Nothing is more essential to crisis communications than an idiot to create the crisis…
Rev. Dickie had that item yesterday about the Lululemon co-founder who observed, on national TV, that yoga pants don’t work for all women. Ask your doctor if spandex is right for you, huh? I guess we now know why he’s the former CEO.
He’s not the only biz genius out there shooting himself in the balls, though. Check these: Continue reading
As explained to me by my 14 year-old daughter, Chloe.
So, the St. Louis Rams had their star QB Sam Bradford, who is majorly hot, go down for the season with a knee injury? And word is Tim Tebow was thinking here was his chance – an NFL team needs a quarterback and he’s an NFL quarterback? But the Rams didn’t call him? No, they called Brett Favre. You know, 44 year-old Brett Favre, who hasn’t played in like three years? Continue reading
I really liked Sam’s piece this morning on dog dreams. But in thinking about it, I’ve come to a disturbing conclusion.
- The dog is mystified by science and technology.
- He can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary.
- A lot of his happiness in life results from his ignorance.
Sam, your dog is a Republican.
Jesus is coming, and he ain’t riding no elevator…
Know what I bet would hurt like a sonofabitch? When a vampire bites his tongue.
Jesus is coming, and he doesn’t like his undead sparkly…
- Okay, you know how when you’re pouring a beer and you pour it too fast and all of a sudden it starts to foam up really fast and you’re like, ohmygod, and you quickly stick your mouth in it and try to suck off the extra foam before it spills all over the place? Right. Don’t try that with a toothpick in your mouth.
- CITIZENS OF CLEVELAND: it’s time for you to RISE UP. You must join hands and let your voices be heard. You must let your indignation ring down the halls of power as you demand that the Browns do something about them godawful uniforms.
- Three guys I want to have dinner with: Mel Kiper, Sr., RG2 and Little Papi. Also, if I’m ever captured by al Qaeda, send Seal Team Five. Continue reading
The United States spans six time zones. I have now lived in four of them (Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific), visited a fifth (Hawaiian-Aleutian) and flown over the sixth (Alaskan), so I feel comfortable addressing the question of which one is best with some authority.
Eastern Time Zone
I begin with a certain bias. Like most kids, I hated going to bed. The big reason: I was afraid I’d miss something. I knew that other people were still awake and doing things, and it drove me crazy. Truth is, this is the same thing that bothers me about dying. Death doesn’t scare me, but I think about things like all the Chelsea FC matches that will be played without me and again, it drives me bonkers. And yes, I’m actually serious about this.
During the summer months, especially, I’d have my anxieties confirmed on occasion. Back in the old days we didn’t have the Internet or cable or a 24/7 news cycle or ESPN. All we had was newspapers. Hell, we didn’t even have touchtone and wireless phones. I’d get up in the morning, grab the newspaper and flip to the sports section to see how the Orioles had done. That was the team that had four 20-game winners, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Mark Belanger, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and Earl Weaver at the helm. They were my favorite team. But when they were on the road playing West Coast teams, the games would still be in progress when the East Coast papers went to press (I lived in NC, which was in the Eastern time zone back then; these days it’s lobbying for a move to the 17th century time zone, but that’s another conversation). So there, where the score ought to be, would simply be the word “late.”
I lived the first 27 years of my life alternating between Eastern Standard and Eastern Daylight, the whole time feeling like the kid who got sent to bed early because mom and dad were throwing an orgy downstairs and they’d invited both Marcia Brady and Laurie Partridge.
Central Time Zone
Then I marched off to grad school at Iowa State, which sits smack-ass in the middle of the Central time zone. This was a tad better. Going to bed early-wise, anyway. Of course, I was in grad school and club DJing on the side to make ends meet, so it’s not like I went to bed early very often, regardless. The downside was that time zones notwithstanding, if something interesting did actually happen, at any hour of night or day, it highly unlikely to happen in Iowa.
Verdict: A little better but, you know, Iowa.
Mountain Time Zone
In 1993 I moved to Colorado for yet another round of grad school. I know, I know – how much book learnin’ does a simple country boy really need? But it worked out great. Colorado’s tourism motto ought to be Come for the Doctoral Programs, Stay for the Time Zone! Seriously, that beats the hell out of Iowa’s Gateway to Nebraska, don’t you think?
The bottom line is that as time zones go, the MST/MDT combination rocked. Braves games came on at 5pm and were over by 8, which meant I could watch them lose in the playoffs and still have plenty of time to take a shower and head out for a beer by 9:30. When I wasn’t studying, that is. But even when I had to spend the night reading 2000 pages of single spaced, 6-point blather about Semiotics (double sided, no pictures, written in a language that only vaguely approximated English), it was comforting know that I could, in principle, have watched the game and gone out for a beer.
All those losers in the Eastern time zone were going to bed right about the time I was ordering my second pint of stout and settling into SportsCenter (or rereading the same page by motherfucking de Saussure for the 12th time because the first 11 bounced off my brain like a superball off the deck of an aircraft carrier). HAH! Send this to bed early, bitches.
The West Coast was still out there with an hour in hand, but by now we had cable and 100 sports stations and the worst case scenario was an excuse to stay up an extra hour watching the Nuggets in Portland.
Pacific Time Zone
Now I live in the Pacific Time Zone and by god nothing happens before I go to bed. Or, you know, before I would be going to bed if I had a mind to stay up. I have a job and am approaching middle age, so I go to bed earlier than I used to. But not because I have to. No, it’s because I choose to.
The upside of PST/PDT is obvious – you don’t miss anything. If you’re back east, you’re thinking about bed right about the time I’m thinking about dinner. You’ll be snorking into a drool-soaked pillow for three hours by the time the orgy gets started out here. Advantage: me.
The downside is that if you aren’t careful, you can miss things because they happen too soon. Take Thursday night. The Broncos game was timed for a nationwide viewing audience: 8pm Eastern. Which, if you do a little math, you’ll realize is right about the time those of us in the Emerald City are getting off work. Holy fuckstockings. I had to bus home, then go pick up Ronan MacScottie from daycare, then get home, walk him, feed him, grab a bite to eat, and it’s gonna be halftime before I can tune in.
Fortunately there was a lightning storm in Denver that held the game up, and I flipped on the game just as whoever she was got thoroughly into her enhanced interrogation of the national anthem. But this was what’s known as an “exception.” The “rule” is that things used to be too late for me and now sometimes they’re going to be too early.
Back in Denver I’d sometimes have to get up at ungodly hours on the weekends because Chelsea, sitting over there in Cockney Standard Time, had the early game. On multiple occasions I was down at the Bulldog for a 5:30am kick on Saturday or Sunday (heck, there were two 3:30am kicks when they were playing in the World Club Championships in Japan). Which means I might be looking at 4:30am starts out here on the left coast.
Verdict: Can we change Pacific Time so that it’s only 30 minutes behind Mountain instead of a whole hour? Because that’d be great.
Those Other Time Zones
I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Hawaiian zone, but boy howdy, let me say that there was nothing wrong with Kauai that I could find.
Verdict: More research needed.
Never been to Alaska. I hear it’s pretty. Also, cold and devoid of single women.
From what I could tell looking out the airplane window, the Alaskan zone is mostly water. (This, by the way, is known as dramatic license. In reality I was nowhere near a window. The way this jet was laid out you had a section on either side with a window seat and an aisle seat, then you had the middle section which featured an aisle seat on either end and 16 seats in between. 16 very narrow seats. I had my ex-wife, who was mostly zonked on Dramamine to deal with her terror of flying on one side and a sweaty guy who was only able to get into his seat with the help of butter and large shoehorn on the other. At one point I had to fight my way out to go to the lavatory and by the time I got back I’d missed three episodes of Friends. Also, the big guy had slumped over and drooled on my seat. I spent the rest of the flight feeling like I was sitting in an inflatable kiddie pool.
Verdict: Sarah Palin.
To sum up, then:
Eastern: Everything interesting happens while you’re asleep.
Mountain: Theoretically makes even de Saussure okay.
Pacific: You’re 30 minutes late to the orgy with Marcia Brady and Laurie Partridge.
Hawaiian: Poipu, Brennecke’s Beach Broiler.
Have a nice Sunday.
Last night, for the first time this year, the Patriots played without Tim Tebow. For the first time this year, they lost. No, they didn’t lose. They got pounded, 40-9. Humilated. Embarrassed. Noogied. Brady and Mallet were awful, exactly as the S&R sports desk predicted would happen.
Remember, you read it here first, Brady is at the peak of his value, but his best days are past. The Patriots should sell him now, since GM’s in the NFL are always willing to overpay for over-the-hill quarterbacks (Favre, Palmer, Manning) and the Pats could probably get an entire team for Brady, who has the third highest QBR of all time. Think about it–New England could get a top receiver or two, shore up their porous secondary, AND have three draft picks left over.
Let Timmy play! He’s a winner. There’s no doubt at all, none, that the Patriots would have won last night had he played.
The coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, is a football genius. His secret is simple: value. He sells overvalued older players, like Richard Seymour, who are on the downside of their careers, and buys undervalued players, e.g., Randy Moss, whom others have discarded. Sometimes, as in the cases of Seymour and reciever Wes Welker, the separation is painful, with the player feeling unloved and underrespected, and grumbling his way out of town. Doesn’t matter. Belichick is deaf to sentiment. When it comes time to make player decisions, he is Big Blue, an unemotional super-computer, computing all the odds and deciding who can best help his team win.
Which is why you can expect Belichick to trade Tom Brady and start Tim Tebow.
1. Brady is overvalued. Brady has been a solid quarterback for the Patriots. However, he’s on the downside of his career. His QBR (passer rating) dropped from 106 to 99 last year, and plummeted to 85 in the playoffs. His rushing yards were down, as were his touchdowns and completion percentage. Tebow is undervalued. New England doesn’t need to worry about other teams trying to poach him.
2. Old vs. young. Brady is old. He just turned 36. He’s increasingly injury prone. After missing almost the entire 2008 season, he now has problems with a knee injured in this preseason. Tebow is a young stud, in superb shape, who like all football players has had injuries, but not missed games because of it. In college, Tebow broke his right thumb and played the entire game. He is a warrior, he could probably break his left (throwing) arm and his accuracy would be the same.
3. Tebow was a better college player than Brady. When Brady was at Michigan and that team won a national championship, it did so with Brady on the bench behind journeyman Brian Griese. Tebow won a national championship AND a Heisman.
4. Tebow is a winner. Since New England got caught illegally taping competitor practices, New England has not won a Super Bowl under Brady. Tebow won at Denver, and would have won at New York if allowed to play. During this preseason, he’s led New England to two victories despite predictions they’d struggle after the loss of key team members in the off season. In the first game, Tebow threw for 55 yards and rushed for 31, and in the second, he completed a pass in only seven attempts, despite playing with the second team, for only a one yard loss. He also rushed for 32 yards, an astounding 8 yard per carry average.
5. Tebow is a leader, Brady is not. Tebow is famous for his leadership qualities. At Florida, Tebow mentored Aaron Hernandez and kept him eligible for all four years. Indeed, at Florida, Hernandez only committed assault and an alleged shooting. Under Brady’s mentoring at New England, Hernandez is believed to have committed three murders. Brady is not respected by his teammates. Randy Moss once said Brady had hair like a girl. In the macho world of football, being compared to a girl is not a compliment.
6. Tebow is a better athlete. He’s shorter, but weighs almost ten pounds more. Also, at the NFL combine he ran the 40 yard dash in 4.7, nearly as fast as the top defensive tackle prospects, while Brady only managed 5.2 at his combine tryout.
7. It will be easier to replace Brady with a popular player. As we saw with Brett Favre, it’s always tough to replace an older player who’s become a fan favorite. The replacement comes in under a barrage of criticism, with their every move being picked apart and critiqued. Tebow is wildly popular and would be immediately accepted by a significant portion of the fan base. Were he to struggle, which he won’t, his fans have shown a willingness to look past performance and facts and focus on the big picture.
8. Tebow is a better role model. Tebow is a practicing Christian. Brady is Catholic. Tebow is a virgin. Brady has had a child out of wedlock (with actress Bridget Moynahan). Brady is married to a foreigner. American girls apparently just aren’t good enough for Tom Brady.
Sadly, nobody really. Surprising no one, I’m sure, it can be terribly difficult to find tales of people who actually get the full spectrum what’s coming to them. That’s the degree of trouble that causes me the most perverse dance-a-jig-on-a-grave glee. Failing that, I’ll gladly accept for my prurient amusement any troubles at all for folks and institutions that, in my estimation, deserve that and so much more. This week we’ve got six stories that detail people who are at least feeling the heat for one kind of asshattery or another, or should be sometime soon.
First up, we’ve got the Gastonguay family. This would be a real rib-tickler if not for one key point…children were endangered. I’ll settle for a round of hoots and jeers. Why is it even remotely amusing? Well, while I do give Ma and Pa props for having the courage of their convictions, I have a huge problem with a) inflicting those ill-informed convictions on children when b) such courage puts the lives of those children in jeopardy.
For one thing, these miscreants (if reckless endangerment of children isn’t a crime, it damned well should be) have the problem ass-backward. Government isn’t interfering with religion. Proponents of one particular religion, particularly the faithful in an especially virulent strain of that religion are interfering with government. Facts matter.
Ma feels deeply wronged because they have to pay taxes for things they don’t agree with, specifically, abortion provided for by Obamacare. Funny thing about that, there’s no truth in it.
For that matter, cry me a river when it comes to paying taxes for things you don’t agree with. Maybe those of us who are against wars of aggression rife with “conflict of interest,” dare I say greed, should be exempted from paying taxes because that’s just not fair? After all, we have a bit of a history of killing hundreds of thousands of people for trumped up reasons, and those people happen to include civilians, women, children.
And puh-lease! The state is controlling religion? News flash: nobody forces churches to file for tax exempt status to keep them however ineffectually, out of the political arena. Smarter churches have even realized that the tax exemption is basically the government bribe to shut the hell up. I don’t think you get to collect the bribe and still complain about being regulated. Want to talk about having real government intrusions into your faith? First, consider the Navajo.
Poor dear also feels, “”The Bible is pretty clear.” Really, now? Is that why the history of Christianity is a history of bloody schism and war resulting in no less than 200 denominations? Clear as mother’s milk, it seems. So clear, for that matter, that Skeptic’s Annotated Bible has a heyday with all that crystal clarity. The Bible may deserve praise for a number of reasons, but clarity just isn’t one of them.
The just desserts? Poor Pa Cretin will now have to get a job to pay back the government to the tune of $10,000. Now if only someone would bring criminal charges against them for endangering their children and see to it that those kids are raised in a safe home, regardless of the religion (or lack of) espoused by the foster parents.
Next up, we have a judge who is actually either stupid enough or genuinely corrupt enough to say out loud that her ruling boils down to, “because Jesus.” For now, I hope she’s squirming from all the attention. I’ll be much happier when her ruling is overturned. I will be ecstatic if she never gets to darken the bench again with her oppressive bigotry. Bonus points? There’s some indication that this is an issue where the left and libertarians have a chance of reaching agreement.
For now we’re still stuck at the stage of allegations and accusations. Should it turn out this poor schmo has been unjustly targeted and that he’s really a nice, upstanding guy, I’ll feel bad for feeling good. I won’t hold my breath. Should it turn out that this man actually is a feculent lump of injustice disgracing his robe, I really hope he has to spend some time behind bars. This story makes Newt Gingrich and Anthony Wiener look like ardent defenders of the sanctity of marriage by comparison.
This story should surprise nobody that already suspects Santorum of schmuckitude in the first dregree. It really would just be a matter of time that this walking conflation of stupidity and malice would cross a line where money is concerned. Oh, please, please, please let there be evidence that would grace a prison with his presence.
I really want to be clear here. It’s not the difficulties of some nebulous “NSA” (as though it doesn’t comprise flesh and blood people), or even of people I’m mostly willing to give the benefit of the doubt to when it comes to good intentions and service to country, that make me merry when doused in sunlight. It’s the death throes of misbegotten policy that hit the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned. The more that comes out about NSA overreach and outright incompetence, the closer we get (I hope!) to drawing some clear and proper boundaries around their actions and those of the government in general. Just don’t bank on it coming from empty (or worse, misdirecting) posturing from the POTUS. After all, only three days after announcing that he wants an independent body to provide some oversight he suggests that known liar and policy apologist Clapper would be just the guy to set up that “independent” body. I can’t wait until the next Snowden release. Eventually we’ll hit a tipping point where we must do something adequate to remedy these violations of our constitutional rights.
Finally, SOMEBODY has to pay a pound of flesh now, sort of. Pa Gastonguay’s $10k bill is ultimately far more satisfying, but it lacks a certain immediacy. Right now, America’s new poster boy for misogynistic douchebaggery, Filner, is barred from America’s most mainstream meatmarket’s locations in San Diego. I’m sure he would have gone just for the sliders, right? Oh, wait, I guess that depends on whether that’s a euphemism. Seriously, when you get called out by Hooter’s for disrespecting women, you’re doing it terribly wrong.
The generation that fought World War II is, thanks to Tom Brokaw, now known as “The Greatest Generation.”
If his great grandson writes a book about Baby Boomers, what would the title of that book be? How will our generation be remembered?
Perhaps history will term us “The Kindest Generation,” for we certainly cared more for social causes than had previous generations. We tackled and for the most part were successful in improving the positions of the less powerful—blacks, women, gays, and the handicapped. It’s not clear exactly why we took on these challenges. Perhaps it was because we enjoyed an unprecedented era of prosperity and simply had the resources to do so. Or maybe it was just time. Every issue has its day, e.g., improvements in rights for black people seem to move in hundred year increments. Maybe our generation was just in the right time and place for a little kindness.
Maybe we’ll go down as “The Coolest Generation.” Certainly generations before us had “cool,” but it was typically confined to small subsets of the population, e.g., musicians and artists. We were the first generation to democratize cool. During the jazz era, there were many in the population who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to that “negro music.” But there’s no Baby Boomer that doesn’t listen to rock and roll, and probably none that doesn’t own a pair of jeans or think of themselves as “with it.” Surely no generation has tried to hang on to cool for as long as we have, at least in terms of paying exorbitant tickets prices to see ancient rockers rasp and creak their way across the stage. We’ve also spent our fair share on trying to keep ourselves looking cool through cosmetic surgery and pharmaceutical attempts to cheat the aging process. Of course, the Pharmacological Generation has a ring to it, too.
Of course, history may see our insistence on hanging on to our own fashions and culture and refusing to age as something that makes us “The Self-Centered Generation.” It’s amusing to see covers of Time magazine calling current young people the “Me” generation. Really? The only reason we think they’re the “me” generation is because they aren’t all about “us.” How dare they want their own music on commercials? Who do they think they are? Certainly our belief that we deserve everything we want is pervasive (“Eat, Love, Pray” anyone?). (Indeed, the idea that we get to name ourselves is a little self-centered to begin with.)
Perhaps we’ll go down as “The Silliest Generation.” And not silly in a good way of “joyful and carefree,” but silly in a bad way of “naïve and trivial.” After all, it’s hard to imagine anything sillier and more trivial than thinking that a few mass demonstrations would end war, or that a concert or two would solve world hunger, or stop economic forces like mechanization of farms in their tracks. We were the generation that thought that massive, intractable problems could be solved in a weekend with a party, like Live Aid or Farm Aid, etc. If they can’t, like climate change or the growing prosperity gap, why we simply pretend they don’t exist. “La, la, la, la—I can’t hear you.”
It’s possible we’ll be seen as “The Fractured Generation,” at least here in the U.S. It’s hard to remember a generation with more passionate factions and less interest in compromise. Although that’s one where our perspective may be skewed. History, after all, is written by the winners. There may well have been such factions at every point in history, and looking back we don’t see it. I doubt it though. I suspect that the echo chamber created by the internet and partisan media are creating groups more insular and intractable than any we’ve seen, at least for a century or two.
I’d guess the best we can hope for is to be remembered as “The Well-intended Generation.” No, we didn’t solve poverty, hunger, war, but we cared about them enough to buy the tee-shirts. We didn’t stop racism, but we did slap people who use the “n-word” and force race-mongers to use euphemisms. We didn’t defeat Hitler, or communism, or theocratic rule, but we certainly annoyed those states that espouse centrally-planned economies and assassinated the dictators that dared mock us. So we did something. In our own kind, cool, superficial, confused, self-centered way, we tried. We really did.
Or maybe we should just go with the “Wasted Opportunity Generation.”
We’ve got four unlucky contenders for this week’s most deserved expression of schadenfreude. Three are heavy hitters, but honestly I don’t think their problems are nearly big enough yet.
The winner is actually a solid case of someone getting their due in an epic fashion.
This week’s runners-up:
Unfortunately, this is just a case of the Department of State following up with an inquiry. I see nothing to indicate that they will drop ERM and start over in hopes of receiving a less tainted assessment. Even so, I’m happy any time TransCanada runs into another obstacle.
As with TransCanada, I’m delighted any time McConnell even stands a chance of taking some lumps. In this case, I can’t imagine McConnell actually has any trouble personally with Benton’s “holding my nose” comment. That doesn’t keep me from snickering, though.
This one is another near miss with too many maybes for me to dance a jig. I’d settle for nearly any reason to see him out office. Jail would be just fine.
Didn’t anybody actually get what was coming to them, though? Just once, didn’t the iron fist of come-uppance smack a deserving soul all toward our greater amusement? Why, yes. At least this one time.
Does a burglar need a beating? Maybe. Maybe no. What about a knife-wielding burglar that attacks an old man? Absolutely! And who better to bust open that can of whoop-ass than the old man himself? Icing on the cake: I’m sure McCalium’s new buddies will give hm lots of reminders of that awesome time he got his ass beat for breaking into the wrong damned house. Here’s to you, Mr. Iron Fist, and your demonstration of how to stand your ground.
Or, Bromancing the Stone, and other bad puns…
It started with “bromance,” the idea of being in love (non-sexual, mind you) with someone of the same sex. Then it became “Flomance,” being in love with an obnoxious television character named “Flo” of course. Now I just read “throwmance,” used by Jon Greenberg to describe NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s habit of only throwing to one receiver per season (formerly Earl Bennett, now Brandon Marshall). Where will this end?
Here it is, a little more summer frivolity—the Mance Dictionary.
- Doughmance—what young college graduates dream of but will never see because of student loans
- Blowmance—a love for a particular sexual practice
- VanGoghmance—a love of Impressionist painters
- Fromance—a love of hairstyles of the sixties and seventies
- Nomance—see T’eo, Manti
- Pomance—love of the poor and downtrodden
- Homance—see Grant, Hugh
- Toemance—see Ryan, Rex
- Whoamance—the GOP’s love of the filibuster to block anything proposed by the Dems
- Joemance—an inexplicable attraction to vice presidents
- Promance—the desire of a young athlete to one day drive a Maybach and date a hot starlet
OK, OK, we all know you can do better. Fomance (Moses “Fo, Fo and Fo” Malone is too old school for this crew), but Lowmance, Glowmance, and Growmance are all still out there, as are any number of clever homonyms I haven’t even thought of, like Breauxmance (fraternal love between two Cajun men).
Have at it.
It’s the dog days of summer, the time when it becomes hard to blog. Dedicated and serious bloggers push through it and write brilliant, meaty pieces on the new constitution or nuanced and warm offerings about choral singing and fly fishing or whimsical asides about larping. The less dedicated among us stare at the list of blog topics we intend to tackle, heavy duty pieces about entitlements or the positive role of corporations in politics, then turn away and go back to playing poker on our cellphones.
Better something than nothing, I figure, so today’s blog is about snakes, inspired by the comment thread on Booth’s recent post on fly fishing.
I don’t like snakes, but I don’t dislike them either. We have snakes here on our farm in Indiana and when I see one, I walk around it. Occasionally we’ll have to shoo an aggressive black snake away from the garage with a broom, and I suppose if we found a copperhead or rattler too close to the house I’d probably kill it, but for the most part they go their way and we go ours.
However, I’ve lived much of my life in places where there were snakes, poisonous ones, and have accumulated some stories. Growing up in south Georgia it was massive diamondbacks, huge snakes as thick as your arm that would stretch across the narrow, sandy roads as they sunned themselves. In West Africa, it was mostly cobras and green mambas. In Louisiana, it was water moccasins and in Australia tiger snakes.
1973—West Africa I
Peace Corps training was based in Kenema, where we were housed in a low cinder-block dorm, just a long row of concrete cubicles, each with a cot and a door that was nothing more than a thin piece of cloth on a string. We were playing cards when someone stuck their head in the door and yelled “Snake charmer.” Three of us jumped up and flip flopped across the compound to the street where the snake charmer was performing in front of a crowd of about thirty people.
Snake charmers traveled from village to village performing for tips. They wore black, pajama-like outfits and fluffy headdresses made from black-dyed rags. They carried their snakes in burlap sacks. There was no anti-venin available so locals were terrified of snakes and snake charmers. Snake charmers could handle snakes with impunity because they had “medicine,” what we would call black magic. In other words, they were evil men who’d made a bargain with the devil. If a snake charmer loaded his writhing sacks onto a local jitney bus, called a lorry, everyone else got off. If he came to a village and needed a place to sleep, he got not a room but a house, and afterwards the medicine man performed elaborate rites before anyone would sleep in it again.
This snake charmer was a scraggly man, with brown teeth and the faint odor of palm wine. His act consisted of pulling a snake from a bag, throwing it on the ground so that it faced the crowd, who immediately jumped backwards and screamed, “Wayah!” He’d then reach out, snag it by the tail and return it to the bag. We got there just in time for the spitting cobra. He reached into the bag, pulled the snake out, and threw it to the ground. It took off toward the crowd, who immediately bolted, except for me. I stood where I was and grinned at the snake. Behind me people screamed, “Wayah! Wayah!”
The snake crawled toward me. When it got about eighteen inches away, it rose and hooded, its head level with my bare knees. It swayed back and forth, deciding. The snake charmer looked at me as if I was crazy, then reached out and grabbed the snake by its tail, tugging it back and dropping it into the sack. He tied the top. We stood, legs akimbo and hands on hips, staring at each other. I am sure he was wondering, “Who is this smart ass ruining my act?” I was thinking that these snakes had to be defanged. With exactly the same hubris as a thousand white men in Africa before me, I refused to yield to silly native superstition. Instead of shorts and sandals, I should’ve worn starched khakis and a pith helmet.
After a moment he turned and walked back. Grunting, he lifted his biggest sack, and untied it. He walked over to me. By now I stood on my own little island because the crowd had retreated six feet or so behind me. Looking at me appraisingly, he untied the sack and dumped a cranky, fat Gaboon viper with a head the size of my fist into the dust. It crawled a few inches, felt the heat from my bare foot and coiled into striking position. The snake charmer watched me. I looked at him and smiled.
The crowd was going crazy behind me. Children buried their heads into their parents’ legs and wept. Adults slapped each others’ shoulders and whispered. Wayah! Wayah! The snake charmer looked back and forth from the snake to me. Finally, apparently resigning himself to the reality that I was now part of the act, he shook his head, reached down and grabbed the snake behind the jaws.
Another Volunteer snapped pictures like a photographer at a fashion shoot, racing around, kneeling, turning his camera sideways. Klick, klick, klick, klick. My fans cheered me on. The “wayah’s” of surprise morphed into “wayah’s” of encouragement. Wayah! Wayah! Wayah! The snake charmer hung the heavy snake around my neck and released his hands. He hugged me. He smiled for the camera. I smiled for the camera. The viper smiled for the camera. Klick. Wayah! Klick.
Then came the money shot. The charmer grabbed the snake, held it between us, flipped it over, pried its jaws open and using a small stick raised up a fang fully an inch long. A crystal drop of poison glistened on its tip. I stared at that hypodermic-sharp fang that had been less than an inch from my carotid artery and felt the blood rush down from my head. I felt my knees soften and struggled to hold myself upright. The world went silent. I no longer heard the klicks or the cheers. I couldn’t stop looking at that fang. My tongue was made of dust.
And then I did the single bravest thing I have ever done in my life: I smiled, waved to the crowd and calmly walked back to the dorm.
1973—West Africa II
After training we did visits in the villages of Volunteers who’d been there awhile. In Joe’s village, I went to the latrine. When I came out, I looked down and there, perfectly parallel between my two feet in their plastic sandals, was a short, flat arrow-shaped snake. I didn’t move. Nor did he. We remained like that for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, he slowly turned, his flickering tongue almost touching my bare foot, and crawled away.
Back inside the house, we looked up the snake in Joe’s book. It was a death adder—the same snake that killed Cleopatra.
“Why didn’t you kill it?” asked Joe.
I shook my head. “You kill it. Me and that snake had a deal. I wouldn’t kill it and it wouldn’t kill me. A deal is a deal.”
Since it was always warm in West Africa, some Volunteers slept on waterbeds they’d brought from home. Ray was sitting in his living room one day when out of the corner of his eye he saw a small black cobra slide around the corner and into his bedroom. Without thinking he jumped up and yelled, “Kalii!” which means snake. Instantly every adult male in the village poured through his front door, each with a machete. Ray tried to yell stop, but before he could get the words out his mouth a stream of pinkish water poured through the doorway. Inside his bedroom, the dead cobra lay in pieces on his shredded water bed.
We were laying pipe through the Atchafalaya Basin. My job was to follow the excavator digging the ditch in a small aluminum boat. Once or twice a day I’d fuel the machine or lubricate something, but mostly I sat in the boat and watched, there more for safety than for anything else. Every day I’d wash my boat, prepare lunch for the operator of the machine, read and in the middle of the day when it got hot, slip into the bayou for a swim.
This drove the operator and the supervisor crazy, because they rightly thought swimming alone by yourself in a deep black-water bayou with snakes, strong current and the occasional alligator was unsafe. The supervisor would try to talk me out of it by telling me stories like the old urban legend where a man jumps into a river and comes out with fifty snakes hanging on him. I’d just laugh and say that was nonsense, that snakes couldn’t open their mouths underwater or they’d drown.
One day we were sitting on the tracks of the machine and a cottonmouth swam by. A cottonmouth is a very bulky snake and swims very high in the water. Instead of its head poking out of the water at an angle like most water snakes, they form a sort of “S,” almost like a camel’s neck with the top of its head parallel to the surface. This one held a fish in its mouth. The supervisor looked at me, but didn’t say anything. I never swam alone in the bayou again.
Australia has 6 or 7 of the ten most poisonous snakes in the world, depending on how you count. (You’d think it would be straightforward, but it’s not. Some snakes have very toxic venom, like the sea snake, but have small fangs and rarely bite. Some have venom that is less toxic, like the tai pan, but are quick to bite and inject larger amounts, and whose bites are often fatal.)
A friend was burnt out from work. Another friend offered the use of his country retreat near Melbourne. The first friend went down at night and settled in. The next morning he got up, took his coffee out to the back veranda, and there sunning themselves on the stone path leading into the garden, were half a dozen fat black tiger snakes. Tiger snakes are very poisonous, very agro, and very dangerous. He took his coffee, slowly retreated into the house and went out to the front to sit and have his coffee, where there, laying on the welcome mat was another tiger snake. He quickly packed and left.
The other day I was running along Woodall Road and I saw a black snake, actually a Southern Black Racer, dart across the road. I stopped to look at it. It was about three feet long, as thin as a ribbon, and like most Racers, aggressive as all get out. This one coiled up in the leaves, hissed at me and then put his tail up against a dry leaf and began shaking it furiously. It was a pretty good imitation of a rattlesnake. I’m a believer in evolution, but it’s still amazing that behavior this specific could occur through natural selection.
Lonelyman walks into Ernie’s a pizza and Italian in Northwest Denver. The hostess, a pleasant enough looking blonde woman, greets him and asks “how many?”
Lonelyman has always dreamed of responding to this sort of query with some wiseassery, like motioning to either side and saying “just the six of us” or “table for 8 – I like to move around a lot while I eat.” But he doesn’t. He smiles quietly and holds up one finger.
“Just the two of you, then?”
Lonelyman casts a quick glance around. He’s the only one standing there. Nobody beside him. Nobody behind him. In fact, nobody for a good 15 feet in any direction. He tries again. “No, just one.”
Later, after he has finished dinner his waiter approaches the table and says “how are you guys doing?”
What, thinks Lonelyman? He distinctly said “guys.” GuyS. Plural. As in more than one. But again, Lonelyman is alone.
“I’m fine,” he says, a tad uncertainly. “Check, please?”
He pays and leaves. As he exits the restaurant, he’s beginning to wonder. Is there something going on here that I’m not picking up on? There was that whole bizarre Lennay Kekua thing in the news not long ago…
Lonelyman had ordered the Rigatoni Bolognese. In doing so, he took care to pronounce it correctly: bolo-NYAY-si. When the waiter comes by later to see if everything is okay, he makes a point to ask “how is the bolo-NAZE, sir?”
Lonelyman doesn’t mind being corrected, but he does insist that if you choose to do so, you must actually be correct.
Neither this nor the later “how are you guyS?” taunting episode can be said to have enhanced the waiter’s tip.
Our buddy Greg Thow (one of the mainstays at S&R’s sister site 5280 Lens Mafia) and I were guests on episode #28 of the E Wilks Show last night. Okay, mainly Greg was the guest. I tagged along because I had nothing else to do. Eric and sound engineer/sidekick extraordinaire Tony are genuinely funny guys and it was an absolute blast.
- Belgian beer (and Greg’s passion for strawberry ale),
- the Zimmerman acquittal,
- the eerie similarities between Al Sharpton and Otis from Andy Griffith,
- conspiracy theories,
- zombie golfers with leprosy,
- my interest in dating Ann Coulter,
- It’s okay, Officer, it’s for charity,
- obscure Christian Slater movies,
- lip replacement surgery, and
- whether or not to tip the attendant in the portajohn.
Then we got around to photography, and Greg – who despite his protestations is one of Denver’s premier shooters – talks about how he got started and offers a lot of insight for those wanting to improve their own photography skills. Afterward Eric and Tony said this was among their 50 best shows ever, so we’re felling pretty good about that.
Serious fun – it took me back to my days in radio. Hmmm. Maybe Rash Dipstique needs a podcast…