Saturday, December 30, 2006

What To Do With All Those Terrible Gifts

By Charlie ParsleyHow many of us did not bother to open the tin of Danish Sugar Cookies because we gave them that very same day to our brother whom we know just LOVES Danish Sugar Cookies? Confess! How many of you noticed that what you thought were Danish Sugar Cookies were actually Gabi Butter Cookies, or, Galletas Finas? They are Mexican counterfeits! There is too much coconut in them.

This year, this author attended not just one but two complete rounds of Dirty Santa. The game itself can be enjoyable, but generally the gifts are terrible. In light of this, the author declined participation in either one, citing religious disabilities. He sat in The Balcony, behind that cut-out in the living room wall unnecessarily supported with two colonial pillars which is supposed to help make the living room look bigger. He provided Muppets-style cheers and jeers as was appropriate.

After a long, long hour of undue contemplation around poorly gift-bagged presents in the first game, the author was mildly surprised to conclude that no single gift was desired by him, nor useful in any small capacity. Had an analysis of this situation been premeditated, notes would have taken. Instead, a jovially inebriated memory will have to suffice in order to list the numerous Lame Gifts.

Gift bag full of name branded holiday candies. Wow, more candy for Christmas. Thanks! I was hoping to become diabetic this year. When Hershey’sTM wraps all those mini candies in red and green I simply cannot resist them.

A hand-crank flashlight. Yes, it might possibly be useful when my old truck breaks down in the middle of the night and I have to go find someplace where a cop won’t catch me peeing. (In Oklahoma, public urination is a sexual assault) However, a cop is sure to stop and investigate this little pale blue light meandering along the roadside. The only time I would really need a hand crank flashlight is when I am looking for my jacket underneath all the barstools at the Sidecar Bar and it is very unlikely that I will be carrying it in the back pocket of my Versace jeans at that time.

A tiny little resin plaque with an inspirational poem written on it. It hangs from a thin chain dotted with tiny colored plastic beads. Its edges are decorated with little painted pansies and metallic butterflies. Hanging from the base of this thing are four tiny metal tubes which also makes it a windchime. So many terrible things in this one gift make it something that I might really keep so I can laugh at it from time to time.

A stuffed small white bear, patterned with red hearts which makes it look like a valentine gift. It is affixed to a plastic base, so it is a decoration and not a toy. Next to the bear sits a small plastic flowerpot of daisies and a miniature gardener’s shovel. Underneath the platform of the sculpture is an On/Off switch, because it plays a highly mechanized rendition of ‘Fur Elise’. Made in China.
Please note: I am not making this up. These are actual gifts.

Hershey’s Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook. Back to the candies and sweets. This one I might consider a good gift, but I am suspicious that most of the recipes will just tell you to chop up some Hershey’s candies and add it to some sort of typical recipe. Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cheesecake makers: you are not fooling anyone.

Starbucks’ Single-Breakfast Double-Mug Gift Box. It is opened by someone who does drink coffee, but they drink Folger’s. They have never tried Starbucks coffee but they are pretty sure they won’t like it. The little packet only has enough coffee for two cups, and the two mugs to put it in are the main part of the gift. The world really does not need any more mugs. The biscotti is already broken. The plastic wrap has greasy fingerprints.

Candle-in-a-jar that smells like lavender. That gift was almost good if only I were an elderly grandmother.

Burt’s Bees Mini-Tiny Things Sampler. Maybe I can wash my butt with that mini-bottle of body wash. Everything else smells kind of weird and even the girls who smelled it agreed.

A big pan of homemade peanut brittle. Usually I give a lot of credit towards anything that is homemade, but I notice chunks of unmelted butter/margarine among the peanuts with traces of white powder. The chef has overestimated her abilities as well as our appetites.

To conclude this sad parade, the Grand Marshall of 2006 appeared at both Dirty Santa games. It is a small toy animal designed to be filled with brown jellybeans. When its back is depressed, the candy is dispensed from beneath its tail. This treasure, which my grandmother carried home, wears the winning badge of distinction: its price tag. $6.99.

What to do with items such as these? Re-gifting is a risky and obvious maneuver. Thus, the author suggests Stealth Re-Gifting, that is, within the same season. Dust-collecting holdover re-gifts are sure to deliver only denigration and regret. The best solution is to simply place these items in the garbage. Keep America strong!

As it may concern so-called unwanted liquors or spirits, there is no excuse. A red wine that might not be to one’s liking can certainly be used in the marinara sauce. To say that one does not have a taste for gin is to admit to one’s white trash upbringing. Even the half-empty bottle of whisky must be enjoyed no matter whose spittle might be swimming around in it. Alcohol sterilizes things for Pete’s sake. Turn that frown upside down and drink your Christmas present.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Congratulations to the Iraqis....

...for getting that mad murderous monkey off their back.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

The Mystical Nativity by Sandro Bottichelli (1500)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That War in Iraq

By Charles ParsleyWhat with the renewed interest in the War in Iraq, I myself have many questions about what is being said about the war and what to do about it. I'd like to hear some dialogue from the contributors at Liverputty, if we can keep a discussion from becoming an argument.

The main thing that I find very surprising about the War in Iraq are the numbers of troops that are being given. I have heard estimates that there are about 140,000 troops there now, with the possibility of sending 20,000 more. These numbers seem very low, especially when military commanders then say that they are 'stretched thin as it is', and that finding additional resources will be difficult.

How is it that the US would have difficulty sending troops someplace? Aren't we the world's military superpower, or am I mistaken? Does China have more troops on-call than we do? Surely the insurgents in Iraq cannot outnumber American troops.

Why does the US have difficulty with these wars, such as Vietnam? I am wondering, since World War Two, has the US been able to claim a clear victory in any war since? Even the war on drugs and the war on poverty and the war on christmas are being lost.

After reading through the numerous articles in Wikipedia, I discovered a few surprising things. Also, I discovered the first gratuitous vandalism I have come across in a wikipedia article: the page about George W. Bush himself. This article about GWB may be a good litmus test of the limitations of Wikipedia's open-sourceness. Can Wikipedia create an accurate and uncontested and unvandalized profile of George W? As long as the article is open to editing, surely it gets altered on an hourly basis.

Accepting these limitations in Wikipedia is what prompts my questioning. However, if Wikipedia cannot put forth reasonably accurate information with all of its contributors and references and cross-refernces, who is it that can verify 'facts' about the war?

In addition to the number of troops the US has available to utilize, I am surprised with these numbers:

The estimated expense of the Iraq War as of December 2006: 350 billion, and,

The miltary says it has lost forty percent of its equipment (ground vehicles and helicopters mostly) in Iraq, and it will take an additional 3 or 4 billion to replace it.

Should the war continue at its current pace, in a few months the military may say it has lost fifty percent of its equipment. I find this... unbelievable. Nearly half of the military's equipment has been damaged or destroyed in Iraq?

Another question which I find many others asking: Why didn't the US stop once Saddam was captured? Maybe the WMD claims were inaccurate, or maybe they were accurate but the weapons were stealthily removed. Yet it is undeniable that Hussein was captured and put on trial. Why wasn't that the victory?

I will admit that one opinion of mine has changed since the war started. At first, I was among those who thought that the invasion was mainly to secure American business interests as related to oil. Now, it seems like having access to the oil in the region is small potatoes.

However, I never expected that the Iraqis would really welcome the Americans as liberators. It seems like they really do want us to get out of there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Youngest, the Oldest and the Longest

Excuse me while I gush. Watching Rumsfeld's briefings over the last six years and watching him irritate the right people has been a tremendous source of comfort to me. We've been exceedingly blessed to have him at the helm - faults and all. I'm not sure what to think of Bob Gates yet, his hearing before the Senate was troublesome & he seems, at first glance, to be cut from the wrong cloth to head a 21st century Pentagon, yet otherwise, the jury is still out. But I have faith in President Bush - that he knows what he's doing - and as sorry as I am to see Rumsfeld go, I tend to think he may now be expendable as he's already set the main longterm changes and strategies in motion. His successor should simply continue the work that Rumsfeld started.

Be sure to check out Jed Babbin for his take as well as Tony Blankley's take on our lonely President. View Rumsfeld's Farewell Ceremony.

Farewell, Secretary Rumsfeld. Thank you for your excellent service.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Present Pernicious--or--Why I hate the History Channel (in which we find inbred cats)

By Escutcheon BlotI was waiting in my hotel rooom on one of those interminable afternoons which lie between waking up in the morning and an evening performance, when I remembered a months-old promise to Liverputty International to provide an ad hominous discourse on the execrable practice of the use of the continuous present tense in narrative fiction and historical documentaries (also mainly fictional). I call this, humbly, the Present Pernicious.

While I have always condemned this particular story-telling gimmick (at least since I first consciously encountered it in the the mid-nineties on the History Channel), its unacceptable, recent contamination of light fiction has aroused my fighting blood (we Blots are possessed of fighting blood in sanguinary need only be present for Christmas Dinner down our way to be convinced of this [we don't gather for Thanksgiving...two holidays a year would decimate our already depleted ranks]).

I had purchased, with the expressed intent of enjoyment of a light fictional nature on the Berlin-Warsaw Express, the latest effort of that here-to-fore shining ornament to the crime-writers firmament, Patricia Cornwell. I can highly recommend, incidentally, earlier novels; particularly Southern Cross and Isle of Dogs. A significant portion of the action in Isle of Dogs takes place on the very real Tangier Island in the middle of the Virginia end of the Chesapeake Bay. (On a recent day-trip to the island, I had the pleasure of escorting a European friend through the island's three or four streets. Looking at tidy homes behind prim picket fences closing off front yards full of the tombstones (and presumably graves) of honored ancestors, we began to grow disquieted by a scruffy, mangy, disreputable tortoise-shell pussycat. Wherever we went, there would appear from behind picket and bush, tombstone and overturned skiff, the scrofulous feline. It would fix us with a bilious yellow glare...and melt away. Not until we crossed a narrow footbridge spanning a lobe of marsh, only to be met by the Cat on the other side, did we realize, contrary to our initial and continuing impression that we were pursued by a sort of Cat of the Baskervilles, that we were in fact meeting several members of the same Island family. Apparently (this is supposition, of course) a London cat, partaking of the loose morals of the Restoration court, got herself in the family way before boarding the ship to Virginia, providing the only genetic stock for 350 years of Tangerian Cattery. Why a stud-cat from a mainland plantation was never introduced, history does not relate. Perhaps the high-blooded Tom's services were indeed engaged, but he balked at the idea of a 10-mile boat trip, and could not be got aboard.) Cornwell's earlier books all adhere to the normal, post-Shakespearean modern English understanding and usage of verb tenses and temporal progression in written narrative. She wrote these books in a clear, orderly and logical time sense (if a bit blood-bedecked) that is both enjoyable and profitable to the delighted reader.

However, this new book, which I eagerly opened after having dealt with the Polish border guards (they board the train in the eastern German city of Frankfurt an der Oder...not to be confused with the much better known Frankfurt am Main, the former being less interesting to a staggering degree), expecting to only occasionally glance at the pleasant, but uninspiring scenery of the Polish bit of the Great Northern European Plain, was different.

I was unpleasantly startled to encounter on the first page a banal sequence of 'he says.., she says..., he is..., she is..., it is...'etc.; excrescences of the Pernicious School! I thought, shaken but initially confident, that it was merely a typesetter's error. I bravely soldiered on. On page 15, or so, burdened by a growing sense of incredulity and horror, I abandoned the story (such as it was), frantically flipping forward through the body of the book. All, all, all in the Present Pernicious! Feeling rather like King Alfred at the defeat of the other Saxon Kingdoms by the marauding Dane, I tossed the book aside and abandoned myself to 6 hours of moodily staring at the darkening landscape. Moody staring, as a pastime, has, at best, a 2 hour life-span---but I had naught else to read. Which, of course, made me moodier. Arrival in Warsaw's cavernous, if slightly tasteless Central Station, alleviated my boredom. My mood of bitter disappointment and disillusionment, on the other hand, lingered for several days, partially robbing me of that sweetness of disposition and urbane wit which my friends have come to expect of me...when I go a-visiting.

What is this vogue for an ever present...well...Present? The English language is blessed beyond most languages in the subtlety and variety of its verb tenses and moods. Past, Present, Future, Conditional, and many combinations thereof; they delight and instruct the well-ordered mind. In comparison with German, for example, the temporal riches are truly of an embarassing magnitude. In fact, next to its gigantic vocabulary (which I abuse mercilessly) the well-nigh-unto infinitely mutable expression of the passage of Time is the English language's greatest attribute.

Yet increasingly the talented as well as the omnipresent, un-talented writer is resorting to this crutch-"it makes the story so immediate!" Bah! This is but a damnably dumbed-down short-cut to narrative vitality.

Worst of all, however, is the insidious introduction of the Present Pernicious into the language of not only historical documentaries (which few take seriously) but in putatively serious histories of academic pretensions, and, most ominously, the textbooks of American schoolchildren.

"But why is this so bad, Scutch?" I hear bleatingly in the background. Just this: history is supposed to be the study not only of People(s), Places and Events, but of the inexorable, inescapable law of Cause and Effect. How can a child learn that every action has both its antecedents and the consequenses which then proceed forth? A History Channel documentary on the American Civil War will have Lincoln, Buchanan, and Johnson simultaneously as President. Lee will be victorious at Second Manassess and defeated at Appomatox as Grant besieges Vicksburg and St. Petersburg...simultaneously! The ordinality of normal language has been expunged from these 'histories'.

My 10-year-old niece's American History textbook is only partially written in the Present Pernicious (I will not detail the multitudinous factual errors...these are par for the course in the Modern Indoctrination of Children), but is guilty of another form of the Present Pernicious, that being Pictoral. Illustrating the Pueblo uprising in 17th century New Mexico (then under Spanish rule) is a late nineteenth century photograph of a mission church. In a vingette about the Plains Indians who met the 16th century Spanish explorers, the child is misinformed by early 20th century portraits of the survivors of Wounded Knee. Since the photos are obviously old, and to a child, anything that happened over 5 years ago is ancient history, the natural assumption is that the photos and the events described are contemporaries.

It is tempting to view this as merely a further example of the encroachment of the forces of vapidity. But there is a certain Orwellian overtone in an historical understanding which teaches that what is, is what is, is what is. The advantage of this linguistic method is that whenever something new occurs, it instantly achieves is linguistically the same age and has the same venerability as all that came before it in the Course of Human Events. In fact there is no more course of human events; merely a stagnant pool increasingly deprived of oxygen (rather like the gene pool of those poor cats).

How does one learn not only of the failures, but also the triumphs of the past? Without a coherent understanding of and ability to relate to others the temporal, logical flow of doesn't. Santayana Weeps.

Yours in perpetual ire,

Escutcheon Blot

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Finknottle has returned.....

...from his European length vacation. My paranoid advice columnist believes I'm trying to replace him with a machine that can do everything he can. And he's right. But I haven't been able to find a machine that will abscond from his post, trot off to the Pacific after gambling on the company's account. Oh well, the search will continue. Until then, the Finkster will be answering his bottles.

Monday, December 04, 2006

There's a massive post at the House Next Door

about film criticism - including lists from House contributors of specific reviews and film books that have had a big impact. Check it out.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gift ideas for over thirty dollars

-Charlie ParsleyPeople love to go shopping during the holidays, and who can blame them? It is so much fun to buy things for other people. Things that you would never buy for yourself. Things you have long admired, but never dared to bring into your home. You can buy them, and secretly adore and revel in their magnificence for yourself before giving them away. Giving them simply for the joyous entertainment of the look of surprise from your loved ones when they unwrap what you’ve selected for them. Nearly every gift unwrapping is a Kodak/Canon/Sony moment and thank goodness for the digital ability to preserve each and every one.

If you happen to be lucky enough to know any newlyweds, you may take additional delight in the obligation the couple will feel in displaying and complimenting the object you have chosen for their home each and every time you come over to visit them. The author anxiously awaits the day a wedding invitation arrives, heralding a home for the unique handmade porcelain kitten shaped flower vase / teapot he has crafted for this very purpose.

The tedious work of handmade gifts is no longer necessary in our highly advanced technological material ports. Everyone loves to participate in the warm social conviviality of purchasing readymade consumer goods in the beautifully decorated surroundings of community malls and personalized boutiques. Gathering together in warm shopping centers is a tradition that no so-called politically correct special interest groups will never change. Certainly, no one can deny the personal fulfillment in locating that hard to find Hello Kitty accessory that will just light up Julie’s face when she sees it.

Shopping is an important holiday activity, yet the multiplying demands of the season force shoppers to make the best use of their valuable time. One-stop-shopping is more than a convenience. On the day of the office party, it is essential. The author is proud to set forth the most splendidly innovative yet simple solution to the needs of the holiday gift giving season.

Step into your local liquor retailer and you will find everything you need under one roof. There is something for everyone. Even that hard-to-shop-for Aunt Myrtle will appreciate a sweet, feminine chardonnay wrapped with a big pink bow. I can guarantee that you will not have to wait in line.

Who among us has not dreamed of spending hundreds of dollars at Tony’s Liquor and loading up the car with the makings of a full service bar. Permit yourself to select one of everything: whisky, vodka, gin, beers and wines, even tequila. All will makebeautiful presents without any giftwrapping necessary. Tanqueray’s Premium is in a lovely deep green bottle with bright red label. What more could say ‘chrastmas’? Perhaps the whimsical red wax of the Maker’s Mark bottle. With a sprig of holly, it’s just like a Christmas candle.

The author seeks nor expects praise and adoration for his insight, for it is the delight in spreading the holiday spirits that provides reward enough. May your cocktails be merry and bright, and may all your hangovers be light.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I always loved this sequence

from Stray Dog. The long black-market stuff is up there with Rossellini and De Sica + it has, in my opinion, about the best actor ever....