Monthly Archives: January 2010

Deep Thought


Not quite like this.

I just finished Jon Krakauer’sWhere Men Win Glory. If we lived in a just and decent society, Donald Rumsfeld would be awaiting a public garroting. George Bush would be reduced to penury and forced to live out his days as a minimum-wage worker.

Making a List and Checking It Twice

Megan McArdle knows when you’ve been depressed, and when you’re just bummed out:

Apparently, the administration has issued rules requiring parity for
mental health treatment with other illnesses. They’ll take effect July
1st. If you want to know why health insurance costs keep marching
upward seemingly uncontrolled, this is why: mandating new benefits is
always popular, and the government doesn’t have to pay for them.

I
am very sympathetic to the plight of the mentally ill.Unfortunately,
most of the people who will tap the benefits are not severely ill
people who need intensive care; they’re people who are unhappy.
Unhappiness is not a condition for which psychotherapy, or
antidepressants, have been shown to be very effective.
(Severe
clinical depression, yes. But contrary to the belief of people who
felt awfully down the time their boyfriend left them, these two
conditions are not the same thing.) Since the moderately unhappy and
dissatisfied are much more prevalent than those with serious disorders,
that’s most of what we’ll be paying for: someone to listen to
complaints. That’s what Senators are supposed to be for.

Right. She knows this, and she’s sure she knows the difference, just as she’s certain the rest of us don’t. She can tell when you need help and when you really need a glib blog entry telling you your problems aren’t anything anyone needs to care about. Whiners. Why don’t you just suck it up? So your boyfriend left you, so your mom died, so what? Quit your bitching.

I’m trying not to say any of the things that are going through my mind at the moment, my mind that just this week kind of skipped a few beats and threw me into a totally unproductive tailspin in which I wasn’t eating or sleeping that resulted in Mr. A having to sit me down and discuss all the ways in which I was not allowed to go back to the way I was nine years ago, because what Megan’s really saying is what a lot of people say about mental illness.

If it’s invisible, it doesn’t exist. If it involves you just walking around looking pretty normal, going to work and driving your car, it doesn’t exist. It’s only “really” mental illness when you’re homeless and filthy and gibbering to yourself on the street corner, when you’re talking to Winston Churchill or your dead brother in the lunch line, when you’re describing your plans to meet with the president to discuss your appointment to the Commission for Opening a Door to the Star Trek Dimension. Unless it’s like that, you’re not really serious about being sick.

Unless it looks like that, it’s just you, being weak. You’re costing people money because you’re weak. Stop being so weak. That’s what Megan and people like her say. And they pull out these examples, that they were depressed when their
dog died or their wife ran off with the sandwich counter dude, as if
it’s the same thing just because from the outside it looks like the
same thing. Just because we’re both here on the couch eating Lucky Charms from the box doesn’t mean our synapses are firing in unison.

Depression = unhappiness, is what a lot of people think, and they think anti-depressants make you happy. Do you know how much Iwish anti-depressants made you happy? Do you know how much I wish I didn’t need, say, a successful career or a good relationship or an involving hobby or a safe home or friends or family or books or movies or great TV or bad TV or those grocery-store frosted sugar cookies or ANY of the things you non-depressed people need to be happy? I’d save the U.S. economy billions, just from the sugar cookies alone. Taking anti-depressants, getting therapy, doing whatever I have to do to treat my illness isn’t making me happy. It’s making me sane. And if you don’t know the difference, God, I hope you never find yourself in the position of having to figure it out.

Megan’s whole THING here is just one more iteration of the entire health care debate, which is that my care is necessary and virtuous and yours means you are trying to scam something, and I get to decide because I’m just better than you. I knew the debate would go like this, so it’s not exactly a surprise. And as with most of these arguments about imaginary shitty, lazy people who will take us all for a ride, I would much much rather be taken for a ride by some mythical welfare queen or ten than let even one person go one day without a doctor saying, as one so gently said to me nine years ago, “You don’t have to live like this anymore.”

(And for all Megan’s fiscally responsible commenters talking about how this alone will raise health care premiums beyond our ability to pay, well, that’s why all us dirty fucking hippies out here have been trying to dismantle the goddamn system, but hey, it’s much easier to make up paper doll depressives and then set them on fire. Assholes.)

A.

—–

Younger Than That Now: Caprica Thread

Zoe

Jacob:

If you have that kind of information, if you know that the tracks
run out and people are going to die, it’s not only your duty to use it,
but your purpose on this earth. To be in the world, but not of it. To
help, and to heal, and to save the world, and in so doing, save
yourself. Or, as a lovely harsh woman will say years from now, to
fulfill your destiny: to love them, and take care of them, show them
the glory of peace. To see your infinite mercy matched only by your
power, and complete control. Isn’t that the definition of the righteous
man? The saint? The martyr? Kara Thrace, Laura Roslin, Tory Foster,
Natalie Six, D’Anna Three; Ellen Tigh, in her resurrection. Gaius,
Zarek, Felix. Terrorists, if Antigone’s a terrorist: to give up the
right to walk in this world, for a duty that must be obeyed for our
souls to stay intact, unbending.

If you saw the roller coaster heading toward the gap, if you were in
the middle of that nightmare, wouldn’t you do anything to stop it?

Spoilers after the jump. Sorry I didn’t get this up last night, this week just totally got away from me.

Weekend Question Thread

What is the thing that frustrates you most about yourself?

Me? Procrastination. God, the amount of productive I could be if I didn’t fuck around so much spending twice the amount of time it would take to do the work avoiding the work.

A.

Saturday Blogwhoring Thread

Cat

Swing away.

A.

—–

Quitting Time Booster Shot

Welcome to the Booster where we really need a break from teen angst and vampires…

– Spent the afternoon watching “Aliens” simply because I’d
never actually seen this from the beginning. I have seen everything from about
the 20 minute mark about 9,000 times, but never saw the opening. Two things I
hadn’t realized until just this viewing: 1) After seeing the first 20 minutes,
I had a new appreciation as to how well Paul Reiser plays a douche bag and 2) I
forgot what movies were like when Phillip Morris and its ilk ran Hollywood.
Everyone in this movie is smoking something. I think the Android is even
puffing a Kool…

Here’s Mark Fiore’s latest ‘Net Toon. It’s a bit obvious,
but I’m loving the guy anyway.

– Portland Trailblazers star Greg Oden apologized for a
series of nude photos that have managed to find their way onto the Internet.LZ
Granderson’s got an interesting take on this
, if you’re interested. (Chances
are, though, instead of reading this, you’ll immediately Google “Greg Oden
nude” instead.) I also came late to the party and found out that my beloved
Cleveland Indians star Grady Sizemore had done the same thing a few months ago.
Let’s get past the obvious: if you don’t want naked pictures of your dong
hanging out on a Web site (you can read that modifier however you want), don’t
take the pictures. My take: If I was as young, hung and muscular
as these two guys, I’d have used photos like that for my Christmas cards. (OK,
probably not the Sizemore shot with the coffee mug. I hate coffee.) Conversely,
if I was as goofy and old as John Edwards, I’d have sex only in a situation in
which not even light could escape.

Fit isn’t go, anymore, apparently…

– From the “And we shop at Festival Foods, too!” department: At a bar
with some friends from out of town, when the bartender offers another drink to
the gay guy among us. “I don’t know what I want,” he says. The bartender
responds, “Do you like fruity things?” The three of us almost piss ourselves
we’re laughing so hard. She doesn’t get it and brings him something with
pomegranate in it.She then told
him a joke: “Why can’t Barbie get pregnant? Because Ken came in a different
box.” A fine night out in “the Heartland.”

– OK, I admit I have the mentality of a 12-year-old. It’s
what helped me keep my headlines from being on Jay Leno’s watch list. However,
the minute I heard “iPad” I knew I wasn’t going to be the first to make
menstruation jokes. Glad to know that not only was I right, but that the NYT
was going to cover it
.

– From the “eeeew…” department: If you have this going on or
don’t have this going on, please do not note this in the comment section.

– Tip of the cap to the folks at Journal-Sentinelfor making
the finalists list for a $25,000 prize
. TheCashing in on Kids series was
phenomenal.

– From the “better late than never” file: The NFL has
declared that a crucial hit on Brett Favre should have been flagged in the NFC
championship games, thus giving the Vikes 15 yards and nullifying a crucial
interception. Hey, I’m fine with the game results, the fact the Vike fans are
even more miserable now and that the NFL is not doing anything about this.
Besides, given Favre’s love of showing up late for training camp, showing up late
for retirement and such, you’d imagine this was right up his alley…

– It’s a bad week for historical figures. We’ve got Howard
Zinn dying and J.D. Salinger dying as well. I hate to admit this, but I reread
“Catcher” not too long ago and I still didn’t like it. I also read Steinbeck’s
“East of Eden” and wasn’t all that thrilled. When I read his “Winter of Our
Discontent,” I loved it, only to find that it was the book most literary
critics thought was his most worthless. Perhaps I have no taste…

Thanks for letting me share your air. Be back next week.

Doc

Stop Drinking The Sand

This classic scene from Sorkin’s “American President”
resonated with me today. In the argument between the president and Lewis, you
get the leadership metaphor of people crawling across the desert, looking for
an oasis. When they show up and it’s only a mirage, they’ll drink the sand
anyway. Lewis argues that it’s because they’re thirsty for leadership. The
president says it’s because people don’t know the difference. My take: In some
cases, it doesn’t matter, as long as we realize it and stop drinking the sand.

This amazing piece by Amy Kingsley shows us all what we
already know on this site: when you make journalism about the toys, you will
end up losing. The Las Vegas Sun is only the most recent of those who have
found that at the end of the Internet rainbow, there’s no pot of gold or
anything else of value. The article details the “deal with the Devil” they
found themselves in when the Sun kept sinking and eventually was sucked into a
JOA with the Review-Journal that essentially made the Sun an insert into the
LRJ. However, the Sun took the lemons and made some awesome lemonade. Instead
of simply parroting the news that the LRJ would publish, the Sun decided to
become more investigative and more of a community voice, which won them great
praise and a number of awards.

However, the biggest swing came when Rob Curley (as the
article describes him “a self-described Internet nerd from Kansas”) came in to
recraft the paper’s Web site and boldly strike out in search of profit online. The
mantra in Internet news has been for a while that Curley can conjure gold,
unicorns and Internet win by simply arriving to run your show. He gained fame
in the late 1990s while in Topeka, Kansas by moving from a state-house reporter
to a new media editor. His work on the site of the Topeka Capital-Journal was
radical and amazing, as he focused on things people cared about: local politics
and local sports. His work was a hit and he moved up to the Lawrence
Journal-World, following a similar pattern and saw similar successes.

In a career of any professional on the cusp of greatness,
there is always a defining moment. It’s the moment where you decide if you want
to be the big fish in the small pond or try your luck at surviving life in the
big pond. There are high school basketball coaches who stay in one town for a
lifetime and become a legacy, while others strike out for fame and fortune on a
bigger stage and either make or break it. Athletes take bigger contracts and
either shine or wither under the bright lights of L.A. or New York. Local actors
either make it to Hollywood or land in the Valley. In short, you can stay where
you are comfortable, or you can go for broke. Curley did the latter.

Riding a crest of adulation that cast him as the “next big
thing,” Curley moved to Florida to help the Naples and Bonita Daily News engage
in innovation and convergence. Less than two years later, he moved to
Washington, D.C., where he led the Washington Post into the world of
“hyperlocal” coverage. Again, two years later, he landed in Nevada.

While his act played well in Kansas, it gradually became
more and more threadbare with each move. Friends from Florida who worked in
Naples told me that Curley had become a “big picture guy.” This roughly
translated into “I’ll punch out the ideas, bless them as coming from Rob Curley
and you will love them because they are certified Rob Curley ideas. Then, you
guys go implement them while I head off to something more important.” He wasn’t
a detail guy nor was he around much.

I got a chance to see him at a media convention in D.C. and
I found myself staring at the giant images of high school football and local
restaurants he put up. “We cover every Friday night game like it’s the
Redskins,” he bragged. However, several of us snapped out of the glitz haze and
noticed that this really didn’t have a lot of steak behind the sizzle. It was
great Web, but there wasn’t much journalism there. Once the excitement of
seeing your 15-year-old kid catching a pass on the WaPo Web site wore off, what
else could they do to keep you coming back? The answer was “not much” as the
Post began dismantling the hyperlocal site soon after its launch. Curley was
already cutting a deal to head to the desert.

The Sun’s Web site essentially seceded from the paper under
Curley’s watch, wrapping itself in the trappings of “cool ‘Net folk” such as
video games, nice furniture and more. While the paper journalists bristled when
dealing with the splashy nature of Curley’s dominion, it was clear they
probably wouldn’t have hated him and his folks so much if they actually brought
some serious game to the table. Instead, according to Kingsley, they launched a
failed TV project, crashed out the Web site with coverage that few wanted to
see and was at least partially to blame for massive cutbacks at both operations.

It’s now 2010 and if his pattern holds, there’s probably
another leap coming in Rob Curley’s future. Someone, desperate for an improved
Web world, will pony up big cash and heavy prizes for this messiah of the
Internet. What’s funny about this is that people are looking at Curley like
he’s the answer, just like when we’re fat, we look for a pill or a fad diet to
cure us. The pill won’t make us thinner, but exercise and good nutrition will.Rob Curley isn’t the answer, but at one
point, he did have the answer.

He just forgot it.

As a Kansas kid, he knew Kansas. He went to Emporia State
and then worked as a reporter at the Ottawa Herald in Kansas. He moved to
Topeka and then to Lawrence. He knew what made the people of Kansas pay
attention to something. He understood his folks and their background. Just like
a pastor knows his flock, Curley knew how to reach those people. However, to
borrow a phrase, he’s not in Kansas anymore.

The Internet is about niches. It’s about knowing how to
reach a very specific audience with a very specific message. It’s about
understanding people in a geographical area or an interest area. That’s why
Curley succeeded and that’s why Curley failed. It took him more than half his
life to know what the people of Kansas wanted. He then packed up his “Web in a
box” approach to journalism and peddled it out of the back of his covered
wagon. It wasn’t specialized to their needs and he wasn’t interested in pouring
his soul into learning about Naples or D.C. or Las Vegas. Thus, when he hit
them with local politics and local football, they wondered, “What the hell is
this crap?”

Hiring Rob Curley to run the Web for the L.A. Times or Beaver
County Tidbit in Flea Speck, Washington isn’t going to make that site a winner.
In fact, he’s more likely to kill it than save it. If you want to put together
a site the people want to see and are willing to pay to view (or at least
advertisers are interested in), you have to find out who you are trying to
serve, what they want, how they want it and how best to get it to them.

You also need to stop drinking the sand.

Malaka Of The Week: The No Fun League

The Saints are obviously the talk of the town: NOLA’s pride and joy. The NFL, on the other hand, is about as popular as the bubonic plague in these parts right now. Why? The No Fun League claims that it hastrademarked the term Who Dat and has come down hard on some local businesses:

Count theNational Football League among the growing members ofWho Dat Nation.
After all, they own the phrase — or so they say in cease and desist
letters sent out to at least two local T-shirt retailers earlier this
month.

In letters sent to Fleurty Girl and Storyville, theNFLordered the retailers to stop selling a host of merchandise that it says violates state and federal trademarks held by theNew Orleans Saints.

Among the long list of things theNFLsays
is off-limits without a licensing agreement are some obvious violations
like the official logo of the Saints and the team’s name. But the one
that stands out is “Who Dat.”


Who knew?

TheNFL, noting
a 1988 trademark the Saints registered with the Louisiana secretary of
state, says it has exclusive rights to the phrase and demands that the
retailers stop selling it.

“I was surprised,” Fleurty Girl owner Lauren Thom said. “I think everybody was.”

Thom’s shirts feature the phrase Who Dat written as one word with
lowercase letters and preceded by a hash mark, a nod to the language of
the social networking site Twitter. On Twitter, a hash mark followed by
a word unifies all tweets on a specific topic. If a tweet, for
instance, includes #whodat, it joins other posts on a page generally
about Saints topics on Twitter.

“It was designed to unify the Who Dat Nation, not within a tweet,
but through a shirt,” said Thom, who began selling the shirts in August
on her Web site before opening a store on Oak Street two months ago.

I must admit that I’m not a fan of the term Who Dat Nation. It’s a bit too derivative and evokes people marching in lockstep instead of second lining BUT the NFL is engaging in some first class malakatude. Official Saints logo stuff is flying off the shelves here so the NFL and team ownership are making piles of money off Saints fans. I realize that they feel the need to shake down the suckers for as many pennies as possible but this has backfired. There’s already a backlash and calls for a boycott of No Fun League stuff.

The most annoying thing about this small minded malakatude by the greedheads of the NFL is that the term Who Dat is older than the hills that we don’t have in NOLA. It has been traced back to 19th Century show biz and wasn’t even applied to our Saints until the 1980’s when the team first flirted with a winning season. In those days the chant “Who Dat saying dey gonna beat dem Saints” was dubious at best but these aren’t Bum Phillips’ Saints but Sean Payton’s.

Saints management hasn’t chimed in on this as of yet but I suspect they’ll side with the malakas in suits. Owner Tom Benson is a car dealer and major GOP donor, after all. Nuff said.

The good news is that this issue has already been litigated and a court in 1983 ruled that Who Dat was in the public domain. The bad news is that the NFL has enough clout and money to scare the living shit out of the small businesses it has threatened. They have quite understandably chosen not to get into a legal pissing match with the No Fun League which has thereby won this week’s dishonor with its bullying and heavy handed malakatude.

I think the NFL’s commissioner should change his name from Goodell to Badell…

—–

Friday Ferretblogging: Aftermath Edition

Someone in the crack van, I think it was M31, asked if ferrets smell. Yeah, they do. If you don’t clean their cage and you don’t clean their litterbox and you don’t swap out the bedding and blankets they sleep in, they smell. Like any animal, really. So once a day the litterboxes get cleaned, once a week the laundry gets swapped out, and about once every couple of months or whenever I feel like giving them a rockin’ good time, the boys get a bath.

You’re not supposed to bathe them too much or put heavy, perfume-y sprays on them; it actually makes things worse because the crafty little buggers will overcompensate by becoming even filthier, and it dries out their fur and makes them upset. I will never forget the woman who brought her son’s REEKING ferret into the shelter to surrender him and told us, quite seriously, “I bathe him everyday, but he still stinks.”

Bucky, Puck and Riot are mostly just put in the tub to splash around a little while and then, when they start trying to clamber out, I give them as much of a towel-dry as I can handle and let them dry themselves off on the floor:

Some people blow-dry them. Why deny them all that fun?

A.

The Show (Part II)

(Ed. Note: Here’s part two of the thing that was too long for the Internet.Here’s part I in case you missed it. Thanks for indulging me with the thing that took 30 years to get to write. — Doc.)


Why don’t we have a table? I asked Dad once when I was 20 or so.
You’re in college and you’ve got stuff to do, he said. I can’t do it by myself. The pricing, the packing, the inventory and stuff. Plus, you need two guys watching a table so that you can make sure no one is stealing your stuff. At that point, Dad was right. I was busy.
I also think he figured our partnership had ended. The cards were getting less valuable, I was making fewer shows and he was doing more of this on his own.
What he didn’t know is that the time we’d spent collecting cards had not only been fun, but had made so many other things in life possible.
One year, a kid at my old student newspaper asked the question I’ve been asked about 1,000 times: When the paper went into that six-figure hole and you had about $40 in the checking account, how the hell did you ever dream you’d fix the finances?
The answer I gave was one that never seemed to make the final cut of the articles or the books or anything else.
I got the sense no one really believed it.
Here how you fix the unfixable:
During one of the very first shows I attended with Dad, I wanted a Roberto Clemente card. Who knows what draws a young fan to a favorite player, especially one that had been dead for so long. I think I’d seen a special on him on TV.
Dad found a dealer with a whole bunch of 1973 Topps Clementes.
“How much?” Dad asked the guy.
The dealer propped a price guide on top of his protruding gut and paged through it with purpose. He found the right page and told Dad, “The books says $25.”
“I’ll give you $10,” Dad replied.
“Here, look at the book,” the guy said, pushing it toward him.
“I’ll give you $10,” Dad said again.
The guy looked at my father and realized something about the situation. He knew my father wasn’t going to part with any more than $10. He also realized that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush.
The guy sighed and said, “OK, pick one. $10 it is.”
I was stunned.
“I don’t get it,” I said to Dad while I delicately fingered my new-found treasure on the ride home. “The book said $25. Why would he give it to you for $10?”
“Something’s not worth whatever someone says it is,” Dad explained. “It’s worth what someone’s willing to give you for it. He’d rather have the $10 than sit there knowing he might never get $25.”
When the paper went under, I built a list of all the people we owed money to. I asked each person on that list if they’d just forgive the money and take it as a write off. Those who didn’t, well… That’s where the bargaining started. I’d explained that we still owed the government money and that if we went under and declared we were done, they’d never see a dime. The government would take everything we had and that they’d be left with nothing. OR, they could take some now, write the rest off and we could keep moving forward.
That’s how you pay off $137,700 with a little more than half of that amount and still have money left over.
You approach each debt like it’s a baseball card.
You do it by understanding that something isn’t worth what someone says it is. It’s worth what someone is willing to give you for it.
I still have that Clemente card.
And that school still has its newspaper.

Howie turns to me and says, “Hey, Andy, I gotta take a leak. Can you watch the table for me?”
My name’s not Andy.
“Really? Dammit.”
“The mind’s the second thing to go on a man, Howie,” I say.
He heads off. No one stops to buy anything while he’s gone. He’s back in two minutes.
“That was fast,” I tell him. “Did you pee in the parking lot or something?”
He laughs and goes back to work moving things around on his table.
I take a look at his table and notice that among the $50 and $60 cards prominently displayed, he’s got a 1985 Bucky Scribner card for 10 cents. The sign on his table says all cards are half off of the marked price.
“Jesus, Howie. We’ve got no table space over here and you’re trying to make table by selling a 5-cent Bucky Fuckin’ Scribner card? Who the hell even owns one of those things?”
Now Dad’s in on the mix.
“Wasn’t he the best left-footed punter the Packers had in the ‘80s?”
“Fuck both of you,” Howie laughs. “Buy or don’t buy, but don’t mock the product.”

When I was about 25, I was officially out of Mom and Dad’s house. Only two things kept my room from becoming a sports card Mecca: The room had a water bed in it, which Dad feared would rupture, and the cards were getting too heavy to be on the second floor of the house.
Dad had more cards than we knew how to count. We had cases and boxes and bins and more. He’d buy large cabinets at rummage sales and fill them with cards. When the city’s library was disposing of the card catalog drawers, Dad bought them.
He took over the back bedroom of the house and put his card files in there. Somebody he knew once came over to look at the house and noted that there was no way the house shouldn’t have collapsed in on itself based on the weight of the cards and their distribution in the room. The guy went into the basement and found out that he would have been right had the card catalogs not been sitting on the main support I-Beam for the house.
That revelation didn’t stop Dad from buying more cards.
Dad often ended up picking up other people’s abandoned collections through rummage sales and flea markets. Dad’s main problem came down to this approach:
Dad would look over a 5,000-count box and ask, “How much are your cards?”
The guy would say, “A nickel each.”
“How much if I took them all?”
“Ten bucks a box for each box.”
“OK.”
The guy would then produce three other giant 5,000-count boxes and Dad was one of those guys who wouldn’t go back on a deal. He would get a hernia carrying the crap back to the car, but he wouldn’t go back on a deal.

The show begins to pick up around 10:15. Dad has sold several packs of cards and I’ve had a few sniffs for some 1950s cards we’ve got on display. Other dealers were seeing some bites as well.
The only person who wasn’t making any headway was the cosmetics lady across the aisle from us. Condensation was forming on the plastic cover over her cake.
A lady from the model car show stops by and takes a look at our four bobbleheads. They’re labeled at $10 each.
“I want Schilling and Johnson,” she said. “Can you do any better?”
Dad looks over, “Two for $15?”
“Sure.”
“Howie?”
“Yeah, yeah. Here’s another bag.”
A little while later, a guy comes by and asks about the other two.
“Can you do better if I take them both?”
“How about two for $15?” I suggest.
The guy hands over a $20.
“Hey!” Dad interjects mockingly. “Did you ask the boss before you did that?”
“Just give me the change, Dad.”
We’ve just made table with about two hours to spare.
Thank God this guy didn’t want a bag.

Dad liked the phone about as much as he liked the idea of getting herpes. He was from the older generation: the phone was a tool to convey information. That’s about it. If the phone rang at Mom and Dad’s house before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m., it better be because someone died.
That made life a lot more difficult when I moved to Missouri.
When you live eight hours away, visits aren’t easy, so the phone is pretty much what you’ve got. When I needed to get Dad past the “So, how’s the weather?” phase of the phone call, I always asked, “Any shows this weekend?”
Usually, there was or there had been. Dad would tell me about what he bought in the auction or whom he had seen. I got frequent updates on Leroy, the guy who used to run the kids auction and one of the shows. He often asked how I was doing.
Dad and his brother had taken to heading out to various autograph sessions. During the summer, they’d go to the Lombardi Golf Open and meet with all the old football and baseball players who were golfing for charity.
“If you could ever get back into town for that, we’d all had a blast,” he would say wistfully.
I’d change the subject, knowi
ng that was unlikely to ever occur.
“You ever talk to Leroy about getting a table?” I’d ask.
“Nah.”

A flurry of deals that have us on the plus side of our table fee. All those loaves of Gardner Bread didn’t go to waste, as Dad sold a set of the cards for $6. Dad also sold a couple sets of Post Cereal cards from the 1990s for $2 each. This was another deal with the Devil that Dad made once.
He knew a dealer who was going out of business and Dad went in there to look for a Kevin Mitchell to finish his set of cereal cards.
The guy didn’t have any singles, but offered Dad a case of the cards. The guy apparently knew someone from the factory, because a case had between 1,000 and 1,500 three-card packages that somehow didn’t end up in the cereal boxes.
The price? $10 for the case.
Dad ended up buying the last two cases of them the guy had and we ended up opening the packages one Sunday afternoon while watching a game on TV. It was like shelling peanuts. Between those cases and Dad’s doubles, we must have made at least 300 sets.
We must have had about that many that were missing just one card.
The same card.
Kevin Mitchell.

When I was about 30, I stopped asking Dad if he was ever going to get a table.
I felt a lot like Billy Bob Thornton in “Armageddon.”
I wanted to be one of those guys with a mission patch on my sleeve.
I wanted to run a table with Dad, but that wasn’t going to happen.
By this point, he’d had more stuff than most collectors. The most of the basement was turned into a shrine of Packer and Brewer memorabilia. He had autographs from more than half of the Packers’ 1997 Super Bowl team.
His favorite story was the one he got from Desmond Howard, the electrifying kick returner and Super Bowl MVP. Howard had won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan before entering the NFL so Dad asked, “Could you sign it ‘Heisman Trophy Winner?'”
Howard looked at him and said, “That’s a lot of writing, sir.”
Dad, who had coughed up $25 to this one-time NFL bust, wasn’t about to be deterred.
“Would you mind just writing ‘Heisman’ then?” he persisted.
Dad said Howard looked at him the way a kid looks at a teacher when he doesn’t know the answer to the question he’s just been asked. After signing his name, Howard then printed the letter “H” for “Heisman” and then squiggled a line after it.
It then dawned on Dad what the problem was.
Howard, the winner of the most prestigious award in college football, apparently didn’t know how to SPELL Heisman.

During a lull in the show, I bummed a quarter from Dad and told him, “Watch this.”
I walked over to Howie’s table and picked up the Bucky Scribner card. I studied it from ever angle, examining the quality of the corners and squinting at it to look for creases.
“Just take the goddamned thing,” Howie pleaded. “I don’t even care.”
“Nope. A deal is a deal. You got change for a $20?”
“Jesus…”
I handed him a quarter instead. He handed back two dimes.
Dad and I hatched a plot on the way home to resell the card next month to a guy we know as part of a scam on Howie. We’ll mark the card at $150 and call it a “rare error card.” The guy we know will then come up and haggle with us over the price until we agree on about $100, which the guy will gladly hand over, proclaiming to us and Howie how rare this particular error card is and how he saw it on eBay for five times that price.
We will then watch in silent glee while Howie shits himself.

We moved back to Wisconsin a few years back. Mom was thrilled but she had a simple request as well.
“Get your father to get a table,” she pleaded. “He’s got all of this shit. Besides, he needs to be out and interacting with people.”
Mom didn’t get it.
My father comes from a long line of stubborn Bohemian-Czechs. The more you lean on him to do something, the more he’s going to resist it.
Finally, I was close. Finally, he had enough stuff. Finally, finally, finally… Still, no interest. If I pushed, he was never going to do it.
Suddenly, about five months ago, he called me up out of the clear blue.
“I’m thinking about getting a table,” he said. “Not with Leroy. They’re sold out, but P.J.’s got some space.”
“Uh-huh…”
“I dunno. I just don’t want to waste a Sunday.”
“Uh-huh…”
“I’m just thinking about it.”
“Uh-huh…”
Pause.
“You catch the Packer game?”
“Yeah, Dad, I still hate Aaron Rogers.”

The auction is about to start. Dealers put stuff together to have the folks bid on. Sometimes, that’s a good way to get rid of a lot of stuff. Other times, the stuff comes back to the dealers. It always depends on the crowd.
A group of autographs goes unclaimed. A couple folks make minimum on some simple stuff like post cards of players and such.
Someone has put up a couple 3,000-count boxes of assorted baseball and football cards.
A quick run through the boxes reveals nothing special. A lot of dealers do this as a way to get rid of a lot of their old common cards, but it’s still fun to go through this stuff.
The opening bid is $5. The highest bid gets to pick one of the two boxes. I’m interested, so I sneak up a bit closer.
The first bid comes from a guy about my age. $5. No one else is interested.
I’m about to bid $6 when I just stop for some reason. I don’t know why.
The item ends with a single bid on it.
“Go ahead,” the guy says while turning to his right. “Pick one.”
A boy about 8 years old emerges from behind the man. He shyly points at one box and then retreats. The man, obviously his father, lifts the box up.
“Wonder what we got,” he says to the boy. “Guess we’ll find out when we get home!”
The boy grabs his father’s hand and they leave the auction area, both of them sporting broad smiles.
I’m so caught up in the moment, I miss auction for the second box.

Dad called me about three months ago.
“I got a table.”
I’m stunned. It’s finally happening.
“You want some help?” I asked.
“I dunno. It’s a long shot. Let’s see how the first one goes.”
For the next two weeks, he went back and forth from being excited to being pessimistic. I waited for him to call me and ask me to come with him.
He never did.
On the day of the show, Mom called.
“Why aren’t you going with him?”
“He didn’t ask for help.”
“He wants you there!”
“Tell him to ask.”
“The both of you…”

Howie’s got a set of gold-sealed special Packer glasses he tried to push off on my uncle, who stopped by. The price was $25. My uncle wasn’t biting.
Howie’s not close to making table. At the last show, a guy showed up, piled up about $100 worth of cards and bought them all. Howie had table in about 20 minutes.
“It’s weird,” he explains. “I’ve sold a ton of stuff over the years, but never a Spahn. Last show, I almost didn’t bring one and some guy bought the one I brought. You never know.”
The same kind of thing happened to us. We toted those bobbleheads and figures to three shows before we sold them. Howie’s glasses look like they’re going home at least one more time.
Suddenly, a dealer comes over, sees the gold-seal glasses and buys all four. Two minutes go by and then, bam, another guy buys a couple tumblers, some other guy buys his beer glasses and someone buys one of his Vince Lombardi Pizza Hut glasses.
In a span of about 15 minutes, Howie’s sold almost all his glassware and made table with room to spare.
“Weird,” he says. “You just never know.

Howie was right. You never know. About a month ago, I got a call from Dad.
“Leroy died.”
He’d been in poor health. He was a mailman who retired and had gained some weight. He was also known for smoking those long, thin black cigarettes outside of the card shows he ran. His family ran the concession stand at the show and his wife made some of the best Sloppy Joe you’d ever tasted. His kids had grown up in the business.
When I was
a kid, we’d stop by a store Leroy had on Lincoln Avenue. He’d sell cards and sports stuff along with sodas and candy.
After I went to college, Dad would often stop by the store for a chat on a listless weekday night.
The neighborhood steadily got worse and he closed the store. He kept the shows going and the hobby running. The kids’ auction eventually petered out, but the shows were popular. After 30 years of spending weekends with Leroy, pondering becoming a dealer, talking sports and more, Dad finally got in and Leroy was suddenly and sadly out.
You just never know.

It’s closing in on noon. Thanks to the turd Green Bay laid the week before in the playoffs, our card show won’t be competing with a Packers game. Someone has brought a TV to catch the Vikings/Cowboys game, but no one else seems to care.
Howie looks around and decides he’s had enough of the show.
“I think I’m heading out,” he notes.
“Hey, careful, Howie,” I tell him. “You’ll get a reputation for premature evacuation.”
Dad’s laughing so hard, he can’t answer a question that someone asked him about one of his baseball bats.
This is the time of the day where you start pondering diminishing returns. If you pack up too early, you might miss an important sale. You pack up too late, you’re standing around, as my father would say, with your thumb up your ass.
Howie’s had a good enough run. He’s happy and he’s heading out. The remaining glassware gets carefully rewrapped in the old newspaper it came in. The cards go into one of his bins.
Dad reminds him about the Favre poster.
“Oh, yeah,” Howie says with a “watch this” wink toward me. “It’s $15 right?”
“Yeah,” Dad says as he pulls down the poster.
Howie reaches into his pocket and hands over a ten and then counts out several singles.
“Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen…” He’s out of money.
“Oh, wait, I think I have an extra dollar in the other pocket,” he says, pulling out the buck he won from Dad earlier in the day. “Wonder where I got it from?”

“Hey, you think you can come out this weekend? We’ve got a show.”
I went into shock. I also went home. That first show was like a blink. I was more worried about if anyone was going to steal anything or if I’d accidentally break the giant Green Bay Packers brandy decanter Dad brought.
The next time, I told myself, I was going to sit back and take it all in. I was going to enjoy it.
Sure enough, Dad called a few weeks later.
“Hey, there’s another show. You in?”
“Absolutely.”
Thus, I found myself sitting in Dad’s truck, which was in a line of vans, trucks and SUVs crawling slowly into the parking lot of a local exhibit hall early on a Sunday morning.

With Howie gone and the show starting to wane, Dad decides to call in an expert.
“Hey, Tim, how long you planning to be around?”
“Ah… Probably a little longer.”
Dad surveys the area and looks at his watch. It’s close to 1. We haven’t eaten yet, gone to the bathroom or anything. The day just flew by.
“Let’s go home,” Dad says.
As we start packing up, people trickle by looking at what was left on the tables. A guy picks up a stack of cards, give them a glance and put them down. Too bad. That would have been a good sale.
“You up for lunch?” Dad asks. “We can swing by Sentry and get some chicken.”
“Sure.”
Tim waves goodbye as we stack our tubs on the dolly. He then turns back to the slice of pineapple upside-down cake he is eating.
Looks like everybody managed at least one sale today.

Dad called last week.
“You think you can make the February show?”
“When?”
“Feb. 7.”
“Yeah. Not a problem. Hey don’t forget the bags or else Howie will never get off our case.”
“I know, I know… I got a ton of bags sitting on top of our stuff. Every time I move the stuff around downstairs, I make sure I put them back. We owe him five bags. We’ll give him ten… Hey, remember when Marv stopped by the table? He was looking at the Johnson Cookie cards?”
I couldn’t identify Marv if he shot me in the chest with a rifle.
“Uh huh…”
“Yeah, he was interested in the cookie cards, but he said $25 each was too much.”
“Oh good grief… Didn’t he see the ‘All Cards On This Table Half-Off’ sign?”
“No. When I told him, he said, ‘Oh…'”
“Maybe he’ll be there at the next show. That’d make for a hell of a good day.”
“You never know.”

Friday Catblogging: Krewe du Vieux Guest Kitty Edition

There’s a really swell tortoise shell cat named Lucy who lives in Faubourg Marigny around the corner from theKrewe du Vieux den. Like most torties, Lucy has major cat-itude as well as, apparently, a belly of steel. Here’s a picture Dr. A took of her on a recent float building/decorating day:

DSCF4882

Grounded

The ringleader of the wingnuts who tried to sabotage Mary Landrieu’s phones, Little Liddy the Pimp, has beenordered to live at home with Mommy and Daddy in New Jersey. Unless, you’re Bruce Springsteen this sounds like a savage punishment to me: Little Liddy has stay within the Jersey state boundaries or have his parole revoked. Hmm, I wonder if he’ll hang out with Little Steven? Probably not: Van Zandt’s a rabid lefty, after all.

If you believe what these cretins told the Feds, their intent was to sabotage/vandalize Senator Landrieu’s phones in order to report on her reaction to such a problem. This may not be bugging but it’s still ratfucking like the stuff Don Segretti and Karl Rove did for CREEP back in 1972. Tricky Dick may be dead but his spirit is eternal.

I have a bit of a dilemma now as to what to call Little Liddy the Pimp and his crew. Should they be the Saboteurs or the Vandals? Any thoughts, gentle readers?

My friendMaitri suggested a name for the scandal in a comment at my blog that I quite like: HaleMaryGate. Hale is for the Hale Boggs Federal Building and the rest is self-explanatory. I think it not only rocks but it rules.

Cross-posted @ Adrastos.

—–

Passion and Delivery

All right, look. I don’t want to get into it over the iPad or whatever the fuck new shiny thing is coming along tomorrow that will “save newspapers.” It’sbullshit, I’ve been saying it’s bullshit, you all know about it.

What I do want to talk about is this:

But leaving aside any discussion of Brooks the human being, this
latest column of his is something that has to be discussed. The
propagandistic argument he makes about the dangers of “populism” is
spelled out here as clearly as you’ll ever see it expressed in print,
and this exact thing is a key reason why so much of the corruption that
went on on Wall Street in the past few decades was allowed to spread
unchecked.

That’s because this argument is tacitly accepted by almost everyone
in our business, and most particularly is internalized in the thinking
of most newspaper editors and TV news producers, who over time develop
an ingrained habitual fear of publishing material that seems hysterical
or angry.

This certainly has an effect on the content of news reporting, but perhaps even more importantly, it impacts thetoneof
news coverage, where outrages are covered without outrage, and stories
that are not particularly “balanced” in reality — stories that for
instance are quite plainly about one group of people screwing another
group of people — become transformed into cool, “objective” news
stories in which both the plainly bogus version of events and the real
and infuriating version are given equal weight.

I’ve said before that the tendency to mistake passion for bias is far more destructive than any bias ever could be, because it makes stakeholders suspect and gives automatic preference to any claim of impartiality. It makes argument distasteful. I cannot comprehend this, and I feel like it’s a recent thing, like in order to differentiate themselves from cable/radio screamers who scream all the time about stuff that isn’t worth screaming about, newspapers decided to never scream ever no matter what, and somehow that evolved into this milquetoast bullshit where the only people who get to talk are the ones who have nothing to say.

I don’t get this because I don’t think argument is distasteful. Argument isheaven. Argument is like cotton-candy-covered chocolate caffeine sex all day long on acid, argument is why we’re on this planet. God dances when His children defeat Him in argument. Argument is how we learn and grow and push and change. It’s how welive. If you’re not here to argue — and I don’t mean that literally, you can say just as much with your actions — but if you’re not here to say something somehow in whatever voice you possess, then God, I don’t know what to do with you.

When you lionize the refusal to raise one’s voice no matter the provocation, when you chalk an automatic in the loss column because somebody feels something, you’re making the world around you just a little more dead. And you can put that shit on an iPad or on a piece of paper or in a newscast or in a Happy Meal, and the delivery mechanism won’t matter. People won’t pay for it. And you know what? Even if you gave it to them for free, they won’t read it. Because it doesn’t matter.

A good newspaper bleeds love for its community, cheerleads shamelessly for the betterment of all the people in its purview, argues passionately on behalf of those who cannot argue for themselves, and fights for what its leaders have decided to fight for, loudly and boldly and without apology. A lot of people think the problem with our elite media is that they fight for the powerful and comfortable and there’s lots of remedies prescribed for that (Stop hiring white college grads! Stop hiring inside the community! Stop hiring outside the community! Stop unpaid internships! Start unpaid “citizen journalism!” GAH, to all of it.). I think the problem is they don’t fightat all because they consider it uncouth.

When you stifle the voices of passionate debate because they upset people, when you choose the blandest and least offensive tack in every situation, when you work so hard to fight for nothing that anyone with an opinion is automatically ruled out of order, you are not creating a newspaper that deserves to survive, no matter what format you decide to put it in. And that’s what’s happened over the past 20 years (one could argue, over the past 60). We’ve made ourselves smaller and smaller, hoping we’ll upset nobody, and it’s worked. Nobody’s upset. Nobody’s upset at all.

That’s a problem Steve Jobs has no possible way of solving for us.

A.

—–

Media Whore

FromAlbum3

So, the latest is that it allegedly wasn’t even a case of P Liddy or Ti Liddy (note: in parts of Cajun Louisiana, “ti” is a diminutive), but more like third rate “I’m-not-a-journalist-but-play-one-in-my-homemade,-amateurish-videos” for O’Keefe and his pals. Saying they were a gang that couldn’t shoot straight is an insult to gangs that really can’t shoot straight.

Regardless of what eventually happens to the little creep–my inner schadenfreude wouldn’t mind seeing them learn first hand about the harsh realities of federal prison, my inner cynicism thinks between IOKIYAR, first-time offender status, and whatever other connections they might have, a suspended sentence, probation, and the possibility of seeing their records vacated (see Limbaugh, Rush) wouldn’t surprise me–anyway, regardless of what happens, I’d be nice if the real lesson learned, at least as a matter of public/political consciousness, is that this sort of stuff is standard wingnut. It’s neither journalism, nor particularly enlightening…but exactly what you find throughout the right-wing media circus, going all the way to the top (POX News et al.)

And THAT’S a real problem.

Embattled

He’s been in office one year. Look, I’m not 100 percent pleased with the guy either, but COME THE FUCK ON. It’s a loaded term that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When was Bush described as embattled?

Not till his second term, and not that much outside of overseas media and filthy hippie blogs.

Look, we can argue all day long about the merits of various policies and who should be doing what but can you honestly, honestly tell me the rules aren’t different for Democrats?

A.

—–

Quote of the Night from Chris Matthews

“I forgot he was black for about an hour.”

NO REALLY.

A.

SOTU Crack Van

Posts in the van belong to their posters, not to Jude, Adrastos, Athenae, Puck, Riot, Bucky, Della, Oscar or any of the our weekly friends. If you can’t find something, just ask. If you don’t know what’s up with theHAMS, or thecatbus, or whatever, don’t worry. There will be a new private joke in about six minutes and nobody will get that one either.

Update: Van closed! Thank you to all who stopped by, especially our ND friends in our first-ever joint van. Next time … Super Bowl Van!

A.

Que es mas macho?

Obama-looks-to-space T1larg

So what is our POTUS thinking about right this minute?

Jobs.

No, not jobs like work.Jobs, like Steve. Obama is totally wishing he had Steve’s job, I bet. “Fucking Jobs! He’s got it easy. People WANT to hear what he has to say. He’s had his most profitable year ever. Damn, I hate that guy.”

In fact, according tothis poll, 69% of respondents thought today’s unveiling of the Apple Tablet was more important than theState of the Union address tonight, which only 27% believed was bigger.

The moral of this highly un-serious story? We need shinier, more awesome Democrats.

—–

Little Liddy The Pimp

I know everyone’s heard the bizarre news that someyoung wingnutsled by James O’Keefe (hereinafter and forever Little Liddy The Pimp) were arrested for trying tomess with Senator Mary Landrieu’s phones at her New Orleans office. The details are vague but it looks like what Tricky Dick’s minions G Gordon and E Howard would surely have called a black bag operation. This one, however made the Watergate bugging look masterful.

Little Liddy The Pimp is, of course, the bozo who punked ACORN by posing as (what else?) a pimp. I’m enjoying his latest predicament and can’t wait to see which one of his confederates rats the others out to avoid jail time. They may have *thought* this was a zany high spirited stunt that would get them on Bill-O’s show but they’re in deep shit with the Feds.

Here’s WWL-TV news in NOLA’s first bite at this juicy apple of a news story:

p align=”center” class=”asset asset-video” style=”margin: 0pt auto; display: block;”>http://www.wwltv.com/v/?i=82708417


UPDATE: I neglected to credit the inspiration for O’Keefe’s new moniker: NOLA blogger, Jeffrey of the Library Chronicles. He used the Little Liddy bit in an email to a listserv we’re both on and I informed him I was swiping it.