Thursday, October 28, 2010

Civics Lesson

"Too many Americans feel powerless against the influence of private lobbying groups and the unbelievable flood of private campaign money which threatens our electoral process."

Jimmy Carter said this thirty years ago in a State of the Union address to the nation. In many ways, and I'll let you do your historical research on your own time, the current administration's plight parallels what was going on in this country in the late seventies. Carter was a Democrat, too.

Did you know that seven million jobs were created during Carter's four years as President, mostly due to his fiscal restraint and stimulus plans? Yes, I said fiscal restraint - that means a Democrat vowed to, and achieved, government-spending shrinkage without affecting so-called entitlement programs. In fact, he created programs that created jobs and training opportunities for millions of Americans. In fact, there's a long list of accomplishments from that administration - the peace process which made Camp David famous, Federal funding for education was increased by 75%, a national health plan was proposed, the minimum wage was brought up to be in line with reality and the government's civil service system was reformed for the first time in the 20th century. Carter faced one crisis after another - oil and gas shortages, crippling inflation and a population so disinterested in voting that only 1/3 of the population that could vote even bothered to go to the polls in 1976 and at the midterm.

Between the Nixon/Ford and Reagan presidencies, we had four years of Democrat influence. Did the Dems open up to the public at large and publicize their leadership and the progressive programs that were strictly Democrat ideas? You bet they didn't. Just like now.

The difference today is that the average non-ultra-rich American operates under the illusion that making a choice of the lesser of two evils is the way things are supposed to work. Just like when they're out of Kraft Slices at the WalMart, there's always Velveeta. As it stands, if political in-activism continues on the trend of "they're out of that'" there won't be any cheese, not even the Government kind.

Isn't it far more effective to initiate change from within, as evidenced by the Teabaggers current success in forcing the GOP away from the center? So-called Tea Party-endorsed or -sponsored candidates are running exclusively as Republicans. The pressure from the right is on, supported 24/7 by "fair and balanced" coverage and, as usual, the Dems are silent. Where are the Merlot-sipping hipsters that are needed to move the flabby Dems to action? Getting ready to vote for some other powerless entity to make a point, it seems. Unfortunately, to the victor goes the spoils and a big win by the GOP in this midterm will yield a double mandate: they will get their way so that the ultra-rich can get ultra-richer, ready to fund the next bashdown of the Everyman and the "shrug" agenda of the ultra-right will get a foothold here. Would it not be better to try to retain some legislative control by supporting the Dems now and THEN work the party over like a red-headed stepchild, but from within? Wouldn't it make sense to corral the party power that can move sensible, humanist agendas forward and can win elections with candidate of YOUR choice?

One can't be an activist without being active. Democracy is not only about making a choice, but also making the changes that make more choice possible.

So, yes, please vote, but make the vote count. 'Cause, ya know, the Rent's Too Damn High!

While we're on the subject, let me say one thing about New York: Richard Ravitch, the state comptroller recruited by Governor David Patterson who has a long history of dealing with fiscal crisis in intelligent ways for government, said that when he got to Albany, he was shocked not only by the fiscal condition of the state, but by the attitudes of the legislators. Both sides lack the political will to be real. And without getting the politicians back to earth, New York will simply run out of money. How do the politicians respond? They stall.

As an aside, I wasn't a Herman Munster, I mean, Kerry fan by any stretch, but only because he was far too reposing, much like the current state of the Dem Party. Bush versus Kerry in a fight at a biker bar? Put my twenty on the goofy guy in the Stetson.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Alive!

I just spent the better part of two hours getting freaked out, yet again, about the bedbug problems that have been making headlines in the last few months. Even the frilly underthings at Victoria's Secret are game. It seems that not even the haughty Lincoln Center is immune to these disgusting bloodsuckers.

CC license by
Google returned 2,280,000 results for the search query "bedbugs." Yum. That's a lot of reading. Let's start at aardvark, meaning, at the very beginning, with the WikiPedia article. Let me summarize: they're disgusting. Unlike cute caterpillars that morph into beautiful butterflies and unlike the industrious and useful bumblebees that make our fruits and vegetables and pretty flowers possible and most certainly unlike the fierce and ninja-like praying mantis that rids us of other nasties, like flies and spiders, bedbugs exist only to SUCK YER BLOOD! Arrgh. I'm itching all over.

*So, I read further, itching and scratching all the while. About how they secret themselves in cracks and crevices, like my beautifully refinished hardwood floors, or in my pillows, mattress and boxsprings. How they lay in wait for the deepest hours of darkness to stealthily creep onto one's person and, with their "beaks," take three bites from his or her sleeping form. The three bites are so characteristic that they are termed by those in the know as "breakfast, lunch and dinner." Very nice.

I also read about the cost to "control" the critters, which can run into the thousands. You should know that without "final solution" insecticides such as DDT, banned here now, exterminators, excuse me, pest management experts, can only assure that treatment can be administered, NOT that the bugs will be eradicated. Lovely.

And I also read about folks' personal fights against these animals and have gleaned a variety of preventative methods that you can be damned sure I'll be applying in triplicate starting tomorrow. I have already crossed off my list any trip to the movies, despite the fact that I love the movies and am missing lots of stuff I really, really want to see. Christmas gifts will need to be solids only, no silks, leathers or polyesters. And when I travel, I stick to the top hotels because I know that they know that I know their reputations are on the line.

I feel better already. Still itchy, though.

Part of this paranoia has to do with having been bitten by something earlier in the year. It may have been a tick or it may have been a spider bite. The doctor could not tell me and blood tests were not positive for tick antibodies or whatever it was they would have looked for. I still bear a pencil-eraser-sized bruise on my thigh at the bite site, though and no one is quite sure why. Great, huh? I've been mouth-raped by an alien species.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to end. Those living in the city have to contend with cockroaches, waterbugs and,of course, the aforementioned tiny terrors. Out here in the country, we get everything else. At the moment, waiting for me to manage it, is the following:

Yes, I realize that you can't see anything but a light fixture, but I assure you that there is a beetle of unspecified capabilites warming himself near those 11 watt CFLs that glow with such inviting light. What to do? I could climb onto a stepladder and try to suck him up with my 7 amp Hoover, but I probably can get the nozzle into the fixture. And I just cleaned that darn lamp, too. I could take the shade down, being aware he will likely fly off, scaring the living crap out of me as I subsequently drop the shade, shattering it into a thousand deadly shards which will take hours to clean up, if I could even get all the glass. And, he'll get away. Might as well let it be-etle. Get it? Ah, ha, ha, ha.

The fight continues, but the bugs will prevail. They won't get my rotting corpse, however, as I have made sure to be toasted upon my demise. Take that!

*I absolutely hate the modern convention of adding "so" to the beginning of a new paragraph, as if the conversation had been going on all along and you, the new listener or reader to the schoolyard or bar-side group already in progress suddenly walked in or by and nearly, but not quite, destroyed the rhythm and pace of one heck of a ripping yarn. So, I consciously put that in there to annoy myself. Thanks. Oh, and stop using that hipster crap please, or I will eat your young.

Sears: Where Else?

Come see the softer . . . no, the squishy, maggot-ridden, rotting side of Sears!

Happy Halloween

Well, okay, it's not quite Halloween yet, but I do believe this cute kitty will brighten your day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Wee Update

For those of you that are dutifully following this blog, I salute you. I would also like to let you know that there are a good many pieces in the pipeline that are in various phases of write and rewrite, so hang tough, y'all.

I also have some "reader mail" that I plan to answer en masse, so if anything else is irking you, not that I actually care, but knock yourself down and sent me more comments and questions, 'cuz I can only manage enough fortitude to do it every three or four years. This ain't TV, byotch, so get off yer adz.

Thank you very much. I'm crushing your head, crushing your head . . ..

Breaking Bad, Right Here

First it was the Latino Robots invading my town, now it's Pastor Crankhead and his congregation of Methamphetamine Minions? Naw, man, see, we gotta stop this . . .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chicken Sauté a al Justin

Please don't think I'm getting all Family Circle on ya, but I have a recipe for you that is quick, easy and quick. And easy.

See, when my kid comes to visit, I have to feed her something other than whatever Budget Gourmet is less than nine months old in my fridge. And, she's a non-red-meat-aterian, though she calls herself a vegetarian. Pork is out. So is beef and anything else that's "gross." I would guess that includes liver and onions and kidney pie. So, each time I need to cook something up, it's dilemma and trial and tribulation time. Well, my old Polish buddy, Justin, has saved the day, for today, at least.

Image glommed from
He says that he learned how to cook from the head chef of the S.S. Stefan Batory, a Polish cruiseship. Who am I to argue that as fact or fantasy? I do recall my mother poring over brochures for the ship when I was a wee lad. She never went aboard, so there's no verification from that quarter, either.

But he does know good food, especially Polish food, to which I am partial, and he has made a gift of this recipe to me. Here goes:

  • OVERVIEW: Cook stuff up in a pan and then eat it.
  • SPECIFICS: Will make enough Sauté a al Justin for six hungry Polacks
  • WHAT YOU NEED: Fire or alternate, manageable heat source, couple of good saute pans. I use Farberware heavy clad pans, myself.
  1. 2 pounds chicken breast, trimmed of fat, split and subsequently portioned into french-fry-length strips
  2. 3 small peppers, 1 each green, red, yellow
  3. 2 medium zucchinis, peeled or not, sliced across the seed
  4. 1 can of fresh mushrooms (I know this makes no sense - just do it.)
  5. A little sweet paprika, just for colour
  6. Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  7. Sea salt, any cheap brand will do, to taste
  8. About an eighth cup of soy sauce
  9. About a half-cup of tart white wine, NOT cooking wine.
  • STUFF YOU NEED TO SERVE WITH IT: Some kind of rice.

On a bit of oil, quite hot, sauté all of the non-chicken ingredients except for the zucchini and pepper until "golden" and then add the zucchini and pepper, heating the zucchini until golden but not soft. In a separate pan, on very hot oil, sauté the chicken with soy sauce until "golden" (again with the golden - oy) and then add the white wine and reduce for a few minutes. Serve with white or flavoured rice when hot.

There you go. Dinner tonight, allegedly in fifteen minutes. It better be good.

***UPDATE*** Nope, I did it wrong. One dinner guest politely and silently commented by pushing the chicken bits away from the rest of the meal. Too much teryaki, I'm guessing.


Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, photo Ujorge at en.wikimedia, CC
I've been using a new medication lately. I was told by my very careful physician that I might experience some "visual disturbances" but that it was nothing to worry about. In fact, I've enjoyed frightfully intense colors from time to time as if the Photoshop module in my brain has set saturation to maximum. It's the only pleasant side-effect, so much better than headache, nausea, muscle weakness and aching ovaries when, in fact, I'm a dude and don't have those structures as part of my physical make-up, at least, that I know of. Heh heh. Ahem..

Briefly, I thought that I might have to have the dosing adjusted. The other day, while walking to my car in an east Jersey parking lot, I heard a flock of birds ack-acking their way in my direction. When I focused on the source of what is a non-typical bird sound for the area, I saw a group of greenish feather-bullets headed right at me. They swooped upward and landed as a group in a tree to my left. I stopped dead and peered into the leaves to see if what I thought I saw was actually what I thought I saw. There they were, hacking away at the berries of the tree: parrots. Green enough up top to be almost lost in the still-leafy canopy of the tree but with grey-ish chests, or breasts or whatever it is that birds have. Parrots. Frickin' parrots. In New Jersey. In New Jersey? Wha?

If it had been one parrot, it could be an escaped bird, sure, but seven of them? Squawking and clipping the berries off the tree, they stayed for a while and I watched them, dumbfounded.

Naturally, I didn't have a camera at the ready. It seems that whenever something extraorinarily beautiful or amazing or frightening or news-worthy happens, I am sans lens. And with my reputation as a weaver of what-must-be-a-tall-tale-since-there-are-no-photos-to-prove-it, my sighting might not be believed, had I had anyone to tell. But, I swear that they looked like parrots and I swear that I saw them. I swear, I tell ya, thems was parrots.

I set out to discover whether I was experiencing a particulary severe distortion of reality. Could they have migrated from somewhere? Were they the descendants of pirate-owned runaway parrot-slaves who had somehow heard of the liberal tendencies of the North and pledged to rendezvous to survive al fresco, free as a bird, which they in fact were?

Having lived for two decades right in the path of the Atlantic Flyway, I would see all kinds of odd birds, that is, birds not typically seen 'round these parts, during times of their migration, but never parrots. My discovery was both fascinating and exciting and I couldn't wait to call the bird people at Cornell to announce my find. Perhaps it would be called capnmorganus misanthropicus? Not so fast, bud. Those birds were merely an aweigh team.

Photo courtesy Steven Baldwin,, used by permission

As it turns out, parrots, or rather, a particular species of parakeet called a Monk Parakeet or Quaker Parrot, have been hanging out in the New York area for a very long time. There's an excellent source of information about these very neato-cool birds to be found at Steven Baldwin's and you should visit this link for his very thorough explanation on how these critters may have been introduced to the area and what's happened to them since. Not as a second mention, the photos are really fantastic. There's also this article in the New York Times from 2008 about parrot colonies in Edgewater, NJ, not too far from the location of my personal encounter with the birds.

There's going to be a Parrot Safari in Brooklyn on November 6th, according to Wanna go? Contact Steve Baldwin at

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for curious critters. They're out there for us to enjoy and cherish.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is Lusting After A Red-Headed Mannequin Creepy?

I like the hat.

I Got My Eye On You

Flew down from New Yawk to stay at da Hyatt Key West. Pretty nice joint. We like it 'cuz deres plenny a stuff ta eat an' pretty much nobody bodders ya. Only ting is, we was hopin' to find some lady pigeons at da bah or da beach, but no luck. Some pretty gay-lookin' seagulls been checkin' us out, dough. Boids. Doity, stinkin' boids. Oh, well. Whaddaya gonna do? And this frickin' railin' is frickin' hot. Nice view, if I sez so myself. Fuggedaboutit.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Invasion Of Privacy

Dear Mr.Homeowner;

Although you may have seen me around, I would like to formally introduce myself. I am Mr.Robert Grandtail, son of Edward "Buck" Grandtail, of Number 1, Large Oak. For the four earth changes, you have been inhabiting the nest on my property that is set between my home and The Place Where Squirrels Are Made Flat. As you may know, I also recreate and make my living amongst the Elm, the Japanese Maple and the Southern Pines, or as I have come to know these trees are called by virtue of my research through WikiPedia.

I have tried to be a good neighbor in the hope that you would rise above your common human-ness and reciprocate the courtesy. It has become clear to me, not unexpectedly, yet, with some level of morose disappointment, that you are no different from the other furless freaks that have plagued my family for all memory.

Within the last fortnight, I have found myself very busy in the collection of foodstuffs meant to stave off starvation through the coming lean times. It has also been a rather difficult time for me in terms of Homeland Defense, as you have no doubt at least heard, having had repelled multiple incursions on my territory from gutless thieves intent on displacing me from my heritage and supplies stores. This has consumed a great deal of energy and has created an environment fraught with stress. The very last thing I need is another vector of pressure from any quarter. Yet, I find that you have insisted on perpetually insinuating yourself into my activities through unceasing voyeurism.

My father used to say, "good fences make good neighbours," As would apply to my complaint, I must now respectfully ask that you observe the spirit of this philosophy since I am unable to erect actual fencing being that I lack the necessary building permits and opposible thumbs. Kindly stop peering at me at all hours of the day and please do not distract me when I am engaged in fighting for my territory and for my very life.

If you care to reply, please wrap said note around either a peanut or chestnut of appropriate weight and loft it into the first ring of branches at Large Oak. I thank you in advance for your attention in this matter.


R. Grandtail

Dear Mr. Grandtail;

Thanks for writing to me and now that I am a name to put to the face, let me straighten you out on a few things.

First of all, you're on my property, not vice versa. I own the "nest," (which is called a "house," by the way, had you bothered checking this out in WikiPedia, you would know that, Dweebish McFartwit,) the land and, guess what? the trees, too, including the large oak that I have, frankly, been thinking of cutting down.

It takes a lot of gall to basically slink around for a year and then make what I would call un-neighborly demands from a person who is a complete stranger. And did I mention that you're a frickin' squirrel. So, yeah, if I seem pissed off, I am. I pay plenty taxes and don't need to be harassed by a tick-infested forest creature.

Up until now, I thought your antics were kinda cute. Now I understand that you're basically a furry bully and that you think by using formal and official-sounding language that I'll be intimidated by your puffed-up attitude. Well, all I'm doing is standing outside, drinking my coffee and checking out the crazy-ass squirrels. This isn't "voyeurism" and it's pretty fricking rude to suggest that I'm some kind of peeping Tom.

Check your attitude, bud, and we'll get along fine.


Lord and Master of the Tree You Frickin' Live In

Dear Manimal;

An attitude of indifference does not surprise me, being that you are a Man and therefore likely believe that all things of the earth are beholden to you. What is surprising is the utter lack of basic respect coupled with sheer hostility toward a small and, I might say, thoughtful fellow creature.

What you don't realize is that I have shown you respect and you have not returned the same in kind. I have not moved my home from Large Oak to the interior of your nest, though I am sure this would enhance my personal comfort as well as be highly attractive to a potential mate. I have not wielded my not inconsiderable influence over my fellow creatures to encroach upon your nest in any way that you might ultimately see as inconvenient. And, you will notice, that the shiny pod upon which you lavish such undue attention through the rubbing of its surface on a semi-regular basis, which I can only imagine is some sort of perverted stimulatory event, has remained unmarred by the output of my flying friends, to whom these pods are a favourite target.

Again, I must renew my demand that you keep your eyes to yourself and allow me to go about by business unmolested.


R. Grandtail

Dear Nutbuster;

You actually wrote me back? Maybe I didn't make it clear - you're a frickin' squirrel and I don't give a crap if you think I'm streaming your gay squirrel fights to YouTube. Let's get this straight: first of all, you're a frickin' squirrel and second of all, this is America and the law says that if you're in the public view, I can look at you, take your picture (see attached pic of you invading MY privacy by staring into my living room - who's the voyeur, now, bitch?) talk to you, whatever.

And you're frickin' threatening me? What? If I don't avert my eyes, your birdie friends are gonna poop on my car and you're gonna break into my attic? As to the second, go ahead - ever hear of an Exterminator? Merchant of Death, babee! And I won't let him use a HavAHeart trap. No - he'll be instructed to terminate with extreme prejudice. With the bird poop - whatever. You're bullcrapping me. You don't have any control over the birds anymore than you have over me, or over your squeaky little motor mouth.

Don't threaten me, even unintentionally, otherwise, I'll be off to the sporting goods store to score me a Wrist Rocket. Get me?


He Who May Determine Your Fate

Dear Fleshtard;

I see that you intend to return a friendly tap on the shoulder with a vicious slap in the face. My request is simple and perfectly reasonable. If you choose to behave like E. Coli, so be it. Reap the consequences.

R. Grandtail

Dear Squirrel A. Hole;

Very funny. Is it a coincidence that my car is covered in bird shit, that I all of a sudden have a giant spider problem, that, somehow, though I just paid 200 bucks to clean my gutters that they're now overflowing with leaves and nut shells and that skunks all this week have been walking out into the middle of the road, waiting, apparently, for a car to come by and crush the living stink out of them? I have reported this situation to the police who looked at me like I was crazy said, "why don't you just shoot him." And so, I will. Watch your back, bitch. This shit's gonna stop.

Meaning it,

The Terminator

Dear Neighbor;

In light of the recent invasion of poop-filled deer who have paved my yard with their black pearls of dung and have eaten every last bit of ground-lying foliage at a cost to me of thousands of dollars in custom landscaping, including the groups of mature hostas and every last fern in my shade garden, I am willing to admit defeat.

As a gesture of my goodwill, I am extending a peace offering in the form of a nice assortment of foods that, I am told by experts, you will find both delicious and nutritious. These strategically-placed caches have been protected from your competitors within special "safe spaces" that you can enter at will to retrieve what you want, when you want it.

I am hoping that this letter finds you in the best of health. Hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,

Your Partner In Gaia

Dear Murderous Human Swine;

I am writing at the behest of my late father, the venerable R. Grandtail. It is my understanding, according to the forensic analysis, that you are responsible for his gruesome and untimely death. His blood is on your hands. Our home will now be thought of as the Killing Fields of Large Oak, amplified by the deception you levied in the form of a proffer of an olive branch. Instead, my noble Father was treated to "food" in fact made deadly by your minions through typically destructive human means, food so attractive that he could not resist, by his trusting nature and to his and our detriment, its appeal and did, by your urging, enter the metal enclosure which was set out with the intent not only of unlawfully imprisoning him, but arranged in such a way as to force him to slowly die without dignity in full public view. This was not an honorable death as would be befitting a gentlesquirrel of his stature.

Unlike my father, I am above resorting to reactionary tactics clearly meant to lure your victims into a confrontation. Instead, I have filed a wrongful death suit against you with the CAA, or Court of Animal Affairs. Since we do not subscribe to the biblical notion that man has dominion over animal, as if man himself were not an animal, the rules and laws that we have proscribed are binding and subject to enforcement in no uncertain and most final terms. I look forward to our day in court and expect that justice will be swift and whole.

With much gravity,

R. Grandtail, Jr., Esq.

Dear Junior;

WTF? I just got some bogus papers delivered to my door by a woodchuck who was pretty menacing, if you ask me, especially when he threw the papers at me and said, "You are served."

I'm not bound by your stupid laws, whatever those are. Your father was a dick and being that you are using the suffix "Esq." after your name, I assume that you're a lawyer, which makes you ten times the dick your father was.

My attitude to you is this - blow me.


Your Personal Jesus


County of Greene, State of New Jersey
First Circuit Court of Animal Affairs
Hon. J. Beaver, Presiding
In Re: Grandtail, et al v. Human Interloper

Be It Known To All Animals that in the foregoing action brought by the Estate of R.Grandtail, et al, of Large Oak, hereinafter known as the Plaintiff, with Robert Grandtail, Jr., Esq, representing the Plaintiff against Human Interloper, of Man Nest within the bounds of the property overlaid by Large Oak, hereinafter known as the Defendant, that the Plaintiff has duly served by certified means the Defendant with the Complaint and the particulars of the aforesaid Complaint and has been given the statuatory period as required by law to respond. The Court has heard the motions of the Plaintiff and given that the Court has no record of having received an interlocutory response, nor has the Defendant appeared before the court, the Court has hereby entered a Summary Judgement in favour of the Plaintiff based on the overwhelming facts within the case as presented as well as the Defendants failure to respond as opportuned by the Law and the Rules of the Court.

To wit, the Court finds for the Plaintiff as follows:
  1. Immediate Relief: The law provides for the immediate and permanent ejection of Human Interloper from his unlawfully constructed nest by any lawful means.
  2. Direct Compensation: Human Interloper is hereby ordered to pay the sum of twelve seasons of food adequate to provide for the descendants of R.Grandtail as this is in line with the period of time that he should have been able to provide for himself, his mate and offspring were his life not so brutally cut short.
  3. Additional Relief: Human Interloper is and shall evermore be the subject of Animal retribution so that none of his days shall be without the reminder that he is not only Man Amongst Men, but also subject to the whims of Gaia, as are we all. The Court shall not interfere with, nor take notice of, nor punish, any animal(s) whose activities may result in the immediate or eventual demise of Human Interloper, either through direct or indirect action.
  4. Damages: Human Interloper is hereby ordered to pay the sum of More Than We Can Count in the form of premium, unsalted, lightly toasted cashews, macadamia nuts and dry-roasted almonds, but in which proportion shall not exceed less than two parts macadamia nuts to all other nuts combined.

This Judgment is entered this First Day of the Third Season, Season Set of The Owl.

Hon. J. Beaver, presiding


Moral of the story? Don't f*ck with the squirrels, or any living thing, for that matter. Woodchuck Connection = Mobbed Up. If you see one coming, dear FSM, RUN THE OTHER WAY!