Saturday, August 23, 2008


You have got to see this! I was listening to NPR (Don't flame me, I was only listening to learn the enemy's plans. And where do you think Rush gets all his material?)

At any rate I was listening to a show called Market Place, its supposed to be your superficial market round up show but they were discussing the recent brouhaha over how many houses McCain owned. They got around to pointing out that both McCain and Obama have done pretty well then brought up a book called Richistan by Robert Frank. Mr. Frank divides the rich into Upper Richistan (Over $100 million) and Lower Richistan (Over $10 million) anybody below $10 mega large is merely affluent.

As an example of some one living in Upper Richistan they offered Ed and Edwina Rogers. The Rogers are "Super Lobbyist" so I assume the made that large pile lobbying, if so maybe things are even more out of control in Washington than we all suspect. I'm sorry I can't be more snarky, Mrs. Rogers comes across as a pleasant, down to earth lady with just one tiny little quirk. She wraps gifts in money.

Not Republic of Tonga notes either, she uses American dollars, the old lucky buck, the diaper, the green back, add your own favorite nickname. She buys rolls of dollars from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and cuts them into the appropriate sized squares for whatever trinket she is wrapping.

I know its just paper, just paper backed by the full faith and credit of the United States and we all know what a joke that is! She made the money honestly, undermining the integrity of politicians so she can do with it as she pleases. I'm sure the Fed is happy to print more, so where's the beef?

A commentator on the Market Place was troubled by the piece:
Mr. Frank has wonderful credentials, with numerous awards to his credit and he is a well known expert in economics. Right? So he needs a second job as a political hack for the Left? How come?
Of course Mr. Frank wasn't involved in the video piece he just wrote a book about the rich but he's correct about Mrs Rogers' practice about using dollars to wrap stuff. If you ever needed an image to get people on the barricades this one fills the bill. If you ever needed a metaphor for a dysfunctional economy this is one to put next to the wheelbarrows full of Wiemar Republic notes the Germans had to push around to purchase bread or Marie Antoinette suggesting the sans culottes eat cake. We all know how Hitler and Robespierre used those metaphors and how that worked to the betterment of man.

At a time when people are losing homes, we are losing our manufacturing base and shipping billions to oil sheiks and rogue states for oil perhaps its time to be a little circumspect in the vulgar displays of wealth.

Ah who am I kidding. It's Thermidor! I'll see you on the barricades.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rusty the reluctant reindeer

Rusty was a caribou, a species of deer that roams the frozen white expanse of the tundra steppes above the Arctic Circle in North America. Thanks to the extermination of their natural predators, wolves and the like, caribou now migrated across vast expanses of the far north with nothing to worry about except Eskimos, drunk Canadians on snowmobiles, Americans taking pot shots from helicopters and Australian nature show hosts working out their reptile fixation. Consequently encounters with non English speakers other than Inuits had generally been benign, leaving the younger untested members of the herd to suffer from or indulge in, depending on your point of view, a certain unrelieved naiveté as they munched on acre after acre of lichen and moss.

Caribou are not, as a rule, an ambitious species, beyond becoming the occasional hunter’s trophy or featured extra in a National Geographic Special, they aspire to be nothing more than the wandering ungulates they are by birth. By any estimate this should have been the golden age of the caribou; abundant pastures, no predators and a trend toward global warming that promised even more pastures. What more could a Caribou desire than a mouthful of moss and/or lichen, the prospect of more of the same, plus a bunch of other Caribou asses to follow all the while being left in peace by species that otherwise would be trying to make a meal of you.

This equation failed to take into account Rusty, a young Caribou, who while living in a Caribou paradise, wanted more. Rusty stood out in the herd. As an adolescent he was a troublesome Caribou even for a subordinate bachelor male Caribou. He acted out in the usual subordinate bachelor male manner, i.e.: challenging dominate males for breeding privileges, scent marking territories clearly not his own, smoking and drinking while being sullen and uncooperative. His elders were prone to accept this as normal adolescent behavior but Rusty insisted on taking it a step further and began hanging out at salt licks, leaving his antler velvet lying around, playing music and writing bad poetry.

It is of course our human nature to be tolerant, particularly of youthful artistic adventures. Isn’t the judgment of poetry ultimately subjective no matter how jejune? Aren’t opinions rarely germane across generational divides and after all might this not be the first effort of what might presage a Caribou Renaissance? All fearfully and frighteningly true but then consider this exemplar:
I have big antlers on my head,
They go from ear to ear,
And every time I go to bed
I know that I’m a deer.

Remember this was written in snow with urine. It’s enough to make any thinking critic reconsider his convictions about the length of Buck season. Even if the career of e.e.cummings hadn’t already made you reconsider your position on gun control or something by Edna St. Vincent Millet hasn’t inspired you to Aztecesque fantasies about ripping her still beating heart from her chest and devouring it in front of her dying eyes, insipid doggerel like Rusty’s could drive a reasonable person or literate caribou, of whom there are none, to violence.

The caldron of emotional magma that lurks under the thin basaltic surface crust of civility that governs relations amongst the literary elite ruptured with astonishing vehemence. An editor at Harpers had to be restrained from beating Rusty to a pulpy death with an annotated copy of “The White Goddess”. Had a Department of Fish and Game warden not chosen that moment to pitch an article on an imaginary revival of interest in the work of Robert W. Service, its unlikely Rusty would have survived. Rusty would have been a former Caribou.

A more easily discouraged even numbered-toed ungulate might have given up after being battered by a book that thick but not Rusty, he continued to bleat out his deepest, darkest, most secret thoughts and dreams in poetical verse much to the annoyance of all involved. Rusty decided musical accompaniment was what he needed to properly get his message across. His hooves precluded any virtuosity on stringed instruments and keyboards and the expectoration of cud hopelessly fouled the spit valve of any wind instrument he played, so he abandoned those haphazardly mastered instruments and took up the drums. He was soon an above average percussionist, as it required no musical talent. Still Rusty was a songwriter and at the urging of his band he, like Karen Carpenter before him, left a sandwich on the tom-tom and moved from behind the trap set to the microphone and center stage.

The tundra has been described, not frequently but often enough, as “Starved for Entertainment” so except for an occasional road company of Riverdance or other rhythmic Irish tap dance extravaganza Rusty didn’t have much competition. Soon he was playing at all the Caribou functions, the annual kick off the migration party and mixer, the annual Bucks-defending-their-harem-of-females-for-breeding-privileges Festival and of course the Halloween Dance. It was at the latter that Rusty heard the music that changed his life.

Rusty and the band, an accordion player from Banff named Pierre, were on a break when the DJ put on the seminal classic, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. It turned out that the plucky little French Canadian Pierre had lived among the Seminoles after being shunned by his more fastidious people for consorting with caribou and had learning the Creek dialect spoken by the Floridians. He was able to translate the song, originally written hundreds of years before by Cherokee sachem and alphabet inventor Sequoia and then popularized by sportsman and baritone Gene Autry.

The song spoke volumes to Rusty. The classic tale of a young reindeer finding his heroic destiny as the pilot, captain and first among equals in an intrepid band of Reindeer as they magically transported their jolly old elf on his appointed rounds captivated Rusty. He listened to it endlessly, as it was exactly what he wanted to do.

Rudolf’s condition prior to finding his calling was particularly evocative to young Rusty who identified with his outsider status and isolation. He too had been laughed at and called names, he too had been excluded from games, Caribou games in his case not reindeer games but still he thought the parallels were uncanny. The final proof to cross his well antlered if dim little mind was that he, Rusty, shared a first initial with Rudolf.

Rusty accepted the story at face value having little in the way of education. Caribou are rarely well schooled being migratory cervidae with no fixed habitations, literature or language, at best they are as literate as an L.A Unified School District graduate. Rusty had no idea what Christmas was, who this Santa character was, where he might be located beyond a general “North Pole” address and how to get in touch with him. He also conveniently forgot that he was lacking in three key assets that Rudolf possessed: A bright red nose, the ability to fly and that he was, after all, a Caribou and not a reindeer.

He was munching on lichens growing on a mountain of Joseph Campbell literature dumped there by an unscrupulous publishing baron when he had his epiphany. He was fairly certain that Santa was not located on the migratory route of his herd. He would have to search further a field than he’d previously thought if he wanted to pursue his dream. He would be alone for the first time, a risky venture for him or any other herd animal that relied on numbers for protection. Finally he decided that his life as a Caribou would be blighted if he didn’t at least try to locate Kris Kringle and the indomitable band of reindeer he hoped to call brothers.

He decided to go to Paris.

He stowed away on a tramp steamer called The Harbor Queen sailing from Halifax and headed to Europe. This is no small feat for a four legged, antlered, 300-pound artiodactyla and speaks volumes about the quality of the intoxicants being used by the merchant marine even if the ship was laden with a cargo of fine quality hat racks destined for the best hat rack emporiums of the continent. After about the third day at sea the crew changed from their street clothes into their “boating outfits” and Rusty found out why it was called a tramp steamer. Shortly thereafter he was discovered hiding in a cargo hold and brought before the skipper, a man who went by the nom de mer: Captain Scabbard.

The captain was furious to discover Rusty had stowed away and vowed to make him work his way across the Atlantic. After being dressed like an English schoolboy and thoroughly caned, Rusty learned that there was more to being a sailor than just working on a ship. After a solid couple of hours of “heave hoing”, and “yo ho hoing”, the afternoons amounted to pretty much straight “hoing” and then there were the preparations for the evening galas and musicales the crew threw every night before raffling off the privilege of tucking in the cabin boy. Rusty soon got into the swing of things aboard the Queen; it was, after all, rutting season, and soon he became popular with the captain and crew in a way only a Caribou can be popular with sailors.

The men of the Queen filled Rusty in on a number of details that weren’t covered in the song and they put a face on Santa, not to mention Dancer, Prancer, Donder, They told him about the forgotten Reindeer, Chet and Dave imprisoned in the nineties for money laundering, of Santa’s associate Major Hummel that handled elf interrogation and Ingrid Clause, Santa’s evil twin sister, she bitch of Arctic. They told him Santa lived in the far north of Scandinavia and that a people called the Sámi or Laps kept reindeer and supplied Santa with replacements whenever Vixen and Dasher were laid out by Peppermint Schnapps or whatever gorge turning alcoholic concoction they drank to forget their drab tepid lives. He should ask for Sven if he ever got there because he was in their words, “Personally working the pimp hand, for the Reindeer hook up.” What ever that meant.

With his new knowledge Rusty was more determined than ever to get to the North Pole and immediately jumped ship under the misapprehension he was in Helsinki while in fact they were tethered to a Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, near Chester Pennsylvania. It wasn’t long before Rusty discovered that the natives had only rudimentary knowledge of Finno-Ugric languages and so after soaking up the atmosphere in that exotic port he tried to sneak back aboard the Harbor Queen. Unfortunately his souvenir trinkets and keepsakes short-circuited and began to buzz and vibrate madly, making a frightful racket.

Captain Scabbard was again furious and only partly mollified by the gift of an afghan hand knit by the happy Keystone State inhabitants or the hand massager cunningly shaped to get to all those hard to reach places and insisted that Rusty appear in the crew’s home movies, even though by doing so Rusty would have to forgo any chance of national political office.

A much more mature and sophisticated Rusty arrived in Helsinki some time later. The movies had been stolen and released by a mail order company and although Rusty sued the royalties barely covered his legal expenses. His manager had absconded with the rest leaving Rusty with only the income from the web site, his clothing line, his book and the movie deals.

A worldly-wise Rusty stepped onto the quay and turned his face into the biting wind from the north. Instinctively he knew his way; he strode confidently forward. The quest for his identity and destiny was about to begin and all because, in all his travels, in all his meetings, no one had ever told him there was no such thing as Santa Clause. He hitchhiked north; no mean feat for a thumb less four-legged animal on a strange continent. He thought of the life he had left behind; the migrations, the lichen, his band, Pierre, and wondered what would become of him.

Eventually a sympathetic French truck driver, coincidentally also named Pierre, hauling little tiny cheese balls with a laughing cow on the logo to the snack cheese starved far north, stopped and picked him up. He promised to take young Rusty with him in exchange his company and some cruel but inventive sexual favors. Rusty readily agreed having dealt with the tastes of Frenchmen before and explained the nature of his quest while pulling on the tawdry, ill fitting stockings and garter belt Pierre provided.

Pierre had never heard of any Scandinavians named Sven but after taking a long drawl on his Gauloise he remembered a Sámi named Irv who might agree to take him into his herd. It was a start, thought Rusty, still as clueless as the day he started about the mythological nature of Santa Clause and likely to stay that way if he relied on Pierre to smarten him up. In his fools paradise he thought perhaps he could pay his dues in another Reindeer herd and graduate to the majors later. At least it would get him away from Pierre, he could deal with the sex but his breath would knock a buzzard off a shit house.

Rusty was frantic with anticipation when Pierre turned his Semi off the highway and into the little town of Hemet Finland. Pierre got out of his truck and exchanged blows with a lanky local fellow. As disturbing as that image is to the impressionable, it was different than it sounds, and uglier. Apparently this was Irv, and Pierre had actually run into him with the truck, that’s right he hit a Sámi with a semi and every time they had met since they engaged in fisticuffs dancing around each other until one is beaten nearly senseless.

Irv, who appeared a bit fragile for a Sámi, seemed to get the worst of the “Lap Dance” and after some shouting, gesturing and intimidation by Pierre, reluctantly agreed to take Rusty into his herd. Rusty took it as a good sign that not just anyone got to run with the reindeer. Irv’s point of view was somewhat different; a deer in stockings and garters, accompanied by a Frenchman, particularly at this time of year, was somehow tainted in the simple folk wisdom of his people and probably should be handled with rubber gloves and a full haz-mat suit.

Never the less Pierre had prevailed so he showed Rusty to his stall or biohazard isolation ward as they called it in his quaint native Patois. After a lengthy quarantine, purges, emetics and a battery of blood test that came back negative Rusty was put on a rich and nutritious diet of oats and hay. Rusty was famished and was too busy eating to try to explain to the none caribou conversant Irv that if he ate like this for long he’d be too overweight to guide Santa’s Sleigh some foggy Christmas Eve. He didn’t even notice when Irv secured his feet to the floor. He paused when Irv cinched a good leather strap around his genitalia but having spent time with Pierre he assumed nothing could surprise him. He barely felt the razor sharp edge of the gelding knife as Irv drew it across his testicles.

Afterwards Rusty lost all interest in poetry and becoming one of Santa’s Reindeer; he just ate and ate. Soon he was plump enough to provide Irv’s family several hearty and nutritious meals. As Joseph Campbell observed: “Follow your Glee.”