Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Comparison In Passing

Does it make me a bad person to say that I find the loss of James Brown more disconcerting than the loss of Gerald Ford? The fact that James Brown was only 73 (Ford was 93, and had been in ill health), and his death was much more unexpected may have something to do with it. Just a couple weeks back, my pal Marty pointed out that JB was scheduled to perform locally in February, at a club called Bimbo's here on Columbus Street in SF, and asked me if I was interested in seeing the show. I was seriously considering it -- in part because I had never seen James Brown live before, and I figured he may not be around a whole lot longer -- but I hadn't committed. Now the pont is moot, of course, and I never will get to experience the magic of one of his performances. Had there been a similar announcement of a planned speech or appearance by Gerald Ford in San Francisco in the near future, I'm certain that I would not have had to think even once about attending. It would not have even been a question.

Of course, given the tenor of the current administration, I have to say that looking back at the Ford years -- even though I personally didn't care for him as Chief Executive -- seems now like a look back at an era of peaceful, halcyon days. I may not have liked his presidential decisions, but I did not fear his administration, nor did I worry about the strange and terrible direction in which America was headed, as I do now constantly. Ford famously said, "Our long national nightmare is over." Had we all known at the time that a much worse national nightmare -- one in which we are now enmeshed, and which threatens to rip this country asunder; one that makes Watergate look like a pleasant daydream by comparison -- was looming ahead, perhaps we would have appreciated those days a bit more.

By the time Ford took office -- thanks to the timely and well-earned resignation of President Richard Nixon -- James Brown was already a legend. Ford was known as a guy who had perhaps "played a little too much football without his helmet on."

Some other James Brown/Gerald Ford comparisons:

James Brown
  • Godfather of Soul
  • "Hardest working man in show business"
  • Loud; black; proud
  • Got on the good foot
  • Played a lot of funk
  • Responsible in large part for the career of Mick Jagger (who would be nothing without the dance steps he copied virtually wholesale from JB) and many other imitators
  • Felt good
  • Had a brand new bag
  • Claimed that it was a man's world, but it wouldn't be nothing without a woman or a girl
  • Hired my friend Vicki G.'s brother to play trumpet in his band
  • Was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Wielded a shotgun at an insurance seminar when he thought attendees of the seminar were using his private restroom
  • Spent time in prison and in rehab

Gerald Ford
  • Oatmeal Man
  • "A Ford, not a Lincoln"
  • Relatively soft-spoken; white; could be somewhat self-effacing on occasion, but certainly never lacked a basic sense of self-esteem
  • Often tripped or stumbled
  • Played a lot of golf
  • Responsible in large part for the career of Chevy Chase (who portrayed the then-president to comic effect in the early days of Saturday Night Live) and many other bumbling, stumbling comedians at the time
  • Was often bumped and bruised
  • Had a bunch of WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons made up
  • Claimed that Eastern Europe had never been under Soviet domination
  • Hired Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush to work in his administration
  • Served as both Vice President and President, but was never elected to either office
  • Survived two rather inept assassination attempts within weeks of each other
  • Spent time in the Navy and the House of Representatives
Summing up this comparison, let's look at the most negative memory associated with these two individuals. Each has a big strike against him in the eyes of many; here are the offenses with which each man discredited himself:

James Brown
  • Beat his wife
Gerald Ford
  • Pardoned Nixon
In my opinion, these were both heinous acts, but one obviously had more lasting import than the other. I mean, I'm just saying.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Book Meme: Tag, You're It

Here's what I like about that bastard Tom Hilton (insert winking emoticon, signifying that I don't really think he's so much of a bastard, *here*), proprietor of If I Ran The Zoo: He more or less forces me to post content on this blog, even in these days of too much work and too many distractions to keep up with my one-time cyber-obsession.

The latest subterfuge of his is something that our mutual friend (also occasional IIRTZ contributor, and essential blogger in his own right) Blognonymous author Kvatch, tagged him with, and he has chosen to pass along to me. These are the rules, as outlined by Kvatch and Tom and probably anyone else who has been likewise tagged; and, of course, the person who (may he burn in hell, or at least get sunburned very badly sometime after the next Memorial Day) started this insidious game in the first place:

* Find the nearest book
* Name the book
* The author
* Turn to page 123
* Go to the fifth sentence on the page
* Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
* Tag three more folks.

As I read that challenge, I was sitting here at my mother's house, checking my email and my blog on my (t)rusty laptop, and my first thought was that I would not find a book to use for this exercise that wouldn't completely embarrass me, and, by extension, my mother. I thought about using the book that my very good friend Scott gave me as an early Christmas present, a book he found at the wonderful and invaluable Green Apple Books here in SF, a book that I have cherished since I first ripped open the wrapping paper a couple weeks ago, and that I brought with me just to show my family because I knew they would all get such a kick out of it. The book is by Johanna Spyri, the author of Heidi, and the title is... Eric and Sally. Okay, as Scott pointed out, that's something of a typo, but still. I couldn't have been more thrilled by a gift, especially one as unexpected and as fitting as that one is. (For those of you who don't understand why, well... too bad. Email me and I'll try to explain. Heh.)

But then I looked around, and much to my surprise, chagrin and ultimate satisfaction, there to my left, on the bookshelf in between the two recliners in the family room, within easy reach on the top shelf, up above the New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines and Sudoku puzzle books and catalogs of all description was a hardbound copy of American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips. It was just there, serendipitous and a solid reminder of how my mother helped shape my political beliefs from an early age. Damn. Thanks, mom.

So here I present, without further ado (and blather), from page 123, the three sentences after the fifth full sentence on the page:

"The depleted ranks of Anglicans joined New England Congregationalists on the conservative (Federalist) side, whereas the anti-ecclesiastical Baptists of the southern backcountry were ardent Jeffersonians.

"In Religion and the American Civil War, another useful volume, Randall Miller, Harry Stout and Charles Wilson waited barely a page into their introduction before instructing that 'the United States was the world's most Christian nation in 1861 and became even more so by the end of the war. In the late 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville had remarked on the pervasive influence of religion on American private and public life, and swelled by revivals during the 1830s and again during the 1850s, membership in churches rose dramatically.'"

Okay, mission (mostly) accomplished. Now I just have to name three other people to carry this silly exercise on. So I call on my friends nashtbrutusandshort (whose latest entry linking Random Flickr Blogging, Monty Python and Carl Sagan is an absolute must-read), lecram and mrgumby2u to pick up the torch and pass it along to others even more deserving.

***BTW -- for those of you who were wondering -- here is the entry I would have posted if I *had* picked Eric and Sally:

"'Yes, I will,' Eric gladly promised and then looked up once more freely and openly at his pastor.

"'And now,' said the pastor, after a while, 'something more, Eric. Did you ever know your father?'"

(Wow. That's more religious content than this blog usually gets in a month of observed Sundays.)

***UPDATE*** The post from mrgumby2u is up. So is the one from nashtbrutusandshort.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Random Flickr Blogging Monday: It's A Gas

Failed Superhero #337: The Pumper.
Power: Can pump your gas for you before you even have time to step out of the vehicle.
Weakness: Powers only work in Oregon and New Jersey.

(Original image, #9684, posted here. Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gift Ideas

Wondering what to get that special liberal someone in your life this year? You know, the one who enjoys an occasional pint or two of refreshing holiday cheer all year long? Here's a site with some gift ideas from our good friends at the SF chapter of Drinking Liberally.

I like a good roomy T-shirt, myself, so 2XL works for me. Just, uh, in case anyone was wondering.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Monday Random Flickr Blogging

Let go, Madonna! He's not an orphan yet!

(Original photo, IMG_9609, posted here. Also -- that title isn't true. I do like Monday Random Flickr Blogging. Just ask anyone.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

What Up, Dawg?

So the Iraq Study Group report is out, calling the situation in that god-forsaken country "grave and deteriorating," saying that the present course of action is "not working" (whoa, there's some insight), and what does our petulant, pants-wetting Preznit Mission Accomplished hear?

"Blah blah blah, Ginger, blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah, Ginger. Blah blah blah blah blah."

He announces that the goal is still "victory" in Iraq. Hey, George, you fucking rube, here's a clue: We're not in a war any more, we're in an occupation. You can't "win" an occupation. You can prolong it, and make things increasingly worse, or you can cut your losses and get the hell out. Those are pretty much the only two choices you have.

Guess which one he'll pick.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ISG Comment

I said "no politics today," but when I said that, I hadn't read this post from Shakespeare's Sister yet. Since today is the day the Iraq Study Group's report is being released, I suppose it behooves us all to pay at least some attention to that. Shakes' Sis has written a very brief, but extremely insightful piece about it that I want to recommend to everyone. Check it out, kids.

Wednesday (I Need A) Vacation Blogging: Hong Kong

Has it been a week and a half since I last posted anything here? Jeez. That must be causing my regular reader no small amount of consternation (sorry, Marissa). Okay, so here's my fall-back standard: a post of vacation shots. No politics today, sorry.

At the end of our China trip, we spent four or five days in Hong Kong before we flew home. It was raining most of the time we were there, though not heavily, so the views were somewhat obscured by all the clouds and such. Still, it was a fascinating city, and one I'd love to go back to someday. The funniest thing about it, though, was that after spending over two weeks in mainland China, Hong Kong seemed very much like being back in America. The shops and restaurants and signs everywhere in English were markedly different from what we had experienced in Beijing and Chengdu and Shanghai and Yangshuo. (Especially Yangshuo.) It was, in some ways, not much different from walking around Union Square or Chinatown here in San Francisco. Except even more expensive.

As always, click on the pictures for a larger view.

I can never remember what this official building is -- City Hall, or something like that. It's one of the first things you see when you get off the ferry from Kowloon.
Hong Kong is extremely vertical.
In the inclement weather, a lot of the taller buildings get lost in the mist.
We stayed on the Kowloon Peninsula, just off the main drag, Nathan Street. At night most all of Hong Kong is a riot of neon and lights.
The view looking across Victoria Harbor.
In the midst of all the urban verticality is Kowloon Park, a nice respite from the noisy, crowded city.
There are flocks of all sorts of birds and other wildlife living there.
A view of the city from a hill in Kowloon Park.
These flamingos apparently don't get much shrimp in their diet, which is why they're not very pink. Did you know that it's eating shrimp that makes flamingos pink? I didn't, before I visited here.
The view across the harbor as reflected in the glass of the Royal Pacific hotel.
The Star Ferry line has been running across the harbor for over a century.
Once we got across, we found that they had a very special place just for us.
Downtown Hong Kong, looking a bit like a combination of London, New York and San Francisco.
Amazing that they still have room for more construction.
Mrs. Generik and I got out and checked out the night life and the night market.
Just an ordinary corner tea shop.
I love neon almost as much as I love big buildings. Hong Kong is full of some really great neon signs.
Not really sure what goes on in this place; Mrs. G didn't think it was a good idea to go in and find out. Darn the luck.
But... what is it today? Okay, okay, I'll be back in the morning.
This shot of a guy working in a steamed-up little food stand appeals to me no end. It reminds me of a scene you might see in New York.
The seafood on display at various little shops throughout the city is most intriguing -- and often unidentifiable (at least by me). But tasty!
A subtitle to most of these Wednesday Vacation Blogging posts should probably be "More pictures of buildings and food."
My brother, standing in the rain, with Victoria Harbor and the city behind him.
Me at the Kimberly Hotel, where we had the smallest hotel room I've ever stayed in. On the other hand, it was very expensive. Okay, sorry, you probably didn't need to see that. And yes, that is Betty Boop underwear, lovingly made by the talented Mrs. G.
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