May 30, 2008


That's HEDLEY!

So long, Harvey...

May 27, 2008


C'mon people now


For those of you who share my passion for politics, I highly recommend recent features by two of my favorite writers. Both have given me much to think about regarding the national election in November, not the least of which is the possibility that, despite my contempt for the DNC, I may not vote third party as anticipated.

James Wolcott's latest in Vanity Fair offers a balanced account of the problems the Democratic Party is headed into (as a Hillary voter, no less). He nails the fact that all of the primary scrapping is, partly, just another thing in a long line of Democrats giving a major pass to the Bush administration's dirty deeds.

Over at Rolling Stone, the always astute and often causticly hilarious Matt Taibbi gives his take on the Obama-Clinton duel. Taibbi leans toward Obama but certainly doesn't give him a pass, a minority stance in the starstruck media which, along with the fact that he gets paid, likely irks the shit out of all the HuffPo suckers.

Two juicy excerpts for the busy/link averse:


Cheney’s sarcastic “So?” (when an interviewer mentioned that two-thirds of the American people thought the war in Iraq wasn’t worth fighting) was a spit in the eye of not only the American people but of the critics of the Iraq policy whom he could treat as irrelevant, and why not? Since 9/11, he and the president had had a free hand and played it for all it was worth. Four thousand American dead is a small down payment to make for a permanent imperial presence in Iraq, and John McCain promises to be a stalwart caretaker of the desert franchise, girding his eyebrows to fend off naysayers and quitters. What really twists the intestines into a knot is knowing that Democrats will probably be as ineffectual going after McCain as they’ve been for these last seven years of sagebrush theater. Top Democrats and media flunkies have been both idly and actively complicit in McCain’s maverick identity getting a Holy Ghost makeover. Hillary and Bill Clinton have taken turns polishing McCain’s hood while Joe Lieberman pals around with Big John as if they were touring in La Cage aux Folles, two old queens taking in the sunset. As Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler blog decried, “The RNC [Republican National Committee] (and the rest of the conservative world) would never have tolerated the sanctification of some Big Major Democrat of McCain’s type. But liberals and Dems have stared into space as McCain has been endlessly vested with sainthood.” Democrats have pulled their punches for so long that they know only how to hit themselves in the face, earning the reputation for masochism that gives Dick Cheney a good chuckle each night at bedtime as he’s being packed in ice.


Obama's real weakness is that nobody really knows yet what he's all about. He is running as a symbol of a new politics, a politics somehow less disgusting and full of shit than the old politics. But if it were to get out that he's not that —that all he is is the same old deal dressed up in black skin and a natty suit —then he quickly morphs into a different kind of symbol, a symbol of how an essentially bankrupt political system can seamlessly repackage itself to a fed-up marketplace by making cosmetic changes, without altering its basic nature. There have been disturbing signs along that front, from the accusations that Obama aides called his anti-NAFTA stance "just politics," to his angry stumpery against a Maytag plant closing even as he pals around with Lester Crown, a Maytag board member who raised huge sums for his campaign. Right now, Obama has millions of voters thinking Santa Claus really does exist; but if he keeps getting caught turning the usual tricks with campaign donors, attention is going to shift away from his heroic image and toward the prosaic reality, which in politics is always grubby and depressing. And with that, his value as a symbol will evaporate, and Christmas turns into just another holiday with those same relatives you hated every other day of the year.

On a personal note, SOMEONE is going to have to pull unity out of their ass to avoid passing up an unprecedented opportunity for Democrats to capitalize on what is likely to be massive voter turnout this November. This whole "I'll vote for McCain" bullshit is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. What the hell good are Clinton supporter's "I told you sos" in the face of four more years of Republican veto power?


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May 25, 2008


The Monthly Max (very belated Mother's Day issue)

The amazing Monkey Boy!

Your tough guy look won't wash, son.

Yes, I'll put them back!

Pool season at last!


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May 07, 2008


A damn hard thing

We finally put our dog Brisbane down today, having avoided it for months even though we knew it was time. The reason for the delay has made itself quite apparent in these few days since we made the absolute decision. It's a damn hard thing to let go of someone that has been the source of some my most cherished moments for more than 40 percent of my lifetime.

We got him as a pup of approximately six weeks. Infancy, puberty (and the stark elimination of it), adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, old age and very old age have all passed for him. He would have turned 17 years old this June 1st, and so by one typical calculation of dog years he was nearly 122. Considering the attack by another dog that he suffered three years ago, he was still in acceptable physical shape as far as getting around. But he had only one eye, and that about 90 percent useless, with hearing not much better. His mind had deteriorated as well - he just wasn't the same dog.

Jen and I got him before we were married from a fellow that her mom knows in Cleveland, TN. We referred to him as "the dog man" because he had at least twenty dogs - mostly Australian Shepherds or Aussie mixes like Brisbane. He kept them in and around his house in a perfect state of squalor, so we were quite glad to be able to rescue at least one. He was crusty with dried mud and so were the dogs, one of which hid under an old car and yelped at us, signifying that he was the one true Snufflepupagus and that we were to remove him from that horrid place immediately. He was small enough to fit under the front seat of Jen's Samurai, and we took him over to her grandmother's house to bathe him. We brought him into the pet shop down the street to get essentials for pup raisin'. He found the purple collar to be most delightful.

Jen was living out at Zion Farms in Floyd County at the time, so for the first fourteen months that we had him he had a three-acre field to romp in and lots of sheep buddies of which we had to discourage him from chasing, much to his chagrin and instinctual detriment. Often when arriving at the farm we would honk the car horn out near the entrance on Big Texas Valley Road, about a quarter mile away. He knew the horn, and then he would have time to make it to the far fence to greet us when we first rounded the corner to the field. Occasionally he was able to escape the confines of the fence, in which case he could easily be retrieved by walking over to the Samurai, where he would be impatiently waiting to go somewhere.

This is one of my favorite photos of The Bean, taken by my friend and coworker JF when he was about a year old. Interestingly this was before she even knew me. She just happened to be out at the farm with her camera and thought, "What a cool looking dog." Years later when we worked together she said, "I think I have a picture of your dog." I was puzzled but then pleased when she produced this shot, which to me shows so much of his character as well as his gorgeous ice blue eyes.

He was named after the city of Brisbane in eastern Australia. This was before we knew that Australian Shepherds are so named for the flocks of sheep they tended, and are actually indigenous to the Basque region of Spain, being smaller cousins to the Great Pyrenees breed. We also did not realize that the Aussie pronunciation of Brisbane is "Briz-bin", but he said that's okay, we are merely human and he would graciously accept our long "a" version.

After moving into town (Rome) and erecting an effective fence for him at our residence on Ash Street, we took note of his boundless energy. I had always fancied having a Frisbee© catching hound, and so began training Brisbane in the customary manner of taking advantage of most dog's desire to chase things. He became quite adept at throw-and-catch, being able to take off on command before I threw and listening for my shout of "up-up!" to know it was coming over his head. It was so cool to watch him track it into his range and jump at the first chance of snatching the disc in mid-air, thrown as far out as I was able. I also took advantage of one of his most endearing physical actions, the "rousty-brousty," which is excitedly turning in circles like a dervish, to develop a basic freestyle routine of back flips and between-my-legs jumps. I ordered discs by the case because they got chewed up quickly and would cut his gums up if not replaced regularly.

And so came an opportunity to show off his skills at a statewide contest in Cartersville. In the novice division it is strictly throw-and-catch, with 0-6 points awarded per throw depending on the distance and number of paws off the ground. We were called up for our go at the competition (over fifty dogs in his division) and on the first throw Brisbane went after the disc for about fifteen yards before bolting to the sideline to investigate something – being what is a mystery to this day. I ran out to retrieve the disc myself, shouting for him to return to the start line with me, which he dutifully did at once. He then proceeded to catch five long throws in the air for the maximum six points before the end of the round, placing in a tie for second and an advance to the finals round. With so many dogs and a whole other division to wait through, we all were quite tired and distracted by finals time, and Brisbane slipped to seventh overall - but not bad for his FIRST contest. That is truly one of the greatest memories I have.

Brisbane spent many nights in the woods camping with us, and logged well over a hundred miles on various hiking trails in the Southeast. He had the characteristic Aussie wariness of strangers - I had to leash him up when other hikers approached - but once he knew you were a friend he was completely interested in getting closer to you, most likely to lick your wonderful saltiness. He had about 50 nicknames and many silly songs made up about him.

When he was about six years old we figured getting another, younger dog would keep him vibrant. For this reason, and for her incorrigible cuteness, we procured his “little sister” Ballou in the Spring of '97 - a stray found at the Darlington School campus. How any previous owner let her get away is beyond me, but I don't question it much. There was enormous sibling rivalry when it came to getting attention from mom and dad, but they loved each other's company when they (thought they) were alone. Ballou, a.k.a. Baby Cheeks because of the thickness of her inner jowls, performed her brother-invigorating duties with flying colors, coaxing him into frequent playful tussles.

Another favorite memory is of the pair (collectively known as the Woober Twins) hiking with us and suddenly taking off like lightning bolts down a steep mountainside in pursuit of some usually uncatchable quarry like a songbird or a squirrel that had the temerity to rustle some leaves within earshot. They would run out of sight in one direction and be gone for several minutes, often returning downhill from the opposite direction, soaking wet from a creek crossing and panting with severe satisfaction. They have been outstanding companions for us and each other.

I have had two dogs before Brisbane, and they were very good dogs at that, but I have never felt as close a bond with any animal as with him. Until I had a child of my own I could not compare, but I feel nearly as much love for my dogs as any parent would have for a child. I often lament that dogs do not live as long as humans, partly because most dogs are worth a lot more as companions than most people.

I cleared a spot and dug a deep hole to bury him in the woods at the back of our yard. It gets a little sun and so I may plant some fescue and wild flowers there to create a little oasis where Ballou can perhaps lie and remember her brother. I think when I get out to hike and camp in the Cohuttas, the Great Smokies or wherever else we used to tread I'll pocket a piece of white quartz or other interesting mineral to add to a cairn built upon his grave.

Another deep hole is the one in my heart, but I know the pain will subside and it will be filled over time with the joy of countless good times with him. I hope someday Max will get to have a dog that's half as good as Brisbane.

A farewell tribute to the fuzzy bear (they just don't get no better):


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