(Part of the big screed is down below, in case you get bored with the early ration of twaddle.)

So I’m standing in line next to James Cromwell. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Same rangy build, haggard puss, dour face – everything but the deep calm calculating eyes. I wondered: why the devil did he decide to build on “Babe,” which earned him great affection from everyone, by choosing a long string of roles in which he played an Ethically Compromised Authority Figure? You see him show up in a movie, you know he’s the cold institutional bastard who’ll shiv the hero in the third act. He also was the most egregiously miscast actor in two key roles – Zephram Cochrane, in “Star Trek 8,” which should have gone to someone with Kirk Power boiling in his marrow, and Dudley Smith in “L.A. Confidential.” Dudley was a cheerful Oirish gladhander, ready with the boy-o and the “aye, lad,” the slap on the back, the wise nod. It was his cheer and his smile that made his dark side so frightening; Cromwell played him like the head of a chain of funeral homes.

Anyway, it wasn’t James Cromwell. It was a guy in a grocery store, looking up and down the check-out lines for relief. There was none to be had. The store had opened four lines out of ten, and every line had six carts, each loaded as though the Nazis were at the outskirts of Richfield. My line’s progress was impeded by a nice, sweet, check-out operator who wanted to chat, and had an opinion about this, and that, and the kid’s cute clothes, and the price of grapefruit, and so on. The world moves in slow-motion when you have ice cream. You can feel it melt. I wouldn’t mind, if it didn’t get crunchy when it melted and refroze. But shouting out I CANNOT ABIDE CRUNCHY ICE CREAM doesn’t move the line, it just summons the manager.

There weren’t any baggers, which was fine – I can bag better than half these amateurs, having learned the craft when I left college and ended up behind the counter at a late-night corner grocery store. I had everything in the bag by the time she was done beeping the goods – and then I noticed that I was bagging items I had not selected. The person behind me in line had been unable, by reasons of profound obesity, to reach the bars that we use to set our purchases apart. I’m serious: she barely fit in the aisle. When she moved forward she knocked candy bars and magazines off the racks, and one of the magazines had a cover story about why Jen took John back. I felt good about knowing who Jen and John were, and even better about not caring. I felt bad for the woman – not Jen, if she can’t hold a man there’s something wrong with her, and I suspect she may be Nerf in human form, both intellectually and carnally, albeit Nerf with a firm foam core – but everything in her cart consisted of High Fructose Corn Syrup, each item referring to some psychological Gibralter around which every thought and action in her life had to sail.

Before I left I snapped the usual pictures, which reveal facts about how Halloween trains us to expect peculiar things in grocery stores:

It's nice that they have "Halloween" oer "Rat Eating Ghoul," in case you thought it was one of the Easter models. On the same shelf:

If I had that much hair on my hand, I'd chop it off, too. Remember, crawling hands are inherently homicidal. They're looking for throats to throttle. That's all they know how to do one they're severed and possessed; it would never occur to them to be helpful, and scratch those difficult-to-reach itches on your back. Which is the reason people flee them. They have only themselves to blame.

Don't know how I missed this. It's our generation's Paul Newman:

The label makes him look as though he had a reaction to the cleaner, but it's probably just the printing. I admire the fellow for follow-through; he talks the talk and bikes the bike, so he's not one of those sorts preaching down to the rest of us from a LearJet. (Or the special Hollywood version, the NormanLearJet.) His imdb page lists this curious fact:

Has appeared in both the animated series "Batman" (1992) and one of the live-action films--in his case, Batman Forever (1995). The only other persons to do this are Rene Auberjonois, John Glover, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Vincent Schiavelli.

Sen. Leahy? Yes: he's "Unintimidated Gentleman At Party." He was also in "Batman & Robin." In the Batman cartoons: he's "Governor of the Utah Territory." Apparently he's a Batman fan. So am I, but no one ever - oh. Right.

Before this I’d shot a video at the Spirit Halloween store: they were having a blood drive, ha ha, with ghouls and vampires encouraging people to open up and get drained. We were told that the bloodletters would actually be in vampire mufti, but apparently the higher-ups nixed the idea. So a staff member of the Halloween store dressed up for an interview. As with the others, it’s just improv – you show up and do something. Great fun, even though it meant working on the weekend. It’ll be up around noonish.

Other than that, a fine weekend; strung some Halloween lights – when I was a kid my Mom put up one cardboard skeleton from Ben Franklin a few days before Halloween; now I have to string 300 fargin’ lights - watched some movies, including a truly dull “Golddiggers of 1937” that nevertheless had the requisite paging-Dr.-Freud Busby Berkeley sequence, twittered a COPS marathon, burned endless GB of raw footage to DVDs. Sunday night dinner at the Convention Grill; hamburgers and malts, best in town. Warm day and a warm night. Ready for it all to start again.

Now, some invective. Another installment in "What's Chapping the Fundament of the Garrison Keillor, Fine Novellist and Dreadfully Lazy Columnist, Today." Those inclined not to enjoy these things are heartily advised to enjoy a Matchbook, or head over to buzz.mn for some notes on zoo-giraffe baby-naming contests. And remember - new Strib video up at noon, and twittering all day.


The Old Scout spends the first part of his column talking about church – he goes to it, you know, but he’s allowed to talk about it and have it inform his world view, because he’s a good man unlike the cheese-wranglers and the fistula-pishers and whatever ineffective invective he gets out of the Froth-O-Matic this week – then he slides in this howler:

I let other people carry the conversational ball when it come to religion, or politics, these days. I’ve known enough old bores to not want to be one of them.

Well, in fairness, most typewriters don't come with a mirror. The rest of the column is a hymn to the Goodness of the American people, in whom he has newfound pride since they decided to come to their senses. He reserves the right to thunder against those who have not joined the parade, of course; Obama’s opponents are described at the end of the column as cheats, weasels, pigs and buzzards. Michelle Obama is decribed as an “ebullient woman of quick wit and beautiful spirit.” He adds, as a persuasive note for those who remain unconvinced of the beauty of her spirit, “Bravo, Michelle.”

You’d think that years of working for a classical music station would have taught him to use “Brava,” but it would be buzzardly and piggish to point that out. The only reason I bring it up is because I have a few notes left over from the last outing of the Old Scout, and they’re about as timely as three-week old fish guts, but I can’t resist.  This is what I wrote last week, with a few adjustments. Speaking of the previous column:

It’s the usual Keillor twaddle – a humorless, scattershot ramble of run-on sentences and unsourced assertions, and I didn’t see anything that set it apart from the dozens of sour broadsides that preceded it. He doesn’t like Sarah Palin, although if she was on the Obama ticket he would have found a few nice words before falling silent on the matter, just as the wisdom and august judgment of Biden seems to hover beneath his radar. He is also angry about Republican economics, because, as he stated in a previous column, they deregulated everything and caused the whole mess.  In his imagination, sixteen GOP Senators dressed like the fellow from the Monopoly game took a break from playing polo – with slaves dressed up as horses, of course, ha ha, capital idea, Smidley – and somehow did something which was totally unrelated to the sub-prime mortgage issue. I suspect he believes that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd woke nightly from sheet-soaking nightmares in which the loan standards were loosened just a bit too much, and every time they went to the office intent on fixing this mess, gol dang it, John McCain dragged them into a coatroom and administered ether. Amazingly strong fellow.

 It doesn’t matter what Clinton signed; it doesn’t matter that Bush and McCain tried to raise alarms; there’s not an jot of responsibility on Keillor’s side, because if anything goes wrong it can be traced to the one simple fact that shapes his world: the other side is composed of despicable, cowardly, dishonest, cynical bastards still upset that Jolson's reputation is sullied by his use of blackface. On his side: angels. The man makes a Manichean look like an agnostic Unitarian.

But I suspect this line may have thrilled some:

Low dishonesty and craven cynicism sometimes win the day but not inevitably. The attempt to link Barack Obama to an old radical in his neighborhood has desperation and deceit written all over it.

Let us now examine his reasons:



Sorry, there aren’t any. You’ll have to take him at his word that it’s low, dishonest, craven, cynical, desperate, and deceitful. And if you weren’t paying any attention, you might believe that the entire affair can be accurately described as “an attempt to link” Sen. Obama to “an old radical in his neighborhood,” as if some harmless old Bolshie lived down the street, and they’d occasionally nod while taking out the recycling.

It’s possible that Keillor has no idea of the connections between Sen. Obama and Bill Ayers (and his wife, she of the famous endorsement of starlet-stabbing), in which case it’s proof that his column slides unedited down the gullet of modern journalism. This would not make him the most uninformed columnist in the country, but he would certainly be above average. If he does know, though, and chooses to regard discussion of the relationship as beyond the realm of civilized political discourse, well, the standards have certainly changed. Or rather the old standards are being selectively applied.
Here are the curious facts of modern politics:

1. Ayers was dedicated to killing American soldiers to ensure that Vietnam was ruled by Communists.

2. Ayers is unrepentant, and proudly posed for a photo standing on an American flag.

3. This is irrelevant.  It is irrelevant to then, because the cause was just, if the execution was irrationally exuberant; it is irrelevant to today, because Ayers is now an educator, and a respected member of the intelligentsia.

4. This says nothing about education or the intellegentsia, except to attest to their broad-mindedness.

5. There is nothing wrong with Ayers, but nevertheless his associations with Sen. Obama – the fund-raising at his house, the Woods Foundation, the Annenberg Challenge, the book blurb – are circumstantial, tenuous, and meaningless, because A) Obama was 8 when the crimes occurred, and thus unable to give the full-throated condemnation he later felt, but managed to suppress while coming up the ranks of Chicago politics; B) one could not avoid Ayers in Chicago, which is a very small city; C) if Obama did feel deep distaste, there was never really a good time to bring it up, and D) many other respectable people had no problem associating with the fellow, and E) Ayers is not advising him now, any more than, say, Louis Farrakhan is. The last point is important, because it means we should trust Obama’s judgment. He’s the kind of fellow who turns out not to seek Ayers’ advice when running for national office. And that's enough.

Now. You have to ask yourself how the media would cover a long-standing association between John McCain and a fellow who, in the hurly-burly-mixed-up-folderol of the Civil Rights Era, went a little too far and burned some Black churches, or led a group devoted to blowing up abortion clinics.  Mind you, he was never convicted – technicalities, which was ironic, because Conservatives hate those – but he went on to serve on school boards and charity foundations that advocated for States’ Rights, an issue dear to conservative hearts. Imagine the deets are the same – cozy fundraisers, serving on the same boards, McCain’s name on Bomber Bob’s memoir. Add to that some other parallels – say, McCain attended a church that praised a fellow who believed black people were descended from the devil, and believed Jesus was an Aryan.

John McCain wouldn’t be the nominee, and if by some chance that happened, this association would be draped around his neck every day.

You may disagree with this, but I don’t think I’ve attempted any deceit here. Deceit would entail lying about what Ayers did, and insisting they had a connection when there was none. You could say it’s almost deceitful to say there’s nothing there whatsoever, but that’s up for debate. But you can imagine Keillor writing 14 pre-election columns that never mentioned the McCain friend who tried to blow up a Planned Parenthood clinic. I think it would matter, and it wouldn’t be “desperation” to point it out.

I don’t think Obama shares Ayers’ views now, if ever; he strikes me as an intellectual Zelig. But it’s interesting how nothing matters. No, amend that – the small things matter, which is why Joe the Plumber has to be vetted, and Biden’s gaffes ignored. The big things are in the past, and the past is irrelevant. The past matters only if it has a sin that proves the stain inherent in the culture, a stain that will be washed out in the coming reign of goodness and light. The past is a stone, and you can’t run towards the sun unless you drop it, and tell yourself you’re starting anew with every step you take.

Odd how the sun always seems to be the same distance away, no matter how light you travel. Well, there must be a shadowy group that's pushing it out of our grasp. Find them!