Friday, October 27, 2006

A Thinker's Manifesto?

The good old days were in the Summer of 2001, before human beings steered airplanes into skyscrapers.

Those were the days when one could read the July/August 2001 volume of Atlantic Monthly, and, more particularly, A Reader's Manifesto by B.R. Meyers, and assume that the state of modern prose had little to do with the state of the modern world. Once upon a time, one could hardly imagine that the unfortunate ramblings of, say, Annie Proulx, could possibly be relevant to the headlines of future newspapers.

I have a question to ponder for my fellows at SAGE, whose tongues have apparently been confiscated by a herd of cats, and whose collective muse has gone missing in action: Can anybody reasonably dispute that the sad state of modern prose has everything to do with the state of our present world?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Whither Atheism?

There is actually a semi-intelligent discussion and debate taking place in the blogosphere just now as regards atheism (or Atheism, if you will) because of this article by Richard Dawkins.

If, according to postmodern orthodoxy, mere cartoons can "legitimately" inflame the minds of some of the religious-minded, what of Mr. Dawkins' ringing brief against God? Which, I ask, is more offensive: denial of the existence of God, or mere ridicule of that existence?

Update: not irrelevant to yesterday's post above, I offer this link, from a book review by George Will, regarding the "faith" of the Founding Fathers. Depending on one's point of view, the money quote is the following:

"In 1953, the year before “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared July 4 a day of “penance and prayer.” That day he fished in the morning, golfed in the afternoon and played bridge in the evening. Allen and others who fret about a possibly theocratic future can take comfort from the fact that America’s public piety is more frequently avowed than constraining."

Either that, or perhaps President Eisenhower was familiar with the second chapter of Ecclesiastes?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Blonde III

B*d and Jeanie’s figures were bathed in the light of their front porch lamp as we exited their drive in flurry of pea gravel and the roar of the Beemer’s V-12.

“Hey, are you sure you can handle the power of this machine?” I asked fully aware of the challenge I was issuing to the Long Tall one.

“Handle it?” She returned, “I’ve hand my hands on more power than this before. Daddy used to race his Porsche in Connecticut when I was growing up. Once I was old enough, he would let me spin around the oval during practice and nobody could catch me!”

She said this with out boast or pride, but simply as a fact, and I had no reason to doubt her. I was in awe. Here was a woman of great intellectual power, who drank her scotch neat, enjoyed a fine cigar, and drove with an aggressive edge that said she was meant to own the road.

“I wonder if she can handle a gun”, I found myself thinking. Little was I to know that this question was soon to prove prescient.

Only once before in my life had I found myself so immediately taken. It was back in the early ‘80s; the cold war had come close to a full shooting conflict several times and I was on the front line. I was on assignment in Düsseldorf, Ronald Reagan had just become President and hope was once again in the air. After years of gutless leadership, capped by the feckless cowardice that defined the Carter administration, we were once again on the move against the commies and my life had a renewed purpose.

I was in deep cover during those years. My mission: to uncover the source of funding for a network of Soviet and East German agents who had penetrated the west’s intelligence network. It was a good time for me. My cover was as a wealthy industrialist who was unencumbered by the usual ideological constraints. It was a ploy that played to the commies’ worst images of “evil capitalists”, and it was extremely effective. In their view, I raped the proletariat for my own enrichment and in my spare time I indulged my vulgar interest in the rich man’s hobby – road racing. I made quite a splash on the European circuit, both as a financier, and as an accomplished driver. Ironically, I still hold several series records under my cover identity.

It was on the circuit that I met Annette Meuwissen. A beautiful blonde from Düsseldorf, she drove for team BMW in the women’s trial. Never had I experienced such beauty, such passion and of course such competence. Annette dominated the series while she drove.

We met in ’81 and immediately fell into a passionate affair. Our shared love of driving; our passionate indulgence of Europe’s culinary treasures, and yes, our aggressive love making, defined a period of my life that I treasure to this day. Life is cruel though, and such love, while it burns hot cannot be sustained, and we soon parted ways leaving me with a hole in my soul that was impossible to fill.

Or so I thought!

Suddenly I found myself in the passenger seat of my powerful BMW in thrall with a new, exciting, challenging woman. Such desire I felt! “Could it be love?” I wondered. Surely it was too early to say, and yet, there was that sense that this was a special woman!

We zipped out of B*d and Jeanie’s and before I knew what was happening Annie was powering the Beemer up the entrance ramp of highway 70. Traffic was heavy, but she expertly guided my sleek machine through traffic and into the left lane bound for the lights of DC.

“So where are we headed?” I asked, fully knowing the answer

“Back to my place” replied Annie. “And if you’re good, maybe I’ll invite you up before I send you on your way. I have some 40 year old Bowmore from Daddy’s collection that I might just be willing to share with you.”

“You do seem to have an appreciation for the finer things in life”

“And yet here I am with you!” She said with a wink

I gazed into those deep blue eyes, and I leaned over to kiss her.

I saw it before I heard any sound. In a moment that is carved into my memory, a crimson streak cut across Annie’s forehead. The world began to move in slow motion as drops of blood formed.

“Oh” Annie said quite matter of factly

Of course I knew immediately what had happened. She'd been hit!

In the next moment my world began to spin out of control. Suddenly the back window of my Beemer exploded in a hail of broken glass and the sound of automatic gunfire was in the air! In that instant I knew that the game had taken a drastic, unexpected change and I was going to have to rely on this extraordinary woman for my life.

“What the hell is this X?!” Annie exclaimed looking towards the back of the car where the window had been moments earlier.

“This, my dear Annie, is game time.” I calmly said.

She turned her eyes back to me, and not to be denied by whoever was shooting at us, I leaned in and kissed her. Our kiss, our first kiss, wasn’t long though, since two more shots almost immediately embedded themselves in the trunk of the car.

I released her from my embrace and looked into her eyes. “Time to put Daddy’s driving lessons to good use” I yelled as the sound of more gunfire filled the Maryland night.

“My God!” I thought, “Where did these guys come from?”

Not needing additional instructions, Annie hit the gas and I reached between her legs to remove my Smith and Wesson 500 from its holster under the driver’s seat.

Next: A Crash On MD 70

Monday, October 16, 2006

Whither The Ban on Internet Poker?

A number of my fans have written to inquire about my views of the recent law passed by Congress to outlaw Internet gambling.

I must say I am ambivalent about this entire issue. As the best selling author of an underground tutorial on Texas Hold ‘Em, my sympathies go out to the nation’s unemployed 20-somethings, i.e., those unshaven slackers who sit in front of their computers all day, mouse in hand, hat on backwards, wasting their lives away playing a virtual poker hand against some Euro-weenie nicknamed “UberNutz” or some such. I have run up against these types in the brick and morter poker games, and they can be formidable, primarily because they either know no fear, or are not smart enough to know fear. It must be said, however, that computer players generally cannot be bluffed, and, as such, they are ruining poker for the rest of us.

Frankly, it might be a good thing for these online players to get out of their studio apartments, pull up their britches, smell some fresh air, get a job and enter an MMA tournament or something. In short, they would be well served—as would most others in our rapidly decaying society--by emulating the life I have lived.

On the other hand, there is something that grates about the likes of “Hundred Dollar Bill” Frist legislating risks and rewards for the rest of us. Properly lived, life is nothing if not a series of risks. There is a risk inherent in spending one's time watching television, rather than reading the Classics. There is a risk inherent in reading the Drudge Report, rather than the SAGE Journal. There is risk, my dear readers, in living a life of quiet desperation.

Why should those who wish to sit all day in their tighty-whiteys--and who think that the very epitome of life is to "risk" their measly $200 bankroll on the Internet, be prohibited from the costs (or the benefits) of their decisions? Where does the logic--assuming there is any--of the ban on Internet gambling end?

Back in 1989, I nearly died while climbing the coldest mountain on Earth in the wilds of Alaska, a risky proposition if there ever was one. Had I died, Mr. Bo Jangles would probably have been homeless, and Western society would undoubtedly have been deprived of some of its finest Lincoln scholarship. My death very likely would have changed the course of history, which, I gather, is why many said at the time that they didn’t want to be in a world without P.D. “Bo” Steed living in it.

I suppose on this basis alone Hundred Dollar Bill and his ilk could justify a ban on mountain climbing, could they not?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Blonde II

The remainder of the evening, at this point, is a bit of a blur. Of course since I tutored under the great Alain Ducasse and was born with a nearly inhuman taste memory I remember the meal perfectly.

We began with Tempura Lobster Tails which were paired with a Cake bread Chardonnay. The chipotle smoked honey dipping sauce and buttery lobster meat were the perfect compliments to this chardonnay’s citrus and spice notes.

The story of how this meal ended up on our plates in Annapolis is quite extraordinary. Our host had discovered the caterer, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Binh, cowering inside his roadside banh xeo crepe stand, during that unfortunate war which so many Americans choose to forget. After B*d led his team in clearing out a particularly lethal nest of the Cong, “Thanh My Man” as he was subsequently called, was so grateful he whipped up a batch of the most amazing crepes B*d had ever tasted. Well, as you can imagine B*d, who stands down to no man save yours truly when it comes to obtaining a quality meal, had Thanh expatriated to the U.S. pronto and set him up in a D.C. catering business. As it turns out, Thanh was classically trained during the French Vietnamese expedition, and as a result of his savant like ability to whip up the most amazing sauces with virtually any ingredient at hand, almost immediately developed a devoted following among our country’s political and culinary elite.

As a semi tragic side note, Thanh was destined for television greatness when he was tapped by the Food Network in its early days to host “Thanh (as in Bam) Live!” Sadly, whenever he was expected to exclaim “Bam!” as his trademark exclamation, the poor soul would dive under the cooking counter and yell, “Incoming!” – An obviously traumatized response to his days during the war. Clearly, an unworkable situation, Thanh was replaced by some New Orleans based poseur who has gone on to assume the fame and glory that rightfully was should have been Thanh’s.

After the Lobster, Thanh brought out a selection seared tuna, and paired it with a lovely South African Chenin Blanc – Forrester, if I’m not mistaken. The combination was profound, the crisp slightly fruity Chenin cut through the meaty taste of the lightly pepper corned Tuna leaving a lingering sense of the tropics that our host said reminded him of some of the meals Thanh had prepared in ‘Nam prior to his expatriation. Following the Tuna, we were treated to the most succulent Veal filet I believe I have ever had. Served with a side of mustard spaetzle (Thanh could never get enough of sticking it to the French!), and lightly sauced with a foie gras – veal reduction the dish paired beautifully with a Chateneuf du Pape, that Thanh had selected from our host’s cellar. Decadent indeed! We finished on what was for me a bit of a down note, crème brulee (can we please retire this over-served dish for at least 2 decades?) that we enjoyed with a Moscato d’Asti.

Not surprisingly the Long Tall One and I were seated across from each other, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say that we served as a bit of an amusing side show for the rest of the guests. We had been obviously attracted to each other from the moment she walked through the door, and during dinner engaged in conversation to the exclusion of the others. I use the term “conversation” quite loosely here, as I’m aware that my SAGE peers would have been appalled to witness our vulgar performance.

Annie and I engaged in an endless debate. The topic didn’t matter and the fact that in most cases we were in complete agreement on the larger principle had no bearing on the tenor of our debate. The simple fact is that our budding romance (yes even then it was apparent – to the obvious delight of our conniving hosts!) was clearly fired by a passion born of the intercourse of our superior intellects. To agree would have been to lay impotent our desire for the thrust and parry that for the next few months would form the basis of our love.

Following cigars and after dinner drinks - Annie chose a Don Suerte vintage 1984, saying that the essence of bittersweet chocolate blended well with her 18 year old Lagavulen (I could not disagree) – we bid our hosts a good night. Realizing that Long, Tall Annie didn’t have a car; I offered to escort her home.

“That depends”, she said “I only ride in style you know”.

Resisting the urge to remind her of her “stylish” entrance, I simply hit the key fob on my BMW 7-series and enjoyed the glint of recognition in her eyes as she responded to the familiar “beep, beep”

“Oh, a 7-series?” she asked.

“Like Pavlov’s dogs” I thought to my self.

“Can I drive?” She purred.

Without a word I handed over the keys.

Little was I to know that this stunning woman who had already captured my heart was about to take me on the ride of my life!

Next: Annie’s beltway performance reminds me of my former love, Ms. Annette Meuvissen.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Dispatch from the Bush

It was a dark and stormy night, which may have rather contributed to holding down the conflagration blazing through the circumspectly cultivated fields of papaver somniferum -- I shouldn’t have imagined there to be enough demand for lemon poppy-seed scones throughout the Commonwealth to justify such a substantial crop -- rather a patch of good luck for myself and my man, George, as we crawled through the rows of foliage, the remains of our mission kit perched hastily and precariously upon George’s back, making it something of a potential silhouette target for the turbaned desperadoes with their Vickers’ guns mounted in the back of a range lorry, who would occasionally toss off a few bursts of tracer rounds -- which, I suspect, may have actually been the origin of the inferno in the first place, in spite of George’s insubordinate elucidation of my campfire building skills (long before achieving the rank of Major in Her Majesty’s Royal Army, I earned an Adventure target badge in the Boy’s Brigade, which certainly covered the rudiments of campfire building, I dare say) -- when I realized that, in our haste to avoid the combustive attentions of the wily oriental gentlemen in the lorry, we had left behind our only tea kit, including the kettle and the last of the Darjeeling, an exigency that briefly made me consider the option rerouting our path back to the site of our bivouac, in spite of the position of the previously observed Vickers’ gun-mounted lorry at that location and the occasional rain of magnesium-phosphate-tipped projectiles.

However, I am certain that all our sagacious company suffer from their own quandaries, and must have little interest in my own trifling difficulties in my mission into the wilds of Khakikistan in search of the fabled city of Se’narque, knowledge of which requires the utmost discretion, which I have no question -- trusting, as I do, Dr. Brookson’s imminently keen percipience in matters of character -- each member of our company possesses, which is why I have not a jot of concern sharing the details of my assignment on this forum.

The terrain of this country began to green somewhat as we traversed it, a pleasant development both for my eyes, which had grown wearied of the ceaseless dusty brown that had no doubt contributed immeasurably to the country’s selection of a name, and no doubt to George’s feet, as he had proven slightly less sure-footed than his inauspicious ass in ferrying our kit. While I suppose it was lax of me, and in other circumstances I should certainly have administered regular thrashings upon him until his morale visibly improved, I admit that allowed George to luxuriate in three -- and even sometimes four, for though I am a hardened military man, used the deprivations of conflict, I found his lamentations over his lost quadrupedal companion most dolorous -- five-minute interludes per day.

About a fortnight into my expedition, after seeing no one save a rather disreputable klatch of heavily armed ruffians, we came upon the outskirts of what, in this part of the world, must have passed for a prosperous and even, dare I say it, cozy village, although the wafting odour of putrescent camel excrement would likely not have accompanied the equivalent scene back Home in greater Rutland. I dispatched George into the village in search of both provisions and intelligence, as my Caucasian complexion would unquestionably call undesirable attention to us here, although it rather by now had healed from its earlier sun scorching into something that might allow one to commingle with the local populace, with the exception of the web-like network of cracks that, George assured me, would likely leave only the barest pattern of scars when completely healed. If not that, then certainly my lack of the local dialect would be far too much of an impediment to stealth desirable when on such a expedition in the service of Her Majesty. And so, trusty Webly in hand -- for, although others in my position may prefer more contemporaneous armaments, I find much comfort and assurance in the use of a sidearm that my great-great-etc-grandpapa would not have found foreign during his sadly neglected service in command of the rear guard during Stanley’s expedition to reinstate the Emin Pasha, which, although it did not prevent his command from, sadly, eventually being completely overrun, I’m sure that it extended his resistance considerably -- I waited with the kit in a gully in the foothills outside the village.

Thus, it may surprise my readers, that, having succumbed to the heat and the exhaustions from the deprivations of the preceding fortnight, I fell asleep -- briefly, I assure, an eye-resting catnap only -- and awoke to find myself surrounded by a gaggle of, presumably, local men, all of whom were burdened with what appeared to be an outlandish selection of apparently former-Soviet ordinance.

I am afraid that I must needs beg off continuing my memoir, as George has insistently reminded me that I promised him the use of the laptop, as he apparently is scheduled to convene with an on-line assemblage of his own for the pursuit of their own edification, an activity I most heartily encourage, and I have volunteered to operate the hand-crank with which we are able to provide power for our electronic equipment. I am uncertain, but from listening to George, I gather that his association is something along the lines of a Masonic order, as he -- somewhat excitedly, I may add -- has laid claim to being a 58th level tauren druid in the realm of Magtheraden. I admit that I am unfamiliar with the details of Freemasonry, but I gather from George’s reactions while he meets with his fellows on the Inter-Net that it is a position of considerable rank. I also gather than the position may have given George the means with which to allow us to reestablish our transport, as I am certain that George -- so childishly excited that he said it aloud rather than typing it -- now owned his correspondent’s ass. I’m certain he looks forward to relieving himself of the burden of our kit.

Until my next dispatch, I remain

Yrs. truly,

E.M. Barttelot, KCMG (disp.), Major, Her Majesty’s Royal Army

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Perfect Idea of Human Nature

Let us consider the following quote from the genius of Gibbon:

"There are two very natural propensities which we may distinguish in the most virtuous and liberal dispositions, the love of pleasure and the love of action.

If the former is refined by art and learning, improved by the charms of social intercourse, and corrected by a just regard to economy, to health, and to reputation, it is productive of the greatest part of the happiness of private life.

The love of action is a principle of a much stronger and more doubtful nature. It often leads to anger, to ambition, and to revenge; but when it is guided by the sense of propriety and benevolence, it becomes the parent of every virtue, and, if those virtues are accompanied with equal abilities, a family, a state, or an empire may be indebted for their safety and prosperity to the undaunted courage of a single man. To the love of pleasure we may therefore ascribe most of the agreeable, to the love of action we may attribute most of the useful and respectable, qualifications.

The character in which both the one and the other should be united and harmonised would seem to constitute the most perfect idea of human nature."

Is it possible that Gibbon had in mind we, the Fellows of SAGE, when he wrote this?

Could he have been that prescient?

A Gentle Trouble

Fellows:

I am in a bind, of sorts. Send word to Brookson and Deyton-Knox that our clam dinner must be postponed. The damned lawmen out this way are beyond reproach, but their wives are a different matter. Let me spare you the details, but the troupe has gone on without me. I am laid up in some old battered inn with smoky shades and a legion of wayfaring miscreants. I know, I know…I fit right in.

But let me cut to the chase. I need a spot of money so I don't come off this stuff too hard. Set me down easy, right. A gentle tapering. I should be back on track for the November dates. And anyway, my book is due to the east coast guys by January. Who can write amid such chaos (save the Dostoevsky remarks)?

Yes, my heart is still wrapped around that gossamer-dressed Kalderashi girl from the lowlands. I am tugged back to her in sea currents, ready to spring myself from this misery. God knows, I'm getting desperate. Send money.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Enchanted Evening

Mlle Deyton-Knox,
I daresay that your bull-headed, unjust, amazonian, and confounding portrayal of this venerable philogynist is soundly mitigated by a grace, imagination and unbridled intellectualism that was most unexpected. The Château Lafite 1945 was beyond compare, as was the company. I am deeply relieved that though we put little behind us philosophically, we did, in turn, put a great deal ahead of ourselves as SAGE fellows (excuse the tragic, chauvinistic misnomer put forth by our honorable benefactor, Dr. Brookson!) I thank you for the opportunity to babble forth a few choice stanzas from what have been called (by heartless, dumb brutes no doubt) my finer works.

I apologize heartily for the incident with le maître d'hôtel, whom I still decry deserved the singular blow these calloused knuckles delivered to the aquiline, moustachioed proboscis above which his eyes plainly revealed his distaste for our apparently Nabakovian rendez-vous.


Yours Respectfully,
Captain Nigel P. Fritters III

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Blonde

Long, tall Annie.

Even now, years since our season of love I reflect wistfully on our passionate affair. In retrospect I see that it was fated to end and end badly, but at the time I was blind. Visions of a life together, a family, and small little X’s everywhere, their blond locks bouncing as they ran to welcome me home from the office pre-occupied my mind. I would come in, as we say in the business, and take an analyst role perhaps. Leave in the morning, back at night, Soccer games on the weekend, bar be ques with the other agency staffers on the weekend. A sacrifice? Yes, but what I would gain in return!

We were brought together by our love and respect for The Gipper, and found passion in our common belief that a strong America will lead the world to greatness. She was a law clerk, brash yes, but only in private. Her public image had yet to be developed. As for me, I was serving state side at the time, debriefing East German intelligence agents, and combing through millions of files that came under our control after the Ruskies imploded.

It was mind numbing work, but after a decade spent in field service, I welcomed the relief of a comparatively civil lifestyle. And it had its privileges! My colleagues will tell you that for a while I became quite the item in DC social circles. Women have always found me attractive, but as rumors began to circulate about my exploits (some true, many not!) I found that a certain sort of Washington female tended to take an interest in yours truly.

Moths to the flame I joked at the time, and I burned especially hot.

They say love finds you when you least expect it, and in my case it was all too true. I was a young up and comer at the agency (Annie loved that term!) known for my operational creativity under moments extreme pressure. You see, I had a knack for delivering the goods, where others had failed before me.

The truth is that so much of my success was due – as it is with most of my great peers - to simple luck; dodging the random bullet, being out of the room when the bomb explodes. That sort of thing. But who was I to say anything when McF**nd announced, right there in the Langley Ops Center in front of the Veep and everyone that, “That man just gets it done!” All the training in the world can’t hold back the rush of pride one feels at the moment of praise from one of the greats!

I was on a satellite uplink at the time, and the next words I heard were to change my life forever, but not in the way an intelligence agent normally expects.

“X, see that you’re back here by 1600 Saturday night, Jeanie and I are having some people over to celebrate another success and there is somebody we’d like you to meet. Blonde, and all legs son, you’ll be wise to clean up and give her the living dangerously bit!”

Not one to argue with my superiors, or turn down a dinner invitation – Jeanie always employed the best caterers - I made sure I was in place at the appointed hour. The evening began as most do, the men in B*d’s study mixing business with outlandish boasts of athletic and/or sexual prowess, while the women rolled their eyes and took leave of our company. I didn’t say anything, but I had failed to notice a single female in our party, let alone anyone who could be accurately described as “blonde and all legs”

I was just about to ask my host about this unfortunate situation when there was quite a commotion coming from his front drive. Standing by the window, I parted the curtain to see the amusing spectacle of the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on, beating the tar out of her taxi driver with a black Kate Spade purse!

My host and I ran to the door and opened it just as she stormed in. “Long, tall Annie!” B*d exclaimed. “So glad you’re here. We were beginning to worry!”

“Worry? About me?! Hell, I’m disappointed in you B*d! If you want to worry, worry about that falafel loving miscreant they call a cab driver! Damn fool drove me all over Annapolis and then expects a tip!”

“Well at least you’re here”

“Yes I am, now get me a Talisker and let’s get this party started”. “And who, by the way is this overly testosteroned fool? He’d better be careful not to drool all over that nice tux; it must have cost him a fortune! Hmmm, a civil servant who can afford Armani, I'll have to keep an eye on him!”

I didn’t know it at the time, but at that moment I had just fallen in love and my life would never be the same.

Nor would Annie’s.

Object Lesson

I'm back from my trip to NYC, where I was rudely bumped from not one but two cable news programs. I have resolved to no longer travel for such appearances (except for the News Hour, for my good friend Jim is ever the gentleman), and instead appear remotely--though this will require a reliance on enthusiastic but green journalism students, always an iffy proposition.

My frustration was somewhat assuaged by a largely enjoyable dinner at the Cornell Club with SAGE Fellow Bo Steed. I say 'largely,' for out of courtesy we were forced to spend a portion of our evening with Ann Coulter (and thus it was fortunate, I suppose, that my good friend Bob begged off dinner (though I was able to gift him the cheese, for which he seemed most grateful)), and I'm sorry to say that Ann, who once was an entertaining--if always rather shrill--dinner companion, has now become intolerably noisome. I can only surmise that, whatever the benefits regarding longevity, longterm caloric deprivation must have a corrosive effect upon the mind.

Whilst discussion of M. Foley's regrettable behavior was no doubt inevitable, Ann's incessant rants regarding liberal conspiracies and tolerance of homosexuality proceeded well beyond both decorum and the point when the rest of us would have preferred to move on to discussions of literature, or really anything more salubrious to the mind. We were only rid of her when, in a rather mocking tone, I suggested that, as nothing else seems to have resonated with the public, she might offer as argument in her next column how in ancient Sparta M. Foley's behavior would not only have been accepted, but encouraged. All but Ann found this comment most risible, and shortly thereafter she took her leave.

Afterward Bo and I both remarked how we could not hope to find a more appropriate example of what SAGE was created to combat than Ann's most unfortunate and churlish display. No doubt such behavior has been exacerbated by the demands of those very same imbecilic cable news programs who opted for the declamations of clatterfarts rather than the civilized, piercing discourse I offered. But intellectuals must not allow themselves to be confused with professional wrestlers. We must be a beacon of enlightenment via proper deportment for the sadly benighted masses. Onward!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Animal Rights and Animal Wrongs


Hundreds of my fans have asked for a picture of Mr. Bo Jangles, and some unfortunate and vociferous PETA types have written to express their "outrage" that I sometimes keep him in the Hummer (and pursuant to doctor's orders, mind you), whilst I pursue other interests.

Perhaps this picture of a healthy and happy Mr. Bo Jangles will satisfy both groups regarding the condition of my longtime companion.

I wish, however, to remind everybody that neither Mr. Bo Jangles nor any other animal has inalienable rights. Inalienable rights attach only to human beings. One could argue, as those such as my dear friend the late Robert Nozick has, that we should not willy-nilly torture animals or abuse animals, but this does not mean they have rights. The fact that one might prefer certain outcomes (and also pretends to be "outraged" when they do not occur), does not confer "rights" upon those to whom our preferences apply.

Frankly, I consider the case closed, but my Fellows may wish to weigh in on this topic.

Meanwhile, I am going to go out for a nice juicy steak, medium-rare, while Mr. Bo Jangles happily sits in the Hummer, enjoying a bit of Schubert in the parking lot.

Mr. Bo Jangles may not have rights, but he is still treated like a king.




Thursday, October 05, 2006

My Marital Status, Part 2: My Feminist Upbringing

I hardly ever knew my mother. She died giving birth to my witless brother when I was a little girl, and all throughout my youth Daddy nursed me on tales of this strong, winsome, intelligent lass who had birthed me, and whose sterling genes I carried.

Understandably, Daddy felt terrible guilt for having killed my mother by implanting her with his pernicious spawn. One way in which he atoned was by bringing me up in much the same way that my dear mother would have wanted, or--more accurately, I suspect--by attempting to mould me in my mother's own lovely image. As you may have guessed, my dear departed mother was a liberal feminist.

When all the other girls in pre-school were sitting down to tea-parties with their Cabbage Patch dollies, I was accompanying Daddy in his study. On a typical evening, he would light his pipe, pour himself a glass of fine port or sherry (I'd get a taste--but only a taste!) and choose a book for us to read together in front of the hearth-fire. We devoured all the classics, of course, but Daddy took especial care to acquaint me with the works of the feminist stalwarts: de Beauvoir, Friedan, MacKinnon; Dworkin, Hirshman, Greer.

The legacy of my feminist upbringing is mixed, I must admit. Like many vital, comely young women (though I be modest, it is silly to deny that which is true!), I oft find myself torn between, on the one hand, my intellectual awareness of the Patriarchy, and my loathing of it; and on the other, my natural admiration for the male sex.

"Daddy, are you a part of the Patriarchy?" I used to ask, my blue eyes wide with a kind of horror-struck awe.

"Of course I am, Patsy darling," he would answer. His slender fingers would smooth the tips of his elegant red moustache--a sign of nervousness or deep thought. "I am a man, after all."

"So if I love you, does it mean I love my oppressor?" (Even as a tyke, you see, I did not evade the Great Questions.)

Daddy never knew quite how to answer that. I'm still not entirely sure whether it was because he didn't know the answer, or because he didn't wish to hurt my feelings.

It was a child's foolish question. As everyone knows, there exists a crevasse of sorts between the persnickety minutiae of theory and the multifarious demands of day-to-day existence. Nevertheless, the essential paradox of that question is one that has continued to plague me throughout my adolescence and on into my adult life.

And it is one that positively tormented me in the summer of 2003, when I first met my husband, Bertrand.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How the Gettysburg Address Changed My Life-Conclusion

The Gettysburg Address saved your life.”

These were the words I heard as I first regained consciousness. These were words of my doctor at the local Gettysburg hospital, the heretofore described General George Pickett (who I obviously would never have pegged as a doctor). “General Pickett” described how I was rushed to the hospital after having been shot. He described my having been in a coma for almost 24 hours.

I was certainly glad to be alive, but must confess that I truly thought that I had died and had gone to Heaven when the good doctor presented me with a well-fed, happy and unharmed Mr. Bo Jangles.

I noted in my last post that as I was about to lose consciousness, my mind was filled with the irony of what I thought was my death. It is said far too often by far too many with far too few wits that we live in an Age of Irony. Occasionally, this attempt at faux profundity actually hits the mark, if only by accident, or coincidence.

It is ironic that I am no longer the most feared man in the world mixed-martial arts world not because of arthritis of the knuckles, but because of a fall from a 24” milk crate; a fall which fractured my hip and led to a severe concussion; and a fall which resulted in doctor’s orders that I am never to fight again (unless, of course, in self-defense, which I find is required more often than is commonly imagined). I have always prided myself on my unique coup d’ oeil, but never would I have guessed that my retirement from MMA would be the result of a simple fall off a wooden crate because of an assassin’s bullet.

It is also ironic that Mr. Bo Jangles was never really in any danger at all from thieves, molesters or anybody else, but instead was merely upset that his favorite Rachmaninoff CD had unexpectedly began skipping (a problem attributable to the vehicle’s overwrought audio system, and for which the friendly folks at Hummer have since received a stinging letter, I might add). Had the CD never skipped, I would likely have remembered to don my makeshift stove-top hat for the Address, and, believe it or not, that may have kept me from being shot.

I have noted that it is ironic that I was shot –with a famed Derringer no less-- while giving the Gettysburg Address by a person who fancied herself the living embodiment of Mary Todd Lincoln. Less ironic, given the sorry state of our country’s legal system, is the fact that Mrs. Epsey was acquitted of all charges brought against her by reason of “temporary insanity,” and because, so the jury held, my mere "appearance" at the podium that day had provoked her.

It is also ironic that the members of the Gettysburg jury (seven of whom were themselves scruffy reenactors) determined that I had caused Mrs. Epsey’s temporary insanity, not because I supplanted her son from the role of Father Abraham, but because—I will go ahead and state the obvious here--I am in “real life” a dead ringer for John Wilkes Booth. That jury of nincompoops actually decided that it was not in fact Mrs. Epsey who had shot P.D. “Bo” Steed, but that Mary Todd Lincoln had avenged her husband Abraham Lincoln’s death by having shot the modern day doppelganger of John Wilkes Booth.

And finally, it is perhaps most ironic of all that the only reason I am still alive is because the assassin’s bullet was absorbed and halted by my copy of the single-volume Collected Writings of Abraham Lincoln, which, may God bless us all, happened to be ensconced in the left breast pocket of my Presidential jacket. The Derringer’s .44 caliber bullet, aimed straight for my heart, stopped at the very last page of the Writings, i.e., the page containing Father Abraham’s handwritten draft of the Gettysburg Address.

And so, my dear readers, you now know that the Gettysburg Address changed my life because it literally saved my life.

Monday, October 02, 2006

How the Gettysburg Address Changed My Life-V

As I stood behind the podium and atop the crate, the crowd quieted.

It took every ounce of my considerable will to ignore Mr. Bo Jangles’ plight, but I had no choice. Compounding the pressure of the moment, I had forgotten to don my makeshift, stove-top hat.

For reasons that were not entirely clear, Mrs. Epsey had by now grown most agitated. The lad sitting next to her was making efforts to calm her down, to no avail. He appeared to be trying to confiscate or gain control of her purse.

Notwithstanding the ruckus, my forgotten hat, and Mr. Bo Jangles’ plight, I began the Address.

The Gettysburg Address was and is, as I have stated, the greatest speech ever given. A product of the “Cemetery Movement” of that era, the Address surpassed Pericles and Jefferson in fell swoop. The Address was a revolution in thought, a revolution in style, and a revolution in rhetoric, but it is brief, and, as such, must be read with a cadence that allows the audience to grasp the power of its words. Most people are generally unaware of the fact that silence is the tool of rhetoric that allows an audience to understand complex concepts. This is especially true for the Address. It is during the silence between sentences in the Address that most audiences are whisked away by President Lincoln’s genius, and (I must add, in a spirit of candor) the genius of my delivery of the Address.

Unfortunately, neither the Address nor the audience would be allowed any thoughtful silence on this day. As I finished the first sentence, with the majestic words that “all men are created equal,” Mrs. Epsey hoarsely shouted at me “How dare you?” The audience was shocked and taken aback, but I was not to be deterred. As I finished the second sentence, that sentence which contains the first of the great metaphorical references to fertility that so pervades the Address, and, by the way, a common characteristic of speeches from the Cemetery Movement, Mrs. Epsey violently shook her sweaty fists at me. I continued to ignore her. As I began the third sentence, with its poignant reference to the “great battlefield of that war,” Mrs. Epsey abruptly stood and reached into her purse.

She then calmly took from her purse what any serious Lincoln scholar would immediately recognize as a .44 caliber single-shot Derringer. She pointed the Derringer at me.

In what seemed like super slow motion, I watched her pull the trigger.

The world then went dark for me as I felt a sharp pain near my chest. In the darkness, I recall having heard another shot from Mrs. Epsey’s Derringer, the words of an angry female voice shouting something in Latin, the sound of my makeshift footstool collapsing beneath me, and the urgent and muffled cries of Mr. Bo Jangles, now far away in the distance.

I assumed these were the sounds of my death, and, as my head hit the deck of the platform beneath my feet, I remember thinking how ironic it seemed that I, P.D. “Bo” Steed, a world-renowned Lincoln scholar, should die at the hands of a would-be Mary Todd Lincoln, while giving the Gettysburg Address.