Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wait. What did that groundhog say?

Sometime around last Friday it hit me, winter is still here. No, I don't mean just the frigid temperatures -today the wind chills were near 15 degrees F- and the gloomy skies, I am talking about the shortest month of the year lasting what seemed to be seven or eight weeks long.

Calling all cars

A friend has a car named Algernon. Cars shouldn't be named Algernon. There is no way to properly scream Algernon!!! at a car which will not budge out of a snowbank. The right sense of pleading for a car to start must still contain some dignity and the phrase "C'mon, baby baby Algernon baby" just doesn't have it. When you are careering around an icy curve there is little time enough to utter "HOLY crap!", adding "Algernon" simply delays things to the point that the 'non' arrives at the same time as your side door hits the guardrail. A shorter name does the job.

I recommend Spike. It can yelled while you are banging on the radio, attempting to extricate that borrowed CD from your sister that she doesn't know you borrowed. It can be cheesily extended when necessary to get to the gas station on fumes, "Spikey Spikey, hang in there Spikeyboy, SSSPIIIKKKEY!! " And it is name a machine can be proud of and, moreover, respond to.

I had a 1955 Ford two door two tone sedan named Spike. Spike, in a reversal of his more northern cousins, did not like to start when it was hot. Now this was in West Texas so it was more than occasionally above 110 degrees F. Spike would rather not make the effort at such temperatures, but I spoke to him by name. Sitting there in the Git-n-Go parking lot with the groceries and the rest of the world melting around us I would address Spike thusly: "Spike? (pause) Oh, Spike, I know you can hear me so just listen, Spike. Do you remember why I named you Spike? (pause) That's right. I named you after the four foot long pointed object I am going to drive right through your radiator if you don't start right now............ ."

He'd start right up. Wouldn't even cough. Seemed to show a little extra pep on the hills towards home.

Joe(he had white wall tires and a cherrystone radio)Nation

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Can you get an ice cream headache by just breathing the air?

It is brilliantly cold today. The kind of cold that startles you as you open the door to the outside. After listening to the forecasters all morning rattle on about how cold it is, you think you are prepared for the blast, but it's not a blast, it's just pure cold, a chillness surrounding you, entering you, consuming you, that new coat, useless, the good hat you wore, a piece of tissue paper, those thick gloves need thick gloves themselves. You drink in a lung full of the air and it is like swallowing a whole frozen margarita, can you get an ice cream headache by just breathing the air?

You head to the subway thanking every lucky star you have that it is only a half a block to the doorway. What, you ask yourself, do the homeless do on a day like today? How can a cop or a firefighter or anyone else who must work outside on a day like today do it?

Then you get to the park for a short, very, run and there are people out in the cold, walking, looking at the birds, jogging, escorting their dogs on their morning rounds... .

What are you going to do when winter comes?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I saw the news today, but not in the papers.

One of the mysteries of living in New York is you never know what will make the news. You can be walking down Seventh Ave and see three police cars careening through traffic in hot pursuit of something far ahead of them while overhead the heavy hum of a helicopter or two fills the air.

"Wow!!" you say to your companions, "What's all that about?!"

You will never know. Tune in the radio that afternoon, nothing on the Seventh Ave chase. Check out Channel One, News All Day and Night, nope, nada. Local newscasts at six reveal nothing and the next day's paper of record, the New York Times and the world's highest quality fishwrapper, the New York Daily News contain not a word. No helicopters, no squadcars with screaming sirens.

You can be down the block and see four fire engines and an ambulance as I did at Sixteenth and Eighth yesterday morning about 7:30AM. They had Eighth Avenue shut down. There were men with fireaxes, something I have sometimes wanted to carry at Eighth Ave and Sixteenth at times earlier in the morning than 7:30. Hoses had been stretched down Sixteenth Street towards the Jamaican restaurant and the Oo La La Laundry. People were staring out the window at Starbucks. That's right. People at Starbucks were gawking. There's your news story. People at Starbucks do not gawk. They do not. They stare laser-like at their newspapers looking for the article on the wild pursuit on Seventh Ave yesterday and, not finding it, read yet another editorial piece on Cheney's idiotic sense of himself. They have a bite of cinnamon-swirl coffeecake, they do not gawk.

I tuned to 1010 WINS, news every ten minutes, weather every ten minutes, sports every -- well, you get the idea. Nothing about the fire in Chelsea. Four fire trucks, an ambulance and men with fireaxes can't get a mention, they did report that Cheney had turned the blame regarding the shooting onto himself and, added as an aside, that in regards to intelligence matters he has the power to declassify information. Oh, that's why it took so long, but what about the fire?

Still no word.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Not Real Radio

Joe Hello and welcome to another broadcast of "You've Got to Be Kidding Me!"coming to you live from the Mosihe's PickA-Bagel at the corner of 23rd and 3rd in New York City, I'm your host Joe Nation.
(Applause )
With me today is Eddie (the Eagle) McCray and we're here to witness one of the great events in well, what is this? I was about to say one of the great events of humanity, but some say it's just another sport. Which is it, Eddie?

Eddie Well, Joe, and first I has to thank you for having me here and bringing some attention to the greatness of this event. To say this is just another sport, well that sounds to me like some kind of sacrilege. You know people has have died doing this.
(Applause) (People yelling "Yo, Eddie, yo!")

Joe In case you missed the promos and our warm-up show what we are going to see today showcases humankind at it's best and it's worst. I'm talking about SlushJumping, the attempt by the regular guy or gal to make it all the way across a street, corner to corner, without getting a sockful of ice in their boots. Eddie here is one of the great champions of this event, you haven't gotten you boots loaded in how many years is it Eddie?

Eddie I'm proud to say it, Joe, if I get through to this Spring it will be eighteen years since my tush went in the mush.

Joe Wow, that's amazing. So what are we going to be looking for today.?

Eddie Well, I picked this corner for a good reason. It's got the real high banks that the guys at the paint store piled up on one side and on the other the Korean deli has made this little cut-through thats only about four and threequarters inches wide.

Joe Uh oh.

Eddie You got it. It's wide enough to get your boot in, but not wide enough to get it out after you try to swing other leg over the pile. If you don't watch it, boom, your briefcase is flying and your face is, as we say, in the cold dough.

Joe So it's a real challenge corner.

Eddie One of the best, see over there? The Starbucks has cleared their corner, or most of it, but the slush has laked up all around the cut through and is now six inches deep and eight feet across. It's a beaut.

Joe So what techniques do people use trying to get across a monster like that?

Eddie Well, that's the best part. It's not a monster, I've seen where the slush lake reachs out nearly to the light, but see, that discourages people and they don't even try to get across.

Joe They just say "You got to be kidding me." and walk to the next corner down?

Eddie Um Yeah. As I was saying, there's all kinds of techniques. There's the swingleg leap where you stand on one foot and pitch your other out over the mush, when that goes in for the dive, you swing the first leg hard and with any luck you'll make it over. Course, sometimes the foot that's under, slides out from under you and you take a bath.

Joe Here comes a tryer now.

Eddie Oh, she going to do a tippy-toe, not good for these conditions. There, see how she was on her toes to about half across but then she panicked probably because of the cold water coming through her laceholes and she went splashing on through, very bad form.

Joe Eddie, I see four people over by the deli cut through.

Eddie Now see this is the real challenge, Joe, because you got to remember you're not out here alone. There's other people facing the same ocean of ice and they can help you or they can just be in your way. See that big guy? He's a leaper, I can tell. He wants to get a good running start and then do the SlushJumper version of the hop, skip and a jump, but he can't see ? Because the other three are blocking him while they decide to do a hoppy hip hoppy or a two footer which I would not recommend.

Joe The two footer?

Eddie Yeah, someone always tries it. It's like a standing broad jump except as my friend Leo says, you're trying it wearing twenty pounds of boots and, heh, heh, there's no broad to jump at.

Joe HAh!

Eddie So how do you do? You do the two-footer and you go two feet, that's what.

Joe The big guy has cut around them and is going over the pile!

Eddie Let's see, this could be a good one. Yeah, look at that! He slid down the streetside, both his feet out in front of him and right on his butt in the Hagan-Daz.

Joe What should he have done, Eddie?

Eddie He shouldah waited one more second for that threesome to play through, then gone for the big bounce, now all he's got is wet Fruit of Looms.

Joe Well, I tell you Eddie, this has been a pleasure talking to you and I want the fans to remember that the SlushJumping will continue throughout the rest of this week throughout all of New York City and remember when you're out on the town and you see something of the real New York, what do you say?
(Crowd--- YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!) Music up and out.

==== The You've got to be kidding me Show is a fictional creation of the mind of Joe Nation who is himself a fictional character, so any resembelance to real persons is just damn fine writing and not the result of any actual reporting of a real radio reporter which would in any case be less funny.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

One flake and then another and another.

I think the thing I like most about snow in the city is that it brings out the other colors in the landscape. The bricks never looked redder than they do when dressed in white bunting.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Joe Nation Speaks

From a discussion elsewhere
O'Bill writes:
Same goes for liberating oppressed people throughout the world, wherever he may find them and for whatever excuses he offers publicly. I’ll continue to consider tax dollars spent keeping the US’s war machine the finest ever conceived of money well spent.

Joe replies (he's a shy one)

Yeah, liberating oppressed people...better living through bullets... how's that going? As soon as we look away, Afghanistan will return to fundamentalist Islam, here's Tom with an interesting take on BOTH oil independence and liberating oppressed people.

Addicted to Oil By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN So far the democracy wave the Bush team has helped to unleash in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11 has brought to power hard-line Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq, Palestine and Iran, and paved the way for a record showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If we keep this up, in a few years Muslim clerics will be in power from Morocco to the border of India. God bless America.

But is this all America's doing? Not really. It's actually the product of 50 years of petrolism — or petroleum-based politics — in the Arab-Muslim world. The Bush team's fault was believing that it could change that — that it could break the Middle East's addiction to authoritarianism without also breaking America's addiction to oil. That's the illusion here. In the Arab world, oil and authoritarianism are inextricably linked.

How so? Let's start with Iron Rule No. 1 of Arab-Muslim political life today: You cannot go from Saddam to Jefferson without going through Khomeini — without going through a phase of mosque-led politics.

Why? Because once you sweep away the dictator or king at the top of any Middle East state, you go into free fall until you hit the mosque — as the U.S. discovered in Iraq. There is nothing between the ruling palace and the mosque. The secular autocratic regimes, like those in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq, never allowed anything to grow under their feet. They never allowed the emergence of any truly independent judiciary, media, progressive secular parties or civil society groups — from women's organizations to trade associations.

The mosque became an alternative power center because it was the only place the government's iron fist could not fully penetrate. As such, it became a place where people were able to associate freely, incubate local leaders and generate a shared opposition ideology.

That is why the minute any of these Arab countries hold free and fair elections, the Islamists burst ahead. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats; Hamas went from nowhere to a governing majority. In both societies the ruling secular parties — the N.D.P. in the case of Egypt and Fatah in the case of Palestine — were spurned as corrupt appendages of the authoritarian state, which they were.

Why are there not more independent, secular, progressive opposition parties running in these places? Because the Arab leaders won't allow them to sprout. They prefer that the only choice their people have is between the state parties and religious extremists, so as to always make the authoritarian state look indispensable. When Ayman Nour, a liberal independent in Egypt, ran against President Hosni Mubarak, he was thrown in prison as soon as the election was over. Thanks for playing "Democracy" — now go to jail.

It is not this way everywhere. In East Asia, when the military regimes in countries like Taiwan and South Korea broke up, these countries quickly moved toward civilian democracies. Why? Because they had vibrant free markets, with independent economic centers of power, and no oil. Whoever ruled had to nurture a society that would empower its men and women to get educated and start companies to compete globally, because that was the only way they could thrive.

In the Arab-Muslim world, however, the mullah dictators in Iran and the secular dictators elsewhere have been able to sustain themselves in power much longer, without ever empowering their people, without ever allowing progressive parties to emerge, because they had oil or its equivalent — massive foreign aid.

Hence Iron Rule No. 2: Removing authoritarian leaders in the Arab-Muslim world, either by revolution, invasion or election, is necessary for the emergence of stable democracies there — but it is not sufficient. The only way the new leaders will allow for real political parties, institutions, free press, competitive free markets and proper education — a civil society — is if we also bring down the price of oil and make internal reform the only way for these societies to sustain themselves. People change when they have to, not when we tell them to.

If you just remove the dictators, and don't also bring down the price of oil, you end up with Iran — with mullah dictators replacing military dictators and using the same oil wealth to keep their people quiet and themselves in power. Only when oil is back down to $20 a barrel will the transition from Saddam to Jefferson not get stuck in "Khomeini Land." In the Middle East, oil and democracy do not mix. It's not an accident that the Arab world's first and only true democracy — Lebanon — never had a drop of oil.

===== Joe chimes in again....

That's a completely different bridge to the future than this administration has in mind. Meanwhile, remember every dollar we owe the Chinese is one less dollar's worth of influence over them. Think Nuclear Proliferation, weapons systems sales to people we don't particularly believe ought to be buying them and a greater ability to tell us to shove it when we attempt to influence their trade policy, monetary policy and foreign relations. Dollars are power. Right now we are pouring them into the Chinese economy at incredible rates and they are buying as much of our deficit induced bonds as they can. Meanwhile, the people at the top of the American food chain, the people who have benefited most from this President, don't need the American economy to be strong in order to keep their money and make more, they need the world economy to be strong. They get the best of both worlds from George, permanent tax cuts and a world in which to employ, at rockbottom wages, millions, and millions more to sell to. All without needing to create a single job in Michigan, Ohio or Kansas. Face the facts. This country has been sold a bill of goods by this bunch of "We're for values and strong morals" gangsters. Neo-con contains the right second syllable. Yeah, liberating oppressed people is something I'd buy too, but every once in awhile you ought to look in the bag to see what you actually bought.

Joe(Hey, what the ..?)Nation