Sunday, August 31, 2008

"The Three Robbers"

The French classic The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer is one of the best children's books I've ever read. It's the story of three highwaymen who rob carriages by night. They "terrified everyone. Women fainted. Brave men ran. Dogs fled."

Like all the best fairy tales, The Three Robbers is scary and a little politically incorrect. But this one comes to an unexpected happy end. One "bitter black night," the Robbers stopped a carriage that had only one passenger, an orphan girl named Tiffany, who was on her way to live with a "wicked aunt." "Since there was no treasure [to steal] but Tiffany," they carried her away to their hideout. In the morning, though, she asked them one simple question that changed everything.

Originally written in French, The Three Robbers has been out of print in English for years, but a new edition is coming out this year. Or, you may be able to find an older copy at your public library, like I did. I highly recommend it.

It was also made into an animated short in 1972. All the narration is straight out of the book. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What John McCain's VP pick tells us about him

Not to put too fine a point on it, it tells us that when John McCain said that his top criterion in choosing a vice president would be finding the person most qualified to step in and assume the presidency, he was lying. Not only is Sarah Palin not the "most qualified" person, she's not even the most qualified female Republican governor. Jodi Rell is more qualified. So, for that matter, is Senator Kay Baily Hutchison. So are Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and even Mike Huckabee. So are at least a couple dozen other Republicans.

But this is nothing new. There may have been some truth to John McCain's independent, "maverick" image back in 2000. I liked him back then. If he'd been the Republican nominee, I might even have voted for him. I would have seriously considered it.

But the "Straight Talk Express" derailed a long time ago. At some point, McCain realized that he couldn't get nominated without pandering to the Republican base. Since then, he'll say anything to get elected. Thus, his endless flip-flops. Thus his passing over much more qualified but arguably less electable candidates to make a desperation reach for someone whose only experience is less than two years of governing a state with a population smaller than 19 American cities. Thus his choice, IOW, of the person that he hopes will be best for his campaign, not someone that he thinks would be best for America.

"Country First"? No. "Elect Me First." That's who John McCain is now. And it's all the sadder because of who he once was.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Passing the sacrament

Young Rastafarians pass their sacrament.


For Rastas, smoking cannabis, usually known as healing of the nation, ganja, or herb... is a spiritual act, often accompanied by Bible study; they consider it a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness, facilitates peacefulness, brings pleasure, and brings them closer to Jah [God]. The burning of the herb is often said to be essential "for it will sting in the hearts of those that promote and perform evil and wrongs." (h/t: Weird Universe)


Responsible citizen or big meanie?

My spouse, H, was in a fender-bender yesterday. She was stopped at a stoplight, and all of a sudden the guy in front of her backed up to make room for someone to pull out of a driveway, and WHAM! He backed right into her. At a stoplight. FFS.

He smashed the front-left turn signal light, dented the bumper, and pushed it in a couple of inches.
When he got out of his car, he said he had no insurance and no license (or it was suspended, or something). He said he didn't have any ID, but he did show H a paycheck (which was for only $251) with his name and work name on it. He gave her his work number. He said he'd be there during the day.

He said he would pay for everything, but please don't call the police or our insurance company. He said his life would be ruined if he got caught driving with no insurance or license. He also said he was already late for a really important appointment.

H is a very nice person. She didn't want to ruin the guy's life. So she said OK, and let him drive away.

Last night, I googled the guy and the place where he says he works. I found a picture of him, and H confirmed that at least he is who he said he was. This morning, I got a couple estimates for fixing the car. The whole bumper needs to be replaced. The cheaper estimate was $505.55.

I doubt the guy could pay that much (since he apparently only makes $251 a week and can't keep his life together enough to hang onto his driver's license), but I called his work anyway. I called at 11:30, 2:00, 3:30, and 4:00. No answer; no answering machine. It's a bar & grill, so maybe nobody's usually there during the day, but he said he would be. He didn't give H a home or cell number. He didn't bother to get H's phone number either, so he can't call us. (He obviously has no sense at all. I mean, if the ruination or non-rumination of your life depended on the kindness of a stranger, wouldn't you at least get her phone number?)

So I gave up. He caused the accident, yet we're going through this trouble, getting estimates, worrying "Is he gonna pay; is he not gonna pay." I didn't want to wait any longer; it had already been more than 24 hours since the accident. So we called the insurance company and reported the whole thing. We didn't mention that the guy has no license, but we did tell them that he has no insurance, which is a crime, and gave them what little information we have on him.

So I guess maybe his life is on the way to ruination. And I feel a little sorry about that, even though I don't know him. See, if you put it to me that way, I wouldn't ruin a guy's life for $505.55. It's a significant amount of money relative to our income, but it's not life-changing or anything. The damage isn't really that bad either. The car is perfectly drivable. If I did that much damage myself -- like, if I ran into a tree or something -- I probably wouldn't report it, to keep my insurance from going up. I'd replace the turn signal light myself and live with the dent and the pushed-in bumper.

OTOH, doing nothing could end up costing us more money down the road. The car's only worth about $1,200 max, so leaving it damaged would destroy what little resale value it has left, plus it could make it hard to get future insurance claims filled. Last time somebody hit it, it cost way more to fix than the insurance company would pay. Preexisting damage would just make that more likely. And we really like the car. It serves us well, and gets killer gas mileage. (On the last long drive I took, about 370 miles, it only used 11 gallons. And that was mostly at around 80 mph.)

Not only that, the guy is kind of a menace on the roads. He backed into somebody at stoplight, for crying out loud. And that's after he already did whatever he did to lose his license. Plus, he should have been riding a bus or a bike anyway. We have a good bus system -- both the street he was on and the street where his work is are right on bus lines -- and bike lanes everywhere. Our city is always ranked in the top 5 or 10 in the country in bike-friendliness.

I'm not really sure what I think right now. I don't like screwing somebody over (in a way) for something that isn't actually that important. OTOH, I don't want to be taken advantage of either. And maybe I really am being a responsible citizen by ignoring the guy's needs and taking care of my own business. Or maybe I'm just mean. What do you think?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ten cheesy love songs better than "Just the Way You Are"

Some people love Billy Joel. I don't. Out of my 10,459 MP3s, I have zero songs by Billy Joel, and I like it that way. I'm not quite a hater, though. I don't hate his music, I just have no desire to ever listen to it.

But try telling that to a Billy Joel fan. They'll go on and on about how great he is, and his songs are so great, and blah-blah-blah. And they always bring up "Just the Way You Are" as one of his "great" songs.

But that's where I pounce. I say, "It's just an OK cheesy love song. First of all, the song is insulting. "I don't want clever conversation.' What kind of thing is that to say to someone? 'I like your dull conversation just fine.' Yeah, any woman would love to hear that. And B, I can name 10 cheesy love songs better than 'Just the Way You Are' right off the top of my head."

So here they are, 10 cheesy love songs better than "Just the Way You Are":

1. Annie's Song -- John Denver

2. Your Song -- Elton John

3. You're in My Heart -- Rod Stewart

4. Cherish -- The Association

5. Wouldn't It Be Nice -- The Beach Boys

6. Take My Breath Away -- Berlin

7. If You Could read My Mind -- Gordon Lightfoot

8. Three Times a Lady -- The Commodores

9. Tonight's the Night -- Rod Stewart

10. Sara Smile -- Hall & Oates

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why I could never be a political reporter

I could never be a political reporter because I would fall down laughing at some of the things politicians say, and that would be rude. For example, if I were to hear Condoleezza Rice say,

Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.

and John McCain say,

In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.

I would laugh in their faces.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday I'm in Love...

...with Harry Egipt. Egipt was a filmmaker who made a number of commercials for Estonian television during the Soviet era. He was pure genius.

In this ad for Pinguin ice cream, for example, he captures all the wholesome goodness of ice cream. Yum!

Extruded meat, hot Estonian girls, terrified chickens, and boiling lard, backed by horror film music and an echoing chant of the product's name. I'm hungry.

Cleanser, car wax, paint, lipstick -- hey, they're all chemicals, right? It's comforting to know that they all come from the same place.

I'm beginning to sense a theme running through his work. But it wasn't all about sex.

OK, maybe I spoke a little too soon. But Estonia certainly seems like it would be a nice place to visit.