In the ten years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, 2350American military have been killed. Ten Montanans, including two from Missoula, lost their lives fighting this pointless and unwinnable disaster. —numbers from icasualties.org
7300 of the 18 million members of Goodreads have voted for books they started but abandoned. Top of the list was Catch 22, followed closely by titles in the Lord of the Rings series.
Rachel: "Hanna, what did your mum die of?"
Hanna: "Three bullets."
—from the film, Hanna
"Every gun that is made signifies, in the final sense, a theft." —Dwight Eisenhower
"A lot of magic is designed to appeal to people visually, but what I'm trying to affect is their minds, their moods, their perceptions. My goal isn't to hurt them or to bewilder them with a puzzle but to challenge their maps of reality." —Apollo Robbins, pickpocket
"Beijing spends more today on domestic security, protecting the state from a daily parade of public grievances and unrest, than it does on foreign defense." —Evan Osnos
"We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species; these cells outnumber those which we consider to be our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds—the same as our brain." —Michael Specter
“There is no part of me that feels I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher. . . . I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.” —J.K. Rowling
"[Obama] has no fixed principles. He's opportunistic —he goes for expedience, like Clinton. Some call him temperamentally conflict-averse. If you want to be harsher, you say he has no principles and he's opportunistc." —Ralph Nader
"Paul Ryan is the English-speaking version of Sarah Palin." —Bill Maher
"I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves—you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories." —Ray Bradbury
"I am stunned that the two greatest desires of people involved in the gay rights movement is gay marriage and gays in the military. Really? To me these are the two most confining institutions on the planet." —Fran Lebowitz
"My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either." —Christopher Hitchens
"There's nothing more English than bad sex." —Rowan Somerville, winner of the eighteenth annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award. One of Rowan's lines: "'Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her."
"Why are all barrel racers cremated when they die? Because the ground is never good enough." —rodeo humor
"I believe the best way to become an aetheist is to read the Bible." —Penn Jillette
"Quit attacking Mitt Romney as a member of a cult. Members of a cult actually believe in something." —Bill Maher
"The civil-rights war that engulfed the South for the rest of the decade . . . happened without e-mail, texting, Facebook, or Twitter." —Malcolm Gladwell
"In terms of making a living as a writer, you better have another source of income." —Nan Talese
"As we've learned from the disastrous implosion of AIG, there is no such thing anymore as a giant company dying alone." —Matt Taibbi, writing about British Petroleum
"Las Vegas is a pilot project to see if man can live on the moon." —Chef Paul Bartolotta
"I was completely aware that I was writing crap. I hope to God people don't read my advice on how to make gin at home because they'll probably poison themselves. Never trust anything you read on eHow." —a former Demand Studios 'content farm' writer
"I try really hard not to think about how old and creepy I am." —David Crosby
"Me and your wife have something really special going on. Please don't mess this up for me." —from the film, Extract
"Let Uncle James translate what Tea Party Republicans really mean when they say they want to 'take our government back.'
Kentucky's Rand Paul opposes the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Nevada's Sharron Angle is itching to dismantle Social Security. And California's Carly Fiorina dismisses climate change concerns as fretting about 'the weather.'" —James Carville
"Ron Galella is the price tag of the First Amendment." —Floyd Abrams, famed media lawyer, discussing the photographer sued for harassment by Jackie Onassis
The disclosure that Facebook has "routinely turned over data-mined information to advertisers should not come as a surprise. Privacy groups have been telling regulators—especially the FTC— that consumer privacy has been at risk." —Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy
The media are entrusted to report and comment on the news. Yet every time a sportswriter or sportscaster casts a vote for an award or honor, that person is thrust into the middle of a story. For sports journalists there's only one solution: Stop voting. —Jay Mariotti, sports columnist
"Journalists attending a long trial together develop a special camaraderie born of a shared good mood; their stories are writing themselves; they have only to pluck the low-hanging fruit of the attorneys' dire narratives." —Janet Malcolm
"More than half of Americans who use social networks are posting online information that makes them vulnerable to crime, in both the cyberworld and the real one." —Consumer Reports
"My life is light, waiting for the death wind, like a feather on the back of my hand." —T.S. Eliot, from A Song for Simeon
"If it's allowed to take hold in the consumer's mind that a book is worth ten bucks, to my mind it's game over for this business."
— David Young, a book publishing CEO, discussing the Amazon Kindle
"We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth." — Ronald Reagan, in a 1974 speech
"Even before the Democrats got to take a single victory lap they were already being warned not to get used to the feeling, and not to get drunk with power. I disagree. All you Democrats: do a shot, and then do another. Get drunk on this feeling of not backing down and doing what you came to Washington to do." — Bill Maher
"Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. It's hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster." — David Frum, former aide to George Bush, discussing the health care bill
"Maciel was a sexual criminal of epic proportions who gained the trust of John Paul II and created a movement that is as close to a cult as anything we've seen in the church." —Jason Berry, director of Vows of Silence, a documentary about the priest who founded the Legion of Christ in 1941
"I'm concerned about your willingness to settle down and commit to a serious polygamous relationship." —Big Love
"The health care system in the U.S. is controlled by the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, and Wall Street . . . I'd rather see Obama go down with a system that puts patients back in the care of doctors than succeed with some watered-down measure." —Bill Moyers
"Guys who play golf are too fat to play tennis." —Molly Shannon, in the film Serendipity
"What shall we do with all this useless beauty?" —Elvis Costello
"There is something that can be done [to save newspapers], and the federal government ought to do it: allow sports betting on newspaper websites." —Mort Zuckerman, New York Daily News owner
"If instead of sweetened beverages the average American drank water he or she would weigh fifteen pounds less." —Eric Finkelstein, co-author of The Fattening of America
Notes from the Squalor Zone By Bill Vaughn
When Democrats act like Republicans it’s time to vote for the Left. On Nov. 18 Montana Senators John Walsh and Jon Tester were among fourteen right-wing Democrats who voted for a measure authorizing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. These oil industry hacks joined every Goper in the Senate in a losing battle for Phase Four of the XL, a three-foot diameter pipeline that would disturb twelve hundred miles of land running from the tar sands of Alberta to Baker, Montana, then through South Dakota and Nebraska where it would join an existing pipeline at Steele City on the Kansas-Nebraska border. Tester vowed to vote for the measure again when it comes before the Senate in 2015.
Critics have attacked the scheme for claims made by unions and the oil industry that it would create jobs; in fact, only fifty or so workers will have permanent positions. Indian tribes and other landowners along the proposed route are concerned about leaks that could poison their streams and groundwater. Environmentalists ask why the U.S. and Canada are intent on burning even more oil in light of a recent United Nations report that says man-made greenhouse gases are the cause of the climate change that’s already beginning to kill people and damage the economies of North America.
Walsh is a disgraced plagiarist whose brief and tarnished political career is finished. Jon “Three Fingers” Tester is up for re-election in 2018, giving organizers of a third party ample time to ship him back to home to his lentil farm, where he can’t do any further damage to Montana. (11/18/2014)
Cheap. Instead of buying a new calendar we were happy to discover that one of our fave old calendars, the 2009 version from Willow Creek Press featuring 10½” x 13” glossy color photos of grizzly bears, will work for 2015. That’s because both begin on a Thursday, and aren’t leap years. A few of the holidays won’t coincide, but that doesn’t matter because this is a Canadian calendar that marks events such as the Queen’s birthday, Saint Jean-Baptiste Day, Bastille Day, and, for the Canadian descendents of Irish Protestants, the Battle of the Boyne. We recorded the events of our own special days at Dark Acres here, as well. On April 17, Duke and Doreen, our redneck ospreys, returned from Latin America to the high nest on the county road that Northwestern Energy erected for them at great expense. On May 10 the first morels popped up; four days later the first calliope humming bird made its appearance, and on May 21 the hawthorns began to bloom, filling the air with the odor of sex and death. (11/14/2014)
Notes from the Archives
The Hunger Artistes
The Amazing and Versatile Food Suit will transform the world of garments as much as Ron Popeil’s Vegematic changed the act of chopping. By Bill Vaughn
It is the life-affirming genius of baseball that the short can pummel the tall, the rotund can make fools of the sleek, and no matter how far down you find yourself in the bottom of the ninth you can always pull out a miracle. But it’s the mathematical potential for a single game to last forever, in a suspended world where no clock rules the day, which aligns baseball as much with the dead as the living. And so one tempestuous afternoon in May it seemed right and proper that we should spend three hours at Chicago’sWrigley Field, home of the much-loved Cubs, then drive through twenty miles of urban wasteland to a vast necropolis called St. Mary’s Cemetery in order to search among the graves for a former midget named Eddie Gaedel.
The drizzle was chilled and the wind was gusting, but we were snug and perfectly self-contained units, zipped up as we were in our Amazing and Versatile Food Suits. And this is why the Mexican groundskeeper and his wife were staring at us wide-eyed from the safety of their pickup. Poking among the headstones, our hoods up to keep our heads dry, our suits gleaming white even in the demi-light, we looked a little like ghosts, and a lot like toxic waste workers. Although I had long since quaffed all the beer in my Brew Bladder, I still had enough icy Bombay in the flask stored in my Cold Pocket for a very satisfying martini. And the Chicago-style Brat I’d packed into my Hot Pocket was, indeed, still toasty, although I wished then that I had refilled my Condiment Dispenser with more of that good deli mustard they lay on at the ball park.
Victor Lieberman was sipping a vile blend of Cuervo and Coca-Cola from his suck tube, and snacking on the Pig Sandwich he’d bought at Wrigley on the way out. Although the Food Suit was still a flawed invention we re-create every time we put it on, we were exuberant about the excellent results of the day’s shakedown cruise. While the purveyors of sports cars and cologne pay focus groups to determine how best to peddle their wares, the Food Suit guys go forth boldly into the maw, the very stadiums where we intend our product will be used. Here we harvest ideas from its actual future customers, the fans who will joyously wear the Suit themselves one day or buy it for their loved ones.
Although possessed by a random and antic genius, Lieberman is no different than me—he puts his Food Suit on one leg at a time. And when we’re done putting our Food Suits on one leg at a time, filling our Brew Bladders with beer, stuffing our Hot Pockets with grilled meats and our Cold Pockets with dessert, then topping our flasks with liquor and securing our outfielder’s gloves to our persons, we are better prepared for a day at the ballpark than any other baseball fan in the world. And the way they had been staring—those Cubs fansstreaming by us toward the gates of Wrigley—they seemed to know they were in the presence of a bleacher revolution.
“You got balls, man,” a twenty-something thug had informed us the moment we stepped through the turnstile into the friendly confines. “Coming in here like that.” I had the sense that this guy, who was built in the statuesque manner of Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa, might enjoy taking a swing at me. But when he stepped closer and I flinched, he only smiled. “I got to have me one of them.”
Then, as I was pouring draft into the bladder strapped around my chest, two thirty-something sisters in blue Cubs caps began reading in unison the words silk-screened on our backs. “Ask me about the Amazing and Versatile Food Suit,” they chanted, lingering on the last two words, possibly because they were formed from graphics of sliced melons, cheeseburgers, and franks. When we turned around to face them they began laughing. But as we unwound our spiel, walking them through the many fine features of the Suit, they became all-business.
“But dis, dis is just wrong,” the shorter one said in that caustic, sibilant accent you can only acquire by growing up within an El ride of the Loop.
“What is?” Victor asked. She patted the Spalding outfielder’s glove attached to a clip on my chest. “See, you’d never get dat mitt offa dare in time to snag a foul.”
“Yeah, you gotta get dat glove on a bungee,” the taller one said. “Sumpin dat stretches. Udderwise, yer gonna take one upside da noggin.”
Victor and I looked at each other. Insights like this, demonstrations of how little the minds of two self-absorbed middle-aged men can accomplish, even when given a limited task and years to finish it, was exactly why we were taking the Food Suit to the people. Another woman in the clot of fans who had gathered around us stepped forward to get a better look at the Brew Bladder.
“At last,” she said, nodding her head in approval, making the storm of Irish-red hair there shudder like a prairie fire. “Somebody’s done something interesting with catheters.”
At this point in our development plan the bladder was actually only a cheap medical product called a “center entry bedside drainage bag.”
“‘Course, it’s just a model,” I offered. “Our bag will be insulated and a whole lot bigger.”
“In order to get by the two-beer rule,” Victor added.
This announcement met with general merriment. In May of 1999, when 75 fans were ejected from Wrigley after the bleacher bums littered the field with garbage in response to an umpire’s bad call, Cubs ownership announced that brewski sales would be limited to two per customer instead of the previous four. But since you can always go back to theconcessions for another double, and many fans enjoy getting hammered before the game at sprawling sports bars in the neighborhood such as the Cubbie Bear, the rule is widely considered a joke. Just two days before our visit to Wrigley, during a night game Victor had attended, a drunken Cubbie fan had leaned over the short wall beside the enemy’s bull pen, and allegedly punched Dodger catcher Chad Kreuter in the back of the head before kiping the man’s cap. Kreuter responded by going into the stands after the guy. When the rest of the bullpen waded in as well, where they were instantly soaked with beer and ice and pelted with food, a hockey-like flurry of fists ensued resulting in the arrests of three civilians and the suspension of 19 Dodger players and coaches, although the league chickened out and overturned 12 of those suspensions a month later.
“You like catheters,” I said to Red. “And who doesn’t. So you might enjoy what we’ve done with the old, you know, plumbing.”
“Shut up,” she said.
I crossed my heart. “No, really.” I reached down and jacked up the cuff of one leg to show her the plastic bottle strapped to my ankle.
“You use it, you step to the gutter, you open the spigot. Voila.”
“Oh my God,” someone said.
“Well that’s great for you guys,” Red said. “But what about the ladies?”
“You insert,” I said, “If you want to go that route, which I don’t think you’d much care for. Or—”
“Depends,” Victor said.
“Depends on what?” Red said.
“No, the adult diaper.
“You’re wearing a diaper?”
“They’re great,” Victor said. “Wicks moisture away from your skin. And I would say it has a ten-beer capacity. End of the day you just toss it.”
“This is what fly fishermen back home in Montana wear,” I explained. “They put on a Depends, slip into their sweats, pull on their waders, load up their float tube with brewski, and fish away.”
Red was sold. “You on the Web?”
“Go to darkacres.com,” Victor said.
There is, of course, nothing new under the sun. Innovations are simply rearrangements of the same old matter, or more of the same old matter heaped on. Take the Mach4 razor, for example. Or The Hummer. Meld a picnic basket with a cooler, refabricate this hybrid into a garment, and you’ve got the Food Suit. Apply for a patent and suddenly the Food Suit is an invention that at least on paper is as capable of transforming the world of garments as Ron Popeil’s Vegematic was in changing the act of chopping forever.
The idea was born in a sudden drugged brainstorm that struck Victor and myself in 1981, a year after we met during a poker game at his Studio City condo on the other side of Hollywood. We were following the Freeway Series, a California classic pitting the Dodgers against the Angels in the best of three preseason games. We’d driven to Palm Springs for game one, where I had yelled out to Reggie Jackson how sharp he looked, and the Angels’ famous designated hitter had yelled back “And you are looking sharp, too.” The next day we picked up four other guys, distributed enough psilocybin mushrooms to get everyone effervescent, bought a flock of broasted chickens in Chinatown, drove up into Chavez Ravine, and diverted a river of beer and a herd of cattle to ourselves in Dodger Stadium as we watched the home team demolish Reggie and his bunch. At the seventh inning stretch I noticed that the thinning crowd we were packed among had found new seats as far away as they could. One young Korean couple was still glaring—I had slipped on some chicken bones and spilled an entire 16-ounce cup of beer on the back of their Dodger windbreakers. My hands were soaked with cheeseburger grease, and I really needed to take a piss—but I knew if I left now I’d never find my way back, temperamentally addled as I was. Worst of all, the beer I’d been nursing had become insipid.
More Notes from the Squalor Zone
Abandon the Democratic Party. After getting pummeled in last week’s general election it’s clear that Montana’s Democratic Party has become a bastion for intellectual cowards. These hacks thought if they mouthed the same shibboleths their GOP rivals did (the Keystone Pipeline will create jobs, we should harvest more timber and stripmine more coal,) they might trick some people into voting for them. Because the party of Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf no longer exists and the current party has no future in the land of oro y plata, candidates in the 2016 elections with leftist agendas have nothing to lose by coming out of the closet. It doesn’t matter what they call themselves—progressives, socialists, new leftists—at the very least their ideas will offer voters an alternative to those reactionary barks from the far right, and the stuttering fake ideology of GOP imitators. So what if they get beat? If they stay in the party they’re going to get beat anyway, and will again have served up voters the same old shit. At the least they should go down with some dignity.
Anyway, here are a few pieces of legislation we’d like to see:
1. Exercise eminent domain over Northwestern Energy, Montana-Dakota and all other utilities in order to convert them to entities owned and managed by local communities, which would elect a governing board in each county to set rates and maintain infrastructures.
2. Support the city of Missoula’s fight to own its own water system.
3. Abolish the Public Service Commission.
4. Compel the University system to lower tuition for non-athletes by confiscating profits from its athletic departments (amounting in 2012 to more than $1 million), and from sales of officially licensed merchandise sold, for example, by the University of Montana.
5. Triple the coal severance tax and remove the exemption on producers of less than 50,000 tons per year. Direct the increased revenues to the health care system.
6. Triple the quarterly license tax of 22 cents per ton levied against producers and importers of cement and cement products.
7. See below
Taxing soccer. Voters in Missoula County passed a measure that would float a $42 million bond intended to build soccer fields, softball diamonds and other sporting venues on county land at Fort Missoula. The intent of this construction is to give Missoula the facilities it needs to bid on statewide and regional tournaments. (Our sports—tennis and horses—weren’t even mentioned in the plans, despite the fact that the county offers no lighted tennis courts for after-dark use, and gives the Missoula equestrian park almost nothing). The hope is that the swarms of competitors streaming into Missoula will spend tons of money here on hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters. Because many Missoulians will never use these sporting facilities but are now forced to pay for them through increased property taxes for the next twenty years (ours will go up at least $40 a year), we think the bond should be paid off instead from revenue taxes in the form of warm-season tariffs on lodging, food and entertainment. (11/10/2014)