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Step off, old man!
Friday, 9 January 2004
"I was born a poor black child..."
I was flipping around last night and stopped on Fox News when I saw Sean Hannity's luggage-sized head. (It's literally the size of the heads sculpted into Mt. Rushmore, but with slightly more granite.) He was talking to a black minister from NH, who was criticizing Howard Dean. The minister said Dean stopped by the church to address his congregation but didn't bother to hang around to talk to them after service. Hannity dismissed Dean as a phony who was just using the church as a photo-op. He neglected to mention President Bush, who uses black kids as a prop at every school he visits.

Then, Hannity told the minister he'd like to visit the church during a service. I would pay big bucks to see that. I saw Hannity once on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He was with his Fox punching bag Alan Colmes, but unlike on the "Fair and Balanced" network, Colmes did most of the talking. Hannity looked really uncomfortable to be out of the safe environs of Fox or his radio studio. He just looked tiny, even with his big head. (It really is huge.)

It made me long even more for the sight of him clapping and singing in a black church. The image that comes to mind for me is Steve Martin as Navin Johnson in "The Jerk."

Posted by brettdavey at 2:00 PM EST
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Thursday, 8 January 2004
Wall Street Journal's track record
The Wall Street Journal came out strong against Wesley Clark's new tax plan, opining that they hope he knows more about war than he does about tax reform. Of course, the WSJ is in a tizzy because anyone making over $1 million a year would have to pay an extra five percent in taxes for all the money they earn over a million. Everyone reading this who makes more than $1 million a year please raise your hand.

Eric Alterman, quoting his book "What Liberal Media", had an interesting take on this today:

"When, after twelve years of supply-side-inspired deficits threatened to cripple the economy, Bill Clinton was forced to clean up the economic mess, Journal editors had no doubt about what would happen. Clinton's proposals, they predicted, would 'cripple' the economy. When the plan passed, the paper promised, "[W]e are seeing the early signs of the stagflation that we knew so well during the Carter presidency."

"Hysteria" would not be too strong a term to describe the Journal's reaction to the Clinton plan. The headline, "The Class Warfare Economy" was attended by a cartoon of a guillotine. The tiny rise in the nation's top marginal tax rates to a level where they remained the second lowest in the industrialized world did not turn out well for the editors. The Clinton years resulted in an unbroken expansion of the economy in which the vast majority of its benefits were tilted towards the very wealthy--in other words, the people on whom "class war" had allegedly been declared."

And then Alterman wrote this about the WSJ attack on Clark:

"So I guess it's a good sign that similarly misplaced knives are out for Wesley Clark's excellent new tax program. They term it a "Clintonian tax hike." The Clark campaign should trumpet that endorsement to the heavens."

Posted by brettdavey at 9:10 AM EST
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Wednesday, 7 January 2004
Scam artists
I love the story of the woman who claims she had the winning lottery ticket but lost it in a convenience store parking lot. She was on Keith Olberman's show last night on MSNBC with her lawyer. She didn't make any sense and neither did her lawyer, who rambled on about how the state should have a system where you put your drivers license in some mechanism when you buy a lottery ticket to confirm it was you who bought it.

Uuuhhhh, and they also should have a time machine so you can go and buy the winning ticket after you know what numbers will be selected.

Anyway, near the end of the interview, Olberman sprung this on the lady: was reporting that Elecia Battle wasn't her real name and she had been convicted of various types of fraud through the years.

The look on her face was classic. When asked for a response, her lawyer said, "This is the first I'm hearing of it." Must have been a good time to find that out.

Posted by brettdavey at 12:24 PM EST
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WMD's: Texas vs. Iraq
FBI officials recently busted a ring that was connected with some white supremicists and anti-government types in Texas. Here's part of the news story:

"Investigators found nearly 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and briefcases that could be detonated by remote control. Most distressing, they said, was the discovery of 800 grams of almost pure sodium cyanide -- material that can only be acquired legally for specific agricultural or military projects.

The sodium cyanide was found inside an ammunition canister, next to hydrochloric, nitric and acetic acids and formulas for making bombs. If acid were mixed with the sodium cyanide, an analysis showed, it would create a bomb powerful enough to kill everyone inside a 30,000-square-foot facility, investigators said."

Surprised you haven't heard more about this story? Don't be. It doesn't fit into the media's neat foreign terrorist storyline. Did you know that David Kay, the chief weapons inspector for the Bush Administration, has quietly resigned?

For those of you keeping score, this means that we've found more weapons of mass destruction in Texas than Iraq.

Posted by brettdavey at 12:18 PM EST
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Friday, 2 January 2004
World Idol, doo doo, and Shawshank
A little television sampler:

I watched some of the World Idol thing last night. It was basically a showdown between all the pop idol competitions winners. Kelly Clarkson represented the US. Some dude from Belgium or Norway or something won. I keep calling him Hans Blix since I can't remember his real name. Anyway, Hans looked like a combination of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the lead singer from the movie "The Commitments", and the kid Corky from "Life Goes On." He got the most votes from around the world doing a karaoke-style cover of "Beautiful Day" by U2. Go Corky!

My favorite part of the Michael Jackson interview with Ed Bradley was when Michael said he was locked for 45 minutes in a dirty bathroom with walls covered with "doo-doo feces." Michael said that the guards kept asking how he liked the smell. "It's alright," said the King of Doo Doo Feces, maintaining his tougher than leather exterior.

I know some people love "Shawshank Redemption" although I rate it slightly better than tolerable. Why the hell is this movie on 40 times a week on TNT? Don't they have any other movies? I made two independent movies that are marginally interesting. Put one of those on for Christ's sake. If I have to see Tim Robbins pained expression as the innocent man or Morgan Freeman as the noble inmate one more time, I'm going to smear my bathroom with doo-doo feces. Is that alright?

Posted by brettdavey at 10:53 AM EST
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Oh Brother, where art thou?
This is from the New York Daily News. If it was about Roger Clinton, it'd be all over the news but chances are you've probably never heard about it. It's about Neil Bush, the brother who ran a Savings & Loan into the ground at great expense to the American taxpayer.

Here are some stomach-flipping excerpts of Sharon Bush's attorney, Marshall Davis Brown, mercilessly grilling President Bush's wayward little brother:

Bush: "I had sexual intercourse with perhaps three or four, I don't remember the exact number, women, at different times. In Thailand once, I have a pretty clear recollection that there was one time in Thailand and in Hong Kong."

Brown: "And you were married to Mrs. Bush?"

Bush: "Yes."

Brown: "Is that where you caught the venereal diseases?"

Bush: "No."

Brown: "Where did you catch those?"

Bush: "Diseases plural? I didn't catch..."

Brown: "Well, I'm sorry. How ... how many venereal diseases do you suffer from?"

Bush: "I've had one venereal disease."

Brown: "Which was?"

Bush: "Herpes."

Brown then interrogates Bush's about his various sex partners: "Did you pay them for that sex?"

Bush: "No, I did not."

Brown: "Pick them up in a sushi house?"

Bush: "No. ... My recollection is, where I can recall, they came to my room."

Brown: "Do you know the name of that hotel? I may go to Thailand sometime."

Family values anyone?

Posted by brettdavey at 10:22 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 2 January 2004 10:25 AM EST
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Friday, 26 December 2003
Cellophane, Psycho Killer, and an AMC Pacer
There was something wrong at my friend Ken Mahan's funeral. The priest didn't know him at all and delivered a sermon of the insert-the-deceased's-name-here variety. That was until one of his friends got up to deliver remarks.

Tom, a boyhood friend of Ken's, delivered a eulogy at the funeral. He called Ken the kindest person he'd ever known. That seemed about right. Afterwards, I talked to Tom. He told me that Ken would occasionally perform with the Felbs, the band he fronted in the 80's, wrapped in cellophane, wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. Other times, he'd play covered only in playing cards.

At Tom's wedding, Ken was the best man and was coerced into sitting in with the band. He played "Psycho Killer", which seems pretty out-of-place for a wedding, unless you knew Ken and his sense of humor.

He also told me a story from their teenage years, when they entered a contest to win an AMC Pacer for a month. The story involves the ingestion of hallucinogenics and 31 teenagers crammed into a Pacer, with Ken buried at the bottom. Keep in mind, it was the 70's. The car company refused to give the car to such a twisted group, even though they had won the contest. Instead, the 31 of them split $100 as prize money.

Posted by brettdavey at 1:12 PM EST
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The real Animal House
I was in Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in college and I'll be the first to admit it: there were some really stupid people who did some really stupid things there. None, however, even came close to this:

ATHENS, Georgia (CNN) -- A fraternity member was treated for possible exposure to rabies, and he and two others could be expelled for beating, skinning and then eating a raccoon that might have had the disease, the fraternity's president said.

The men had spotted the raccoon behaving erratically outside the Phi Kappa Psi house at the University of Georgia on December 12. One hit it with construction pylon and shot it with a pellet gun in the fraternity's parking lot, Athens-Clarke County Animal Control officials said. Another skinned the raccoon, and a third cooked and ate some of its meat.

"It was a ridiculous situation -- an isolated incident," Larry Bales, fraternity president, said. "It was not a fraternity-sanctioned event."

Not a fraternity-sanctioned event? Wow. He did continue on to say that the Annual Spring Date Rape and Vomit On Yourself Fest, which is a fraternity-sanctioned event, would go on as planned.

I know when I see a racoon behaving erratically, my first instinct is to kill it and eat it. So I guess I really can't blame the boys for doing what they did.

When I was in college, I was steward for one semester. That meant for some piddling amount of money, I was in charge of working with the cook to schedule meals, cleanup crews, etc. It was a shitty job, especially the semester we had a drunk cook who apparently had only worked previously as a truck driver.

His name was John Money, but the guys called him Jacques Monet, like he was a famous French chef. He used to cook scalloped potatoes straight out-of-the-box for every dinner. Once, some guys broke into the kitchen about two hours before meal time and dumped the scalloped potatoes out of the pan and into the garbage. Jacques Monet was not to be dissuaded. After his customary 3 o'clock cocktails, he came back to discover his beloved potatoes in the trash. Come 5 o'clock, about 50 guys anxiously awaited dinner to see what he would replace the offending spuds with.

Damn if he didn't dig them out of the trash and serve them anyway. Come to think of it, we were lucky we didn't get rabies or something even worse eating that food for a semester.

Posted by brettdavey at 1:06 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 26 December 2003 1:16 PM EST
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Monday, 22 December 2003
To write or not to write
The easiest thing to do is to not write. Anyone who writes for a living or for fun knows what I'm talking about. I'm about 50 pages into a novel called "The Five-Minute President". I wrote those 50 pages in about three weeks. That was two months ago. Last night, I plotted out the rest of the story. I'm hoping that between now and the end of the year, I can double the number of pages.

Here's what I've done in the past couple months instead of working on my story:

* Watched a lot of TV, including an inordinate amount of basketball, C-Span, and professional wrestling.
* Consumed massive quantities of food. Two nights ago, I sat down to watch TV and ate about 35 of those little oatmeal cookies with frosting on them. Aieeee!
* Started paying attention to the random hairs that sprout up when you're pushing 40. The worst are the nose hairs and the random back hairs that pop up with no other hairs anywhere in sight. This morning, I noticed a hair coming out of the side of my neck that was at least an inch long. It looked like one of the bolts on the side of the Frankenstein monster's neck.
* Watched my son learn to crawl. This one was worthwhile, obviously, but now that he's crawling, the terror alert in the Davey household is on orange. His current mission is to attack all the Christmas presents and try to open them up. Good boy!

I've got next week off from work. So theoretically, unless I start making sculptures out of old toenail clippings, I should be able to get some work done on my book. Stay tuned.

Posted by brettdavey at 11:38 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 26 December 2003 12:54 PM EST
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Sunday, 21 December 2003
My friend Ken
I was feeding my son Van this morning when my mother called to tell me my friend Ken's obituary was in this morning's paper. I didn't know he had died although it wasn't a complete shock. He had been sick for most of his adult life with cystic fibrosis. Lately, things had taken a turn for the worse with the hospitalizations becoming more frequent and serious in nature.

Nine years ago, I was editor of Providence Monthly magazine. We were always getting unsolicited submissions, most of which weren't very good (neither was the magazine at that time, to be honest.) Someone sent in a bunch of made-up "Letters to Santa" from well-known Rhode Islanders. Greg, the guy who started the magazine, and I laughed our asses off as we read the letters. We published them in the December issue. That was how I first met Ken. He wrote those letters.

Ken was a funny writer with a sense for the outrageous and a strong sense of fair play. He didn't understand cruelty. He and I got along well and usually met at Cafe Zog on Wickenden Street or some other coffee shop. He usually lugged around a notebook, filled with various scribblings.

He was quiet, but inquisitive behind those big bushy eyebrows. I was surprised to learn that he had played in a couple bands. It didn't seem to fit his personality. I was more surprised to learn he had cystic fibrosis, the disease which would eventually kill him. It didn't manifest itself in any obvious way, although there were times when Ken struggled to catch his breath. He was hospitalized frequently with respiratory conditions that could be potentially deadly to someone with his condition.

He went down to part-time at his United Way job, and then eventually had to leave because he was having such a hard time breathing. Earlier this year, he tried to get on a list for a lung transplant. He was too thin and had to gain weight to become eligible. Over the past year, he spent most of his time in the house that he shared with his brother. It wasn't by choice. He just couldn't be exposed to other people who might be sick. Also, he had to lug oxygen with him everywhere.

He had a close call a few months ago. I called the house and his brother told me he was in Rhode Island Hospital in intensive care. I went to see him on my lunch break from work. He was unconscious, on one of those big respirators. His thick hair was brushed back and he was receiving some kind of pain medication through an IV. You always hear that you should talk to people in the hospital who are unconscious. I did for a while, but couldn't think of much to say except,"How you doing, Ken? I'm rooting for you, buddy." The nurse in the room didn't express much confidence that he was going to make it. I cried for a while then left.

Within a week, his brother called to tell me Ken was doing better. I went back to see him in the hospital. He was off the respirator and in a bed on the opposite side of the room from where he was last time I had visited him. He still was on oxygen, but he was sitting up, talking, eating, and reading. Near his bed was a notebook full of his writings.

It was amazing, really. I never thought I'd seem him alive again. I told him how good it was to see him and that it was a kind of miracle that we could talk again. It felt like talking to a ghost.

After Ken went home, I visited him, sometimes bringing lunch. The mission was to fatten him up. He needed to gain weight to be eligible for the lung transplant. He was eating a lot more than he normally did. Still, he was very thin. He only talked about his condition when asked, and then would apologize for going on too long talking about himself.

I took him out to see "School of Rock" about a month and a half ago. I dropped him off at the door of the Showcase Cinema and parked the car. We bought tickets and snacks. The walk to the theater was about 100 yards or so and we went up about five steps to our seats. Ken had to lug along an oxygen tank. We took our seats and for about 20 minutes, I listened to him gasp gently to catch his breath. For the record, he thought the movie was a little silly.

He was doing pretty well gaining weight and had put on about five pounds. Then, things went downhill. I was scheduled to take him to the lung transplant hospital in Boston on December 5, but his brother called me three days before and told me Ken was back in the hospital. His brother said things weren't going well. Yesterday, I called Ken's house from my cell phone and got the machine. I left a message asking how he was doing.

Then, today, my mother called to give me the news. I got the paper and read the obituary. I called the house again, to offer my condolensces to his brother and ask if I could do anything. There was no one home and I got the answering machine. Ken's voice is still on it. He was 44 years old.

Posted by brettdavey at 10:11 AM EST
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