Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Deductive proof of SNL's Hillary bias

Amongst myriad story lines of the current and deliciously debilitating Democratic candidates' steel cage match, a recent twist is that Sen. Barack Obama has been subjected now to tighter scrutiny due to 'Saturday Night Live' (SNL) poking fun at his allegedly light treatment under the media's gaze. They have lampooned, in fact, the networks as literally fawning over the pride of Illinois (and Hawaii) while raking the estimable Sen. Hillary Clinton over the proverbial coals in a kind of reverse gender bias. This cover-fire effort on SNL's part is clever admittedly, but it cannot mask their obvious pro-Hillary tilt proven by, as I will demonstrate, the comedic gold mine they have deigned to decidedly swerve away from on the highway of hijinks that usually is their main avenue. The full shame of the episode is the fulsome quiver of delightful barbs we have missed enjoying as a result.

What are you babbling about, old man? I may never have brought Mel Brooks a fresh copy of the "Wall Street Journal" with a bagel (as was his habit to walk into work with religiously per a couple of 'Your Show Of Shows' writers interviewed for a documentary), but you don't have to be a Sid Caesar alum nor a Texas School Book Depository conspiratist to realize that 'Saturday Night Live' has avoided the best bit possible in an effort to not hurt candidate Hillary's chances. For your sarcastic pleasure, take yourself back to a day after the South Carolina primary and imagine the following phone exchange between Senator and former President Clinton as a not yet ready for prime time sketch on that show which begins quite late on the sixth day of most weeks:

HC (Hillary Clinton): "Bill, Bill, are you there ..."

BC (Bill Clinton): "I'm here, Senator, heh, heh ..."

HC: "Look you moon pie-suckin' moron, let me be blunt. If you can't say something helpful, then go back to your old habit of stuffing Big Macs in that fat mouth of yours. I need you denigrating Obama's win like paid advice from Rush Limbaugh. Make one more crack comparing his win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson's and I'll leak it that the stars & bars are prominently tatted on your own sagging ass!".

BC: "I'm sorry, Hill, it's just ... "

HC: " ... and stop calling me 'Hill'! A hill is negative; no one wants to go up one, idiot. You start getting on-track or I'll drop your fat ass before this election ends plus I'll still pick-up even more women's votes, if that's possible, and a slice of Christain house fraus when I ball my eyes out during the obligatory Barbara Walters interview!"

BC: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Please don't leave me."

HC: "Leave you, that's the least I could do and just you remember that. If you don't get your butt in gear and start helping me, you'll be lucky I don't go on QVC with Gennifer Flowers as my model for a pant suits line sporting a sewn-in side pocket to house the taser gun that I should have pumped in your love pocket after your post-radio address sessions with that chunky tart. It makes me sick, Mr. Man Stain, that I have to stay with such a pathetic peckerhead like you in order to be the first woman president, but your ass is grass if I don't pull it off. You got it, blubber boy!"

BC: "I understand, Hill .. ary, I'm sorry."

HC: "Aw, shut up. Just listening to you makes me want to wretch worse than when Pat Moynihan tried to cop a cheap feel. It's bad enough none of your staff I hired knows jack any- more about running a campaign. Now go out there, keep it in your pants until post-election and try not to say anything else too stupid for at least a month. Comprende, Senor Punta?"

BC: "Yes, Ma'am ..."

HC: Click.

Adding in the appropriate wardrobe and good imitations, this is an obvious bit to have done and keep adding to as the Presidential race progressed. One could even work-in Senator Obama, as Barack bemoans his own bride becoming more than a bit strident in denouncing past American transgressions regarding racial policies. Just as the Illinois Democrat was finishing-up his complaint about such in the make-up room before a debate, our persecuted heroine could come striding in at full bileous throttle.

HC: "Look Rezko, Jr., don't bitch to me about toting some excess baggage. I got a two hundred pound plus overblown male libido hangin' around my neck like a friggin' albatross. I'd give a Congressional Medal of Honor to any nut job that would just put a cap in his cheatin' fat ass so I could pull the right strings to keep him in a medical coma until well after my re-election campaign was in the bag."

The possibilities are endless. Threats by Hillary of putting Bill on display in the East Room with only a presidential seal for a jock strap and the official Camp David dog collar should he continue to fail towing the line ... and the hits just keep comin'! We've already seen the spoof of Hillary being an automaton hardwired by evil programmers for world domination, lets now, please, explore her 'General Patton with a hangover' side. Through deductive reasoning alone it's palpably obvious that 'Saturday Night Live' has consciously chosen not to pursue this satirical line of attack in order to, in their own small way, enhance the New York Senator's chances vis-a-vis the decidedly, over the long term, less ripe for riposte Mr. Obama. Quelle c'est horrible!

As my Latin teacher would say, "Quad eratum demonstratum".

Monday, March 17, 2008

RIP (not): Vitaly Vasilyevich Fedorchuk

In the twisted tradition of olden days, the death of the 'Butcher of Urkraine', as Vasilyevich was known to his former higher-up KGB cronies, was not reported until ten days after it occurred. So who was this guy (plus why should anyone outside his family care)? The latter is interesting in that no survivors were mentioned; another oblique homage to the 'recent unpleasantness'. As far as why anyone else should bother with this barbarous fellow's memory, his death is a mile marker - maybe one of the last - for a world that only some of us still remember (and I'm not just referring to the past de rigeur practice of all U.S.S.R. leaders seeming to grease back their hair with a full package of uncooked bacon before an official portrait was snapped). Fedorchuk was, quite literally, the blunt end that enslaved, killed & tortured hundreds of millions under the guise of maintaining the Soviet State over roughly four score years for its ruling Leninist thugs.

"Don't immanentize the eschaton!" has been the battle cry of conservatives (most notably the late William F. Buckley) for decades, but it was best employed in the fight against the ole U.S.S.R. In a nutshell, the phrase meant a dedicated struggle against any scheme, political system or other philosophical skullduggery which sought to make the promised rewards of an afterlife happen in the here and now of our everyday life. That promise - of an achievable 'Heaven On Earth' - is the succor that blinded the weak-minded, but sometimes artistically gifted (Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Diego Rivera, Frieda Khalko, Phil Donahue, etc. ... just kidding on second lattermost), to defend a repressive Soviet state for years after its true political offspring - Josef Stalin - had liquidated his opposition on a percentage basis not seen ever again until the brief hell-on-earth of Pol Pot's regime.

Fedorchuk was the protege of the one of the last of the pre-Perestroika leaders, Yuri Andropov (seen most charismatically at left). Andropov, who headed the KGB as did, briefly, Fedorchuk due to older man's string-pulling, is acknowledged to have been one of the brightest post-Stalin C.C.C.P. chairmen. Following the manner of other capable leaders however, Andropov surrounded himself with adept henchmen who could handle the dirty work without having to smudge his own fingers. In Fedorchuk, Mr. Andropov found a willing acolyte who relished his work. From a string of mysterious disappearances during a stint in Vienna to his ruthless reprisals against any glint of resurgent Ukrainian nationalism (his own homeland), Vasilyevich, his patronimic [Slavs do not usually have middle names, but employ patronimics amongst friends & colleagues; 'Vasilyevich' literally means 'son of William'], assiduously earned his bones at progressive levels of wretchedness before attaining the rank of full General. For a time, Fedorchuk was in charge of all non-military forces in the U.S.S.R. It is a testament to what life was like back then that even "The New York Times" obituary could not definitely ascertain what Fedorchuk was doing during one stretch in his career and only alluded to the possibility that he had been stationed somewhere in Asia.

So this is a good thing and the world has moved beyond a painful place in history, right? My days of amateur Sovietology are more than a dozen years removed from when Vladimir Putin was only a yellow belt in martial arts, but I wouldn't make this statement. In the - and I hesitate to call them good - ole days, Kremlinology was a dark art of watching limousines discharge certain Politburo members or checking-out the lineup on Red Square reviewing stands in order to ascertain what might be in the political offing. Such tea leaf analysis is gone in these CNN times, but it doesn't mean your dissident status still won't earn you a free sabbatical in a suitably dreary Russian psychiatric institution. Oddly enough the argument of how the Rus cannot be ruled by a strong man, is gaining currency again. That breakaway republics now have the ability to put spare nuclear weaponry on open markets just short of Ebay, cannot be seen as a positive development from the immediate past, as I'm sure most will agree readily. Chalk it up to my own encroaching old age and its attendant nostalgia of a perverse sort, but the end of any era should be suitably marked and this post seeks to do such.

May you rot in Hades, Comrade Vasilyevich, and have all your past victims comfortably sitting nearby sipping cool ice tea!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Environmental Sustainability vis-a-vis Golf: Part I - The Ball & Clubs

Doesn't this title sound officious? Dusting off, sir, a failed joint disciplinary doctoral thesis in macro-economic horticulture for the leisure endeavors of an American upper middle class? I should be so lucky, but, nay. Let me explain.

For many years I've made a nice amount of money in the realm of packaging for food companies, so I come at environmental sustainability from a slightly different angle than the typical green-sided, but closet quasi-socialist (just kidding), bear. Unfortunately for Mother Nature, the integrity of the product for food beats out a myriad of sustainable alternatives for fear of potential tampering. Gone were the days of not wrapping food in polystyrene when, under my working watch, some expelled John Bircher dropped anti-most everything not white male (gays, abortionists, lovers of Keynesiasm, etc.) in some tasty frozen cobblers ensconced within cartons. Although firmly straddling the mental right field foul line, our tamperer had the wherewithal to bring a nicely sharpened blade to cut through the glue line and, thereby, slip in his missives of hate. As odious as the verbiage, my fear was that the wack-a-do could have inserted something more lethal. Polystyrene wrap went on all cobblers post haste.

To put more resin-based packaging in the world was regrettable and necessary, but not just from a CYA liability perspective. The environment is supreme, however not allowing an innocent to be hurt trumps the ole gal. That said, there are oceans of arenas where such concerns are not on the agenda, thankfully, and much pro-active work could be done. Most specifically is in the high holy sport, golf, and, particularly, the truly carbon-unfriendly current ball used to the bain of course architects, the average player (albeit unknowingly) and, arguably, the sport's continued cost sustainability. In just this example, a specification modification would spare the game a further downward drift in overall participation, lower maintenance expenses and position the sport at the vanguard of environmental sustainability.

Right now golf is as odiferous as spilt milk in terms of environmental sustainability. Not that it is any worse than most other professional sports. The ironic part of the story is tri-fold. First, unlike other athletic pastimes, spectators of this sport actually still play the game with regularity. Second, golf springs from the most bucolic of inspirations and has a natural lineage with, well, nature. Third, from its earliest stages the game was played in a very environmentally friendly manner which included its necessary implements of balls and the original technology of hickory-shafted plus steel-headed golf clubs.

That courses use pestcides and need vast amounts of carbon-unfriendly equipment for maintenance, will be addressed in a pro-active manner via subsequent posts. The implements of golf - ball & clubs - are the present focus. Lets skip consideration of how the top-knotted 'Featherie' evolved into today's multi-layer polyurethane construction, but, instead, start from a statement made by no less than Jack Nicklaus (seen at right slightly out of sync in his Rockette-inspired celebratory jig) suggesting the throttling back in the flight of the ball as the prime avenue for not prematurely obsolescing many of the finest existing courses. Why so?

Because the ball - along with the clubs & players conditioning - has so improved over the past twenty years, there is literally no room left on scores of the best courses to push back tees so that holes do not become mere pushovers for the game's long-hitters. Approach shots which called for a stiff four iron in Ben Hogan's day are now punch eights. Even the great Augusta National had to buy land from its downscale country club neighbor near Amen Corner just to scoot back one set of tees. Other facilities do not have such luxury due to space limitations and/or monetary considerations. What to do?

"Limit the damn ball!", is a current cri de coeur and one supported by more than just the afore-mentioned Golden Bear. Another tact would be scaling back the clubs. As referenced, the original hickory shafts were prime compost material and the steel heads wouldn't have survived Mao's 1957 Great Leap Forward for want of increased production numbers as they easily could have been re-smelted. True enough, but hickory shafts required, also, a different type of swing that has not been taught since Harry Truman still played Rummy with the remnants of the Pendergast gang. Returning to such - although done presently by some hardcore enthusiasts - might prove too much of a shock to the system in the short term. Nice idea, but not viable.

An environmentally friendly plus flight-limited ball, however, is a veritable - to mix sports metaphors - home-run for all concerned. Point A: Less distance does not mean necessarily a change in trajectory, but it does prevent a number of great courses from entering the endanged species list for continued high level play. Point B: Courses, to be considered PGA tournament worthy, would not now have to be stretched-out beyond 7000 yards. So what? The amount of yards you have, Mr. Club Manager, directly impacts your maintenance budget. Less space means you have to cut, seed, weed, spray, etc. well, less, and that saves mucho dinero in the long run. Point C: Just because professionals are obligated to play a flight-limited ball doesn't mean that amateurs have to throw-out their existing inventory. In fact, this move would be a huge sales bonanza for equipment companies as it would give them their first true line extension since balata went the way of knickers. Even hackers will buy a box or two of the new balls just to see their difference in play. I can easily imagine a world where the existing 'steroid balls' - as I'm sure they'll be known in the future - will still be bought, but their deliriterious impact vitiated through carbon credit surcharges tacked onto the price. Point D: The environment. Shorter courses mean less pesticides, fewer lawn tractor hours spewing exhaust to keep fairways cut and many carbon-unfriendly balls not not decomposing properly at the bottom of hazy ponds.

What would an environmentally friendly but flight-limited ball look like? I don't have the foggiest. It would conform to the rules of golf in weight plus dimension, most definitely. No doubt, also, it would have to be bio-degradable over some half-life considerably less than spent nuclear fuel rods. Hopefully it won't get cut too badly as the old spheres of yore, but somehow I think the equipment folks won't mind making more. Golf companies' ability to find a solution, I believe, is not an issue. My experience with the miracles of medical technological advances is limited to "The New York Times" business section admittedly, but it is still incredible what the similarly-schooled propeller heads of the golf world have done since I looped around moons ago with a set of Powerbilt persimmon woods. They'll figure it out, I'm sure. As well, I'd wager that there will be some bamboo and/or hemp in the new pellet because these two near-nirvana substances seem to have a positive benefit in most everything else one can wear, walk-on and/or sit-on. George Washington grew hemp in his pre-1776 days, so don't be surprised by a potential patriotic tie-in with, say, Gary McCord - in powdered wig + appropriate britches - spanking smartly one of these new beauties down a fairway in the obligatory TV commercial.

The trick to this modest proposal is that it must come pro-actively from the PGA, USGA and Royal & Ancient. There must be a firm implementation timeline; my suggestion is five years from the announcement. The rules for the new ball must be clear and a testing methodolgy for flight limitation plus biodegradability published concommitantly with news of the rule change. Golf always has purported always to hold itself to a higher standard. This is a chance to pour quick-crete around such presumptions.

Lets do it! Write Mr. Tim Finchem, PGA Commissioner, at his Florida office and support this modest proposal.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The political lesson of "He doth protest too much?"

As I tap out this missive, the scourge of the Empire State's red meat Republicans, Gov. Eliot Spitzer [In smiling times to the left], twists in the wind more violently than a kite run amok in a late season Nor' easter due to his alleged involvement with a very upscale prostitution ring. At news of Spitzer's plight surely the boys on Wall Street haven't been this pleased since the shank of Alan Greenspan's Fed tenure, but, instead, I want to take to task the sheer idiocy of the commentary being spewed forth presently by the annoited network talking heads. Of specific appallingness is their collectively stated "shock" over this "suprising turn" of developments. They are puzzled that such a beacon of publicly avowed anti-corruption bluster, i.e. Eliot 'Emperor's Club' Spitzer, could be snared in such a seedy affair. Obviously news that Lindbergh actually made it across the pond might overwhelm these intellectual plankton, so we'll hold-off on exploration of this other shocking story for now.

Why is their suprise utterly unwarranted? I submit with alacrity the case of William E. Gladstone, a man of multifold accomplishments plus England's only four-time Prime Minister (and during, nonetheless, the heyday of the British Empire [Pun intended to Spitzer's plight]). Gladstone's tenure in office alone makes the overall political career and not yet two year reign of Eliot Spitzer look, by comparison, like a flyspeck on the window screen of history. The connection being? Amongst many, many good books out there on British political figures of note, lets pry open a bit and explore briefly - besides salaciously - Roy Jenkins' history of the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone was known [Or 'GOM', for short, which Benjamin Disraeli, that singularly wicked chap and perpetual thorn in Gladstone's side, remarked really stood for "God's Only Mistake"].

In Jenkins' oeuvre one finds a thoroughly proselytizing Gladstone, rife with moral indignations of full field enthusiasm, and a man whose "charity" compelled him to befriend prostitutes for their own betterment. As Jenkins (a former leading light in British politics himself) notes, Gladstone could have spent his efforts alternatively assisting broken-down alcoholics or penniless orphans. Instead the relentlessly charging Gladstone chose this arena with purpose. From his pre-university days, the future Prime Minister would seek out these "heavenly creatures", as Gladstone desribes a particular lampost lady via Italian in his diary, and tried to minister them back to the righteous path. His subsequent guilt, however, over his admitted attraction to them - and other falls from grace vis-a-vis consumed lewd material - compelled him, as Jenkins describes in detail, to many years-long acts of physical self-flagellation. Said repentance was denoted by a whip-like icon in his meticulous diaries.

Sigmund Freud deserves the full credit for bringing out clinically what another famous British William, Mr. Shakespeare, only alluded to centuries before in "Hamlet". In only one of that play's famous quotes, the Lady's supposed 'protest' is meant more, as I understand it, to proclaim than argue against. Regardless, the point is that very often that which one rails against most vociferously is precisely that which troubles internal resistance most. Find something which particularly vexes a politician, usually a man, into flights of rhetorical self-righteousness and you're probably not too far from finding Ground Zero for a personal/psychological battle of possible Stalingrad proportions. The only hitch to this instance is usually those of the liberal bent get caught up in matters of money and it's the fire-breathing conservatives who, instead, are wide-stanced in matters of erotica for pay. That part of this Spitzer tryst only, I grant to the mutton-heads of network hegemony, is suprising.

In full disclosure, let me state I'm a former (and distant) acquaintance of the Suozzis and the (soon-to-be former) Gov. Spitzer beat that proud family's current scion, Tom, for the 2006 Democratic gubenatorial nomination. That said, anyone who didn't sense such a hyper-morally indignant figure as Spitzer couldn't be rife with internal perfidy, should go to the short bus school pickup for lack of human insight. They might want, as well, to brush-up on the even more schizophrenic spectacle, two generations ago, of Roy Cohn travelling from McCarthy hatchet man to alternative lifestyle poster-boy while playing upon the British ruling class' then penchant for mixing homosexual explorations with commie spying.

It is as annoying as all get-out that this motley crew of television flacks plus pseudo analysts are given free fire via cable news networks yet have the palpable psychological maturity of muffin pans. At least, in this case, we might be able to still see some visceral schadenfreude from all those who bristled at Spitzer's near walk-on-water tactics for the past ten plus years as they are asked to comment on today's fall of the Governor. If we're lucky, one will crack and openly voice something in the vein of nothing being so satisfying since watching the Fed tapes of Marion Barry hassling his connection for a better deal or a cherubic Billy C. fessin' up to his advanced thong appreciation of Ms. Lewinsky's workday attire.

Mr. Gandhi's 'Advanced Political Awareness' seminar will be discussed next week.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cigars + their accoutrements

Cigars are referenced in the under declaration of this on-line Odyssey, but nary has their been a puff of illumination on the subject. Truth unvarnished, better informed - if vastly less amusing - writing regarding cigars already has been deposited by ten yard dumpster load fulls than that which I could provide. Such the case, I'll nevertheless put out a few salient facts on a pet subject and redirect anyone interested to far more superior "Cigar Afficionado" postings:

1.) Fact: All WWII Allied leaders were devout smokers, but the Axis duo of Adolf H.& Benito M. were abstainers. Now argue against the indulgence!

2.) Fact: So resolute was Winston Churchill in his habit that, taking a test flight in an unpressurized cabin, the PM got a special oxygen mask with a slot for puffing while aborne.

3.) Fact: H.L. Mencken began life, almost literally, in his family's Baltimore cigar factory and kept up the habit religiously thereafter. [We'll omit, however, any consideration of what impact this may have had on his subsequent stroke. Ahem.]

4.) Resolved: A cigar is to golf what the coming of spring is to the poet. William F. Buckley will argue the opposing side from the Great Beyond.

5.) In compensation for their upper-classes being (easily) snookered into spying for the Soviets: The English manor house custom of retiring for a cigar after dinner still must rank as one of the pinnacles of civilization.

No stick snobbery is my ambition, rest assured. I prefer very mild blends with Connecticut wrappers in the +50 gauge, e.g. Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, Remedios & Gispert. The sin I admit to is a preference for wine to whiskey (or bourbon) while indulging. More robust tobaccos are lost on my palette so I can't wax eloquent beyond my limited range on the non-machismo end of the flavor spectrum. [My two authentic Cubans smoked express routed me to Palookaville, I confess.]

What I do profess complete expertise in, however, is the subject of lighters for use on golf courses. To the below right is my current favorite. It's industrial grade; purchased from a hunter's web site. I believe it's intended use is to get camp fires going while perched on the side of glacial cliffs [Can't suffer a night without piping hot Chef Boyardee regardless of which godforsaken fjord the Serpha has landed you!].

Matches on a windy day are useless on the course (plus incredibly frustrating) and most conventional lighters, in such straits, are not much more effective than a Dennis Kucinich presidential bid. You want something that's a mini-arc light, but doesn't have the lack of precision which makes you speculate that some of the golf cart's roof might melt from prolonged usage. Remember that your fire pal is going to get pretty banged-up jostling in your bag. Also keep in mind you want a model with the extra fuel capacity of this beauty.

Do yourself a favor if you enjoy partaking on the links and get something like so. The model is from Colibri and is listed as their "Wind Resistant Butane Quantum Lighter With SST ignition". The compass on its bottom I could do without, but, as mentioned, this is designed for Marlon Perkins and not Phil Mickelson.

As a good friend of mine standardly says in parting, "Enjoy!".