Saturday, December 24, 2005

RIP Damien, 1991(?)-2005

I took Damien over to the emergency vet this morning to send him on his way. He'd pretty much stopped eating by yesterday and didn't really have the strength left to walk, although he kept trying until he wore himself out. It just didn't make any sense to make him wait any longer. The people at P.E.T.S. were awesome, as they always are, and gave me some time with him before the IV as well as while it took affect. JS and I appreciate all the virtual hugs and back pats over the last few weeks - it has meant and continues to mean a lot. He was a good pup and a good friend and if there's any justice in the universe he'll be eating piles of Snausages and chasing squirrels to his heart's content now.

Damien was abandoned as a pup and ended up living in a small pack of semi-feral dogs in a little patch of woods near my grandmother's house in Nashville. Each of the dogs seemed to have adopted a different house to mooch from and Damien had picked my grandmother. He was very nervous and very cautious - despite really seeming to want humans around, he wouldn't let any of us get close enough to pet him. However, when my grandmother broke her hip and it was clear that she wasn't going to be coming home (she had also developed Alzheimer's by then), my uncle managed to catch him and drive him up to the TN/NC state line to meet me. We hadn't really decided to keep him, but as often happens it just sort of happened that way.

It took awhile for him to get comfortable with me and way longer until he was comfortable with strangers, but over the last few years he became one of the favorites at the vets and the kennels. He was a sweet, gentle soul and I miss him already.

I don't mean to bum anybody out at Christmas - this is not a bad story! I had thirteen years with him and he had thirteen years that he probably would otherwise not have had as I don't think he would have lasted very long on his own. It's only been a month since he was diagnosed, so he didn't have to suffer with this for very long. There are a lot of ways this could have gone worse so while I'm sad, I'm also happy that he's not hurting any more and that he and we didn't drag this out. Just take a minute to give your critters an extra hug and smooch and thank 'em for bringing such love and joy to your lives!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Your Christmas Card

It's been unseasonably cold the last couple of weeks, so we haven't had much opportunity to enjoy the back porch, but highs in the 60's tomorrow mean at least hanging out at my bar for a bit of Christmas cheer! Merry Christmas from my windsurfing snowman!

I have no idea what Bill O'Reilly is thinking - this "elitest liberal secularists" freakin' LOVES Christmas! I got some serious shwag growing up, likely much more than I deserved and certainly much more than we could afford. As the oldest kid of two oldest kids, it was another 8 years before the haul that my sister and I took in got diluted by first cousins, so the grandparents got to dote on us as well. We really raked it in!

Between talking about Nashville Christmases with mapgirl and high school Christmases with Curtis, I've been doing more reminiscing than is my want, but I suppose that's allowable at this time of year. One of the highlights of Christmas in Nashville in the 60's was the enormous nativity scene sponsored by Harvey's Department Store in front of the Parthenon in Centennial Park. Most people drove around the circle a few times but I remember that we'd usually actually park and roll the windows down a bit (despite the cold) to hear the music and watch the changing color lights. I've seen a couple of people write that they stopped putting it up because of pressure to remove religious stuff from a public park, but as I recall the stuff was so damaged from years of use (and a couple of mid-60's snow/ice storms) that it was falling apart and Harvey's didn't want to foot the bill to repair or replace it. But it was cool while it lasted (as was the indoor carousel at Harvey's!). And as I told Curtis, every time I walk into a Kirkland's I suddenly feel like I'm back in Eastland Mall in Charlotte and start looking around for the beauteous Caughman sisters who always used to work there around the holidays.

JennySlash asked me a couple of weeks ago what the best Christmas present I ever got was and without even thinking about it I was able to answer with "my first bike" - Christmas 1966. It was a 20" Spyder-bike clone with a candy-apple red banana seat and was just the coolest ride I'd ever imagined. I know it wasn't a real Spyder because it didn't have the stickshift but who cared?! It made me mobile, which is one of the greatest gifts you can give a kid. The second greatest gift was also a bike - my first real lightweight 10-speed (yes kids, 10 gears used to be the norm) that I got when I was 14 and which again made me mobile all the way through college.

If you're expecting a paper-style Christmas card from us this year, you'll probably get it, maybe just a little late. With JS having had a fever since last Friday and barely leaving the bed and with Damien requiring quite a bit of extra attention, we didn't get the last of our cards out until Wednesday. For those of you who are newer friends for whom I don't have a snail-mail address, please consider this my holiday greetings and a wish for a happy, healthy and succesful new year for you all!

Conversation at the Teeter

Two 18-ish checkout girls at Harris-Teeter talking to a 9-year-old about what she wants for Christmas...

Checker 1: You're so lucky! When we were
little, Gameboys were bigger and boxy and didn't even have a light on

Checker 2: Yeah, you couldn't even play
'em in the dark!


Me: Y'all sounds like a couple of old ladies.
(Quavery voice) Ooh, when I was a little girl...

Only one of them got it.

Me: Heck, when I was growing up, we didn't
even have batteries!

Checker 1: Gosh, what did you

Me: Uhm, I was kidding.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Overheard in New York

This is the time of year when things finally start to slow down at work. You'd kinda think that would start happening around the 15th, but given the way our fiscal calendar is structured, we freak out for another few days working on budget stuff until finally a couple of days before the holiday we start to chill if for no other reason than half the people we need things from are already gone.

So it's usually a good time to do a little web surfing, maybe go through my bookmarks of stuff I thought was funny when I saw and see if a) it's still out there and b) it's still funny.

This shit is. It can be raw and sexist and racist and homophobic and anti-Semitic because people can be raw and sexist and racist and all of those things, but what brings us together is that we're a bunch of freakin' loonies and goofballs. For example:

Waiter: May I take your orders, or do you need a few more minutes?
Guy: Um, we had a waitress come by and take our drink orders...
Waiter: Yes, well, I can take your food order if you're ready.
Guy: What happened to our waitress?
Waiter: She quit.

--Aquavit, East 55th Street

If that doesn't grab you, the mondo-bizarro Kikkoman cartoon is still out there, along with the translation from Japanese provided by verthandi. Truly has to be seen to be believed.

He came from Planet Soybean,
What a stylish fellow, that Kikkoman!
Soy sauce is good for you.
It also works as a disinfectant.
It's not that damned sauce or ketchup!
His deadly attack is Kikko Beam!
Have fun and don't work too hard!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Shuler for Congress

In a state that has made many questionable choices on who to send as our representatives to Congress (Walter Jones, Robin Hayes and Sue Myrick spring to mind as particularly poor decisions), Charles Taylor from my parents' district in the mountains is probably the worst. That part of the state is apparently starting to wise up as he only got 55% of the vote in 2004 against an unknown with very little money. Now he's running against former Heisman Trophy runner-up and NFL quarterback Heath Shuler. Shuler's no carpetbagger - he went to high school in Bryson City where he was named NC High School Player of the Year after leading his team to three straight state championships. He's also outraising Taylor to date by, well, a lot at last count. No idea at this point what his positions are (the web site is pretty sparse so far) but I can't imagine he'd be a worse choice than Taylor. Definitely one to watch.

What a Week!

JennySlash having the flu and pretty much missing the run-up to Christmas has really sucked. But on the other hand, the following headlines have helped create a little cheer around here:

Senate Blocks Alaska Refuge Drilling

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A quarter-century long fight over the nation's most divisive environmental issue rages on after the Senate on Wednesday rejected opening an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling — even though that provision was included in a must-pass bill that funds U.S. troops overseas and hurricane victims.

It was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, one of the Senate's most powerful members, who had hoped to garner more votes by forcing senators to choose between supporting the drilling measure, or risking the political fallout from voting against money for the troops and hurricane victims.

Instead, Stevens found himself a few votes shy of getting his wish. Republican leaders could not break a Democratic filibuster threat over the drilling issue, falling three votes short of the 60 votes need to advance the defense spending bill to a final vote.

Judge Rules Against 'Intelligent Design'

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 21, 2005; Page A01

A federal judge barred a Pennsylvania school district yesterday from mentioning "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolutionary theory in a scathing opinion that criticized local school board members for lying under oath and for their "breathtaking inanity" in trying to inject religion into science classes.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican appointed by President Bush, did not confine his opinion to the missteps of a local school board. Instead he explicitly sought to vanquish intelligent design, the argument that aspects of life are so complex as to require the hand, subtle or not, of a supernatural creator. This theory, he said, relies on the unprovable existence of a Christian God and therefore is not science.

Spy Court Judge Quits in Protest

By Carol D. Leonnig and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 21, 2005; Page A01

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.
Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Add to all of that the defeat of the worst provisions of the Patriot Act, the likelihood that Abramoff is likely to plead guilty to fraud next week, the resounding defeat of the execrable Rick Barnes' Tejas basketball team to the lowly Volunteers of Tennessee, the play that DeLay's lavish lobbyist-funded lifestyle is getting and it almost feels like people are starting to wake up.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

OBX Pegasi

Before the centennial celebration of the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills, a local arts organization organized the decorating and display of 99 winged horses, many of them along Hwy 158 and NC 12. Around 70 or so of them are still around - this one is named "Shiner" and sits along the highway outside of Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head across from Jockey's Ridge. And yeah, that is the mini-golf castle there on the dune ridge (see the picture I posted a few days ago). I don't know if they've suffered the kind of damage and theft from vandals that other public art often does, but it's wonderful to see so many of them still there and seemingly in good shape! You can see more of them here, but I particularly like this sunset view. Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Non-Friday Not-so-Random Ten - Christmas Edition

Sun-60 - Mary Xmess
The Musical Cast of "Toys" Featuring Wendy and Lisa - The Closing of the Year
Beck - The Little Drum Machine Boy
Fishbone - It's a Wonderful Life (Gonna Have a Good Time)
Timbuk 3 - All I Want for Christmas (Is World Peace)
The Pogues with Kirsty McColl - Fairytale of New York
Dave Edmunds - Run, Rudolph, Run
T-Bone Burnett - God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping
the dB's - Home for the Holidays

I love me some Christmas! And I love me some Christmas music - religious, secular, pop, jazz, bluegras, you name it. I grew up with the Johnny Mathis Christmas albums on the Magnavox cabinet hi-fi and that blind dude singing Felix Navidad on the radio and the kids from Peanuts with faces upturned "ooo-ing" in front of Snoopy's well-lit doghouse. We have an inordinate number of Christmas CDs, from new wave/punk to jazz to Celtic to New Age to Billboard to comedy (I'd be hard-pressed to tell you whether I like Bob and Doug Mackenzie's version of The Twelve Days of Christmas better than Allen Sherman's - love 'em both). The above list might make you think I only like edgy Christmas stuff, but that's just from my running mix - I'm just as happy with the Chipmunks or "Blue Christmas" or Mel Torme or even Chip Davis.

All of that being said, I absolutely cannot listen to the local radio stations or Music Choice on digital cable and their Christmas programming. When did every soul, rap, R&B, country and boy band/girl diva decide they had to put out some crappy, sappy POS Christmas song and when did radio programmers decide that's all they were going to play? Okay, I know, why should they program any better Christmas music than the music they program the rest of the year, but it drives me up a wall. I really don't need Kenny Chesney's Parrothead rendition of Jingle Bells /* gack! */ or the latest syrupy Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston/Usher/etc. confection. Call me a Scrooge if you like, but I always liked Christmas fudge better than frothy divinity and good Southern boiled custard better than thin egg nog and apparently my musical tastes run the same.

By the way, if you're a damn Yankee and grew up on egg nog and are unfamiliar with the true Christmas tradition of boiled custard, do yourself a favor and make some! It won't likely be as good as Momma's or my Granny's, but I'm betting it'll be fine regardless.