.

We’re Christmas celebrators in our family, so Merry Christmas to the B&E readers who also celebrate Jesus/Santa-style. To those who don’t do the Christmas, I offer a general Happy Holidays. And to those who really think there’s a war on Christmas, I either ask you to take a good, objective look around you and reassess your position, or I offer you the heartiest “Shove it up your gaping assholes” for the Season.

I’ve spent the last week or so in Kansas, visiting Ma, who had a pretty serious health scare. I’m happy to report that she’s now out of the hospital and on the mend. She might even be better than she’s been in months, actually.

But our family gets a bit gun-shy when it comes to health issues during the holiday season. But hey, that’s just a byproduct of my having a father who passed away Christmas morning. Merry Christmas to us!

Anyway, I know that I’ve been a bit lax about the B&E of late, and I’ve been apologizing, or refusing to apologize, for months now.

I’ll probably take a good look at my dedication to this here blog as we turn to 2012 next week. With a job that requires a great deal of writing, along with several writing projects going at once that I’m quite enjoying, I’m not sure how dedicated I want to be to this thing anymore.

Still, it’s a useful medium for those times that I’m stuck or bored or angry, or if I’ve just got a silly something I want to toss off. (Which, if your mind is as dirty as mine, makes it sound like I refer to my private area as a “silly something.” I don’t. At least not until now.)

So no decisions about Bald & Effective/Elusive just now.

But thank you — all five of you — for reading B&E and happiest holidays to you. My Christmas Day will be spent with a quick morning visit to my dad’s cemetery plot, a delicious Swedish pancake breakfast, and an aeroplane flight back to New York City, where I plan to greet the missus (who didn’t join me for this emergency visit) with an enormous embrace and then enjoy a Christmas dinner of delicious cullen skink.

Weapons Grade Chicken

Yeah, I totally at a lot over Thanksgiving. What of it?

The missus and I spent the holiday in Nashville, Tennessee. We’re both good eaters. So in addition to the traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving itself, we went on the hunt for some good regional cuisine.

Because we’re Yankees, we didn’t even really know what that might mean. Nashville is in the South, sure, but it’s not the Deep South. Does Nashville do good barbecue? Yes, apparently it does good barbecue. But Nashville’s contribution to southern cuisine is not barbecue.

It’s Nashville Hot Chicken. Get it on or off the bone with a couple of sides and prepare to sweat.

A couple of weeks ago, I’d been in Denver, and my host there asked a Thai restaurant to prepare her dish “Thai spicy.” It had some kick, but no way was it “Thai spicy.”

The Nashville Hot Chicken joint we went to offered their Hot Chicken mild, medium, hot, extra-hot, and extra-extra-hot.

I was raised on a fairly bland diet. Germans just don’t cook with tons of spice. And having spent most of my formative years in Kansas, it’s not like hot sauce was something that came with every meal.

In fact, it’s really only in recent years that I’ve begun to enjoy spicy foods. At our nearby Thai place, “mild” will sometimes knock me (and my unpracticed palette) right on my ass. What can I say? I’m very sensitive.

So when my sister told me that even mild Nashville Hot Chicken has a good kick (she’s been to our Thai place with us), I trusted her. She and the step-dad and I went with medium. The missus and brother-in-law (who has a different hot sauce for every meal) went with hot. (Ma has a sensitive constitution and had a leftover turkey sandwich instead of Nashville Hot Chicken. Poor Ma.)

Most of us went with chicken fingers, and from what I could gather, the Hot is created with some sort of dry rub that coats the whole thing. It’s not breaded (at least I think it’s not breaded), and I’m pretty sure they deep-fry it from there.

The medium stretched my threshold for spiciness, but it was outstanding. The missus also loved it, although she also said that if she were to do it again, she’d go with medium. It was the first meal I ever ate with my brother-in-law in which he didn’t add hot sauce.

And that’s the thing… This is a guy who likes the spice more than anyone else in my life. The “hot” was hot enough even for him. I can’t imagine who’s going in there for extra-hot and extra-extra-hot.

When the assholes at Fox News were talking about the students that got pepper-sprayed at UC Davis, one of them said that pepper spray was basically a food product.

Maybe that whack-job knows something I don’t. Maybe the extra-hot and extra-extra-hot versions of Nashville Hot Chicken are prepared with pepper spray.

I sure as shit wouldn’t want to get one of those chicken fingers in my eyes.

We were actually going to get a bunch of Nashville Hot Chicken to bring back to Queens with us. Alas, our Nashville Hot Chicken place was closed on the Sunday we wanted to order it.

Nashville is, after all, in the South, if not the Deep South.

Um… Um… Oops.

No, I didn’t watch the latest in seemingly thousands of Republican primary debates. I have, however, watched the clip of Rick Perry blanking on the third agency he’d cut from his government.

Political media (especially on the left, which is the media I tend to consume) has declared it to be a devastating moment for the Perry campaign. Sure, it was awkward. And you don’t often see a moment like that from politicians.

I actually thought Rick Perry was sort of charming in that moment. When he got to the third agency he’d cut (after Commerce and Education), he recognized pretty quickly that he was blanking. He sort of laughed at himself, as he was responding to Ron Paul, who was not about to help him.

The moderator at CNBC smelled blood and pressed Perry, which forced him to finally say, “I can’t remember the third right now. Sorry. Oops.”

People draw blanks all the time. I know I do. Hell, I write for a living, and I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve reached for a word in a meeting with a client, only to find that word hiding just beyond my grasp.

More and more, we expect our politicians to be like us, to be human. Rick seemed more like a regular guy in that moment than Mitt Romney ever will. And I thought he handled it surprisingly well, considering how big a deal it was destined to be. He just had that feeling of, “Nope, it’s gone. Shit happens.”

Don’t get me wrong. There are a thousand reasons to not vote for Rick Perry (you know, like that he wants to cut the Commerce, Education, and Energy (!) Departments). But losing a word momentarily isn’t one of those reasons.

What Happens if Mitt Blows It, Too?

We are seeing some serious self-destruction in this Republican primary.

To be fair, this isn’t true so much from those candidates that can’t seem to get anything real going from the start. (I’m looking at your utter lack of charisma, Pawlenty; your employment by the Obama administration, Huntsman; your insider has-been status, Gingrich; your lovemaking to Ayn Rand, Ron Paul; your Google problem, Santorum; and your who-the-hell-are-you, Gary Johnson.)

But man, the others?

Michele Bachmann entered with a flash so bright, she made us all forget about Sarah Palin. Considering the shitstorm she really could’ve been, Bachmann’s run a surprisingly sane campaign. I mean, sure, there’s the odd mistaken history, her gay-converting husband, and her everyday batshit craziness, but she hasn’t given us the holy-shit-she-just-said-she’d-nuke-China moment we all expected from her.

Unfortunately for her, the macho version of Bachmann entered the race in the form of Rick Perry. Tough-talkin’ Texan, like the ever-popular George W. Bush. (I’m only partially sarcastic about that, by the way. Did you happen to catch how loud the cheers were when he threw out the first pitch during the World Series?) And then Rick spoke. Not only is his ideology fucking crazy, but he can’t speak it well. Two bad debates sunk the poor bastard. It’s pretty hard to look stupid enough that even the right-wing deserts you (what with their anti-intellectualism), but that’s pretty much what happened to Rick Perry.

With nowhere else to turn (and by “nowhere else” I mean Mitt Romney), the right headed toward Herman Cain. “This man seems like our kind of crazy.” Cain skyrocketed in the polls, suddenly leading the presumptive nominee (yes, Mitt). And now, in the latest implosion, not only is Herman fumbling the way he talks about a history of sexual harassment claims against him, i.e. avoiding straightforward answers, but it’s also come to light that his campaign may have violated federal tax law and campaign finance law. Ouch. Bad day.

Also, can we acknowledge for the record that Godfather’s Pizza sucks?

That leaves us, and Republican primary voters, with Mitt Romney. Poor bastard can’t get any love. He’s definitely fucked some shit up, what with the various changes in stances he’s taken on any number of issues, depending on whatever he thinks will help him most in any given moment. And boy, Republicans are more hesitant to commit to him than he is to commit to a firm stance on anything. But his self-destructive moments are a lot smaller than the self-destructive moments of others. Mitt’s best strategy for the rest of the Republican primary season might just be to take his millions and hide on an island somewhere. As long as the media can’t find him, he can’t fuck it up.

But what if he does? And by “fuck it up,” I mean, really fuck it up? What if we find out that Mitt is a plural marriage Mormon? What if we learn that he killed his grandma? What if he gets caught masturbating outside the Supreme Court? What if he goes to animal shelters for cats, just to serve them for dinner? What if he tweets a photo of his cock to Andrew Weiner? What if he wears women’s underwear? What if Mitt Romney is the mysterious creator of the tiny paper sculptures turning up around Edinburgh?

Where on earth would the Republican voters turn then? Would Tim Pawlenty jump back in the race? And wouldn’t that be a flip-flop, too?

I find it physically painful to follow all this stuff too closely. Almost everything I’ve heard the Republican candidates actually say has been upsetting. Each of them — in their own slightly varied way — holds an ideology that can only result in dangerous policy.

It looks like, once again, in 2012, I’ll be voting against someone, rather than for someone.

OH WOW!

By now you’ve probably heard that Steve Jobs’ final words were, “OH WOW OH WOW OH WOW,” according to his sister in the eulogy she gave at his memorial. (You can read the eulogy in the NYTimes, if you have access beyond their firewall.)

So was Steve Jobs making a stunning transition to the afterlife? I doubt it. He probably just had another idea for a spectacular product that we’ll never get to enjoy. Dammit.

It Might Be Called Nesting

I’m tired of apologizing to you people! All five of you! I know, I know, I’m not writing much recently. This latest break was more than two weeks, which is frankly difficult even to get my own head around.

So what have I been doing? Honestly, not much of anything that I usually consider productive. I haven’t been terribly active with my own writing during that time. It’s been busy at work, but I’m pretty reliable about not spending extra time at the office. So I can’t really blame that.

As I mentioned, the missus and I have this new, slightly larger apartment, so I’ve visited IKEA, I’ve ordered a few things online that the new space needs, I’ve committed long-term (as long-term as IKEA can be) to a comfy chair with ottoman (both of which I’ve also put together), and built the massive bookcase (with the missus’ help, of course).

I had a cold for a while and really tried not to push myself, so not much of anything got done during that time.

More than anything, though, I think I’ve been cooking. Every weekend, I make some sort of big pot of something that sustains the missus and I for a week of lunches. So it’s trips to the farmers market and lots of chopping for, what have turned out to be, rather labor-intensive soups and stews. Squash is in season right now, and I’ve tried a couple of different squash soups. This week’s was pretty good, with butternut squash, coconut milk and ginger and red chile pepper and cilantro. The steak pie from a Scottish cookbook also turned out well.

So… what do we call this? Nesting? Living life? Whatever it is, I have to admit that I’ve been rather enjoying myself.

And it’s not like I’m not also following current events. (I certainly could’ve gone my whole life without seeing the photo of dead Gaddafi.) Sure, I’ve got opinions about the insanity of the Republican debates. When Mitt Romney seems almost reasonable, Ron Paul speaks occasional shocking truth (and no one cares), and the whole field make George W. Bush seem downright moderate, you know that shit is fucked up. Shit is fucked up, B&E readers. Shit. Is. Fucked. Up.

Members of the Democratic Party, including the President, are showing sudden backbone in the political discourse, and far be it from me to be cynical, but honestly, I only think that’s true because a) there’s an election coming up, and b) they know that the policies themselves will never actually pass.

So, yes, I’ve still got a few things to say here and there about bullshit going on in the world.

But honestly, I kind of just want to sit in my comfy chair and enjoy the still unorganized office space in my new apartment. (Organizing it is this weekend’s project, by the way.)

And no, I still haven’t been down to Occupy Wall Street. How many times do I have to tell you about this comfy chair?

A Bit About the Occupation

I’ve yet to go check out the people Occupying Wall Street. Truth be told, I don’t love crowds. Or people.

For years, the political left (of which I’m a part, as my four readers (I’ve probably lost a couple due to recent inactivity) well know) has actually annoyed me quite a lot. The establishment party of the left (that’s the Democrats) is one big feckless weenie when it operates as a whole. The left-leaning popular movement outside the establishment party tends to be unfocused and unmotivated. I do not excuse myself from this crowd.

Single-issue movements are occasionally a bit more effective, if you think, for example, about marriage equality here in New York. You can also find examples from the past, even for the long fights, such as Civil Rights in the 50s and 60s.

Other single-issue movements seem to lack longevity or media coverage or both. Back in 2003, the anti-war left had a pretty clear message (i.e. “No War”), but it seems to have deserted its cause, particularly since Obama took office. Millions of immigrants have marched in the past few years, and those marches might’ve been incredibly powerful, except that they couldn’t get a minute of media coverage.

So even objectively, outside the realm of whether I care about the Occupy Wall Street issues, this is a pretty interesting movement. They stuck it out long enough to get beyond being ignored. Then the police arrested some people (a lot of people, actually), and the media started paying attention. Usually with scorn and dismissiveness.

Even friends on the left have complained about a lack of coherent message. Which is true, but I don’t know how much that really matters at the moment. And anyway, a coherent message is pretty rare from the left, so let’s not expect too much.

Back in 1992, when I went to a pro-choice march in DC (which I partly signed up for because I really wanted to hook up with one of the organizers — and it totally worked), I remember becoming aware for the first time at the lack of focus the left had with its messaging. Most of the marchers were carrying signs or shouting out about a woman’s right to choose.

And then there were also some jackasses holding “Free Mumia” signs.

Yes, the left can be infuriatingly unfocused. And that’s been a primary complaint about the Occupy Wall Street movement. “What do they want??”

I call, “Bullshit” to some degree on that complaint. Yes, there are tons of people down there. Some of them — let’s face it: most of them — will be incoherent, inarticulate, nervous idiots, when speaking to someone with a microphone and/or a camera. So if you interview one of those idiots, you’re going to hear a mess. They will be the subject of cheap, easy mockery.

(Random interviews within the Tea Party marches also sounded messy or stupid or racist, and were easily mocked. But the Tea Partiers had the advantage of Fox News’ 24-hour coverage to help them clarify their message. The left doesn’t quite have the same advantage.)

But if you listen to the coverage from a show such as Democracy Now! (a perennial favorite here, on B&E), you’ll hear the activists worth listening to. Imagine that: a reporter actually spends time finding an articulate, intelligent, coherent activist to interview. The movement sounds a lot better then.

So what are they doing down there? And what do they want? Here’s why I’m not sure it matters that we understand them completely. At least not yet.

They have a bogeyman. And it’s a fucking great bogeyman. Wall Street. People understand that Wall Street equals greed and preying on everyone who isn’t part of Wall Street. Wall Street doesn’t just represent the harm inflicted on the people of this country; the firms of Wall Street actually inflicted harm on this country. Wall Street is both the figurative and literal bogeyman for all of our ills.

Bank of America might be a quintessential example because they got tons of TARP money, continue to foreclose upon the people they gave shitty mortgages to, and now charge you $5 to access your own money. Bank of America has, by itself, pissed off millions of Americans. Bank of America is just one Wall Street firm. There are millions of people pissed off now.

And because it’s a left-leaning movement, it seems unfocused. That’s because just about every pet cause of the left can trace their ills back to Wall Street. Sometimes the firms of Wall Street may not deserve it. Most of the time they fucking do.

So no, for once, I don’t have a problem with a lack of coherent messaging from the left. Maybe it’ll bother me more over time. But for now it’s fine that they just have a clear starting point: “FUCK WALL STREET.”

Now maybe I’ll go down there and join them for a while this weekend. Or at least take some pictures.

Well, we’ll see. I’ve got some stuff to take care of with my new apartment…

Movin’ On Up

I’ve lived in my current apartment since May of 2000. That means I’ve lived here longer than any other home in my life.

It’s been a good apartment. Which is a surprise, considering that I had no idea how long I’d stay here. I only saw two or three apartments when I decided to move to Sunnyside, and availability was more important than quality.

Having only shared apartments before, a one-bedroom for just myself was downright luxurious. I lived on my own terms, which often meant “like a slob,” and spent several years underemployed while working all day on various writing projects and the occasional freelance job. I set up an office in the kitchen, actually, which I rather liked.

After the missus and I married, she joined me in this one-bedroom apartment. We both had lots of books, and she added instruments. Not to mention all of the other things that people have. You know, like clothes and furniture.

I had to give up a comfy chair. I loved that chair. But it was truly massive, and it just didn’t fit anymore.

We’ve been pretty much cramped in this space since 2004. Even without the comfy chair, it’s always been too small for both of us. We’re constantly culling our material goods down to what we deem to be essential.

We’ve made it work, though, even as both of us have, at various times, done our jobs from the apartment. Friends sometimes call it cozy, a few have said they like the vibe here, and it’s always felt like home.

Still, we’ve dreamed of adding to our space somehow.

The day we were waiting for Hurricane Irene to arrive, we noticed a neighbor packing up a moving truck, racing against the clock. She lived in a two-bedroom, and she gave us a quick tour. We rather liked it. So I got in touch with the management company.

And after more than 11 years in the same apartment, the missus and I are moving.

All the way across the hallway.

And now that we have room again, I’m looking for a goddamned comfy chair. Boy, I really want a comfy chair.