Saturday, April 29, 2006

#260 - 101st Fighting Keyboardists

I'm always an advocate of never taking one's self so seriously that we drown in our own bile. Those who have followed the Woundup over the past several months know that I am anything but serious. Seriously.

So when Ed Morrisey and others announced their intent to take some of the more curious "epithets" hurled at them (and other conservative bloggers) and turn them into a statement of intent for right-minded bloggers, I was all for it.

Consequently, I have asked to join the rolls of the 101st. Although I do not personally have the demeanor of a fighter, I like to think of myself as being firmly committed to the war on terror.

Those of us who don't fight in the theater of operations become easy targets of the snarkier breed of left-wing orators. We must be cowards, they opine, or merely hypocrites to state that we "support the troops" without daring to bloody our own hands. Or, worse, to send our youngsters to their seemingly inevitable deaths whilst saving our own sorry fannies here at home.


The war on terror is a war fought on many fronts. Here at home the price of freedom is vigilance and awareness. We need to constantly remind our representative government that we do not accept complacence at home any more than we would tolerate it in the field. Sometimes, we need to remind our neighbors that the fight is real, even as they scoff against our foreign policies. They don't need the war, mind you, in order to scoff. They'd scoff anyway; simply because a Republican sits in the Oval Office, and it galls them.

We, of course, reserve the right to scoff if one of theirs ever makes it back to that office any time soon.

Fight on, KeyBees!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

#259 - Madam, I Hope That Pig Paid Full Passage! (Updated)

Even for Airbus, this would have been a stretch.

The report had come out yesterday (that is to say, I heard about it yesterday, which probably means it's been out for a few days now), and was probably fueled in part by rising oil prices driving the demand for more mass transportation. I bought into it at first. I was even ready to help Airbus with their new ad campaign:
Airbus: Your Chicken Bus in the Sky

I don't see the "standing room only" concept ever really taking off with airlines; pun intended. For one thing, most folks would be awfully tired after taxiing on the runway for three hours before their 45 minute flight. For another, I can imagine the slight G-loads on takeoff being a bit much for even the average traveller.

As a Guatemalan chicken bus veteran, I can tell you that airlines got nuthin' on your average Guatemalan bus driver. (Note to liberal readers of this blog: these comments do NOT equal racism. These are recollections of one who was there - albeit 28 years ago - risking his life to spread the Gospel.)

Bus drivers in Guatemala typically drove in two styles: overcrowded and slow enough to be passed by Congress [rim shot], or overcrowded and fast enough to qualify at Daytona. The Daytona variety of driver was able to pull G-loads you only get in your average F-18 with afterburners. In fact, the Daytona drivers were generally responsible for sending the Congressional drivers to the bottom of various barrancos in our area.

So, even if Airbus were to offer standing room passage on their planes, I remain unimpressed. Now, when they begin strapping passengers on top of the plane with a basket of chickens fresh from the market, then I'll be impressed.


Just in case you ever make it to Guatemala and you wish to experience, first hand, the thrills of the local bus routes, here's the list:

Congressional Drivers:
Rutas Momostecas - "Tacos" we called 'em. These buses were the slooooowest things moving in the country. They were regularly passed by diseased cattle, or Mayan women carrying 50 pounds of groceries on top of their heads. Passengers frequently got out and pushed to help the bus get there faster. This is the bus I rode on top of whenever there were too many chickens inside the bus.

Daytona Drivers:
Ruta Morelliana - Morelliana drivers were evaluated based on relative sanity. The more insane the driver, the longer the route he was given to drive. The idea was to get the passengers to Guatemala City in the shortest amount of time possible, preferably an hour before they departed from the other side of the country. Dirt roads were seen as acceleration ramps. The only times I've ever seen Mormon missionaries cross themselves were when they boarded a Morelliana during Semana Santa (Holy Week, preceding Easter Sunday), when the insane drivers also drink local moonshine by the gallon. We used to take this bus to a place called Cuatro Caminos ("Four Roads") in order to catch a slower bus into Quetzaltenango. If the driver thought he was behind schedule, he'd slow to sub-warp speed and eject us. Through a window, if necessary.

I have very fond memories of Guatemalan mass transit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

#258 - Drawing Dilbert Does Not a Philosopher Make

I have learned many things from Scott Adams over the years. I have learned that the company I work for has had moles reporting to Scott regularly over the last fifteen years. I have learned that Human Resources is every bit as evil as the Illuminati. And now I have learned never to look for religion in the comments section of a blog.

As a philosopher, Scott makes a decent cartoonist. I've noticed, having now read his books, that once you get past your own cynicism the books are no longer relevant. I had started reading his blog once upon a time, but it, too, has fallen into the irrelevant column. His recent posts on religion and prophets are really just symptomatic; Scott is looking for his next great crusade, since I suspect he now realizes that lampooning stupidity in the workplace isn't likely to survive into his own presumed retirement.

I still want to say I enjoy Dilbert, but so much of his material these days is recycled from earlier gags.


I've been with my company long enough now (22 years this month!) to understand that people give off very distinct signs that they should retire. They just have that "I really need to be put out to pasture" essence about them. Dilbert has begun to show his own pasturability of late, and I think it's time I cut him loose from my daily reads. He just isn't that funny anymore.

I just hope FoxTrot stays cool for a while longer.

Monday, April 17, 2006

#257 - Death to Universal Preschool!

Joanne Jacobs has the account of strange bedfellows on this issue.

Here's my bottom line: If you...

  1. want to abdicate control over your child's education sooner,

  2. like the idea of growing an already bloated educational bureaucracy,

  3. wish to see an already understocked pool of teachers become more depleted, or

  4. think anything that Rob Reiner supports actually works as designed,

...then, by all means, vote "Yes" for Proposition 82.

Otherwise, do us all a favor and shoot this one down before it wastes any more oxygen.

#256 - The Code is Cracked

Little Miss Attila now understands how political parties draft their platforms.

If you say it enough times, it will come true.

#255 - The Road to Educational H---

I haven't read much from Kimberly at Number 2 Pencil lately, although I am at a complete loss to tell you why. Kimberly does a wonderful job of pointing out the absurdities of modern American education, and her latest post is another sterling example.

The story regards an attempt to teach kids about the Holocaust by handing out stars to about half of the students. Those with stars were "Jews" who were then ostracized throughout the day by the rest of the students. At least, that's what I got out of the experiment, reading between the lines. One kid even went home, crying, and telling his father, "Daddy, I was a Jew today!"

These kinds of immersion experiments are nearly always well intentioned. In my day, it was the classic "kids with blue eyes are less intelligent" scenario, which always gave kids who happened to have blue eyes inferiority complexes for the rest of their natural lives. Either that, or humongous chips on their shoulders. I happen to be married to a very blue-eyed beauty, who also just happens to have both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in education. I guess she ruins the whole curve thing, hm?

Anyway, I understand where the educators are coming from. It's an attempt to make something that happened long ago (especially from these kids' perspectives) "come alive" through a current application of the principles involved. In this case, extreme prejudice and race superiority.

My take? The "old Indian proverb" about walking in another man's moccasins requires another element which is unspoken, but absolutely necessary before making the attempt: one must first want to have that experience, or the whole lesson is lost. In this case, several kids were nearly traumatized by being forced to carry around a ridiculous star and having to pretend to be a down-trodden race. Add to this mix those kids who already feel down-trodden at school (I used to be one of those), and you have just inadvertently taught those kids to never willingly participate in another role-playing activity again. Ever.

According to the reporter covering the story, school principal Douglas Guthrie "admitted that he would do some things differently in the exercise because of complaints but said some kids got the message."

Some kids. But not all. Nor, apparently, did the educators in this case "get the message." The principal claims that, while sparking controversy, it also sparked conversation. "We have now heard from about a dozen parents (who are) very upset," he said.

I suspect those conversations had little to do with what a wonderful learning experience their kids had just had.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cameron, humbled, thanks Barnes & Noble

You will recall that a couple of days ago I wrote a letter to Barnes & Noble. What you didn't know is that I actually sent that letter to Barnes & Noble. I wondered if anything would come of it, and lo:

You are absolutely correct. Under the Banner of Heaven should never have been included with the Easter display we are glad you took the time to bring this to our attention. It was an oversight on the buyers end, and we hope you accept our apologies. It is never our intention to insult our customers or our Booksellers.

There is a message that went out on BN.Inside today instructing the stores to remove the title from the Easter table and place it in Trade Paperback Favorites.

Cameron, thank you again for your email. If I can be of any assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
My reply was:

Thank you, both for the response to my letter and for your actions regarding my complaint.

I frankly regret the tone of my letter: had I counted to ten first before clicking "send" I'd have made sure to soften it up a bit.

To be perfectly honest, right now I'm feeling very, very humble.

And that's always a good thing, ain't it?

Thank you again.

Cameron Wood
Store 2751

And I really do feel quite humble, since I know perfectly well that there was never any reason for me to be so dang persnickety in that letter.

That's always been my problem, especially as a blogger and correspondent: I don't wait long enough before publishing.

Non So Cranky Review at Way Off Bass UPDATED!

I'd normally post it here, but I use the "P" word. Also, I'm testing out my new template over there.

Okay - "P" word removed, poem fixed, and it is now family-friendly fare, I suppose.

Also, My Good Friday through Easter Poem Bonanza is up. Enjoy! It's becoming a yearly tradition.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

#254 - Don't Forget the Gravy!

Via Dave Barry's blog comes this jewel. The basic scenario is this: You drive up to your favorite fast food drive through window, and talk, as usual, to the disembodied voice in the speaker. By the time you drive around to the window, your order is billed, and delivered to you as always. The twist is, the person with whom you spoke was nowhere near the restaurant at the time. He or she was in a call center somewhere near Los Angeles, processing your order and transmitting it electronically back to the burger flippers.

I can see where this might promote some efficiencies in the ordering of my fast food, but I have two concerns:

1. What do they do when the network goes down, as it inevitably will when I order a meal for my incredibly hungry family and the next fast food joint is another 35 miles down the freeway?
"I'm sorry, sir. We didn't get your order. The network is down."

"Well, can I just order it here and wait a few more minutes?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir. We're not allowed to accept walk-ins in drive-through."

Yeah. I want some of that action.

2. You just know it's a matter of time before this call center idea becomes a prime candidate for outsourcing.
"Hello, and welcoming to the Jack of the Box. We are not knowing what this means, but we are wanting to takes your order, sir."

"Um, okay. How about a burger and fries?"

"Yes, sir. You are wanting a burka and flies. Will you be liking any sauces with that?"

Beyond the anticipation of dealing with a call center, there's the issue of multi-tasking. According to the article, this is supposed to improve accuracy by limiting the amount of multi-tasking the burger flippers have to deal with today. Oh, really? In my experience, most drive-through order takers still have to process the order and deal with the cash transaction whether they take the order or not. Probably the only real positive spin you could put on this concept is that the manager can no longer punish workers by making them take orders for drive through. "Okay, kid. You really fouled up that last order. I'm sending you to the Call Center!" "Great! Does that include air fare?"

Either way, I'll bet my local Jack in the Box will still get my orders wrong, whether they use this call center concept or not.

America. Always moving forward.

Woody and CCW, neck and neck!

Too bad I don't know how to get screen captures since this may never happen again. As of this typing, Way Off Bass and Woody's Woundup occupy rankings 3128 and 3129 respectively on TTLB's ranking system.



At 2:17 a.m. I find myself agreeing with a llama . . .

. . . and I don't even drink.

This particular ruminant, however, offers some wise advice to a new classical music blogger. Heck - he even quotes Peter Schikele (er, quoting Duke Ellington, that is), so that alone is worth the link.

My own enjoyment of classical music began at an early age. My parents, being musicians, always had the stuff around the house, and so classical and jazz music weren't any less normal-sounding to my ears than the rock and roll I was also listening to.

I'm inclined to think that if classical music were NOT a part of the household when I was growing up, if I had had to discover it on my own at a later age, that said new classical music blogger's approach would have scared me off precisely the way the magical llama blogger suggests could happen, and . . .

. . . the heck with it. I just like typing llama.



Kinda makes me want to put a Monty Python DVD in, but I bet they get jokes about the Holy Grail ALL the time.

And, Bro, on an entirely unrelated subject, I think my blogging habits are getting such that I should re-open Way Off Bass. Whaddya think?

It's probably best, then, if I don't have kids.

At least as long as this bit of research pans out.

Of course, I'm inclined to think that the whole "bad parent" thing crosses the lines of ugly/beautiful. I work in a Barnes & Noble in one of the richest areas in Southern California. Based solely on my informal observations over the last 18 months I can say the following:

[1] Money and physical beauty seem to go hand in hand,

[2] Good-looking, rich parents are, at least in terms of parenting, completely, utterly retarded, capable only of raising loud, loping hordes of evil, illiterate monster-children who enjoy smearing poo on bathroom walls, reading the "Sex Position Of The Day" books like they were SAT study guides, and using $80 books as coasters in the cafe.

Bring on the ugly, I say. At least we less-than-beautiful people still understand the concept of public shame.

Well, except for Rosie O'Donnell, that is.
Lord help us, bro: in our middle age we're becoming disgruntled letter writers. Was it Dave Barry who wrote that geezerhood begins in the forties? Or was it the fifties? All I know is that suddenly I feel like yelling at the check out person at Vons that in MY day we only had 27 varieties of Crest toothpaste to choose from and we liked it that way, and don't you give me that look young lady!

#253 - Open Letter Season

If my brother can do it, so can I. This is my blog, doggone it, and I'll do whatever I doggone well please. In this case, it has become necessary to castigate - publicly - the executive leadership of two railroading concerns that I have admired and respected over the years. At least until I became a customer.
Open Letter

12 April 2006

Mr. David M. Laney, Esq., Chairman of the Board, National Railroad Passenger Corporation
Mr. David Hughes, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer, NRPC
(sent via the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee)

Mr. Richard K. Davidson, Chairman, Union Pacific Corporation
Mr. James R. Young, President and Chief Executive Officer, UPC


We have recently booked passage on two of the "classic" trains that Amtrak has revived over the years, and that used to run across this land from coast to coast and from border to border. Last year we travelled on the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Washington and had marvellous time. There were the inevitable delays, of course, but nothing that couldn't be resolved by the time we had arrived at our destinations.

Most recently we booked passage on the Sunset Limited, which runs along the southern portions of the country from Los Angeles to New Orleans. It used to run to Orlando, but Katrina took care of that for the foreseeable future.

It was with high anticipation that we looked forward to this trip. We were to visit family in Texas and eagerly planned our travel accordingly. My two little girls were excited, remembering the adventures they shared on the Starlight last year. My wife and I look forward to train travel as a method of travelling in relative comfort, without having to drive for several days to achieve our destination.

Imagine our chagrin, then, to discover shortly before our vacation that the Sunset Limited has one of the absolute worst on-time records of any of the major routes managed by Amtrak. "Expect delays of between 5 and 12 hours," whispered one passenger's web site. Still, we had already paid for and received our tickets, and changes that close to travel time are punishing to the traveller.

Admittedly, the trip to San Antonio was not that bad. We were delayed only about an hour to the station, and were able to get transportation to our hotel with little difficulty. It was the return trip from San Antonio to Los Angeles that will live forever as a nightmare in my mind.

One thing that we learned quickly on board was that Union Pacific controls the mainlines on which the Sunset Limited runs. We know this because the well-rehearsed, long-suffering crew repeated this message at least twenty times over the course of our return trip. "It would be nice," confided one Attendant to me, "if we owned our own track. But that's just not the case. We're completely at UP's mercy."

He wasn't kidding. I counted fifteen distinct delays, at least three of which were for a half hour or more, while waiting for up to six freight trains to clear the tracks ahead. In total, our delay returning to Los Angeles was more than three hours. I cannot imagine, gentlemen, that you would ever tolerate delays of that kind when travelling, especially on business. We of course missed our connection to our home station in Fullerton, California, but there were other trains that were able to accomodate us.

I'm not one given, generally speaking, to fits of temper. But one thing I cannot tolerate, especially from a national corporation, is lame excuses. It is quite obvious to me that these delays are simply a fact of life on the Sunset route. So why on earth do you not merely adjust your published schedule to account for those possibilities (or, actually, likelihoods)? Had you informed me, either on your website or your printed route schedule, of these delays to begin with, we would have made arrangements accordingly, and not relied on a slim two hour layover in Los Angeles to cover delays on our return.

I freely admit that I had reached the end of my patience by the time we reached Palm Desert, and realized that we would not arrive in Los Angeles until a full hour after our connecting train left Union Station. The poor Attendant who gave us the 20th recitation of the "Union Pacific" excuse was lambasted, and your names, gentlemen, were subsequently taken in vain.

I calmed down by the time we reached Los Angeles, and apologized to that Attendant for the drubbing to which I had subjected him. But the damage is done. It will be only with long consideration and examination of numerous other options before I consider taking the Sunset Limited again.

Here, gentlemen, are the lessons I learned from this experience:

1. The Sunset Limited is nowhere near as grand a train as the Coast Starlight. Now, admittedly, this may have much to do with the lack of scenery during the daylight hours of this route. However, the lack of an Observation Car and, especially, a play area for smaller children, was keenly felt.

2. The crew of the Limited, while every bit as efficient as the crew of the Starlight, appears to be haggard and careworn much of the time. The veterans of that route are frankly tired of being the butt of every complaint against Amtrak and Union Pacific, frequently at the top of passengers' lungs.

3. The snack bar of the Limited was (there is no other way to say this) sad. Because coach passengers must pay even more ludicrous prices if they wish to avail themselves of the diner, the snack bar frequently runs out of selections by the morning of the second day of travel. In our particular case, we received sour milk with our cereal not once, but twice on this route. This is inexcusable.

4. This lesson, perhaps hardest to understand for you who sit in the executive suites, is the most vital of all: You two great institutions of American transportation need to do a better job of sharing those rails. I realize that your responsibility to your shareholders is tremendous, especially for Union Pacific. But whatever goodwill you earn from moving goods across the country is squandered every time you make a passenger sit on a track without movement of any kind for as long as we did. I am keenly aware that our three and a half hour delay was, by most veteran passengers' standards, a light sentence. I am still not impressed.

I suspect, gentlemen, that with your salaries, the concerns of middle and lower-middle class passengers are of no tremendous concern. You talk a good game when it comes to improving rail usage in this country, but I have seen absolutely no outward signs of process improvement where passenger travel is concerned. Were I to participate in 360 degree surveys of your performance, the four of you would not fare well.

I love railroading as my father and generations before him did. I love the power and majesty and, yes, the romance of huge metal conveyances criss-crossing this nation day and night. I am a frustrated model railroader who plans to indulge that passion when I retire. Please, gentlemen, don't make me swear off of railroading forever.

I suspect I would merely represent the tip of a Titanic-proportioned iceberg.

Anaheim, California

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

#252 - Little Bro Makes a Stand...

...most likely in the unemployment line.

Good on ya, Mate!

Open Letter To Barnes & Noble, from An Employee

I've been working at Barnes & Noble for roughly a year and a half now and I frankly enjoy it. My coworkers are good people, and I'm around books all day, which is why folks like me usually take jobs like this in the first place.

Occasionally, though, I see something that makes me raise my eyebrows, and, far more rarely, something that just plain irks me.

At the moment, consider me irked.

Now, let me first say that I fully support the B&N mission to sell pretty much anything that is printed on some form of paper and bound between two covers. We'll pimp anything in print, and chocolate besides - it's how we make money, and that's fine; I'm a capitalist, after all.

Let me also say that, in regards to books that may be found offensive by the adherents of certain religions, I recognize that Barnes & Noble has the right to not carry certain magazines that have cartoons that may be found offensive by rampaging muslims while at the same time carrying any number of books that are most certainly found offensive by religions that don't issue fatwas. It's a free market, and you have the safety of your employees to consider.

Let me also say right up front that I do not think you are currently carrrying anything in your inventory that I believe should be pulled out of your inventory, no longer to be sold by B&N. I don't believe it's possible to sell any book at all that couldn't be found offensive in some way by someone. I haven't met a person yet who didn't have a sore spot or two when it came to Things In Print. Try to appease everyone, and you'll soon end up selling nothing. I understand this point.

That being said . . .

I am irked about a certain book. I am not going to ask you to stop selling it - it's a big seller, after all - nor am I going to suggest that you're going to hell, or wherever, for carrying it at all.

The book is Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, reviewed here. It is not a happy or religiously inspirational book to read, certainly. The back cover alone, which describes the Mormon church as "Taliban-like", would be amusing in some other context. The book itself is less amusing, arguing that Mormons - all Mormons, and not just a few polygamist nutjobs - are potentially violent, perhaps murderously so, precisely because of our religion. (Yes, I am Mormon.)

Well, Krakauer is certainly free to have such a view and to write it, just as B&N is free to sell his book in an open market place.

What I want to know is, how did this book end up on two - count them, 2 - different displays on Barnes & Noble's display tables? And, in regards to at least one table, I'm talking about Store List books, books that some yahoo in a cubicle in Marketing at B&N's headquarters has decided need to be displayed on specific tables or endcaps in the store.

Under the Banner of Heaven appears on both the "Religion & Inspiration" table and, amazingly, the Easter table.

It boggles the mind. Unless I missed one, Krakauer's book is the ONLY negatively-themed book on BOTH tables. As it is frankly a sloppily-researched attack on a major religion, what is it doing on these displays?

I mean, Good Lord, at the very least I'd like to know how this book ended up on an Easter display, seeing as it has nothing to with discussing the Mormon POV of Christ's Resurrection? More tellingly, why isn't it being accompanied on the Religion & Inspiration table by equally ridiculous and offensive choices, such as "The Catholic Menace!" or "Those Damn Jews Ate My Baby!"

Just curious.

Cameron Wood
Store 2751

Monday, April 10, 2006

I am now officially a Published Poet (tm)

Bow down before me, mortals!

(And, Greetings, California Bear Flag League members!)

(And welcome, readers of Annika's Journal! Kick up your feet and relax a bit. My brother and I are turning into letter-writing geezers as we approach our dotage, so have a laugh or two at our expense. We're also getting senile, so we won't know what the heck you're snorkling about.)

Moorpark College's Moorpark Review has seen fit to print my sonnet So we are all of us abandoned Lears in their 2005 issue.

It's a weird little poem, since these days I'm not entirely sure I agree with it. I used it to finish off a paper I wrote about King Lear in 2001. Of course, the fact that I might not agree with it anymore doesn't mean I like it any less - I'm a poet, after all, and that means EGO (ErGO, I like my stuff). The professor, God bless his old-school soul, didn't mark me down for it even though he could have (ah - the freedom of lower division essays!).

Basically, I am pretty dang happy to see that one of my poems got the nod in the Moorpark Review.

Now the question is, how can I use this to leapfrog to fame and fortune?

And please - wait a day or two before crushing my dreams.

In the meantime, here's the Almost Absolute Finished Version of a poem I assaulted you with a few days ago. Any poem that can't survive violent revision didn't have much hope to begin with, is what I'm learning:

On the Morning of A Day Off, A Little Wind and Rain

An old, missed friend wakes me up, politely
Tapping my window with soft fingers,
Whispering the new stories she has learned.
And I’m all ears, warm under my blanket,
Sitting up with my back against the cool wall,
Listening, trying to find a rhythm
In her words, perpetually relieved
To never discern any noticeable pattern.
It would ruin the instance if I did;
Like hearing a drumbeat put to an aria.

There’s no sorrow, no worsted gray buttoned up
Over the colorful promise of her mysteries.
Beneath my closed eyes, her words become
An intimate canvas primed and waiting for
Some improvised brush of . . .
Life, she taps on my window. Laughter. Love.
Each flurry of words brings me
Closer to new than I have been in years.

My window’s open; she enters on the breeze.
Such a scent she brings, clean and real,
The scent wild things know after the snows melt,
And with her comes the lush green certainty
Of something taking root in me,
Like a seed pushed into readied earth by
Some wise old farmer in the North Forty,
And I imagine that when my friend and I
Meet again in the spring, in a rambling conversation
About wild sprouts and raucous blooms,
I’ll be glad then that I don’t now close my window
Just to avoid her random, friendly kisses.

It doesn’t rain enough in Southern California.

Cameron Wood '06

One of the best short essays on Hamlet you'll ever see

It makes sense, so you know it didn't come from some doofus at Harvard.

Interestingly, many professors of English Lit. absolutely LOVE Hamlet (see cavaet, below), the character, precisely because he's exactly the kind of antisocial knucklehead said professors wish they had the nerve to be. Not all - just most.

I keep telling people that Hamlet is easily Shakespeare's most evil character, but I've been a lone voice in the desert on this issue. After reading Gerard's post, I'll simply say in the future that Hamlet surely does represent the progressive party. The best thing is, folks who admire the obnoxious weed will never know they're being insulted, since those who like him tend to be liberal professors and their fawning students in the first place.

(Um, that is, I tell people my views on Hamlet in those extremely rare moments when the subject comes up. It's not like I'm running round Barnes & Noble grabbing people by their shirt fronts and yelling "Hamlet is evil! HAMLET IS EVIL!" although that would be pretty fun to do one day.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

#251 - Do You Feel Secure?

Michelle Malkin has been tirelessly dogging the Department of Homeland Security, pretty much since its inception (or, more appropriately, misconception), and once again tosses a few more logs on the bonfire.

This is where the business of big government consistently fails. It matters little which party is in power. Government seems to exist only for the purpose of creating more government. In this case, government has learned how to reproduce asexually by splitting off clones of itself in order to keep family members gainfully employed.

Shame on President Bush for not having more conviction and ethical grounding in the management of this Department. My company has had its fair share of ethics violations over the past few years, and the penalties have been severe. I might suggest that the same ethics watchdogs who pounded us into submission now be turned toward the DHS to give them a thorough scrubbing.

DHS: Don't Have Security.


P.S. As for those charts toward the bottom of her post:

"Completions Per Hour" equals "Quotas" no matter how you couch it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

#250 - All I Can Say About Katie Couric..., it couldn't happen to a more deserving network.

Take that any way you please.

I'm In VERY Good Company, Pt. II

Readers of Woodys Woundup would have no reason to know this, but I also had a thing or two to say about the poetry of Rosie O'Donnell (link includes a special bonus Jane Fonda screed!).

Once again, I am not alone here.

Since this is National Poetry Month, Annika Of The Above Link (who is also a nifty poet and poetry enthusiast, and who sent me a nifty mug because she liked a rather disgusting KISS haiku I did last year - sigh - why is it always my dirty stuff that wins the awards?) points us to The Sheila Variations which has plenty of poetry goodness, just sittin' there waiting to be read.

I don't know if I'm much of a poet, but I've certainly got all of a poet's necessary vanity, so naturally I feel obliged to point you towards a couple that I've done.

The Olive Pressed (heavy religious poem)

Reflections On Terror (heavy political/war poem)

I also had a brief fling with trying to be a poetry critic, but . . . uh . . . I just wasn't, you know, very good at it. I may let Ah-nuld return, but I need to learn lots, LOTS more first.

Well. With all that out of the way, I must point you in two other directions.

First, there is Philip Larkin, whose poetry has affected me more profoundly than any other poetry I've read, even though I don't usually agree with him. I consider him one of the finest craftsman. Period. Take, for example, his astonishing Church Going. I harder kick in the gut when it comes to discussing the death of religion at the personal level I haven't yet found. Don't just read it for the message, which is, I admit, bleak, but check it over for its form and rhyme. Clever, clever poetry, Mr. Larkin.

An entirely different kind of voice is found in Ted Kooser, current Poet Laureate of the United States, and whom I have only recently started reading. There is absolutely no fat whatsoever in Kooser's poems. Check out the artistry of Tattoo:

What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

(from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004)

Oh, man, do I have things to learn.

I Am In VERY Good Company

You may remember my remarks concerning Jackson's King Kong.

You no longer have to take only my word for it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

#249 - Let Me Get This Straight... (Updated)

As ccwbass aptly points out, it suddenly is uncool to be American. Especially in America.

So far I've been able to stay on the perimeter of the debate surrounding this whole immigration bill debaucle. I'm not a particular fan of the legislation as proposed, and I hope it goes down in flames (figuratively speaking, of course). At the same time, I have a small bone to pick with the entire community of people who feel that disrupting life in this country is somehow justified by their opposition to this bill.

Here's the bottom line, folks. If you choose to live in this country, for whatever reason, you choose to become Americans. It's that simple. I know there's this whole "cultural identity" thing that sociologists want everyone to cling to, but we're not asking you to abandon your culture. If you really want to live in this country, what we're asking you to do is become Americans. At least if you choose to stay here.

Now, you can be Latino; you can be African; you can be Hindi or even Moslem. But if you want to be a citizen, that makes you an American by definition. If you don't want to be an American, or if you don't want to be identified as an American, then get used to the idea that you are temporary.

We make people who want to become citizens pass a test. We ask them a few relatively simple questions (unless, of course, you're a high school student in this country, in which case it's not so simple), then ask them to take an oath. We even encourage them to (gasp!) learn English. If you're not willing to do that, you are temporary.

Many of you have ancestors who sacrificed everything they had to live in this country and give people like you a chance at a better life. Perhaps the work they found was menial, but many of them felt that it was at least better than what they faced "back home." If you don't appreciate that sentiment, you are temporary.

If you are temporary and have decided to remain so, you really have no say in how this country is run. Only voters have that say and that right. Voters can only be citizens of this country. Period.

So, forgive those of us who had ancestors who decided to come to this country and make it their own. If they came a little late to the party, they at least decided at some point to cherish the freedoms that come with citizenship. They had trials, to be sure, and many of them faced unspeakable hardships in accepting this citizenship, but they still cherished it. The moment they decided to be permanent citizens, they adopted the moniker of "American." And they did so with pride. We, too, feel that pride.

Protest, if you must. Voice your displeasure, or stamp your feet and throw a tantrum. But don't for a moment expect me to be sympathetic if you decide that my patriotism is in any way inconvenient to you. That just defines you as temporary.

Or illegal.

UPDATE: Apparently we misinterpret their intent. I am less than convinced.
"Nobody gets upset with the Irish on St. Patrick's Day," said Gabriela Lemus, director of policy and legislation at the Washington, D.C.- based League of United Latin American Citizens, the group that organized most of the recent protests and is heading the dozens of marches and rallies scheduled across the nation Monday.

Yes, but the Irish aren't shutting down major commerce centers with their temper tantrums. Nor are they insulting the American flag on St. Paddy's Day.

Expressing your displeasure is one thing. Angering your "fellow citizens" isn't helping your cause.

America! . .


Hugh's got the links.

#248 - The Debate Continues

Another round fired from the cannon. A new study has been released in the Journal of Neuroscience indicating that premature babies can, indeed, feel pain. For many years the argument has been that preemies (and, by extension, unborn babies) cannot truly feel pain and therefore are merely reflexively responding to stimuli. This study would seem to contradict that presumption, and gives the right to life argument some figurative teeth.

One of the worst falsehoods perpetuated by the abortionists has been that since a fetus is "incapable" of processing pain, abortion can be regarded as just another procedure. Something that (in their dogma) corrects a mistake without violating the sanctity of life. Pro-lifers have, on the other hand, always believed that this simply could not be true. Since scientists still have a hard time pinning down the precise moment at which pain processors develop in the fetus' brain, who's to say that they cannot feel pain, or at what point in the pregnancy it becomes painful for the victim to be subjected to such a procedure?

This new study would seem to sharpen that argument. For myself, I have always harbored the belief that these unborn children are far more aware than abortionists are willing to concede. When I was still ambitious enough to try to improve my mind, I took a creative writing class at a local college. For my term assignment, I wrote a report on pre-natal psychology, a discipline still lambasted by many psychologists today. Probably the liberal ones, would be my guess, although I have no imperical evidence of that.

These papers were subject to peer review, and I remember one gentleman in particular remarking that my paper sounded less like a creative writing assignment, and more like a doctoral thesis. That was a compliment, given that the assignment was to write a paper based on research, and I had given this one hours of my life. I learned that there were numerous instances of people having memories that had formed while still in the womb. People whose mothers had sung a particular melody while pregnant, and who hadn't sung it after the baby was born. The person then hears that melody in another context and it sounds familiar. It's only when describing the melody to their mother that the mystery is resolved. I was (and still am) fascinated by this premise. Whether or not people choose to accept it as real science, I think this new study helps to support the notion.

Now, I don't for a moment believe that this new argument will sway the abortionists one whit. Their rationalizations are too firmly rooted in societal norms to be easily swayed by a mere study. In fact, I predict (this is a sucker's bet, I realize) that the nay-sayers will quickly talk down this study and argue against every point it makes. This is, after all, what government grants are all about. Still, I find it encouraging that even in this "enlightened" twenty-first century, scientists can still verify - even without intending to - that God really does know what he's doing.

If, in the meantime, this kind of study makes just one woman waver in her decision to get an abortion, it will have been worth it. We need to be far more conscientious about this decision than the pro-choice executioners would have us be. We need to understand that deciding to end a pregnancy does not correct a mistake. It ends a life. This is not a convicted felon who deserves to die for his or her misdeed. This is an innocent child who is as yet incapable of committing sin*.

God understands that. And he is not pleased.

* I realize that there are and will be times when an abortion may be necessary, especially in preserving the life of the mother. I'm just saying that such should be our moral compass that even to consider such a thing would be personally abhorrent and only undertaken under such an extreme condition.

Proof That I'm Bi-Polar!

Or maybe the rain just brings out wild mood swings. In any case, both this and the previous were written today. Go figure.

Pushed politely along by a breeze, rain
Touches against the window in
Light taps, like a friend
Discretely whispering for attention.

My bed is below the window.
I’m still and warm under the blanket,
Sitting up against the cool wall,
Eyes closed: listening;
Trying to find a rhythm, happy to
Never discern one.

It would ruin the instance
If I did;
Like hearing a drum beat
Put to an aria.

The gentle chaos is
Soothing, inviting,
Not gray or melancholy;
Rather, it’s a private canvas
Primed and waiting for
Improvised brushstrokes of

Each flurry of taps brings me
Out of myself, back
Down to earth,
And closer to new, to now, than I have
Been in years.

My window is open enough
To catch the breeze,
The smell of rain, the sense
Of something rooting within me,
Set and covered like a seed
Pushed into soft earth by
Some old farmer
In the North Forty
And that will shamelessly bloom in spring
With raucous laughter
And wild sprouts.

It doesn’t rain enough
In California.

Cameron Wood, April 04, 2006

That's all - I'm puttin' away the pen for a bit.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Thank God I Only Get Like This Every Now And Again

On The Temptation Towards Self Pity
(I'm always in a better mood after having vented like this)

One burns for every insult done to me.
One burns for every insult from my mouth.
One burns for every memory I see:
Regrets that stretch to middle-age from youth.

My candles bleed the very thing they eat;
So, life and passion drip throughout each day.
So grows the waxen ocean at my feet
Of candles spent to keep the Light at bay.

There are no shadows but the ones I’ve made
By every candle raised to tower height:
For every tower, a corresponding shade,
(Thus, for my warmth, I need each tiny light).

And I should snuff them, each and every one:
Just up and blow each wick to kill the flame,
And give the flickering shadows to the Sun,
To melt the silly “pity me’s” of blame.

But hardened wax has glued me to my place,
And I find comfort, fastened to this sea:
The comfort of my old familiar face
That burns in every candle that I see.

Which Idea Requires Greater Faith?

The Bible's Account of Jesus walking on water, or this one?

UPDATE: More at American DIgest. I know I link Gerard too much; he's right over there on the link bar, fer pete's sake, but I'm just so astonished to have beaten him to a story. Of course, he actually had something to SAY about it, whereas my post was . . . uh . . . you know . . .

[rereads actual 11-word post]

Never mind.

Woody appends:

Nifty take-down, Gerard! Rock on!

Gerard Van Der Leun: He's A Sneaky Devil

I've been away from the blogs for a few days, and that's too bad since it would have been nice to have read Gerard's parody of (or impersonation of) Borders Books' CEO Gregory Josefwicz the day it was posted.

As an employee of a similar company - Barnes & Noble - I read it with more than the usual amount of interest. Gerard makes excellent points, frankly, but the real fun is in the comments sections, both at American Digest and Little Green Footballs.

I have to admit - and you can say this stems from cowardice if you want to - that the notion that some blog-addicted yahoo (and there seem to be more then a few) would be willing to picket and/or boycott an American bookstore because its boss might refuse to put its tens of thousands of employees even theoretically in the path of rampaging, bloodthirsty islamist freakazoids seems, well, it just irks me somethin' fierce. The guys at the Jawa Report may be aching for a fatwa, but I'm not.

Anyway, if you simply MUST boycott the large chains, do it because they insist on keeping on Hunter S. Thompson in the "Current Events" section without even the tiniest bit of irony.

And also because when I have to help someone find a book by Noam Chomsky, I have to pretend I'm happy to be doing so.