Letters to Holly

Friday, September 18

Me Make With Blah-Blah

I've screwed up my back again, and I again blame the office desk. It was installed for a small person, a dainty person. I am neither, and now I am in pain. I've switched chairs again from ergonomic to traditional. I know this routine: The pain will linger for a week or so, and I'll grit through it and avoid pain pills. It's almost a fall tradition. Maybe it's temperature related.

Someone at Your Sister's school thought it would be a great idea to have the drama kids act out a play in the library. I couldn't even talk in a normal voice in my school libraries. Civilization is crumbling. Obama is to blame. I bet he whammied my back too.

Your Sister's classroom bookshelves are stocked to provide a variety of literature for the kids. One book is Enemy at Home, an infamous screed against the "cultural left" by a Westerner raised in a Muslim family. The author's claim is that the West exports secular liberalism to an Eastern culture that can't abide it. This is why we were attacked on 9/11:Al Qaeda was defending the Muslim culture. I knew of this book. It's one of a hundred of rants blaming someone else for 9/11.

This one lumps all the alleged bad guys together. He says the left is working to the same ends as Al Qaeda and cites such inflammatory practices as homosexuality, abortion, and feminism. Then he starts to lump in "working women," and one realizes he's not protecting the sanctity of Muslim dogma, he wants to rewind the hourglass back to global patriarchies. 9/11, he's saying, is a high-tide buoy signaling the world has gone too far afield.

Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said the same thing when we were attacked. It was the feminists and secularists and abortionists that brought this upon us. I tend to blame the people who actually planned and attacked us, but then I'm not using end-times rhetoric to make a buck. The same babble comes from those claiming 9/11 was an inside job. The allure of imagined conspiracy blunts the horror of a real-life conspiracy. It's pathetic.

Your Sister defends the book's presence in her classroom. The kids need a spectrum of perspectives. They need to build critical muscles to agree or denounce such material. I agree. And I agree, of course, that he has the right to peddle his wares, hokey as they may be. But a muckraking huckster is still a muckraking huckster. The book ends with an Enemies List of the people he claims made 9/11 happen with their comments and actions. If you're pinning the deaths of 3,000 people on Rosie O'Donnell and rationalizing the schemes of Bin Laden, you are wearing crackpot undies. You've lost your way.

I'll read the book, as I promised Your Sister I would. She thought my initial comments were unwarranted. I say no salient examination of moderate Muslim indignation can rationalize 9/11. So far, I'm not reading anything to change my mind.

Moving Picture of the Day
Here's the Wednesday concert's best moment.

Thursday, September 17


According to the Census Bureau the midwest stretches from North Dakota to Iowa to Michigan. Fuck. I owned up to it on the drive to Greenville last night. I confessed I will not look up its definition of Texas; I didn't want to lose two battles in one day.

I got home a little early, and, we zipped down the mountain to see Springsteen. We batted around ideas for your t-shirt, and I'll send you sketches this weekend. They aren't finalized notions, but they can spark brainstorming. I saw the seating chart for our tickets yesterday, and they were almost behind the stage near the roof. When we handed them to the last ticket checker, he took them and upgraded us to dead center. No one sat in our original section, and they squished the audience together to face the stage. We found ourselves sitting in the row of people who won tickets from local media outlets. The woman on my right just got her tickets a few hours earlier.

All I knew about Springsteen shows was that they are long and they are religious experiences. I'm not a big fan. Your Sis loves roots rockers like Bruce and Fogerty and Mellancamp. I know some of his songs and suffered through dily play on the classic rock station during my alt-weekly paper days. I suspect DJs play Born to Run when they need a bathroom break.

This was transcendent. We were buffeted by the music for three hours. They took the stage at 8:17 and left the stage at 11:07. They did not stop. There was no intermission. The encore has more than half an hour. Bruce accepts requests from the audience on handmade signs, and the band played the Stones' Satisfaction for what they claimed was the first time ever. It was the best version I've heard. In fact, every song last night was my favorite song. That band brings the gospel of rock and roll. It's a tent-revival meeting with 15,000 people screaming for three hours. I am beat up. Not as badly as I was after Nine Inch Nails, but still. I knew much more of his songs than I thought and sang as loudly as my lungs would let me. Your Sister couldn't stop smiling the entire time.

We drove back home up the mountain forests listening to the remastered Beatles tracks, and they are a revelation. The music has more character. It breathes more. I'm hearing pieces of music cut off on my original CDs. A Day in the Life, for example, has a weird Number 9-like coda. Paul's vocal range is clearer, and Ringo's drumming gets a lot of love here. This is worth the money. I suggest Abbey Road above all the others.

Starbucks got us down the mountain. Pepsi got us back up the mountain. Caffeine is proof Odin loves us.

Picture of the Day
My new hunting trophy.

Wednesday, September 16

Here's Why She's Wrong

One of our longest lived arguments concerns the direction of Texas. She says southwest. I say south. She considers culture, and I only consider geography. If you put a compass on a map of the U.S., dead South is Texas. It's smack in the middle of the bottom of the country. It's the epitome of south. Is it The South as in Civil War? No. But neither is it southwest, as it has two large states and half another to its left, very much west of it. This has gone on for years.

It happened again last night watching Jeopardy. A clue identified Detroit as a mid-west city. I said this was a bad clue as Detroit is better stated a northern city. She wouldn't have it. It's a plains state, she argued. It's over Ohio, she argued. It's squarely a mid-west state. I countered that more than half the country is to its west, and it's east of the Mississippi. More important, it's over 80% of the contiguous states. To go to Detroit, everyone has to go northward. It's north as north can be. It's over all of North Carolina and half of North Dakota. (Thank God she didn't remember it's to the left of West Virginia). She pulled out a map. Much pointing to states ensued ("St. Louis is the gateway to the west." "Do you think Kansas is a western state?"). She agreed to disagree, and I agreed that she's wrong. And then we ate ice cream in the ancient Viking peace-accord tradition.

Tonight we see Springsteen live, and, judging by the seating chart, we'll be lucky to see his face three times. We're sitting in the back corner, probably staring at the tushes of the horn section. But, hey, it's Springsteen. And we can imagine everyone else is shouting for us. Your Sister is vibrating with glee.

Picture of the Day
How to read an Aztec calendar.

Tuesday, September 15

A Slim Offering

A late night at work for Your Sister allowed me to watch some football and draw today's Sketchtember artwork. A senior asked her about the possibility of me mentoring his project: an original comic book. Yes, I think I can help. Hello, caller. I'm Dr. Gregory, and I'm listening.

I'm working on ideas for your t-shirt, and I can give you sketches after the weekend. I don't consider any of them home runs, and we'll need to noodle this through.

NFL Week One: I Prematurely Claim Supremacy!
Her Teams (boo!)
New England (1-0)
Pittsburgh (1-0)

St. Louis (0-1)
New York Giants (1-0)

My Teams (yea!)
New England (1-0)
Pittsburgh (1-0)

Philadelphia (1-0)
Atlanta (1-0)

I'm also tied for second in my online fantasy league. I'm not juggling a fantasy roster. I'm picking which teams I think will win each week.

The theatre script committee suggested Glass Menagerie for a drama for next season, and it struck a nerve. The argument now is that it won't bring in audiences. It does, however, fit the criteria of a simple-set, small-cast production with name recognition. There's one actress who is dying to play the mother, but good luck finding the two young male actors.

I hear you now: I thought you were through with this bunch? All I'm doing is emailing to other committee members. It's a passive contribution.

Picture of the Day
Beware the Kitchen Sarlaac.

Monday, September 14

We're All Booked Up

I didn't realize how tired I was until I got home. I could do nothing but lazily anticipate the embrace of the bed. Your Sister may have snuck some ill-conceived notions by me, and I agreed to them in my goofy haze.

The cabinets look sharp. We spent Saturday morning organizing and shelving virtually every book we own. It took hours. The installation company are not my favorite people. First they lie about the agreement with Your Sister to work unsupervised. Then they cut a shelving unit to the wrong size. Then they try to install the wrong sliding drawer pieces and inform us the real ones are on back order. There's no telling when the shelves will be finished. I hope they enjoy not getting paid until then. Otherwise we're tickled with the shelves. They smell great, they look great, and there's room for a library ladder.

Your Sister did much schoolwork, and I mowed the jungle outside the house. The garden corn is on the wane, but the tomatoes and jalapenos will not stop. The new mailbox is still standing, and that's a daily victory.

Picture of the Day
Fringe comes back very soon, and we are thrilled. The entire first season built toward a major plot turn in its last episode, and the new season can go in many directions. I love the potential.