mercredi, décembre 28, 2005

The Tombstone of a Hypochondriac

"See, I told you I was sick!"

With a hat tip to my father-in-law...

I hope your holidays are going well...ours are off to a fine start.

vendredi, décembre 23, 2005

Perhaps the Passive-Aggressive Paper-person is Trying to Tell Us Something

One of my favorite rituals of the season usually happens sometime around the same time as the annual "parking lot flip off." Yes, happy holidays indeed.

Around this time each year we get a holiday card from our Paper-person. Paper-carrier? Paperboy? Whatever.

The card wishes us a happy holiday and usually contains the Paper-person's name and address.

What it says is: "Happy holidays from your Independent Carrier!"

What it means is: "Look, I've delivered your paper all year, so how about a little something, you know, for the effort."

One year the guy underlined "independent" about ten times. What's that all about? Is that why some days we get a free St. Paul Pioneer Press (great for kitty litter box lining - those morons endorsed Bush, not once, but twice) in addition to our Minneapolis Star Tribune? Is that why sometimes our paper comes liberated of its Metro section with the Soduku puzzle already worked and an (empty!) can of Coors Light somehow wedged in the USA Today Sunday magazine insert? Is that why if I ever remember to stop delivery for vacation, I come home to a nice pile of papers conveniently placed right by the door? Does independent mean "nobody's gonna tell me what to do?"

For years I thought this nice holiday card meant that they wanted me to bring a newspaper to their house for a change, but apparently that's not it (and they HATE the Christian Science Monitor - just an FYI).

What they want is money (dolla, dolla bill, y'all). And we reliably send in $10, 'cause we're flush like that (what can I say, we had a good year). Also, there was an article in the paper last year about tipping, and it recommended $10.

In most years, we don't spring into action upon receipt of the wonderful and sincere and completely pure holiday greeting which seeks only to send good wishes to us. We're so busy wrapping and shopping and getting flipped off in parking lots ("and a Merry Christmas to you sir!" - and I won't even tell you what I observed while shopping yesterday*), that it might take us a few days to get our completely wonderful, sincere and completely uncoerced greeting/reply mailed to our Paper-sapien.

And with each passing day (I kid you not)...

our newspaper gets further and further from the front door. See, they really are independent. Today, it is just about in the dang gutter!

And whilst I can use the exercise, I think it might be time to get our last holiday card shipped.

Our card will say-

"Happy holidays from your dependent household!"

Our card will mean-

"Here's the money you requested. Can we have our paper back on the stoop please - and just outside of the arc of the door so that it won't move behind the door as I open it? Oh, and on time would be huge; we're early risers. Thanks in advance and happy holidays or whatever."

Remember the reason for the season, friends!

*Okay, I'll tell you. It was a man, with his son and mother. He was yelling at his son who I'd guess to be about six years old (something about just sit there and don't say a damn thing - parenting tip from the Dufmaster - don't take your kids holiday shopping with you - but if you do, you might try this one...I was in line behind a woman who by appearance and accent is an immigrant from Africa. She explained to her kids (who were with her) that she gets the presents and Santa pays her back!), and when his mother gently intervened he had some choice words for her (at very high volume and which, if my understanding of our state's assault statute is current, could constitute a threat that is not only punishable criminally but also actionable civilly) that might see the man moved from one Santa list to another. While the son/dad stormed off, Mom/Grandma, for her part, said to her grandson - " I can't help - I can't say a word... Why do we go through this every year?" Duf, though seeing her question as rhetorical, had no answer.

"Joy to the world, the savior reigns, let men, their heart implore!"

jeudi, décembre 22, 2005

From the Mouths of Babes

My daughter said a couple of things this morning that I thought I'd pass along by way of wishing you all a happy holiday season.

She said: "Everything is art. If you sing, that's art. If you paint, that's art. If you draw, that's art. Everything is art. If you make a present for someone, that's art."

Then, she said...spontaneously, while looking out of the window at a backyard scene she sees every day.

And I assure you, it made my grinch heart grow very much...very much indeed.

"I like the world. I like the world very much."

Happy holidays!

lundi, décembre 19, 2005

You're a Mean One, Mr. Duf; or: Don't Blame Me, Blame Aerenchyma; or: I Promise to End the Week on an Up Note

Somewhere in our backyard, below approximately 10 inches of snow, are my wife’s house and car keys. Dropping keys in snow is like dropping them in quick sand. No mark is made where they entered. They don’t make a sound when they land to let you know they’ve fallen. And they are just gone. Only difference is, with keys in snow, you get them back in April rusty but functional. It happened while I was in San Diego for work. It was an accident, but maybe it was one of those sub-conscious accidents which happen for a reason (to highlight what a bad husband I am for leaving to a sunny destination during a snowstorm and for doing it 30 minutes after my wife’s birthday party!). We have a metal detector on loan from a friend, pray for us.


No, Duf…not during the holidays…


I feel a rant…..must suppress ran…..mmmmmmmppppppphhhhhhhh


Can’t do it:

What slayed me most whilst I was away was Bush’s admission that the intelligence which served as a basis for our war against Iraq, was flawed. Is that right? Holy cow! Unreal. Like he ever believed the intell was legit in the first place…like he wasn’t part of the cabal that selectively sent intelligence to the Senate…like neo-cons haven’t been making the case for war against Iraq since even before Bush was elected…like his cabinet isn’t made up of neo cons…like Rummy and Ricey didn’t, immediately after 9/11, start thinking about how this might get us into Iraq(look kids, every cloud does have a silver lining!*)…like that wasn’t the goal all along…like he didn’t “part company” with anyone like Powell who didn’t line up behind the game plan…like the area isn’t strategically interesting for its mineral wealth…like he’s anything but a hack for big oil…like it isn’t all part of an orchestrated spin to sell us on something…like now that we’re committed it’s okay to mention that he relied in good faith on bad info…like his burden BEFORE people started dying wasn’t higher…like his good intentions matter to people’s whose kids and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers are dead…or wounded…or have significant head injuries…like his “oops, my bad” matters to the soldier who came back messed up and put a rope around his neck…like you can wash it all away with a magnetic ribbon on your car (easy to remove, no damage to your SUV - you can place it right next to your "W**" sticker!)…like that means the torture is still justified…like that means the wiretaps are still justified…like that means the secret torture prison in Afghanistan was justified…like it makes it okay to treat the Bill of Rights, like we’ve treated the Koran…like that means we should have a record federal deficit…like it’s all good because they had an election in Iraq…like they’re a democracy now…like we’re a democracy now…like the insurgents, the lack of infrastructure, the lack of utilities, the suicide bombings, the devastation to hospitals and schools and drug manufacturing facilities, can be waived away, just like everything else, by saying “I’m a good old boy, I tried my best, I stand by my decision, sorry for your loss, we should stay the course" (and four of those are lies, my friend) the whole darn country is made up of nothing but simpletons and fools...

Your lies disgust me, President Bush. You make me sick, and you make me distrust Christianity and to want more than anything to disassociate myself from it. Apparently Christianity is not about washing feet, it’s about kicking ass (yee haw!). If you are a Christian, as you say you are, then I want to be the opposite of that. Then Christianity is disgusting and vile and hurtful and proud (without a basis for pride) - never humble - as you most assuredly are all of those things and more and worse.

And I’ll end with this. I feel like a torturer. I have not water-boarded anyone. I haven’t shocked anyone’s genitals. I haven’t deprived anyone of sleep or made them listen to Eminem and Dr. Dre at excruciating volumes for days on end. I have not humiliated anyone. I have not wiped my butt with the Koran. I have not urinated on it. I have not applied thumbscrews or driven anyone’s organs to the brink of failure. I have not applied chemicals to anyone’s skin so that it burns and peels. I have not denied anyone of the use of a bathroom until their bowels release. I have not taken pictures of people in the nude. I have not assaulted them with vicious dogs, but my money was used to do it all and it still is. Everyday at work, I make money and pay taxes which support our government, which uses my tax revenue to do horrible, despicable, unconscionable and disgusting things with it. I funded Abu Ghraib. I funded the secret torture prison in Afghanistan. I’ve funded unending detainment of people who may or may not be a threat to me. I’ve funded all kinds of torture and detainment and wiretaps, and I’ve funded the erosion of civil liberties in America. I funded an administration which is above the law: above the Geneva convention, above the Bill of Rights, above college admission rules, but not above secret Executive orders to circumvent rights we once held sacred. I have been passive in allowing inhumane and cruel things to be done in my name, and in the name of a country I (somehow still) love. And so I have done all those things, just the same as if I'd been there dunking undeserving people into tanks. That's me. That's my picture with the cigarette in my mouth laughing and giving the thumbs up sign right by a pile of naked Iraqis. I think torture is funny. I do it all the time. I do it every day.

And the contrast is so striking to me that it's absurd. Phones are being tapped, the detained are going insane as I...

as I...

As I...scurry about to buy gifts for people who, like me, are richly blessed - excess in a land of excess during a season of excess – sometimes I feel sick about what America has become…about what America means now after 5 years with a sociopath for President and a sadistic sociopath for Vice President (Christians both)...about how easy it was (cue the anthem, position the flag, invoke the eagle, act dumb) to make it all happen. I hate to play the bah humbug card, but it’s very hard for me not to feel just completely ill when I think of it all. Completely ill.

* where "silver lining" = "payday for big oil."
** where, in my dreams, "W" = "Worst President evaaaah"

jeudi, décembre 08, 2005

Worst. Nurse. Ever.; or: Where I Was, Where Were You

If you’re four years old, and you’re home with a tummy ache, the person you don’t want nursing you back to health is me. I’m a lost cause. I’m too wedded to logic and reason (you can take this medicine which will taste yucky for 10 seconds, or your stomach can hurt all day), and four year-olds don’t respond to logic and reason. As well, I don’t have many tricks in my arsenal. I’ll add sugar to your Children’s Pepto Bismol, but if you still won’t take it, you’re sunk. Your stomach just has to hurt. I’ll give you sympathy, but I’ll keep harping on the option you’re not taking (the medicine).

To shift gears a bit...

"Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

John Lennon

I remember where I was when Reagan was shot (Jr. High track practice). I remember where I was when I learned that the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded (walking across campus listening to “How Soon is Now?” on my way to French class). I remember sitting in my office as a young attorney when A Good Yarn called to tell me that Kurt Cobain was dead.

And I remember being a 12 year-old, playing Atari games with my wonderful twin brother (probably devastating him in some Intellivision Baseball) when our mom came into our bedroom, with tears in her eyes, to say that John Lennon was dead. I remember not knowing who that was and thinking he must be a relative or something.

Now I know.

He imagined there was no heaven. I don’t know if there is one or not, but if there is – I can’t imagine he’s not there. And either way, I hope he rests in peace.

Where were you when you heard? And I know that may be an ageist question...if you're Gen Next/Gen Y - just make something up!

mardi, décembre 06, 2005

Shouldn't She Have Said " sink quickly..."?; or: Indeed, What WILL History Say?

"Honorable people can certainly agree to disagree. However, here today I accept a second oath. I pledge to walk in the shoes of my colleagues and refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character. It is easy to quickly sink to the lowest form of political debate. Harsh words often lead to headlines, but walking this path is not a victimless crime. This great House pays the price. So, at this moment, I begin my tenure in this Chamber, uncertain of what history will say of my tenure here."

The Honorable Jean Schmidt
Republican Representative 2nd District of Ohio
September 6, 2005

Then, referencing a friend who is a Marine Reserve Colonel:

“He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”

The Less Honorable Jean Schmidt
Republican Representative 2nd District of Ohio
November 18, 2005

lundi, décembre 05, 2005

Three Easy Pieces; or: We Walked the Line/Each One Teach One/Worst.Tip.Ever.

Mrs. Duf and I went holiday shopping this weekend and you know what? It wasn’t so bad. We secured a covered parking spot (it was snowing so that’s a good thing), we found a gift or two, and we took in a show. In this case, the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” which I recommend to you as a good film, but not as good at the music video for Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt.” I recommend “Walk the Line” to you as something to see at your googaplex or for viewing in your home theater.


Each year around this time, as the weather turns colder, I always wish that someone (perhaps in our state’s driver’s education program, or within our car sales enterprises) would teach newly arrived persons (particularly those who appear to come from Africa (and, within that, appear to come from Somalia and Ethiopia)) how to use the defrost mechanism in their cars. I’m worried that they are going to get hurt.


When we go to restaurants, if TinyE is a bit “energetic”, we will put three pennies on the table and tell her that she needs to have at least one penny left in order to get a treat at the end (don’t judge me it works!). If we are eating at the Taco House, then she needs at least a penny to buy a treat from the gumball machine. This weekend, we were at Curran’s and told her that she needed at least a penny to go to the puppet show after breakfast. We lined the three pennies on the table, and the waitron came to take our order. We were so happy to see him because we had been sitting there like forever! In fact, we asked if he would bring a few crackers whilst we waited, and he agreed to do so (but many minutes later had to be reminded). Anyway, after he took our order (I had a cheese omelet, Mrs. Duf had steak and eggs (yes, I love her even though she is omnivorous), TinyE had the pancakes. We handed our menus to the waitron and with a quick and disgusted swipe, he took up the three pennies and hastened away. Methinks he did it with very angry thoughts directed toward those who dined there before us. We thought to alert him to the reason three pennies were perfectly spaced on the table, but we decided not to – just to be impish sprites.

We made it to the puppet show (on time too), and it was wonderful (as always). I think most every city has for its citizens (and these things are so subjective, no?) attractions so sublime, that they come to define a piece of what it is we love about the place we call home. For me, Saturday morning puppet shows at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis are just such an attraction – I love them, and my daughter loves them.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been less political. This week I hope to write about the Saddam Hussein trial and what it says about our war against Iraq.

Happy Monday!

vendredi, décembre 02, 2005


Cross-posted on Pandyland (with minor revisions).

7 Celebrity crushes: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Lily Taylor, Miranda July, Arriana Huffington, Zadie Smith, Polly Jean Harvey, and…alright, alright, alright…Amanda Plummer.

7 Things I'm good at: Writing, enjoying myself on a golf course, having crushes, holiday letters, eating french fries/donuts, laughing, and ordering pretentious drinks without pretension.

7 Things I plan to do before I die: Go to Ireland, write a novel, go to Japan, learn how to downhill ski, golf the three Pebble Beach courses, own a ridiculous/sublime car, dance at my daughter’s wedding.

7 Things I cannot do: hit a three iron straight/well, drive 55, read “Get Your War On” without laughing, turn down french fries/donuts, the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle, skip the hit ABC show Wifeswap, hold back tears when observing something very sad or very happy.

7 Things that attract me to the opposite sex: kindness/compassion, intelligence, wit, softness (the physical/skin kind), curviness, passion (defined broadly) and wile.

7 Things I say often: “George Bush will be remembered by objective observers as the worst President ever to hold the office.” “How do you ask politely?/Use your indoor voice/No whining/Sit down, honey/Two reasons: first because __________, and second because I told you to.” “What was the question?” “Stick it haters.” “Best. ______. Ever.” “You could put me in a room, show me a prominent persuasive speaker, give me books to read, lecture me with a PowerPoint, and I’d still never get it.” “Brillant. Cheers.” Runner up: “I see a tension between…”