Augh. Brilliant! I put up a tip jar, and it doesn’t work. Turns out that a picture of an Amazon tip jar does not actually link to an Amazon tip jar. Tomorrow, your host learns that clicking on a picture of a telephone does not generate a dial tone.

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Well, it was late. (My usual excuse.) The image showed up from the Amazon server, so I figured everything else worked. Well, here it is again.


So! What gay, madcap wrist-slittery can I provide today? Actually, I’m in a passable fettle; I think I drained all the grim end-of-an-era emotions out yesterday. I was surprised at the quantity I had. But as before: once I get to the bottom of it all, I’m glad. Something new had to happen. And it

will. Here’s a fine gauge of today’s mood: about two minutes ago it became apparent that this seat in the gazebo has a wet core, and that constant pressure of one’s body eventually transfers that moisture to one’s garments, and thereafter to one’s skin. So I’m wet. Getting up won’t change that. So I won’t.

Man, this is really uncomfortable.

Anyway. Tonight I made the worst tacos ever. Home tacos never hit the spot like restaurant tacos. I suspect there’s one key spice they withhold from the home market, available only to certain people with the right connections. A powerful, shady cabal. Once the mailman delivered a copy of “Taco Insider” to the wrong address, and the entire family disappeared. They found their bodies in a Mexican grave. Cause of death: they’d been smothered with cheese. The ingredient is probably MSG, I know. But I’d like to think it’s a special pepper that tastes different than the other peppers. I’ve always wondered about those “Five Pepper Blends” – wouldn’t the strongest pepper render the rest moot? No one dumps five different peppers on their tongue, waits for the burn to leave, then picks up the delicate underflavor of the shy, retiring peppers. I know I’ll get mail from pepper enthusiasts who could put a habenero up one nostril and a jalapeno up the other and identify them without hesitation, but for me – Mr. Oven Mitt Palate, Mr. Asbestos-Glove-For-Tongue – I can’t tell. Still, home tacos are just off. Tonight I tried Old El Paso’s Stand and Stuff Salsa flavored shells. Everyone had the expression of an elderly municipal librarian finding clown porn on a computer screen.

I had been encouraged to try the Stand and Stuff by the Giant Swede, whose family swore by them. Square bottomed shells, they make the lovin’ world go ‘round. I wondered how you could eat a square-bottomed shell without cracking it beyond repair, and sure enough: things fell apart; the center could not hold. So I’m done with those. I can see where you’d want the Stand and Stuff variety if you had no arms, and had to fill the shells with a spoon held in your mouth, but it’s not as if Taco Night has been previously ruined by an uncontrollable domino-effect of toppling shells that ends with the living room armoire toppling over.

After dinner they went off to Brownies, and I did the Hewitt show. We discussed Fred Thompson, whom I like – he’s good ol’ Uncle Fred, the cool slow-talkin’ relative who has a beer with your dad and maybe tousles your hair as you run past, and who may or may not have shot a man in Reno back in ’67. Well, that’s what you heard mom tell her friend.

We also discussed the immigration bill. I tire of the preludes one has to make in these situations, all the protestations of anti-nativism. It’s not enough to say you’re in favor of immigration, and lots of it; anything short of dropping thousands of blank American birth certificates on the other side of the Rio Grande is construed as Nativist Hysteria. All I want is a fence, but even that desire makes people jump up and shout at the house HEY! what gives you the right / to put a fence to keep people out and keep your antiquated concept of privileged-status Northern European culture in? If God was here to tell it to your face, man, you’re some kind of sinner! (I swear I’ve done that riff before. Gah: well, I think you’re allowed to quote the Five Man Electrical Band twice in your life before you’re slapped with a wet copy of “Ramparts” magazine.) What really irks me more than the Administration’s mulishness is their tone-deaf replies to the bill’s opponents, and it really is Le Straw Finale.  Add to the list of lesser mistakes to which any administration composed of human-type people is prone, add the ham-fistery evident in their handling of those events, add the attenuated death of the Bush doctrine, interred quietly in the first bilateral talks with Iran since the war began almost three decades ago, and add the nagging, itchy suspicion that Iranian involvement in the Iraq conflict might have been turned away at an earlier opportunity with a judicious, gravity-assisted MOAB in a crucial industrial facility, and you have a general Throwing Up of The Hands on the right. Self-inflicted wounds, every one of them.

That’s what I said, or words to that effect. Then again, there’s this. (Via LGF) The author has something I lack, namely experience and perspective, so you might want to read his thoughts on the Iranian meeting. This still seems like a damn strange way to run a war. You know, the war we’re in. But I still have the old WW2 model in my head, and can’t quite shake the feeling that this is like invading Normandy, holding France, spending five years dealing with Gaul, and hoping Hitler comes around.

My pants are so wet the guys on the coins in my front pocket are wearing snorkels. This is really uncomfortable.

In the mood for something snappy, I watched “That Thing You Do” last night, a movie as light and well-constructed as the song around which it’s based. I loved it the first time I saw it, and my admiration hasn’t diminished.  Hanks’ genial effortless charm is all over the film. His character isn’t a bad guy, but he’s bottom-line all the way; when he says “you’re out of the hotel this afternoon” when the band breaks up, you’re surprised for a second, but you’re really not. He’s a manipulator, but he does it with a smile and little pretense: it’s the music business. What else would you expect?

I wouldn’t bring it up, except for one reason: the drummer, played by Tom Everett Scott, had mannerisms uncannily akin to the “Jim” character in “The Office” – same lanky deadpan calm, same under-reactions, same sense of mild ironic amusement. Like Jim, he seemed to be one of those guys everyone knew in college: smart, uncomplicated, comfortable with himself, not given to tortured introspection. The guy who had a few beers but never too many, although if he did go one or two cups over the line, he’d just be a sloppy happy version of himself. The guy who plugged away at his studies, made fun of Head East because he preferred Steely Dan but would, in a pinch at the weekend kegger, nod with genuine enthusiasm to Head East because, well, after a few beers it had a certain quality. The guy who graduated after four years and vanished in a sea of white shirts. A beta male, in other words! Read the article for the full effect. It's silly, but like many silly things, it tells you what silly people are saying to make other silly people they're serious. (Lavish your own pot / kettle remarks to my usual email address.)

As others have noted, if the beta male is besting the alpha, then he’s not the beta anymore. And the pack-animal analogies only go so far – anyone who’s had an actual alpha dog forced into a beta position knows that they’re always angling for a leg up, if only to hump it. So to speak. What I took away from the piece – besides the usual theatrical sigh for the fluff ‘n’ puff that clutters up news magazines these days – is the lengths to which some people will go to reassure themselves that masculine behavior is some peculiar social construct, and we can change that behavior by valuing different things. I took a small amount of email flak earlier this week by suggesting it’s partly the job of women to civilize louts – well, here you go! Fewer women leads directly to Nazis! But I’ll make it worse, and suggest each sex has a salutary effect on its opposite by modeling behavior that goes against the other sex’s nature.

I know, I know: to thine own self be true, follow your bliss, etc. If your nature is amoral and atavistic, you’d better learn to thwart your nature. If men followed their nature without fear of consequence, things would look different; the average strip mall would have a McDonald’s on one end, a Hooters on the other, and a bowling alley in the middle where you could play a new version of the game that let you shoot the pins with a rifle and throw the ball at guys in the next lane.  Are we supposed to pretend you can just lop off an essential aspect of maleness and create a new & improved version? Yes! Follow your bris!

If you think goodness and decency are the natural state of man, and culture works against them to produce these odd perverted examples of male or female behavior, then you underestimate the people who are undiluted examples of the species – and, oddly enough, you end up romanticizing the savage. (After all, if he’s pure, he must be nobler.) Somehow it’s less of an accomplishment if you fight your nature. This would have seemed alien 50 years ago, but it’s the norm today. I blame Elvis.

Not really, but it’s the working title for a book I’m doing. (And I like Elvis.) To take it back to the point:  I think women want men in whom the good things have been bred in, not men who’ve had all the rough snarling chest-thumping Badness bred out. Besides, I bet that Jim Halpern from “The Office,”  had he been born in 1922 with the same personality, would have ended up leading a platoon in WW2, if the job fell to him. Just like that decent schoolteacher fellow in “Saving Private Ryan.” Who played him in the movie? Oh: right.

But who am I to tell anyone how to live? I'm sitting on a sopping pillow of my own free will.

Well, no Diner today, since I was going to cut the ending to reflect the Bucket Status, and at press time the status is unannounced. In lieu of that, I have a surprising, unexpected update coming Monday, and I think you'll enjoy. Here's a preview. Have a great weekend!


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