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amy ryan

I don't think this contains any spoilers ... it's been known since she joined the show that Amy Ryan was visiting The Office for a limited time. But, now that her final (?) episode has aired, I already miss her. How good is she? She turns up on a show that is working just fine without her, is in fact a highlight of the viewing week. It's a comedy, and I'm sure Amy Ryan has done comedy before, but I know her for The Wire and Gone Baby Gone, neither of which give any particular clues as to how she'd work in a comic setting. But I swear, she has been absolutely perfect. And there's something about her skills, her willingness to throw herself into goofiness, and, I suspect, the fact that she is a woman ... sometimes she's emulating Michael, and it's one of those things where when he does it it's irritating, but Amy Ryan does it and you want to pinch her cheeks with joy.

another day, another wall

This is that same "wall behind the computer" that I showed yesterday. They've been busy:

more wall behind computer

For those who have been here, that's the fucked-up window, and next to it, what remains of The Wall That Used to Be Behind the Computer.

And now it's the weekend, so no more pix for a few days. I'll add that the wood you see in these pictures is, as far as we can tell, the original wood that was in place when this house was built a hundred or so years ago.

studs terkel

Studs Terkel is on a very short list of people who taught me how to write. Not that he knew this ... it's not like we ever met. But I found his many oral histories to be fascinating, for the way he was able to put a person's words on a page in such a way that each one of those people had their distinct personality. It's not as easy as Studs made it look, I assure you. He managed to do this while simultaneously staying out of the way, and giving us a peek at Studs ... you never read a Studs Terkel oral history without hearing his voice behind the questions.

When I say he taught me how to write, I don't mean in any specific sense. In fact, the one time I tried to imitate him in public, I got shot down. I interviewed two local disc jockeys and wrote up the interviews for a music magazine. I did this in the style of Studs: set the stage, then let the person talk, with few questions inserted to break the spell. My piece was not only rejected, but I was shamed by the editor, who asked if I'd ever read an interview before. I was hurt, but I was also thinking it odd that a person could be an editor of a magazine and not understand the Studs Terkel style.

The book of his that had the biggest impact on me was Working, because it came during my decade as a steelworker, and I loved that someone cared enough about us to put us in a book. (We had a friend at the time who was doing her master's thesis on alienation in the workplace, and she had a billion books to read, including Studs' ... I invited her to come down to the factory to talk to some actual blue-collar gents and ladies, but she said she had too many books to catch up on.)

One of my favorite memories of Studs Terkel has long been his participation in an early-70s TV series, The Great American Dream Machine. In the midst of comic satire by the likes of Albert Brooks, Marshall Efron, and Chevy Chase was a segment that consisted of Studs Terkel in a Chicago bar, sitting around with regular folks drinking beer and jabbering. I have no idea how "real" it was, in a staged/live sense ... for all I know, it was actors in a studio. Studs made me believe, which is what mattered.

That was one of his greatest gifts, I think: he made you believe in the crucial importance of every person he interviewed, rich or poor, famous or obscure. That, and the part where he was an unreconstructed radical leftist until the day he died. Which he did, today, at the age of 96. I can think of no life more worth emulating.

1968: october 31

On this date 40 years ago, President Johnson announced that he would stop all bombing of North Vietnam. This decision was tied to new peace talks with Hanoi. Operation Rolling Thunder, the name given to the Americans' bombing campaign, had lasted for 3 1/2 years. Wikipedia tells us that "Estimates of civilian deaths caused by American bombing in operation Rolling Thunder range from 52,000 to 182,000." Whatever the objectives of the campaign (and they were varied, changing, and often unclear), it is considered to have been a failure.

Near the end of Johnson's speech, which came just before the 1968 election, he stated:

I do not know who will be inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States next January. But I do know that I shall do all that I can in the next few months to try to lighten his burdens as the contributions of the Presidents who preceded me have greatly lightened mine. I shall do everything in my power to move us toward the peace that the new President--as well as this President and, I believe, every other American--so deeply and urgently desires.

friday random ten, 2000 edition

1. Baha Men, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Stupid, annoying, omnipresent ... I admit I liked it because they played it at the Giants games that year, the first at the new park, when they were winning games and having fun.

2. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, "I Scare Myself." Dan's been playing this song for 40 years. I read the lyrics at my wedding ... that was my "statement." In 2000, it showed up on Beatin' the Heat.

3. OutKast, "So Fresh, So Clean." Stankonia finished atop the Pazz & Jop poll. The artists behind the previous seven winners: Liz Phair, Hole, PJ Harvey, Beck, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, and Moby.

4. Pink, "You Make Me Sick." Her first album sold 5,000,000 worldwide.

5. Madonna, "Don't Tell Me." Her eighth studio album sold more than twice as many copies as Pink's debut. Pink has made better records over the course of the 21st century.

6. Rage Against the Machine, "The Ghost of Tom Joad." The video, of Tom Morello guesting with Bruce and the E Street Band, is the definition of incendiary.

7. Afroman, "Because I Got High." Stupid, annoying, but not as omnipresent as the Baha Men ... and, to be fair, a lot funnier, to my ears at least.

8. Sleater-Kinney, "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun." What was in the water in 2000? Even Sleater-Kinney made a fun track.

9. Kronos Quartet, "Winter: Lux Aeterna." From the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, this Clint Mansell instant classic has been recorded by a zillion artists in a zillion versions. It makes great music for advertisements, it invites every amateur to create their own YouTube video ... even Mansell remade it more than once. It's worth it.

10. Bruce Springsteen, "Land of Hope and Dreams." Don't forget to vote next Tuesday. Say Amen, Somebody!

Bonus track ... this has nothing to do with anything, but the 2000 pickings at the Vault were slim:

no on 8

There isn't much meat to this post. I haven't said much about Proposition 8, aka We Hate Queers, because 1) I assume my position is obvious, and 2) I don't trust myself to say the right things. I like to think of myself as someone who relies on reason and logic when considering important issues, but a part of me always wants to explode with invective. It doesn't happen as much in the post-meds era ... I used to be good for three or four super-rants a year, but no more.

I understand that the best way to combat mindless bigotry is with intelligent responses. If I were to say what I really thought of the pro-Prop 8 crowd, I'd do more harm than good. So I've tried to keep my mouth shut. But there are only a few days until we vote on this crucial issue, and I need to put myself on the side of justice and morality. So I'll note that I am voting No on 8, and I strongly encourage all California voters to do the same.

And, with apologies to those who have worked so hard against this vile proposition, let me just add that anyone who would even consider voting Yes on 8 is a pigheaded, homophobic creep. I'm not one for praying ... to be honest, the existence of fucking dickheads like the Yes on 8 morons is evidence enough that God either doesn't exist or is a fucking dickhead him/her/itself. But if I prayed, I'd pray that Proposition 8 goes down to defeat. But here's the thing: you can't stop history. Eventually, same-sex marriage will be lawful everywhere, and eventually no one will give a shit about same-sex marriage except for a few loony fundamentalists. This is, in fact, why the Yes on 8 campaign is so desperate ... they know the world is changing, and they don't like it. Well, get out of the way, dickheads, because the world is changing whether you like it or not, if not next Tuesday, then on some Tuesday in the future. Your close-minded beliefs are going the way of the dinosaur.

51 years and counting

Now that baseball season is over, and people are happy for Philly fans because their team hadn't won the Series since way back in 1980, I can present the following information. Here is a list of teams that have never won a World Series (the Phillies have won two). I define "teams" not as franchises ... I don't consider the pre-1961 records of the Washington Senators to be part of the history of the team known as the Minnesota Twins ... but rather as sporting institutions which have been supported by local fans. I doubt there are many people in the Twin Cities who take pride in the Senators' 1924 World Series championship. Anyway, here are the existing teams, as defined by local fan base, that have never won a World Series ... I don't think I've missed anyone, have I?

San Diego
San Francisco
Tampa Bay

As you might expect, these are teams that were either post-1960 expansion teams, or teams which moved from their original homes. So Milwaukee used to be Seattle and Minnesota used to be Washington and Texas used to be Washington and Washington used to be Montreal. And San Francisco used to be New York. The New York Giants were a storied franchise, and I suppose many fans think of the history of the New York Giants to be a part of the history of the San Francisco Giants ... the current owners certainly have no problem milking the New York history whenever they see a few dollars on the horizon. But I don't think I am the only San Francisco Giants fan who does not take special pride in the exploits of the New York team, any more than those Twins fans care about what Washington did in the 1920s. What Carl Hubbell did for New York is no more "mine" than what Dizzy Dean did for St. Louis.

What am I heading towards with this seemingly pointless post? The above list is alphabetical ... let me order the 9 teams in a different way. See if you can guess how I am sorting them:

San Francisco
San Diego
Tampa Bay

I'll save you the trouble of figuring out the sort order. This time, the teams are listed by how long they have existed in their current cities. Call it the Fan Suffering Index. Fans of the Washington Nationals have "enjoyed" 4 seasons of watching their team not win the World Series ... fans of Colorado have endured 16 non-championship season ... Houston followers have suffered through 47 seasons of baseball without their team winning the Series even once. The team that joined MLB at the same time as Houston, the New York Mets, have won two World Series over that period.

San Francisco Giants fans have gone 51 seasons and counting without their team winning the World Series. That's a lot of Fan Suffering.

There are a couple of teams that have gone more than 51 years without a title, most famously the Chicago Cubs, who last won the Series in 1908. That's a lot of suffering, too. But somewhere out there is a 105-year-old Cub fan who can still recall what it was like when the Cubs won it all.

There are no San Francisco Giants fans with that memory, because their team has NEVER won it all. No fans in baseball today have a longer zero-title streak than Giants fans.

Which is why I can't get too teary-eyed for all of those Philly fans who waited all of 28 years for a Series title. Their second.

it's getting dusty around here

It's time to face facts: it's really dusty around here these days. Those of you who I ask to come over and watch the big screen, you might consider that and then say "thanks, but I have to sort my sock drawer."

A lot of this stuff looks the same anymore, but as more gets torn up, I try to give you some perspective ... although I know it makes more sense if you've seen what it looked like before.

This is me standing in the old computer room/new sewing room, looking towards the bathroom (to the right) and ... well, there used to be a closet to the left, but as you can see, the closet is gone, as is the wall that surrounded it. To the left and back, you can see through to what used to be the bedroom, and will eventually be a walk-in closet. The new bathroom will eventually extend all the way to that wall on the left, and as far in the direction of where I'm standing to that post over on the left.

towards the bedroom

This is taken from the other side ... from the bedroom, that is, looking back towards where the above picture was taken. Now the bathroom is on the left, of course. The wall has had some work done, as you can see. To the right is the part of the wall that used to separate the bedroom from the stairs to the basement, which will soon be gone forever.

bedroom-bathroom wall