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2006feb03. I saw a car slowly tooling around a parking lot just now, and the only sticker on the car made me realize it was also the best band name ever: “STUDENT DRIVER.” According to my anemic search-engine use, there was a band with that name in 2003. Religious? Oui. From Kansas? Oui.

2006feb04. Doctor Cliff will be checking in from time to time with updates from New Orleans. Like this.

There are a few questions which are always asked, the first time you see a friend since the storm (nobody says “Katrina” except amidst a colorful string of profanity).

The opener is always “Where ya been?” which will get you some freaky tale of cross-country evacuation, or an even freakier tale of not evacuating. Then it’s down to business-

1. “How IS everybody?”
This is a thinly-veiled invitation to tell me who you know that died.

2. “Where ya stayin’ at?”
The subtle presumption is that your former home is fucked. Answers range from ‘my house’ to ‘my truck’ to ‘mario’s couch.’ Housing is a strange bird here. There are not enough safe places to live right now.

3. “How’s ya house?”
And there’s an established format for your answer: water damage first, then wind damage, then any 'special’ fuckage, then your prognosis. So my answer would be “2 feet a water inside, lost a little bit of roof, garage is destroyed, 2 cars in the driveway went under. I’m buildin’ it back.”

4. “How you holdin’ up?”
This one is mostly ’are you still married etc’ but can also include answers from the whimsical to the overtly suicidal. Be ready to clink beer bottles or buy fresh beers at this point. This one’s just a courtesy question since you know how someone’s holding up the second you see them. I have a lot of friends who look 10-15 years older than they did in August.

5. “Were you insured?”
Do NOT ask this question unless you’re in a bar, and you’ve got some time on your hands. There is no “yes” or “no” for this one. Get ready for some long, painful answers that will demand your undivided attention. the answer may not even be about insurance but maybe FEMA or SBA or the latest bitch-slap we got from DC. Find a cue to interject “geezus” or “fuck” and buy a round of drinks immediately. This is really THE question, more important than ’who died’ or anything else. Dead people are no longer issues- they’re dead and we’re still here. insurance companies, FEMA, SBA, these people are writing checks for the future of the whole fucking city. so this is the big one, the real reason you’re going through this whole silly dance in the first place.

2006feb04. Babs: Focus Group unfocusing. I got to do this once with a classic rock station focus group, but nowhere near as perfect as this. I love that they were desperate enough to try to influence the focus group with an audiotape of an actor. Too cheap for video, apparently.

2006feb04. For some reason Walk the Line really hit a sweet spot inside me. I saw it twice, both times in theatres with couches instead of seats [1 2], one time eating pizza. Perhaps that is the reason. Probably not.

2006feb05. Around six years ago, one of my friends told me an amazing fantastical story about watching live TV coverage of a casino bombing. “You are pulling my leg with the pulling,” I said. Every year or so I would check “online” for any information about this supposed event, and finally little things started trickling in, including a reference to a “Inside The FBI” TV episode devoted to the bombing that I’ve never seen, and a white-washed government report (“everything went according to plan! hooray for our side!”). I just found a ginormous eight-part article on the bombing in the Reno Gazette Journal.

Introduction: Render Safe
Day 1: Special delivery for Harvey Gross
Day 2: A stern warning: “It is full of TNT"
Day 3: From hard-earned riches to blackjack tables"
Day 4: ‘We never expected them to get the bomb inside the casino’
Day 5: The payoff: ‘There will be no extension or renegotiation’
Day 6: The bungled extortion: A cold night in a forest full of bees
Day 7: In a deserted casino, bomb experts flip the Switch
Day 8: Once the charge was set, there was no going back

Finally, for dessert, bringing it all back to my friend’s original assertion: news footage of the bombing. I spent a long time deriving sneaky ways to get to the proper articles no thanks to the RGJ’s horrendous website until I ran across this site which did all the ponderous heavy lifting.

The only part of the story that confuses me is this. How exactly do two people move a bomb into a casino without knowing it’s a bomb, yet the bomb was so sensitive that it had mercury levels in it? They set it down and left and the bomb primed itself? What?

2006feb05. Tupperware: Bulletproof? [via obscure store]

2006feb10. Flickr: National Gallery (mind-bending version).

2006feb12. I so thoroughly enjoyed Gene Weingarten’s article about The Great Zucchini (remember? see jan 28, below) that I went and fished out two offerings from the unrelated Jeffrey Steingarten: The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must Have Been Something I Ate out from the local book river. These are excellent chunks of writing – no matter where you are, gastronomically, he’ll ratchet you up a few notches. There are recipes, trivia, food excursions to various “other” countries, and the methodical scientifical Alton Brownical way of looking at food that the rapidly shrinking logical part of my brain enjoys so. There are two recurring tiny annoying motes peppered throughout the books – the ”wow, I’m not being paid well” old saw and the “I had an underling do something and they didn’t do it right” old saw. Then I started digging around, found out he’s a food columnist for Vogue and wait a minute ... he’s that guy on Iron Chef??? Hrm. His appearances on The IC don’t really match his writing, but writers are wack-a-moles anyway. [review]

2006feb12. Mail.

Confused! Jeffrey Steingarten (the food guy)? Or Gene Weingarten (the guy who wrote about the Great Zucchini?) Are they the same? Or ... different?

Different. I am making connections where none exist for some confusing reason. Disregard this tenuous non-linkage between two people who are not the same people at all.

2006feb14. Dr. Brody Culpepper weighs in on our Recent National Distraction, VP Cheney shootin’ up some lawyer food:

Whether Cheney will be convicted of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, a bone-fide accident, or a simple dust-up among good ol’ boys depends on three things: gauge of the shotgun, size of the shot, and distance from target (and oh yeah, what organ is hit).

First, the gauge, or width of the bore (barrel opening) is an olde-type system of imperial (non-metric) measurements. But as these archaic systems go, the make little sense, so the larger the gauge number, the narrower the bore. If indeed Cheney was using a 28 gauge shotgun, that would make it a bore diameter of 0.55 of an inch, rather than a larger 0.729 of an inch for a 12 gauge shotgun. Hence, if you need something for ‘home defense’, a 12 ga. will pack more punch, and you’ll also understand why the even bigger 10 ga. is called “The Roadblocker” in hillbilly sheriff parlance, and why 8 ga. shotguns are now illegal in the US. More importantly, the size of the gauge determines the width of the shotgun shell itself, so a narrower gague bore means a narrower shell, and a narrower shell contains less powder. This translates into less bang for the buck, literally. So, if Cheney wanted to snuff somebody, a 28 gauge isn’t the best tool for the job, but maybe that’s his modus operandi.

Next is shot size. This means the size of the pellets – or shot – that is blasted from the gun. A larger shot size means a smaller size pellet, but the more pellets that can fit into a shell. So a typical shot for quail is 7-1/2 or 8, rabbits would be about a 6 or 7, coyotes would need about a 2, and for deer would be a 00 (standard) which amount to about 3 large lead balls for each shell, and a single slug (illegal for hunting in most states) would be used to disable a police car (thank god that’s still legal, even with the steel-core lead slugs with the titanium tip). It’s important to remember that the smaller shot have less mass, and hence less velocity, and so travel shorter distances with less impact. Coupled with a smaller gauge, quail shot from a 28 gauge wouldn’t be a good tool to kill a Texas lawyer, and by 30 yards, the impact of the quail shot would cause wide but superficial damage to skin and subdermal tissues. It reminds me of a Rockford Files episode where a similar incident (that time it was meant to kill ol’ Jim) at a great distance equaled a painful 45 minute stay in an emergency room to have tweezers remove the pellets from just below the skin and the superficial gluteal muscles.

Lastly – the organ in question. Even a light graze from a 28 ga. in the face over 30 yards would be unpleasant, and except for permanent injury to the eyes, wouldn’t cause death. So, Cheney was not trying to cap some judicial ass. However, it’s likely that he was drunk to be popping a judge as a ‘mistake’. Having been in similar situations using low-gauge shotguns with several people in the area (for science, mind you), there are simple ways to keep your target-zone in safe control, so there was a serious break-down in safety protocol. That equals one VP who either doesn’t know what the fuck he is doing (unlikely), or is drunk with some redneck buddies in the sticks and loses control of his senses (likely).

As for the quail, the use of pen-reared quail to be released for shooting purposes is not uncommon. It is called a “canned hunt,” meaning that captive game are quite naive and are easy to shoot and ups the bag limits (and being captive-bred, there is no bag limit, whereas there is one for actual wild quail). The hicks that hunt this way aren’t into hunting for the skill, focus, and appreciation of the animal (as most ‘real’ hunters are), but merely want to shoot the shit out as many critters as they can, with a good BBQ payoff at the end. It’s like comparing seasoned fly fishermen to those cement-pond “no-limit” trout farms in the desert where you can catch 20 starved rainbows in an hour for two bucks each with your $7.99 Zebco pole & reel combo.

2006feb17. The people of America reach out to New Orleans.

2006feb20. Phoneswarm: A new payphone.

2006feb21. Ran into these within minutes of each other.

“She was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about mental illness [ ... ] the most important thing she felt she ever did in her life was bust open depression.” ”Vivian often used her humor to get her points across. At every question and answer session, some patient would inevitably ask Vivian, ‘my mother, (father, relative, or friend) says I wouldn’t be here if only I helped myself. What should I say to them?’ Vivian’s reply: ‘Tell them to go fuck themselves.’”

The Other Side of Ethel Mertz: The Life Story of Vivan Vance

“Where Woody, impulsive and mischievous, always believed in me no matter what, Rick didn’t seem to have the same confidence. I suspect where that came from. After all, I was not only going to be the second woman ever to host her own variety talk show, I would be the first black woman to do that. Somehow, it seemed, even before Mr. Rosner had met me, he assumed on that basis that I might not have the proper polish to be able to handle it [ ... ] He was so uncomfortable, I decided to try to loosen him up and make him feel more at ease by telling him some jokes. Cute ones. Funny ones. Nothing moved him. All the people sitting at the adjacent tables were laughing hysterically. He didn’t even chuckle [ ... ] Woody got me and Rick together, telling me, ‘Rick is concerned about your language [ ... ] why don’t you let him get a chance to hear that you know how to handle yourself in front of the camera? Maybe you could give him a couple minutes of the kind of language you’ll be using on the air.’ By this point I was offended. This was a producer who was making judgements about me based on nothing [ ... ] he didn’t know my work. He hadn’t taken the time to do his homework and see any copies of shows I had guest-hosted for Johnny [Carson], any of my hundreds of radio and TV guest appearances [ ... ] I couldn’t help myself but to just stick it to Rick. ‘Well,’ I said, poker-faced, ’I was thinking of opening by saying ‘Good afternoon, motherfuckers ... ‘”

– Della Reese – Angels Along The Way

2006feb26. [Cardhouse] Grocery theme continues: Trader Joe’s FAQ. For my NYC peeps, confused and huddling outside the entrance to TJs.