Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday Matinee: Pot o' Gold

Jimmy Stewart. Loads of swing music. What's not to love?

Don't miss the jailhouse number "When Johnny Toots his Horn." It's a riot. Believe it or not, that's actually Stewart singing. (You didn't know he could, did you?) Also keep an eye out for a very young Art Carney in his very first film role.

There's a good review of this film here, too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ah, spring!

For those who have never been to Moses Lake, we're in a sagebrush desert here. The elevation is fairly low, only about a thousand feet. And it's just short of April. This is when the fish should be biting, the trees should be flowering, and I should be looking longingly at the motorcycle dealership.

So what happens?

It's snowing. It's bloody snowing.

Somebody up there has an inscrutable sense of humor.

It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world

But Robert... for Wales?*

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How did I miss this?

Hallelujah! Welcome to the world's second-oldest club, WG! And welcome to the wide world, Winston!

Surprise, surprise

Baghdad Jim McDermott's trips to Iraq in 2002 were paid for by Saddam Hussein.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

An indictment unsealed in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti, a member of a Michigan nonprofit group, of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam's regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.

At the time, the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq.

The lawmakers are not named in the indictment but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. None was charged and Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said investigators "have no information whatsoever" any of them knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.

"Obviously we didn't know it at the time," McDermott spokesman Michael DeCesare said Wednesday. "The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That's the only reason we went."

For the children. Uh-huh. Right. Would those be the same children that Saddam had gassed, or tortured to death in front of their parents? I'm sure they're suitably grateful to Congressman McDirtbag for his efforts. Or would be, if they weren't... you know... dead!

You know what they say about an honest politician: Once he's bought, he stays bought. Ka-ching!

A Day at the Science Fair

Posted for the sole purpose of making Ricki laugh until she loses bladder control wince in righteous revulsion.

There's a whole lot more at Something Awful, but be warned that many of them aren't for the pure of mind.

Like, OMG, my daddy would make a totally kewl president! Heehee!

This is the most disgustingly patronizing thing I've read in a long time, even for the WaPo. Can you imagine Chelsea Clinton or whatever Obama's kids are named being portrayed this blatantly as shallow little fritterheads? (Go to if you need a registration.)

Via Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom (HTBUH).


Let the record show that I don't hold Obama responsible for his pastor's desire to see me dead. (I do hold him responsible for the desire to see babies of any color dead.) I know and love people who would be a terrible embarrassment to me if I were ever in politics. I would like to think I wouldn't abandon them under the glare of the cameras.

Still... I couldn't keep a straight face at this. A/T to Kathy Shaidle. Chortle, chortle!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood!

Died he for me who caused his pain!

For me who him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

If I tried to add anything to Wesley's words or Dali's painting, I'd just ruin the point. Good Friday always renders me speechless.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My dad

I have to post this quickly, before my office computer heads off to the Evil Kingdom of Hagadonia for some badly-needed repairs. My dad died thirteen fourteen years ago today. (All these years I've thought it was March 21 until my ex e-mailed to remind me. Social Security confirms that it is indeed today.) That's his high-school picture at right.

I've written about my dad in other places, particularly here. (Warning to family: It's not a hagiography. Read it at your own risk.) Every year I fully intend to write about him at length on Father's Day, and every year I find I have so much to say I can't turn it into a blog post. I've been in contact with some guys who served at the same time and place as him in Vietnam, and while I haven't found anyone who actually remembers him personally, I've gotten so much help from some of the vets in trying to locate men from his unit that it's been a really humbling experience. That, too, is material for another post.

So I'm not going to write anything extensive this time. Just that I loved him, and I miss him, and I think he'd be pleased with the crop of ten grandkids he's accumulated so far. If you can measure a man by his descendants, or by the people who loved him, then my dad's a success.

(Thanks for the heads-up, Danette. And thanks to my Aunt Pam for correcting my arithmetic. It'll be another month before I get used to it being 2008.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pole Dancing Blonde

Something tells me this girl isn't working her way through medical school or anything.

Akubra tip to TheBronze.

Back to Edenfalls

I gotta ask... does anyone else follow the TV show The Riches? We started watching it when it premiered last year, and got hooked. And I do mean hooked. It's the first time (don't laugh)...

... that I got so involved in a TV show (I mean it!)...

...that I've actually caught myself praying for the characters before I remembered they were fictional.

(Stop that guffawing at once!)

I've always thought Minnie Driver was a hugely underrated talent, but this show proves it beyond a doubt. It's also kind of weird to see Eddie Izzard in pants, let alone with a mostly believable hillbilly accent. (It slips a little from time to time. Minnie Driver's is perfect, natch.) I've seen lots of American actors who couldn't have pulled off the roles just for the accent alone.

So is anyone else as enamored of this family of reprobates as I am?

Tomorrow is March 20

Don't forget to wear a sweater in honor of Mister Rogers.

I have a cardigan left over from my grandpa's closet (not the same grandpa I wrote about below) that just shouts "old man." I'll be wearing that.

Here's an idea, if anyone's up for it. Take a picture of yourself in your sweater and mail it to jbmartin -at- nwi -dot- net, and I'll put it up here. (Nina, I know you're skittish about pictures, so you can blur out your face or take a shot of the back of your head if you'd rather.)

God bless you, Mister Rogers. You made us all believe we were special, even if nobody else did. We haven't forgotten you.

Riding into the sunset

Warning: this post is personal and family-related. If it bores you, feel free to skip it. I'll probably post something more interesting when time allows.

I promised last week to write more about my grandfather, who was just officially diagnosed with dementia. It's not an easy thing to write. In one way, it's a relief to have an official name to give his condition. He's been having memory problems and such for a while now. On the other hand, it's also painful to admit that he's susceptible to the same sort of frailties as the rest of us. Grandpa has always seemed to me like he ought to be wearaing a red cape and a big red "G" on his chest. He may not be a hero in the dramatic sense, but there's never been anything he couldn't do.

I'm going to take a moment here and slip in a picture my aunt sent me last week:

This was taken in 1946, when Grandpa was probably in college in Walla Walla. That's him on the left, the smart-alecky-looking young guy in the wide tie. The little three-year-old boy is my dad, Calvin Martin III. (And looking a lot like my boys Long Drink and Visigoth, incidentally.) The old guy on the right is my great-grandfather, Cal Sr., who died a couple of years before I was born. I don't know a lot about him, but my dad once described him as "kind of a ne'er-do-well." He looks a lot like my earliest memories of Grandpa. (For comparison, take a look at my cousin Kenny, who's got three or four years on me. Does he look like these guys, or what?)

Okay, now everyone has a face to connect to the post. My grandfather grew up in Port Angeles, which is a logging town in the soggiest part of Washington. (You know how you can tell a family of old loggers? At my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary, I don't think there was a man of their generation there who had all his fingers.) He went to school at the Seventh-Day Adventist Academy in Auburn, where he married the prettiest girl in the place. (I know she was; he's told me so many times.) He couldn't get into the service after Pearl Harbor because of bad eyesight and a missing trigger finger, so he worked in the Kaiser shipyards in Seattle through the war. While he was there, he took a bad fall and was partially paralyzed. He couldn't take a bath or tie his shoes without his wife's help. Here's where things get interesting, at least for me. He was expecting to take their savings and buy a store somewhere, something he could do without full physical mobility. My grandma put her foot down and said, "No, you need to go to school." I could count on one hand the times Grandma has ever gotten stubborn that I know of, but that was the turning point.

In the 40s, it wasn't common for a guy with a family to work his way through, especially with all the young men coming back with GI bills in their pockets. He found that Walla Walla College was the only place that would let him do it, so he packed up his wife and two small children and headed there. He worked as a hotel desk clerk at night and took day classes, and graduated after two and a half years with a degree in mathematics and a four-point average. Ye gods and little fishes! Can you imagine the kind of skull sweat it takes to do that? (Oh, and he had to put in so much physical work during that time that he was pretty much back to full mobility by the end of it.)

See, that's what has always stuck out about my grandfather. Not only is he determined and bull-headed beyond belief, but he's hands-down the most intelligent person I have ever encountered in my life. Bar none. He went to work for the Corps of Engineers on McNary Dam, then moved on to John Day downriver. The family lived in Goldendale at that time so he could commute, which is how it came to pass that my dad married a local preacher's daughter and I ended up spending my childhood there.

When that dam was done, they went on to Livorno, Italy, Louisville, Kentucky, and finally Frankfurt, Germany, where he retired in 1978. Well, sort of retired. He kept being brought back for special projects, because he had made a name as a top-notch contract negotiator. His modus operandi, he told me once, was to memorize the thick sheaf of paperwork that made up the contract, then gain an edge by quoting it chapter and verse during the negotiations. See what I mean about his brain? It was incredible. He used to amuse himself by doing crosswords in his head (the tough ones, not the kind you see in little newspapers like ours), then filling the answers in afterward.

He and Grandma came back to Goldendale when he retired, primarily because my dad had left us by that time and my sister and I needed them more than the other grandkids. And boy, did I need him, especially. A little boy without a dad is growing up on one leg, as it were. Grandpa undertook to teach me to be a man. He wasn't always effective about it, both because he wasn't terribly patient and because I was more of a know-it-all than even most little boys. But he taught me good manners, and a work ethic, and that not knowing how to do something is no excuse for not figuring it out. And that a man's first duty is to take care of his family, a lesson that I certainly wouldn't have gleaned from my dad at that time. (That would change a few years later.) A lot of what I wrote here I learned directly from Grandpa.

A side note: One of my favorite Grandpa stories to tell is of when I was about ten, and I had once again mouthed off intolerably to my mother. Grandpa got wind of it, and invited me out to their house, where he had just put in a lawn. He pointed to a big pile of broken concrete sitting in the backyard, and told me to move it all to a new pile at the other end of the yard. So I did, sweating and struggling in zero-degree temperatures to lug these big hunks of cement without a wheelbarrow or anything sissyish like that. When the backbreaking job was done, I came into the house expecting to find a hot cup of something and a few words of praise. Instead, Grandpa looked out the window and said, "I changed my mind. I like it better where it was." So out I went again, with numb fingers and running nose, to haul them back to where I had found them. I spoke to my mother rather more graciously for a while after that.

Eventually my mom remarried and we moved to Seattle, a time I still think of as purgatory-in-advance. I spent as much time as I could in Goldendale, staying with my grandparents at Christmas and in the summer. Meanwhile, my dad got his life more or less in order, and we became pretty close. Grandma and Grandpa were present for my first wedding, and supportive while I worked my own way through college. In fact, as I went into my last year, I got a birthday card from them that said, "We're proud of you." That was the first time in my life my grandpa had ever expressed outright approval of me.

See, Grandpa wasn't a talker, at least not about personal things. Oh, he had opinions out the ying-yang, but when it came to interpersonal stuff, he was kind of vinegary and detached. He loved his children and his grandchildren, but seldom if ever told them so to their faces. I remember hearing my whole childhood about one particular pair of my cousins: what nice kids they were, how well they were doing in school, their successes and stories. I was really jealous: why did Grandma and Grandpa like them so much better than us? It wasn't until I was older that I found out from those cousins that they had been hearing the same stuff about us all along.

So it turned out that I wasn't such a disappointment to him after all. Over the years I've gotten pretty good at speaking his language. Whenever I've been serious about a woman, I've introduced her to Grandpa, saying "This is what I'll be like in fifty years. Can you handle that?" (Some could, some couldn't.) I also got a good look into his interior when my dad died. He was the oldest son, and kind of the golden boy of the family, despite some of the self-destructive stunts he pulled in his younger days, because he was so charming you just couldn't be mad at him. When he was fifty, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died three months later. It was hard on the whole family, but Grandpa took it worse than anyone else. All of a sudden, the man who did crosswords in his head, who could straight-arm a sledgehammer in each hand in his seventies, who knew everything and always came out a winner... was old and weak. He could do anything in the world, but he couldn't keep his oldest son from dying of cancer. I'll bet it's the first thing he'd failed at in his whole life.

He changed a lot after that. I still visited them in Goldendale when I could, although a situation with my ex made it awkward. (Let's not go there.) This year they finally moved out of Goldendale after thirty years, to be closer to my aunts in Seattle. Over the years, he's been slowing down, forgetting things, repeating himself, more than before. And now, at the age of 88, it's official that the one thing that made Grandpa what he is, is failing him.

I don't think I've hugged my grandfather since I was little. I've never told him in so many words that I loved him. To be honest, I think he'd have felt really weird about either one from a grown man, or even a boy over the age of about five. But to anyone who reads this, let there be no doubt that I love my grandfather, and I'm proud as hell to be a lot like him and raise kids who are, too. And I'm going to miss him as he rides off into that sunset.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The world has one less genius in it

Arthur C. Clarke, writer, scientist and conceiver of the geosynchronous communications satellite, travels in elephants at the age of 90. He is very nearly the last of the first generation of science fiction writers, to be named in the same breath with Heinlein, Asimov, and De Camp. Offhand, I can't think of any of his contemporaries left except for Frederik Pohl and William Tenn.

To get an idea of Clarke's style, check out this online copy of The Star. The story apparently cheesed off some Christian readers, but I think it asks some profound questions about why God does what He does. And that's the question at the root of both Christianity and science fiction. I see no blasphemy in asking the questions, only in mocking the answers for the sake of mockery.

Incidentally, I just learned that Clarke and C. S. Lewis had carried on a correspondence, and that Clarke thought very highly of Lewis' Space Trilogy. The lettters have apparently been published; I'll have to get my hands on them now. That should be a fascinating dialogue between two brilliant minds.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I feel sick

This story from the Greatest Newspaper in the Northwest™ was bad enough to read, but today I overheard an element to the story that the story doesn't mention. (Which means the information is hearsay, so don't write to the paper or anything. I don't want to get dooced.)

The witnesses who called the police were female employees and patrons at a beauty salon. But nearby, there's another business (no details needed) with a male workforce who apparently stood and watched and did nothing.

Let me say that again: They stood there and watched a guy beat his girlfriend to death. Not one of them lifted a hand to stop him.

Oh. My. Sweet. Lord.

What in the name of the great gaudy golden gonads of Goliath is wrong with these pseudo-men?

I'm ashamed.

Revised Update: Yep, the guys at the other business have said they witnessed the scene. And other "men" saw when it started. And nobody stepped in. What a pack of eunuchs.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Grand Dungeon Master has passed

Gary Gygax, the man who gave millions of teenage boys something to do besides swap dirty magazines, now travels in elephants.

I played D&D back in the early 80s, when it was still fairly new and not very structured. My folks took away my books and destroyed them when the rumors of satanic stuff started going around. (Ironically, I never started messing around with the actual occult until after I was forced to give up the innocuous fantasy gaming.) But there was this preacher who came across as oh-so-knowledgeable about the dire threat to the faith of the youth, and my parents decided to err on the side of caution.

In another irony, the same preacher who convinced my parents that Dungeons and Dragons was a greased firepole to hell now has a new book out lumping Catholics in with Scientologists, Moonies and (of course) satanists. What I've read by this guy absolutely drips ignorance. I'm sure he doesn't remember me (I questioned him at one of his diatribes once), but if he knew I'd ended up Catholic, he'd probably take it as vindication. Clod.

If I had a bag of Doritos and a two-liter of Coke, I'd hoist them in Gary's memory.

Just because I'm feeling immature

From the diseased mind of John Callahan. This guy could rule the world as a sick, evil genius, if it weren't for that whole "can't use his arms and legs" thing.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Children are so cute

It's because they're so innocent that they make the perfect tool for a political agenda. They're much more malleable and easy to twist into emotional knots than adults are. They can be used for any purpose, sort of like psychosexual stem cells.

Isn't that what they're there for?

H/T to my Lovely and Brilliant Wife.