October 31, 2010

Halloween Dispatch

After spending over a decade in an apartment-heavy neighborhood, it was fun to get back into Trick-Or-Treat.  The first Halloween at Castle Secondmost brought thirty-three kids!

Happily, there were enough full-size candy bars in the stash to cover everybody.  No TP is in the offing, and my emergency backup fun-size 3 Musketeers remain untouched.  Mission accomplished!

Saluting Sorensen

Like great songs, truly great speeches seem to have an air of inevitability around them, like they always existed and were merely waiting for the right time to be plucked out of the ether.  Of course, in both cases, that ease of cadence and significance of content is actually the result of tremendous craftsmanship.

Tonight, we remember the archetypal Presidential speechwriter, Ted Sorensen.  It's tempting to say that he set the tone for modern political discourse, but it's probably more accurate to say that his work represented the last and best of the old style of public speaking--unafraid of poetry, informed by history, addressed to what was assumed to be a reasonable and educated audience.  

If there's a finer modern speech than the JFK Inaugural...  it's probably another Sorensen job.
   

Five Songs: Halloween

Five Songs is an occasional SMLTS feature consisting of thematically-grouped lists of five songs. They're not necessarily the very best or most representative. They're just ones I like and feel like finding an excuse to post. This is not a scientific poll, a critical argument, or anything that takes much work. THIS IS A LAZY STRUCTURAL GIMMICK. Nevertheless, you will probably have your own High Fidelity-style arguments with all of these lists. Go on with your bad self.


Proceed with confidence.  This SMLTS Halloween feature is free of obvious choices AND sparkly emo vampires.  


Mwahahahaha, also.


    


WEREWOLVES!
"Yellow Sun"--The Raconteurs



ZOMBIES!
"Lies Of The Living Dead"--The Minus Five



PIRATES!
(Also, I forgot to post this on Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Bleargh.)
"The Hook"--Stephen Malkmus


NORTHERN* BOYS SINGING LIKE SOUTHERN BOYS!
AMAZINGLY, NOT THE FELICE BROTHERS!
*eh, California, same difference
"Tombstone Shadow"--CCR



THE PEOPLE YOU SHOULD SKIP DURING TRICK-OR-TREAT!
"Strychnine"--The Sonics




LAGNIAPPE: ATMOSPHERE!
"A Stroll Trough Hive Manor Corridors"--The Hives
(Best YouTube comment: "It was just music!  What about the song?")

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 10/31/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Readers of a delicate disposition will enjoy the vintage college newspaper ads further down the page.       

This week...  I swear there are good domain names up for grabs, Conan plays chicken with The Peacock, and more!

Blue Laws is finally bored with Christine O'Donnell, which as it happens times out pretty well.  

October 30, 2010

Restoring Sanity, Part Deux

(PART ONE is here.)

OK, now it's a REAL rally...  I've seen a "Legalize Pot" sign.

More signs...
WONK
I Can Spell
FCK H8  (not censoring, it actually says "FCK", which is of course howscome it's on TV)
Evidence-Based Government
Papa Smurf 2012
Make Awkward Sexual Advances, Not War

LG Is A Proud Sponsor Of The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear.  Wait for the red state run on Samsung phones.

Adorable lil' sprite collects a medal on behalf of media outlets that have forbidden employees from attending the rally.  "There is a huge cooties epidemic out there," warns Colbert, "but you won't hear about it on NPR."  Well, duh, not now that Dan Schorr's gone...  he would have been all over the cootie thing.  He lived through those dark days of the House Commission On Un-American Cooties, and in fact knew Khruschev's cooties personally.  Can't replace that kind of context.

"Jon Jacob Jingleheimer Stewart!"  Heh.

Mark Zuckerberg gets the final Fear Award.  The "Dude, You Have No Koran" guy gets the final Reasonableness Award (briefly ripped off by Colbert).  SMLTS approves of these messages.

...Kid Rock.  Ugh.  At least he won't be doing that godawful "Sweet Home Alabama"/"Werewolves of London" mashup thing.  The remix culture certainly makes all that brouhaha over "My Sweet Lord" look quaint...  Anywho, this song seems to advance the following idea: All points of view annoy me; I can do nothing to solve the world's problems; but it's okeydoke because "I care."  Throw in Sheryl Crow and TI.  We have officially entered the low point of the rally.

More Sheryl Crow.  SMLTS bathroom break.  Thanks!

And now, a "debate", with matching podia!  Gratuitous Star Trek references, special guest stars Kareen Abdul Jabbar and R2D2...  This may actually be a live action version of Family Guy.  No doubt about it now: John Oliver appears as a sort of amalgam of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.

And now, your moment of Zen...  er, sincerity.  "I can't control what people think this was, I can only tell you my intentions...  We live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies... If we amplify everything, we hear nothing... The press is our immune system--if it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker, and perhaps eczema... "

"Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel isn't The Promised Land.  It's just New Jersey."

Tony Bennett bringin' it, effortlessly, a capella.

Pay attention, Sheryl, Ms. Staples is demonstrating how it is done.

Wow.  Well done, boys.  I feel saner already.

Ready To Restore Sanity

About halfway through the rally...

Turnout: Looks like an Inauguration.

THE MYTHBUSTERS!  Conducting The Wave, for Science.  When Adam and Jaime say "jump!" we...  start looking for the seismographers.

A few of the better signs...
I Doubt This Sign Will Change Your Opinion
Birthers For Hawaii Statehood
Civil Is Sexy
DON'T PANIC (Woohoo, REPRESENT, my people!)

"Reese's is a proud sponsor of the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear."  Awaiting teabagger boycott.

Colbert emerging from his Fear Bunker, a la Chilean miner, in an Evel Knieval outfit.  Obvs.  Kneel Before Zod, also.

Don Novello is still alive.  Eh, I still dig the schtick.

Ha, Sam Waterston, our nation's official Lincoln analogue.  I bet Dick Wolf is having puppies about the use of the Law & Order sound effect.

ZOMG MUSLIN PEACE TRAIN!  FLEEEEEE!!!!!!!
ZOMG, PRINCE OF EFFING DARKNESS CRAZY TRAIN!!!  FLEEE!!!!!!

Obviously, the only way to settle this one is with some Philly soul (which always beat the crap out of their cruddy stupid cheesesteaks and also the Eagles).  Ladies and Gentlemen, start your love train!

October 29, 2010

Hi Ya, Kid!

Now that I'm actually spending some time in Castle Secondmost doing things other than sleeping, showering, and doing laundry, I've been returning to my hobby of piecing together what I can about my family history.

I've been having marvelous luck finding information in old issues of The Duquesne Duke, the archives of which have been digitized and put online.  (I honestly think this Internet thing might catch on!)  I knew that my grandmother and great-uncle went to school on the Bluff; I knew their parents had a restaurant called The Dugout.  Little details like where, exactly, it was located had been long forgotten.

It pleases me no end to tell you that The Dugout was at the corner of Colbert and Locust Streets.  I'm still hoping to find a picture somewhere.

It's been great fun discovering little details about my loved ones' youths (like how Grandma made quite the splash in a black taffeta gown at some campus mixer; I have always strongly suspected that she sprang fully formed and fabulous from Rosalind Russell's forehead).  Uncle Buck* was a pretty good basketball and baseball player.  The Dugout was, as family lore correctly held, a beloved campus hangout.
*Look, that was his nickname, bad John Candy movie notwithstanding.

I didn't know my great-grandparents, and I've always wished I had.  Stumbling across this sort of thing makes me feel that all the more keenly:




(9/30/37)
One place the students can never forget is the Duke's Original Dugout, traditional eating place for many years.  Some of the greatest stars of the Blue have eaten in Herm's.  Situated at the foot of Colbert Street, it is the typical campus restaurant.  Pictures, schedules, and student publications decorate the walls.  Upon entering you receive a cordial greeting of "Hi ya, Kid" that makes the shyest freshman feel like a senior.
                            


I showed this to my mother, and she nodded and smiled and said "Yep, that's my grandfather."

I can attest to the fact that those lucky students could tuck into a remarkably fine piece of pie, courtesy of my great-grandmother and her magnificent crust recipe.

Now, here's a selection I found a few months ago that didn't end up shedding any light on family history...  my great-grandparents had long sold the restaurant by this time (March of 1963).  But still, seeing this made my day.












(Also, my officemate got a kick out the Frank and Wally's ad.  He really misses Frank and Wally's.)






















So, anyway... I now have the warm fuzzies. I think I'll make pie this weekend.

October 28, 2010

Purely Random Cheery Thing

The Best Light

"You know what never sounds right?"  We are in the car, headed to the wake, having one of those punch-drunk discussions you have under those circumstances.  "The Lord's Prayer.  I went to the Presbyterian church as a kid, and it was debts and debtors rather than trespasses and trespassers."  I still prefer the economy of syllables.  Way punchier.  Less sibilant.

"All about the Benjamins," Mike intones.  "Forgive us our absurdly high interest rate...  lest we end up in debtors' prison."  We laughed, mostly because we needed to.  There was also a discussion about how the Protestants are easy to spot because we have no idea when to kneel.

We all agreed it had been a lovely service.  The priest was young, empathetic, and a good writer.  He had delivered a homily about photography and life being about putting things in the best light.  It could have been really seriously maudlin in less-skilled hands, but it was precisely the right thing to say.  It was a comfort, a celebration of a life well and fully lived.

As we followed the casket out, I couldn't help but be struck by the striking composition--the silhouetted figures against the defiantly bright October sky, a few coppery leaves clinging to the trees, all framed by the arched doorway.

While we were heading out to the mausoleum, I went over to thank an old friend for coming.  We'd had something of a falling-out years and years ago, but it was stupid and we were basically children at the time...  and you know what?  The man always makes it to the funeral.  And I was genuinely glad to see him.  We agreed we needed to support our friend through his grief, that we need to keep in touch, all of the things people say at funerals.

Mr. Frank would have thought it was a beautiful day.  And he would have taken some amazing pictures.

October 27, 2010

SMLTS On BHO On TDS: A Gravitas-Free Liveblogette

*Typical of recent Presidents, Barry got really gray.  Typical of guys, it looks good.  DAMN YOU, NATURE, YOU SEXIST JERK!

*Jon's on board with the free coffee mug concept.  We're totes on the same wavelength.  It's like I'm his long-lost twin.  His long-lost, inarticulate, female WASP twin.

*Two years in...  Are we the ones we were waiting for?  In short... frankly, we settled.

*BHO says "folks" as much as I say "awesome."

*JS: "Did you just invite me to the White House?"
BHO: not missing a beat "Nooo."

*"Change you can believe in... but you know what?  We're going to have to work for it."  Sheesh, he may as well be ululating.

*"Larry Summers did a heckuva job-(laughter)"
"You may not want to use that phrase"
"Pun intended."  (Not sure that answer actually digs you out of that hole...)

*TDS ran long (interview wrapped at :33, if my DVR is right).

Smell Test Fail












You know, I was nervous about the security tag still being attached...  but they had me at "BID WITH CONFIDENCE"!

A Goodbye

Pittsburgh has lost one of its kindest, most interesting people.  Edward Frank, retired Pittsburgh Press photographer and all-around neat guy, passed away this week.  He was all the things they say in the obituary--and you should see his pictures, they're amazing!  He was also: a model train enthusiast, a marvelous conversationalist, and endlessly proud of his son Rob.  

Mr. Frank will always be remembered, with a smile, by everyone who was lucky enough to know him.

October 26, 2010

Already Gone

"So," one of my colleagues said, as he handed me some paperwork, "Have you seen DesPlaces?"

"Not recently.  I was going to walk down there sometime this week."

"It's really weird.  The control room is gone.  Membership is gone.  The newsroom door is just...  hanging there.  Weird."

Well, that did it.  My office is gone.  I had to see that.

After I ran some lunchtime errands, I basically traced my old morning-commute route, except I cut over at the practice field.

And there it was: The place where my office used to be...




















Oh yeah, I went for the dying rose shot.  SMLTS is not above melodrama.




From a closer vantage point...



 















Sometimes I feel a bit silly about being so affected by the demolition of the building, which is just a thing, an inanimate object, a pile of bricks and mortar.  On the other hand...  it was the place where some of my best stories are set!  Years and years of moments, dramatic and quotidian, that have in a real sense made me who I am... happened right there, in that crumbling pile of bricks.

I walked back to my new office, warmed by the presence of my colleagues and my familiar bits of junk.

I could tell you that I won't go back to see DesPlaces in its final days, but I'm quite sure I will.  You do that for friends, even when it's tough on you.

October 25, 2010

Also, Word To The Wise, People LOVE Coffee Mugs

Could the next Big Idea in advertising be... truth?  Presenting facts in an honest, engaging way which fosters a loyal relationship with consumers?  Sounds...  oddly familiar...

Winding Up

Sony is officially putting the Walkman to sleep.  (Errrrr.... taking it to the Obsolete Electronics Farm, where it can frolic and play with the Betamax?)

I spent some very happy times plugged into my first Walkman, in all its bulky metallic glory.  Its successors were smaller, plasticky, more brightly colored; they were all fond of gobbling up cassettes to varying degrees.

The portability was sheer magic, but you could only throw so many tapes into your bag, so the cassette format forced some advance decision-making.  I would obsess over which tapes to bring along on trips--important stuff!  A wrong choice could spoil the tone of a whole journey.

Even today, when I'm listening to some old favorites on my iPod, I hit the end of a certain track and reflexively think hey, time to flip the tape!

And sometimes, I look at my iPod and still can't quite believe it exists.

Your Useless Trivia For The Day

Bees--despite having brains that are "far smaller than navel fluff*"--are incredibly efficient at solving the "traveling salesman problem," that is, finding the shortest distance between two points.

*Actually, they spelled it "naval fluff" in the article.  The misfired homonyms, they buuuuurn.



October 24, 2010

SMLTS At 5 Months Or So: Things Blogging Has Taught Me

  • I use the word "awesome" a whole, whole lot.
  • I use the phrase "a whole, whole lot" a...  bunch.
  • Liveblogging a weekly TV show is a pain in the butt...
  • ...and I'm far too OCD to stop liveblogging a season once I've started.
  • I can recycle my material with people who don't know that I blog.
  • I can annoy the bejeezus out of people who read my blog by quoting myself.
  • The "preview" button on Blogger is not the orange one.
  • I will not accidentally break the Internet if I tinker around with a post's HTML just to see what happens.

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 10/24/10

 Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Everybody else will be disappointed that it's actually pretty tame this week.  



I Do So Heart The Series Of Tubes

I know I get nervous when some guy wearing a kilt gets on the plane with me...

Time Out

Adrenaline only gets you so far.  To be precise, it got me through two weeks of pledge drive madness, a celebratory trip to Payless (I know, I know, we showbiz types know how to par-TAY), and then, barely, to the loveseat in my living room.

Once I dragged myself home yesterday, I crashed on aforementioned loveseat for a while, ate a sandwich, and then headed upstairs to enjoy some interactive media (which sounds much classier and more high-tech than "drank a scotch and soda while watching Mad Men").  Finally got relaxed enough to take a nap.  Eventually got up and hacked through some of my newspaper backlog.  TMC was running Kind Hearts And Coronets, introduced by Robert Osbourne and...  Alec Baldwin, who 1) is clearly following me and 2) was not reprising his Glengarry Glen Ross performance.  (Mamet-wise, I'm still more of a Wag The Dog girl... but I digress.)

Turned in at something approaching a normal adult bedtime.  Oh, I slept!  Gloriously, marvelously, I slept.  Went to The Strip this morning, bought actual non-lunchmeat food, puttered in the kitchen, did laundry.  Watched the Steelers.  Wondered what hell Ben would have caught if he hadn't worn all the ridiculous hot pink cancer-awareness gear.  Started the Sunday crossword.  Wrote incredibly vapid blog post.

October 23, 2010

All I Can Say Is Wow (And Thanks!)

WDUQ-FM raises more than $354,000 in fund drive (PG)

Yr. Obt. Svt. is crashing this glorious evening.  SMLTS will be returning to its usual self soon.  Must catch up on sleep first.  And laundry.

In the meantime...  Good on ya, 'Burgh!

October 18, 2010

Maslow, Eat Your Heart Out

Working a pledge drive does strange things to your metabolism.  

The most obvious one is how quickly you acclimate to early mornings.  You're too busy to get tired (unlike when you're up early, twiddling your thumbs, waiting in vain for your contractor to show up).  There's so much going on in the pledge room, between the calls, the volunteers, keeping tabs on challenges.  It's exciting, it's fulfilling, and after a few days, it's the new normal.

In the words of Messrs. Flansburgh and Linnell, I've got getting up so down, I could do it in my sleep.

The second thing is, your relationship to food changes.  Either your body is screaming for lunch at 9AM because it quite reasonably assumes that it must be noon by now, or you forget to eat.  Sometimes, you realize that it's 7PM, you've been hard at work since 6AM, and you're running on a sum total of one (1) bagel and three (3) cheese cubes.  TO READERS WHO GAVE BIRTH TO ME: Just kidding!  I always eat well-balanced, healthy meals at regular intervals.  Look, there's a bunny!

Next, at some point, your massive coffee intake will stop having any discernible physical effect.  This will be really seriously freaky, no matter how many time it happens.

Eventually, self-delusion fails, and eyedrops no longer pass as the functional equivalent of sleep.  Then, hey, there's a challenge!  The phone rings...  you talk to some incredibly wonderful person who wants to make a pledge...  and another...   And before you know it, it's two hours later.  You go home, you crash, and a few hours later you do the whole thing over again. 


Waiting For The Inevitable "Death Ray Panel" Conspiracy Email*

Yeah, I want DADT to be repealed and some comprehensive infrastructure programs would have been welcome and I would have preferred single-payer...  but dude was never literally going to walk on water, so I'm happy that Barack gets to play with the Archimedes Death Ray on Mythbusters.


*Said missive will come from my wingnut friend, whose email account was hacked recently, thus causing everyone on that contact list to receive even more Viagra ads than weeping eagle GIFs, if such a thing is possible.

We May Not Be Perfect, But Heaven Knows We Try

Here's an article about five potentially-catastrophic nuclear accidents that didn't take out nearly as many people as they could have.  Woo?

October 17, 2010

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 10/17/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  There's a really good clip from The Right Stuff down the page to keep you occupied.  It's not even the bit with Sally Rand, or the bar with the mermaid tank.

This week...  much like the Hawaiian "aloha," "discreet" clearly has multiple meanings; just because there's an app for that doesn't mean it'll work; who's the Chilean miner who's the sex machine to all the chicks?  Blue Laws really didn't expect to find post fodder in the coupon section, but life's full of surprises.

Rilly Rilly Rilly

SMLTS is appalled to realize that SMLTS used the word "truly" three times in one paragraph in the last post--and not in a tidy, Ted Sorensen-esque parallel structure.  In SMLTS' defense, SMLTS is currently powered by faith, hope, trust, and a tanker truckload of delicious Prestogeorge coffee...

October 15, 2010

A Brief Update

Can't say I didn't warn yinz...  posting has been light, for SMLTS' customary snark is on hiatus, earnest idealism has taken hold, and the pledge drive is well underway at 90.5 FM.

The drive is going really well.  I mean, really very well indeed.  And it has to--both for the obvious practicality of paying the bills, and for the almost equally evident need to establish without doubt that this community can and will support this service. 

90.5FM embodies a well-rounded view of the world.  It's possible to engage with the intricacies of public policy and geopolitical upheaval and still take time to enjoy some music and a good laugh.  In fact, I would argue that without taking time to appreciate the glories of the world, you can't conceivably apprehend why all that other stuff matters so very much.

It's easy to get bogged down in all the truly awful, demoralizing, nasty things that people do to each other every day.  These are rough times, times which don't always bring out the best in humanity.  But I have to say, just on a personal level, the response to this drive has been a real corrective to the gloom.  I truly believe that 90.5 FM has a bright future.  The community is truly stepping up.  Let's keep it going.   

October 14, 2010

They Called It The Sound Barrier

Speaking of overcoming adversity to the effect of remarkable achievement in the air...  63 years ago today, Chuck Yeager climbed into a tiny cockpit, slammed the door shut with a sawed-off broom handle, and flew faster than the speed of sound.

They said it couldn't be done.

Here's to the barrier-breakers.

October 12, 2010

Excelsior

The fine folks at Pittsburgh Public Media have just posted an update in which SMLTS readers will take keen interest.

Cooking With Fossil Fuels

Hey, have you heard the news?  WDUQ's secure web pledge page is back up!  Why not give 'er a spin?

October 10, 2010

Leaving DesPlaces (Sometimes You REALLY Can't Go Home Again)

I've taken a lot of pictures this year.  This one is among my favorites.  Not only is it pretty neat to have captured the view of the Civic Arena standing next to its successor...  but this picture was itself taken from a doomed building.





Yr. Obdt. Svt. and her fellow hardy radio folk built up a lot of good karma in our old home, a well-worn red brick building at Locust & Stevenson called DesPlaces Hall.  For all its faults, it was--as one of my colleagues puts it--"our comfortable old shoe."

Last I heard, they were planning to pull it down sometime next month.  The bricks will be reused in the dormitory being built upon the site. 


It's been a real adventure getting ready for our very first pledge drive in Clement Hall (or, in proper Pittsburghese, "the old Musicians' Union").  And the nervous energy is actually quite invigorating.  It feels great to be working toward the future, to have made it to the new place...  but in no way is that vigor and forward momentum done dishonor by taking a moment to acknowledge the loss of our old home.   


It was emotionally difficult moving out of DesPlaces, especially when we were pulling out the very last of the equipment.  There's something uniquely wrenching about dismantling something that had so recently been pulsing with life, even for the purpose of reinstalling it elsewhere.  I don't think I'll ever forget cutting the "ON AIR" sign from the wall above the air studio door.  (I also don't think I'll forget how happy I was to see its siblings reinstalled outside the new production studios.)


By the way, I have a new regret... this actually knocks the Angel Pig to #2!  When we were moving out equipment, I had a chance to go up on the roof.  I got about halfway up this ladder...







... before deciding that  it was probably not the smartest thing to try climbing this sucker in a pair of loose-fitting sandals with no grip to speak of.








I try not to think too much about how the building looked the last few times I saw it, strewn with discarded boxes and detritus of wide origin.  I try not to think about the bare floors and the dismantled doors, the elevator with the missing ceiling tiles, the Dumpster heaped with bits and bobs that had been dependable fixtures of my life.


Without sugar-coating the fact that our new space is in much better condition, I'll always love that beat-up old building that will soon, like the street it was built on, not exist anymore.


I walked through these doors a few thousand times.  It's hard to believe I'll never do it again.  In my heart and in my memory, DesPlaces is full of life.  I salute my old friend.  







Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 10/10/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Lie back and think of England, it'll all be over soon.  

This week, Americans have seen their creepy neighbors, and they are us; euphemisms historical and new; spam spam spam spam pill ad spam.  Blue Laws, when used as directed, is a superior nerve tonic.

October 8, 2010

Construction Ahead, Expect Delays

Well, folks...  buckle in, pledge starts next week at the best radio station in the whole wide world*.  Expect posting on SMLTS to be very, very light for the next two weeks or so.  Expect the posts that do show up to be, at best, semi-coherent ravings from a punchy, exhausted person--albeit a punchy, exhausted person who wouldn't trade places with anyone in the world.


News, Jazz, NPR and other assorted cool things that don't fit on the logo come to you because of listener support.  More than ever before, 90.5FM is counting on the listeners who count on the station.


After many, many pledge drives**, the alchemy of the whole thing never ceases to amaze me.  We all send in our bit (yes, me included***), and...  the most amazing things are conjured from the air.  


It means the world to me to flip on the radio and hear some of the most expressive, passionate, and elegant music human beings have ever created.  It means the world to me that NPR does the kind of intellectually honest, in-depth news that actually facilitates meaningful engagement with the world.  It means the world to me that other people feel the same way, that we all pitch in as we can, and we call this place into existence.


All this, and you can get a really nice coffee mug****.  


*SMLTS will allow that SMLTS may be slightly biased; but also holds that SMLTS happens to be correct.  
**SMLTS should not have started to do the math on that one.  Wow, that's a lot of pledge drives.
***I have a sustaining plan.  All the cool kids are doing it.
****Seriously, I have insider information on this, it's VERY nice.  

Best Day Ever

How could it possibly be cooler that Sunday is 10/10/10?

In binary, 101010 is...

...is...

FORTY-TWO!

Jerry Brown Still Jerry Browniest

1) It's always, always a good idea to check for the dial tone after leaving a voice mail, Jer.
2) Disturbingly, I still remember his 800 number from the '92 Presidential campaign.  1 (800) 426-1112. 
3) Even more disturbingly, said 800 number is still in service. 

This May Be The Last Time, I Don't Know

I'm awake, I'm dressed, I'm blogging, and it's 7AM.  There's a decent chance that George and crew will be here today to finish up.  There's a (probably greater) chance that they're not coming.  My line of work is heavily dependent upon clocks; I'm not always sure that George owns one.  

But he does good work, eventually, and while I was pretty darn handy with a jigsaw in shop class and used to watch not only This Old House but also The Woodwright's Shop, I understand that I don't have the knowledge to hang my own drywall.  

So, I'm up.  I'm typing.  I'm yawning a lot.

At least I'm metabolically prepared for the upcoming pledge drive.  

October 7, 2010

Me Gusta Mucho El Schadenfreude

Say what you will about Lou Dobbs, the man certainly knows how to maximize resources.  Not only has he amassed a fortune on the strength of his passionate illegal immigrant bashing, he has also made lavish use of the labor of illegal immigrants.

October 6, 2010

If Your GPS Told You To Jump Off The Roof...

Some poor schlub in Spain drove down an abandoned road and into a reservoir because his GPS told him to.  I won't make any reservoir/gene pool jokes.  That would be tacky.

This blog can affirm that looking where you're going is a really good thing.  SMLTS' dear buddy Rob has a TomTom that keeps trying to convince him to drive up the stairs on Mount Washington.  Turn left.  TURN LEFT.  Technically, the stairs are streets.  RECALCULATING... 

At the other extreme, my first realtor (now, sadly, relocated to that great Coldwell Banker branch located conveniently next to the Pearly Gates) had a GPS... which she kept in the trunk at all times.

Me, I stick to the tried and true analog method of being hopelessly lost.  Never once have I unintentionally navigated into a large body of water.

October 5, 2010

Elegant Understatement

The Nation ran an interesting article recently on the unfortunate perception of "craft" as a slightly embarrassing form of human expression...  a little hacky, a little cliched.  


Clearly, at the dawn of the new millennium, craft or crafts had become a calling that dare not speak its name. How did that happen? Historians and sociologists of culture will no doubt eventually have more nuanced answers, but for now the opinion of the British furniture designer and woodworker David Pye that "most people are beginning now to associate the word 'crafts' simply with hairy cloth and gritty pots" seems to sum it up. To identify oneself with craft rather than with art or design is to associate oneself with things that are corny and outdated; it is to accept greater limits on access to social and cultural capital than come with the designation "art." "I love and admire craftsmanship," the Turner Prize–winning ceramist Grayson Perry says, "but 'craft' has become a concept that I do not always want to be identified with. I fear it has become the domain of ladies in dangly earrings." 


Earlier today, I was reminded of that column when I checked my email to find a sales pitch from beading supply catalog Fire Mountain Gems.

I think I may just have become militantly anti-craft.

They're pushing craft projects centered around awareness ribbons.  I was vaguely aware that the ribbon concept had spun a wee bit out of control, but I had no idea the extent to which this is true until I clicked through the link to see...



Thirty ribbons.  Thirty.

This seems nuts, until you realize that each individual ribbon represents a multitude of causes, which moves the whole mess firmly into batshit insane territory.

For example, a black ribbon can mean:

1) Amish Support (Go, Fightin' Amish!)
2) Anti-terrorism
3) Gang Prevention (could potentially cause crossed signals in case of Amish street gangs, see item 1)
4) Gun Control
5) Melanoma
6) Mourning (kickin' it old school)
7) Narcolepsy (Awareness of unconsciousness.  Love it.)
8) POW/MIA
9) Sleep Apnea (I swear I'm not making this up, sleep apnea has its own ribbon)
10) Sleep Disorders
11) Students For Gun Control
12) Trauma

Now, you might think this is already excessive.  Nononono, dear reader, we've only just begun.

For Fire Mountain Gems' "EncycloBEADia" is kind enough not only to give you a key to many, many awareness ribbons and their many, many causes...






















....but also the Swarovski crystals with which you can reconstruct them.

Clearly, at the dawn of the new millennium, craft or crafts had become a calling that dare not speak its name. How did that happen?

Today In Dewy Innocence

From Advertising Age:



(Unless your nasal passages need a good cleaning, don't attempt to drink anything while reading the full article.)

This Instrument Can Teach

Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School has had to shutter its TV studio.  Unsurprising, I suppose, given the incredible expense of keeping up with shifting technology...  but still sad. 

Add a dollop of personality conflict and a soup├žon of academic backbiting, and you have an interesting read, if nothing else.

October 4, 2010

In Which We Are, Briefly, Serious

If you need to register to vote or make changes to your existing registration, this is your last day to get that wrapped up for this coming Election Day (November 2).

They say you can't complain if you didn't vote...  and suffice it to say I have never missed an election

It Is Better To Light A Candle Than To Curse The Darkness

If you choose to headline an article "Are We Raising A Generation Of Nincompoops?", you're actually asking for the "get off my lawn" jokes.  "Nincompoops"?  Do they pile into their jalopies and make a ruckus over at the sody fountain?  Sheesh.

Look, I'm not going to argue with all of the observations in this article--I recently had to explain the distinction between Ms./Miss/Mrs. to a 20-year-old--but this sort of thing drives me bats:


Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter "literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

...so maybe you take sixty seconds to show your child how to operate a can opener?

There's no doubt that many of the facts and skills formerly regarded as common knowledge are not uniformly taught anymore.  But that's the key--you don't come out of the womb ready to open cans, or drive cars, or play checkers.  Someone teaches you.  And the implied bargain is that we grow up and do our bit for the next generation, be it as mentors, teachers, or parents.

I actually know some very sharp, bright, funny college-age people.   There's hope for the future, honest.

And for pity's sake, if you meet a youngun' who doesn't know how to get ice cubes out of the tray, show them.

October 3, 2010

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 10/3/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Look around the site, I'm sure there's a lovely fluffy cat here somewhere to entertain you in the meantime.

This week...  Google saves the children from Linda Lovelace (but not Ron Jeremy), a former French official totally blows an interview, from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow, and more!  This installment of Blue Laws is improper, piquant and stochastic!


October 2, 2010

Time Flies Like An Arrow (Fruit Flies Like A Banana)

Groucho Marx was born 120 years ago today (!).

Saturday Salmagundi

Han Solo in carbonite...  rendered in chocolate.

Pee-wee Herman is blogging for the Huffington Post, which I have to say is raising the tone of the place.

Steve Dublanica (the Waiter Rant guy) has a post on having his gall bladder removed, and the existential void, and stuff.

Google Street View comes to Antarctica.  This would be a welcome navigational aid for the penguins, were it not such a bastard finding a wifi connection in the neighborhood.

Touch-screen iMacs?  Shiny!  Still theoretical and all, but...  hey, if I get to openly fondle Apple products without getting funny looks, The Future promises to be glorious.

Your Weekend Kitteh Post

Crazy cat people of the world: Our plan has progressed to Phase Three, now that one of our own has been appointed President Obama's new Chief of Staff.  Pete Rouse, we salute you.

In related news...  It's a good thing Rick Sanchez hasn't figured out who really runs all the media outlets...



















PHOTO: The Blinn Cats Page

October 1, 2010

Friday Linkdump

*Two good ones from Serious Eats...
Like just about everyone who grew up in Western Pennsylvania, I have a deep and not completely rational love of Sheetz.  We are  not alone.  Wawa, eat our MTO dust!  STILLERS!!! WOOOO!!!

ahem.

Moving on...  it's not just you, every challenge on "Hell's Kitchen" does in fact come down to a tie.  (Which, I might add, always gets broken right after the commercial.)

*Somewhere, Mary Beth Buchanan is piiiiiissed....

*Sesame Street is brought to you by people with a sense of humor.  Who would have guessed?

*Gillette has launched a 34-cent razor (replacement blades 11 cents!) in India.  Of course, next year the quality will drop off sharply as they prepare to introduce the deluxe 42-cent model.

*Rick Sanchez decided to jump all over that retro style with a ZOMGTEHJEWSRUNEVERYTHINGFRREALS rant.  Maybe he'll find work on cable nostalgia specials (VH1 Presents: Hey! Remember The John Birch Society?), but CNN no longer requires his services.

*The United States has, on the urging of its physician, tracked down Guatemala to break the bad news that we might have given it... a souvenir.  We were young and foolish, just back from the war, etc.