Meeting at Night

THE gray sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

– Robert Browning


Obama’s New Strategy

Obama Ecstasy Tablets

While Obamamania wanes, the Obama administration has apparently found a new way to bring back the heady buzz of those campaign days: Ecstasy tablets shaped like little Obama heads. It’s something like vitamins for Obamabots. They’re popping up in Texas, where the Obama-love is the weakest. Obama Ecstasy would explain a lot about the wigged-out religious fervor of his campaign followers. This may just be deja vu all over again.

Ice Creams of the World

Andrew Zimmern enjoys some spleen & artichoke ice cream in Italy.

Sometimes it seems we sheltered Americans possess a far too pedestrian palate for ice cream with our quaint vanilla and bourgeois chocolate and walk-on-the-wild-side strawberry. Europe has disdained ice cream altogether with its gelato, with every street corner shop in Italy offering a bevy of flavors. Asia has pulled far ahead of us using ice cream as a flavor delivery vehicle. Let me send you on an all-expense paid tour of the world’s ice cream via the magic of the Internet: FNH -18 Unusual Ice Cream Flavors From Around The World.  Click and enjoy!

The Thrill Is Gone

Code Pink Ad Protesting Obama

Code Pink has turned against Obama, calling his dispatch of more troops to Afghanistan to be a “hopeless escalation.” Only last October, Michael Moore pleaded with his fellow radicals only last October to give Obama a chance, “All I ask of those who voted for Obama is to not pile on him too quickly.” Then, come the end of November, Moore turned on Obama’s surge to Afghanistan as “…the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. … Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid?” To the hard-core lefties who voted for Obama as the anti-war candidate, his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan leaves them slack-jawed. And it’s not the only disappointment for them.

Obama drew cheers from his radical base when he vowed to tax the windfall profits of the Evil Oil Companies, but now he says he won’t, sensibly enough. When he claimed he’d shut down the the prison at Guantanamo and stop the Evil Military from torturing the innocent Muslims held there, the Obamamaniacs swooned with joy. Now, he’s been kicking that hot potato down the road, saying he’ll do it sometime in the future. It appears Team Obama discovered to their shock that the remaining Gitmo detainees were actually Very Bad Guys who were guilty as hell, the kind that might perpetrate an embarassing Man-Made Catastrophe if set loose on the streets. The Patriot Act warrantless wiretapping he was gonna stop? Well, he decided to keep that going after all. There are some evil plots being laid against America through the telephone network. Gay rights? Obama promised to end the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military once he was elected, but once he elected he didn’t ask the military to end it and didn’t tell his supporters he ever would. Heh.

It’s been a long while since the liberals have had that hope and change thrill up their legs. They’ve come a long way since the faithful gave candidate Obama a standing ovation for sneezing. Now, for the liberals, with Obama carrying on many of the same Bush policies he vowed to scrap, it kinda feels like “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Of course, you have to be standing Way Out Left to think that, but there they are.

Obama seemed to be riding high on the big wave of Obama Love until July, when his pal, Professor Gates, returned to Harvard and went off on a Cambridge cop investigating a possible break-in. When Obama reflexively sided with his pal before the facts were in, something in the milieu turned against him. He had piled tinder at his feet with the gigantic stimulus bill, voted through without any legislator reading it, voted through before it had even been printed. He was pushing through bills which had not even been fully written, yet. This was a mess waiting for a match.

Now, Obama’s vector is headed down, down, down. The independent voters have shifted right. Obama’s radical base is coming unglued from his administration. The elections next year could be a pretty grim and sobering event for the Democrats. Now, I don’t think the liberals are going to abandon Obama. However, if he leads them to defeat at the polls, that will give them an honorable way to dump him. It looks to me like there’s a pretty decent chance he will be a one-term president. I just hope the Republicans have a candidate, perhaps even one who is a conservative, not a Democrat Lite.

In the meantime, I intend to pop some popcorn, sit back, and bathe in Schadenfreude.

Christmas Gift List

Often when Christmas time rolls around, many of my friends face the awful problem of Gifter’s Block. It’s kinda like Writer’s Block where you face the blank page and don’t know what to write. Gifter’s Block is when you face the shopping mall and don’t know what to buy for that Special Somebody. Often, scads of my desperate friends email me to beg me, beg me to tell them what to buy their beloved for Christmas.

OK, maybe that doesn’t really happen. Maybe they email me to beg me not to email them. But in honor of the Yuletide, it’s my obligation to grab them in a headlock and melt their hearts with Christmas Spirit, dragging them kicking and screaming into Christmas Eve. It’s for their own good and my duty, really. With Santa’s blessing, here are my Top Picks for Christmas Gifts for 2009:

1. Laptop Steering Wheel Desk, for the busy, risk-taking, devil-may-care executive. What could go wrong?

2. Burka Barbie, for the youngest Islamic fundamentalist in your family.

3. Concorde Office Chairs, Concorde seats remade into office chairs. They have to cost less than a ticket on the real thing.

4. Soviet-era Whiskey class submarine, for those late night beer runs across the lake without impertinent questions from pesky park rangers.

5. Human bones. Apparently, Indian bones were sold for medical education purposes until banned by India in 1987. Now, China, is monopolizing the human bone export market. Most of these are old exhibits for medical students.

6.  Personalized Urn.  This custom-built, full-sized urn constructed from photos of your face will hold your ashes while looking exactly like your severed head.  A proud addition to your family’s mantle and probably the creepiest gift you could ever give of yourself.  However, they’ll never forget you.

7.  Doppelganger Robot.  For a cool quarter million bucks, you can buy a robot from those bot-crazy Japanese that looks just like you!  Perfect for the narcissist closest to your heart.

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, New York City

So there I was, wandering my happy way around Central Park, haven taken off a day to spend exploring it, when I stumbled into the Central Park Zoo.  Who knew they had a zoo?  Somewhere between the polar bear and the seals, I saw this poem written by Nezahualcoyotl, hung there. He lived in Mexico from 1403 to 1473, before Columbus:

Could it be true we live on Earth?
On Earth forever?

Just one brief instant here.

Even the finest stones begin to split
even gold is tarnished,
even precious bird-plumes
shrivel like a cough.

Just one brief instant here.

I’m not up on my pre-Columbian Nahuatl poetry, not like I should be, but this strikes me as an excellent specimen of that genre. It turns out that old Nezahualcoyotl was the poet-king of Texcoco, a long-lost kingdom which was once considered the Athens of the Western World. Now, after conquest by its warring neighbors and their later, greater conquest by the Spanish, only some ruins remain of their hilltop gardens, sculptures, and aqueducts.  All that’s missing from this scene is an inscription, “Look upon my works and despair!

But, still, the rest of the day as I walked around in the park, listening to musicians, watching kids play, hearing people chatting on benches, that quote stuck with me.  Just one brief instant.