Monday, August 29, 2011

Not Celebratory

James Lileks went on a Disney cruise to Europe. He made an interesting point about one of the themes on Day 5.

On the ship it was Pirate Night.... I arrred well and hard at the maitre d’ when we entered: it’s table nine I’ll be wanting, me hearties - but once Bradford, our waiter, asked me if I would be dressing up, I explained that my sympathies were with the colonial administrators, just trying to get the money to the mother country without losing it to some thieves. Pirates are interesting, but not admirable, no matter how you gussy it up with yo-ho-hoing and avast-ye-matey exultations of a life unbound from convention and oppression. As all the waiters danced around the room, wearing pirate costumes, I had a vision of a ship 400 years hence, with all the waiters dressed up for Al-Qaeda night, wearing suicide vests and waving automatic weapons.

The Al-Qaeda reference might be going a bit too far, but seeing the suffering caused by current pirates, and realizing that past pirates caused similar fear and loathing, does temper my enthusiasm for extolling them, even in cartoon form, which is what this is. I also can't help but wonder at holding such a party on a ship.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cheer Up As Best You Can

Once again, Jon Carroll hits it.

It's been a gloomy few weeks, hasn't it?All that nonsense in Washington, followed by that nonsense on Wall Street, followed by rioting in London and most of the nation baked so badly in crippling heat that one is surprised their brains were not fried right there in their skulls like eggs on the sidewalk.

We've had all that, plus a summer of steady flooding, which brings up a thought. What can you think about flooding caused not by natural calamity, but by conscious decision? Yes, the motivations for the decision were natural - heavy snow pack in Montana - but there was something very odd about the Corps of Engineers saying, "We're going to cause major flooding in your community, by releasing a certain amount of water, starting on a certain day, for a certain length of time." That cold precision has not gone down well. The Corps has made a few enemies around here.

Anyway, Jon says to take heart.

There is pleasure all around us, and while we are suffering from the News, the not-news should give us comfort. You know, rubber ducks and old dogs and tall trees and tomatoes (They're in! They're fresh! I have mentioned this already!) and good-looking members of the human race. Also wisdom and Rembrandt and jug band music. So many things.

It won't just happen,though.

The bad news is always with us; we have to make the good news.

This or That

A recent issue of Car and Driver had a number of short two-car comparison tests, some traditional (Mustang vs. Camaro) some, well, seemingly based on whatever cars they had on hand (BMW 1-series vs. Mazda RX-8?). This got me to thinking (uhoh) about the preferences in my own life.

Since Car and and Driver started this, I'll lead off with them vs. Road and Track. I've subscribed to both for longer than I care to ponder, and each has a distinct character. C&D has always been edgier and bawdier, especially during the David E. Davis era (RIP sir), and a bit more willing to be critical of its subjects. R&T has a generally mellower tone and, more importantly, it has Peter Egan. My taste tends toward C&D, but as long as I can afford both (and Egan is still writing) I'll read both.

McDonald's vs. Burger King. Again, I patronize both, but in this case it's because neither really sets me off enough to justify exclusivity. I've begun using the McDonald's value menu because (1) I'm cheap and (2) the burgers on it have a certain old-fashioned minimalist flavor that I've been finding refreshing as the main offerings seem to be trending toward gigantism. I have yet to try this at Burger King, largely because the Whopper is a fine sandwich, especially in Angry form. Burger King's lack of a children's play area can be a factor if we've got Bean with us, since she's more likely to sit still and eat without the looming temptations. It's to the point that we alternate, if we can recall the place at which we last ate. We do make occasional spontaneous stops for waffle cones at Burger King on Wednesdays and Sundays when they're on sale.

(Important point: On a recent trip to Sioux Falls we ate at Wendy's, which reminded me that if someone were to open one here, the other burger joints would be dead to me. The burgers, the chili, the frosties....the place just hits the spot.)

Coke vs. Pepsi. This has never been a real contest: I've always been a Coke guy. Unlike some people I know, though, I will drink either depending on what's available. It also depends on what form the beverage takes; I drink regular Coke from fountains, but lately I've been buying Cherry Coke from the machine at work. I also keep some Caffeine-free Coke (non-diet; I have not yet found a diet pop that doesn't leave an aftertaste, although Diet Squirt isn't bad) at home for those times when a Coke sounds good but I need to be certain of getting to sleep.

Old Looney Tunes vs. reruns of The Simpsons. This one comes up because they are on opposite each other at 11:30 am weekdays. This one can put wear and tear on the remote control depending on what is being shown. I'm a big fan of most Chuck Jones productions, but certain classic Simpsons episodes (The B-Sharps, The Last Temptation of Homer) can hold the tuner in place. Usually, it ends up as a click-fest during commercials.