June 30, 2007

Booking a Ticket on the Blazers Bandwagon

In case you missed it: the once-mighty Portland Trailblazers drafted Greg Oden, the most promising big-man since Tim Duncan came into the league ten years ago. On the same day, they cleaned house, including sending their forward/scofflaw Zach Randolph to the Knicks for a couple of solid role-players. Pundits put the Blazers two years from championship contention, but they are clearly headed in that direction.

The Oklahoma/Seattle Supersonics got their franchise player, too, in forward Kevin Durant, but traded their backcourt all-star Ray Allen to the Celtics for another forward picked fifth in this year's draft, Jeff Green, apparently in the theory that you can compose a team entirely of forwards. Art Thiel called the Sonics rebuilding moves "a demolition," but other league pundits were more generous.

Friendly Bear Shot and Killed : From the Bear News Daily

By Hirsute Nineclaws, Bear News Daily Staff Staff Reporter

A state biologist in Anchorage, Alaska shot and killed a black bear Friday that has been following people in Kincaid Park and along the Coastal Trail, trying to introduce himself to society. The bear, Smiley "Bud" Greentooth, 4, had just been accepted for a coveted fishing apprenticeship at Salmon Creek and was planning to leave Anchorage in the fall.

Rick Sinnott, area biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, made finding the bear a priority after two new reports of it chasing a jogger and startling a bicyclist on Thursday night. Neither person was hurt, as the bear was learning regular exercise practices, and in the other instance was merely playing a practical joke he had seen on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Sinnott said he walked throughout the 1,400-acre park on Friday, searching for the animal, and estimated he probably covered more than 10 miles on Kincaid's trails.

By about 5:45 p.m., tired and footsore, he was about ready to give up for the day.

"I thought, well, screw it," he said. "I'll just go home. ... I walked back and it was 10 feet from my truck."

Sinnott had parked near a compost facility just off the Coastal Trail.

"The bed of my truck is often fairly aromatic with dead things," he said. "There's nothing specifically dead in the back of it, but the bear was just kind of walking up like he wanted to crawl in."

It was at this point that the friendly, unsuspecting bear, smelling what anyone would think was a delicious meal and hoping for an invitation to dinner, was suddenly gunned down without warning. Friends describe the Smiley as a fun-loving bear who liked humans and wanted to get to know them, but was naive about the possible risks of intermingling with these appealing but dangerous creatures.

Sinnott shot the young adult male bear with a 12-gauge shotgun. Smiley never saw it coming.
Mr. Sinnott and Smiley were not acquainted, and there is no personal motivation for the killing. Bear police are convinced this may be a hate crime.

Black bears in Kincaid are not unusual. Sinnott said in the last decade, one or two have usually come into the park for a couple of weeks every year. "They come in, rattle around, then leave," he said. As is common in human courts, Sinnott is unlikely to face charges of bearslaughter.

This comment irked Smiley's friends.

"Smiley wasn't 'rattling around,' he had plans, dreams, he liked people and wanted to learn from them, " said Spiky Fuzzball, a brown bear who had known Smiley since cubhood. "He had a rough time growing up - his father came by and ate his brother once, that old story, so he was always looking for more friends. That'll learn you," he added, bitterly.

Sightings of this bear started in early June and with time increased in frequency. The bear was becoming habituated to humans, showing no signs of fear, and staying on the paved Coastal Trail even as people approached, offering passersby lemonade on occasion. On Tuesday, the bear followed two men walking on the trail for about a half-hour, according to one of them, and kept trying to ask them if they liked "Spiderman III" as well as the first two.

"That's just like him, always wanting to be liked, " said Fuzzball. "I warned him that people might look cute but could be mindless killers when riled, but he was just too friendly for his own good. And now he's dead."

The bear was ranging over about 8 miles, and may have been sampling delicious garbage cans in a neighborhood adjacent to the park, Sinnott said.

"Once in a while, a black bear will be a predator. It seems to be a slow, evolving process where they sort of test people and see what they are all about. And that's what this one is doing," Sinnott said before he found the bear late Friday afternoon.

"Projection ain't just a booth at the multiplex," said Fuzzball, in response.

Xenophobia for Dummies

Dr. X posts this from an affordable luxury spa in Tijuana:

"If you are looking for a central image to illustrate the current administration's unique combination of authoritarian ambition and administrative ineptitude, you need look no further than the border fence we built - on the wrong side of the border..."

June 29, 2007

Something is Right in the World

Dr. X posts this from Johnstown, PA:

"Once in a long while, something happens to reassure us that, despite all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Like when they put the Hanson Brothers on the cover of Sports Illustrated:

As They Appear Today

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In Their Heyday

The image “http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v243/DoctorX/Hansons45.jpg?t=1183177060” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"If you haven't seen Slap Shot in a while, you should probably see it again. It's not really about hockey, although it became canon for a generation of professional hockey players ("puttin' on the foil, coach"). Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated elaborates here.

"Lest we forget..."

June 27, 2007

In Defense of the Pampered Superstar

Dr. X posts this from last place in the National League West:

"The time for a worldly ambivalence has passed. I leave equivocation and casuistry, masquerading as nuance, to lawyers, Jesuits, and talk radio. I say it here, clearly and without qualification of any kind: Barry Bonds is a great baseball player, probably the greatest hitter who ever lived, and deserving of honor for his impending achievement of hitting more home runs than any other baseball player who has ever played in the Major Leagues. He deserves election to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, and no asterisk should be placed beside his name in the record books.

"As Eliot remarked in another context, "you cannot look on it steadily", but great achievement is almost invariably disfiguring. From Picasso beating Dora into unconsciousness, to Bill Romanowski's destruction of the face and career of Marcus Williams, to Bobby Fischer's insane rants, to Bobby Knight's outrageous tantrums, to Ty Cobb's unhinged pistol waving and (maybe) murder, society has made a fetish of overlooking the personal failings of great achievers. I almost wrote 'American' society there, but this (for once) is not a neurosis unique to us.

"It is not unusual for heroes to have flaws, or for great heroes to have great flaws. It is the norm. It is the natural manifestation of an utterly uncompromising personal ethic, one which forgives no failure (however small), one which drives the elite performer to spend an extra hour on the ice after even the coach has given up an gone home, one which quietly whispers in the ear of the superstar: 'if you don't win tomorrow, you will be nothing.' To imagine that a person possessed by such a demon can be 'healthy' by any rational standard is beyond credulity.

"A fair and balanced psychological assessment of the New York Yankees, for example, would likely turn up Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Delusional Disorder, and a host of Addictive Sexual Disorders.

"And that's just Alex Rodriguez.

"So enough of this role model bullshit. Ty Cobb is in the fucking Hall of Fame. Here, from the unimpeachable historians at Maximonline, is a brief resume of Cobb's achievements off the field:
1907: Slapped a black groundskeeper; when the man’s wife protested, he grabbed her by the neck. 1908: Assaulted a black laborer; shoved a black chambermaid down the stairs. 1909: Slapped a black elevator operator for being “insolent.” When a night watchman (also black) broke it up, Cobb slashed him several times with a knife. Fined $100. 1912: Pistol-whipped a would-be mugger to death; pummeled a crippled fan. 1914: Threatened a butcher with a gun and pistol-whipped his black assistant. Babe Ruth said it best: “Ty Cobb is a prick.”
"Here, by contrast, is what Barry Bonds did: he took a drug that made him stronger.

"He took a performance enhancing drug that virtually every power hitter in the league was on, with the tacit approval of the management of his team, the ownership, and Major League Baseball. For any of those people to now claim they had no idea what Barry Bonds and the late Ken Caminiti, and Mark McGwire, and Jason Giambi, and Jose Canseco were up to is a flaming pile of horseshit.

"In the first five years of his career, Bonds had a lean build and a slugging percentage of .478. From 2000 through 2004 he had a body like an NFL linebacker and slugged .784. What the fuck do you think he did? What's the big secret here?

"And now, Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, may choose not to attend when Barry hits his home run. Now Hall of Fame voters are saying, maybe we won't vote for Barry Bonds.

"You hypocritical fucking whores.

"Here is the difference between Barry Bonds and Bud Selig. Bud Selig is an empty suit. A board meeting iron butt. Or, as e.e. cummings might have said, 'an it that stinks excuse.'

"Against that gladhanding shitwad, you have Barry Bonds. A man who has played baseball as well as it can be played by a human, for 21 years. A man who will not relent for one second in his quest for excellence. A man who will not compromise if it destroys his marriage, or if it offends the press, or if the drugs he puts into his system destroy his health or (God forbid) drive him to kill another human in a chemical-induced rage. He will do what it takes to be the greatest home run hitter who ever lived.

"Sure he is a horrible person. (Try Googling "baseball" plus any phrase describing a bad person - Barry Bonds will be right there.) But so what? That is what a champion looks like. We don't honor people in baseball, we honor achievements. Barry Bonds is on the threshold of the dream of every child who has stood on a sandlot, bat in hand, mumbling quietly - 'bottom of the ninth, two out...' He is there because he was immensely talented, mentally tough, personally driven, and was willing to risk everything to get there.

"How sad then, that after running those risks, there is some question as to the judgment of history. How sad that now, at the culmination of this two-decade run, the sport that brought you the Gaylord Perry spitball, the sensitive sentiments of John Rocker (who was also on steroids, by the way), and the wife-beating escapades of Steve Garvey, has suddenly decided that there must be a character test. (Perhaps a melanin test would be more appropriate?)

"It is all lies and bullshit. The achievement is beyond category. You must applaud it, or renounce the game. It is not wrong to renounce the game - it has done nothing for you but take your money and break your heart. But if you ever loved baseball, I say, as Marc Antony said over the body of Caesar: 'You all did love him once, --not without cause: '

"What cause withholds you, then, from defending him now?"

Chemical Assistance

Dr. X posts this from his Paris Hilton vigil at Lubyanka:

"I dig the Chemical Brothers."

Amacker Is Back!

Amacker's Page: Top 5 Funny Things Amacker Said Today

June 26, 2007

A Used Syringe?

Bonds to give Hall of Fame an artifact - Yahoo! News

(Too easy; I know.)

June 25, 2007

West Virginians, Rejoice!

Your Internet speeds are still faster than Alaska's.

Attention: Eisengeisters who use Thunderbird

My employer is recruiting 'friends and family' for the beta release of our new Thunderbird plug-in. The first beta release will be within the next week or so, for Windows. Later this year, Mac and Linux version will be available.

If you are interested, please send me an email.

June 24, 2007

In Which Your Secretary Saves a Mayor's Ass

I had a very interesting (to me) time of it this morning. I hooked up with some John Edwards Campaign volunteers to go down to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (fine old building) on the occasion of Elizabeth Edwards addressing the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, our city's most venerable gay rights group, on the day of the Pride Parade.

One of my assignments was to stand by an-out-of-the-way door and direct traffic, a pretty boring and unrewarding task, until our Mayor decided to have a private meeting with Mrs. Edwards behind that very door. (For a political junkie, there are more interesting things to relate, but not in this public forum.) I noticed that the back of Mayor Newsom's suit was covered with some kind of dusty red fluff. "Mr. Mayor," I said, "May I groom you?" And I proceeding to pat down his honorable, and very handsome, behind. There are real benefits to being a pleasant-faced middle-aged lady!

June 23, 2007

The Space Needle Namer:...OR WAS IT?

The Space Needle Corporation has kindly informed me, citing a recent book by Robert Spector, that Developer Edward Carlson named the Space Needle. But although he certainly gave approval for the name, the story given below is contradicted by a much older book, which contemporaneous to the construction of the Needle.

Here's the Carlson story from a 1999 Seattle PI article.

Eddie Carlson was in Stuttgart, Germany, in a four-star restaurant 400 feet up a television tower. It was 1959.

Carlson, the consummate hotel man, looked around him. It was a week night. The restaurant was packed. He looked out the window.

He was planning the Seattle world's fair. In his autobiography, ``Recollections of a Lucky Fellow," Carlson says that night in Stuttgart he became obsessed with the idea of a tower.

He sketched ``a clumsy slender tower " and put a ring around the top. Below it, he wrote: ``Space Needle."

The design would be changed many times. Not the name. ( My emphasis)

While everything else makes perfect sense, there's a problem with the idea that Carlson wrote the name on the original casual sketch. It's almost certainly not true!

The naming appears to have happened months later, at the Seattle architectual firm of John Graham, who along with Victor Steinbrueck, was one of the principle architects of the needle. But according to Mansfield, Steinbrueck, a gifted artist as well as the architect probably most responsible for the finalized form of the Needle, signed on well after the Needle obtained its famous double-saucer, tripod-tower concept and got its moniker; before, it was, as it were, yclept "Space Needle." (Read your Chaucer.)

After much searching, I ended up at the main Seattle Public Library and found my way to the Seattle archives - which had book about the Needle's design and construction, written in 1962 at the time of its construction: Space Needle, USA, by Harold Mansfield. (Rewritten in 1976 as the Space Needle Story.)

The book goes into some detail about the evolution of the design. Carlson was indeed the driving force and primary developer, as well as the man who came up with the idea of a large saucer-like restaurant at the top of a tower. But Mansfield describes specifically that the name "Space Needle" came as a result of a staff meeting at John Graham's architectural firm after a dramatic architectural painting showed the Space Cage, which it had been called up to that point, perched atop a single, pointed tower. (Likely the painting above- Mansfield refers to the painting that induced the term as dramatic, with orange and purple searchlights, and features a single rather than the eventual tripod tower. ) This is months after Carlson's initial napkin sketch.

Aggravatingly, it leaves out the actually namer: but we know the group - the original Space Needle design team at John Graham's firm, and again, I'm guessing that rules out the needle artist who made this painting and the man who drew the design stage it was based on, who would not have made the sudden kind of exclamatory christening on seeing their own work in the middle of a meeting.

Although Carlson deserves enormous credit for the Needle, he may not be responsible for coming up with the name, and almost certainly did not do so at the time of his napkin sketch. This version contradicts the 'lean-over the drawings" story I heard at the Space Needle that stated specifically that the name was brought to the board of directors as a result of architectural drawings, which would be just a story but it fits the Mansfield book. Mansfield's description of the design process resulting in the naming is detailed, and for some time at Graham's firm, it was called the "Space Cage." It also contradicts Eddie Carlson's own redrawing of his original sketch, which does not include the name "Space Needle" written underneath, as the Spector account suggests above.

There are more reasons to prefer the Mansfield account:

Mansfield clearly spoke with many of the principle designers and architects at the time of the Needle's construction rather than with Carlson many years later. His description of the design evolution is fairly thorough, though not rigorous. The Spector account is a simple anecdote. If Mansfield is correct, months of design work went by between Carlson's idea and the naming, so Carlson did not name it when he made the concept sketch.

The Reference Librarian at the Central Library pointed me to the collections of John Graham's and Victor Steinbrueck's papers at UW's Allen library. Next time I'm there, I'll check them out - there may be original notes that point to who it was who actually coined the term "Space Needle.

In the meantime, if anyone has access to a Lexus- Nexus search for Seattle Times or PI articles on John Graham's architectural firm during the Needle's design era, 1959-1962, it might be handy.

This trivia shall not fade.

June 22, 2007

A Nearly Lost America's Funniest Home Videos Poem

A pre-pre school classroom
Green-walled and cheerful.
Little ones have been dressed for a little party
In bows and bow ties, bowed smiles
Ordered, happy and clean.

But the pinata is far too high,
It is a distant star in that toddler stratosphere, the latex-blue ceiling.
A young teacher, a mighty but friendly giant to the children, pokes absently at the paper star
with her 2nd best broom:

And so, absently, she strikes the sprinkler head.

There is a brief shock, a fractional delight
Tiny faces uncertain, smiling, then frowning,
Watching the Room 137 thunderclouds open, the heavens open, and yes,
they see now, everywhere they turn, their clothes,
the pinata, the teachers, the cake-
the cake!-

very, very wet and much more water yet to spray.

Now emerges the most perfect pandemonium:

A badger drops into a bedroom of pigeons.
A shark plops into a swimming pool full of cats.
Into the chicken shed with twelve drunk teenagers.

Run and scream and cry in all directions each, a sea of waving little arms,
Inconsequentially panicked.

Like the end of a muppet sketch,
This is a cheery rugrat apocalypse.

June 21, 2007

Caption contest from The New Yorker

Christ, what an asshole.

June 20, 2007

Alaska Political Corruption: The Reluctant Alaska Press

Weeks have passed since the federal indictment of sitting Alaska legislators, and a month since some of Alaska's biggest economic and political figures plead guilty to felony bribery and corruption charges. The investigation charges on, with a grand jury in D.C. now likely looking into Senator Ted Stevens, who just this week was prancing around the Paris Air show, undoubtedly going red with fury at small French children who looked at him funny. The corruption story is only spreading, often tied to VECO, which is deeply tied to the oil and gas industry and the Republican Party. And Don Young is all but running a racketeering operation.

And what we get from Alaska press is little more than a painfully slow, dutiful restatement of the federal investigation and some predictable political developments. Reporting is not reading an indictment and rewriting it. You are not bound to wait for the FBI, which by the way works for a clearly compromised Justice Department. Think about this another way: Alaska corruption is apparently so venal that the BUSH Justice Department's political hacks could not ignore it - and this among people who have a strong incentive to limit the damage to the oil industry.

I hate to tell someone else how to do their job. But let me address this to the Alaska press, and to the Anchorage Daily News in Particular.

Here's how to do your job:

Right now, the New York Times is doing your job for you. The Washington Post is scooping you. You should be ashamed. It is time to do Alaska's laundry, which has been festering in the sleaze hamper- to coin an expression - ever since those oil company bulldozers drove a path across the North Slope in 1969. So put on your shoes and get out your notepad and start talking to people in person. Put on a tie or unbutton your blouse an extra button, as appropriate. Meet them in Club Paris or the parking garage or the fishing trip. Flatter them. Get them relaxed. Get them a little drunk. And get them on the record.

1) Interview former lobbyists, legislators, political figures and maybe former reporters who used to do these things called investigations. Go over all the old stories about Bill Allen, VECO, and widespread stories about corruption in Alaska. Get a clear idea of what questions to ask and of whom.

2) Look in depth at Stevens and Young family finances and property transactions, and the personal businesses and finances of all Alaska political figures with the closest ties to VECO over the past decade. You got the ball rolling with these questions over that despicable little sell-out Ben Stevens. Murkowski, elder and I suspect younger, is an obvious target. And do not neglect to press former Democratic governor Tony Knowles, who appointed the Stevens enfant terrible and has always had close oil ties. As a matter of fact, put the "press" back in the word "press."

3) Make a list of all Alaska political figures over the past ten years who received big, consistent VECO contributions. Now check it twice. Who has been naughty, and who has been nice, and who has got a brand fucking new Range Rover on a government salary?

4) Gather the goods and ask uncomfortable questions about why the State of Alaska's prosecutors have done next to nothing about this. Ask uncomfortable questions about each governor's oil ties. Go down the list of current legislators, one by one, and ask each of them about their oil ties, businesses, and campaign contributions. The very fact of asking will shut up some nuts but will shake others loose. Mostly, ASK UNCOMFORTABLE QUESTIONS.

5) Detail the political and economic relationship between B.P., Exxon-Mobil and the other usual suspects and Bill Allen's goons. An obvious, critically important question was whether and to what degree VECO was carrying water for them in bribing legislators overtly and otherwise.

6) As a former military interrogator once noted to me, people will talk just to fill an awkward silence.


Use this. You're not writing a college essay here: you are pulling the truth out of a dark hole. Don't just read, ask. These are living, breathing people - and the corrupt ones are clearly prey to their appetites and to their perception of their self-interest.

What's at the stake? The whole future of Alaska. This ongoing, corrupt third-world style buffoonery will start sinking Alaska's chances to create a post-oil economy, bleeding out good policy and driving away investment. Alaska's politics are a national joke even in the Bush Administration, and the way must be cleared for a new generation. That means accountability. And that means an aggressive Alaska press. And that means NOW.

June 19, 2007

Can You Top This?

Dr. X posts this from Cowpens:

"The South Carolina Republican Party has already garnered some pretty impressive recognition. The venal and racist smear campaign against McCain. The forgetting which side of the Civil War Abe Lincoln was on.

"And just when you think they have screwed up beyond any hope of reason or redemption, their treasurer (and Giuliani's state campaign chairman) gets taken down for dealing cocaine.

"Isn't that sad?"

Jaws Locked on Ted's Jock

Today on Talking Points Memo:

So here's the deal. We're interested in the Stevens story in a big way. If you're from Alaska and you know some details about the story we should know, drop us a line. Confidentiality and anonymity of course assured. Maybe you're a reporter from Alaska and you've got some new nugget on the invesigation and you want to make sure your story doesn't get buried. Let us know. If you've got more details, context or insights on the Stevens story, don't be a stranger.

June 18, 2007


Would be hilarious if it weren't tragic. This is my emerging view of the occupation of Iraq (which I will no longer dignify by calling it a "war").

Watch the parade of pundits, experts, and public servants in this video, and despair (or laugh):

TPM tv

Here's my prediction for What Will Change in September: I'm expecting the rollout of a brand new set of cliches and catchphrases from the White House and Pentagon, plus denial that we every had a "surge" in the first place, let alone any expectations that it would do any good.

In Iraq: no change.

Americans for Sensible Human Fuel Alternatives

A BRILLIANT prank, ably executed by the Yes Men , on the National Petroleum Council and Exxon Mobil, at the Gas and Oil Exhibition in Calgary, cited here in Wired.*

"Without oil, at least four billion people would starve. This spiral of trouble would make the oil infrastructure utterly useless" -- unless their bodies could be turned into fuel.

Noting that "150,000 people already die from climate-change related effects every year," he added, "That's only going to go up - maybe way, way up. Will it all go to waste? That would be cruel."

*Wired -still not "cool."

June 17, 2007

And here's the 14th Amendment All Up in Your Face

Quoted in the Alaska Ear, an ode with teeth to the principle if not the letter of Equal Protection under the Constitution.

THANK YOU ... It's enough to restore Ear's faith in the federal judiciary. Here is the complete text of a sarcastic footnote written by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in his ruling that allowed a bunch of Scooter Libby supporters, led by Robert Bork, to file an amicus brief asking that Libby be allowed to stay out of prison while his appeal works its long way through the endless federal courts system:

Wrote the judge: "It is an impressive show of public service when twelve prominent and distinguished current and former law professors of well-respected schools are able to amass their collective wisdom in the course of only several days to provide their legal expertise to the Court on behalf of a criminal defendant. The Court trusts that this is a reflection of these eminent academics' willingness in the future to step to the plate and provide like assistance in cases involving any of the numerous litigants, both in this Court and throughout the courts of our nation, who lack the financial means to fully and properly articulate the merits of their legal positions even in instances where failure to do so could result in monetary penalties, incarceration, or worse. The Court will certainly not hesitate to call for such assistance from these luminaries, as necessary in the interests of justice and equity, whenever similar questions arise in the cases that come before it."

Ted Stevens: Old Meat, Marinating for the Grill

A federal grand jury goes over the history between Stevens and the guy who jacked his house up. The $100, 000 to pay for the remodel of Stevens' Girdwood house came from a brand new account just after the VECO oil services company received, for some reason, the invoices for review.

The grand jury is meeting in Washington, D.C., which might also suggest an indictment against the elder Stevens is coming.

If Alaska cannot be trusted to give an impartial trial to Ted Stevens (it occurs to me that the FBI agents are flying in to Ted Stevens International Airport) I'd like to see Ted Stevens tried here in Washington State, where we can return all consideration and respect he has offered the people of Washington for so very many years.

June 16, 2007

Meet the New Master Race

Dr. X posts this from Liberty City:

"I for one AM one of your new gamer overlords..."

June 15, 2007

High minded debate over evolution...

Remember "Bananas: The Atheists Nightmare"?

This refutation is the best I've seen so far. It really captures the proper tone, and respect the topic deserves, while simultaneously using the opposing side's phobias to great advantage.


You Can't Handle the Truth

Dr. X posts this from the Bada Bing Bada Boom Nick-Nack Paddy-Whack in Hoboken:

"As Sopranos alternate endings go, this seems very good.

"Others here."

June 14, 2007


My current villainess: Lurita Doan in a Clintonesque grammar moment.

In Praise of Pranks

I love music but an unable to do much to create it. Same with a good prank. I'm still only an appreciator, not an initiator, but this gives me inspiration: PinkPrankProject.

Naming the Space Needle : A Darkening Mystery

Who named the Space Needle?

Who indeed?

I was at a Seattle cafe this morning pondering this problem, a question that has dogged us now for 25 years. Someone asked me a question: "Excuse, does the restroom smell like pot?" Being Fremont, I considered the slight possibility that it was a rhetorical question, but while answering in the negative, I responded with the more urgent question.

Who named the Space Needle?

No one knew. One wag suggested "Edward Space." 10 points for that.

It's not on the internet, at least not under an obvious search term. Other Isengardians reported similar strike-outs. I considered a desperate measure: go to my local Seattle library. Instead, my mission was clear:

Go the Space Needle and ask them: Who named the Space Needle?

It's a beautiful day. The Space Needle stretches to, well...space. I walk in the door of the Space Needle- one desk:

"Say, do you know who named the Space Needle?"

"Hmm, they told us in orientation, I think, but I forgot. Try the Front desk."

On the way to the Front Desk, I ask the woman at the elevator.

At The Space Needle Elevator.

"Say, do you actually know who named the Space Needle?"

"I heard somewhere it was someone leaning over a desk and seeing the plans. Maybe it was John Graham, the architect. "

"But you don't know for sure."


At The Space Needle Front Desk:

"Say, I know the names of the people who designed it, and the developers, but do you know the name of the actual person who named the Space Needle?"

"Hmm, no. I do know that there's a story it was named when someone looked over at the plans on a desk and said something like 'that's a Space needle' and they took it to the board and that became the name. Have you tried the Sightseeing desk?

The Space Needle Sightseeing desk:

"Say, I've got a silly historical question. Do you know who named the Space Needle?"

They ponder. They ask. They phone. They Google. After a phone call, the lovely, very professional manager arrives.

"Say, we're trying to find out: who was the actual person who named the Space Needle?"

"That's a great question. I don't know."

I asked at least ten employees of the Space Needle this question. They were all very helpful and curious, but no, they did not know who named the Space Needle.

They were, however, enthusiastic about finding out. I have been promised a call or an email as soon as they know.

There is a history of dark uncertainty here - it's is not even completely clear who was the principle designer for the Space Needle, John Graham or Victor Steinbrueck? We did figure out that while Edward Carlson famously scratched a simple design idea for the Space Needle on a napkin - or, in another genuine historical ambiguity, was it a coaster? - the building was originally called the Space Cage, and so the person who named it Needle could have been anyone. Based on the story, repeated twice today at the Space Needle, that this person leaned over the drawings for the first time and blurted out "Space Needle," it almost certainly wasn't the principle architects, who would not have been glancing over complete drawings for the first time.

Perhaps this is the very crux of the dispute over credit for the building itself. Because of the "leaning over the drawings" story, if you named it the Space Needle, you clearly didn't design it, and so if you admitted naming it, you couldn't claim credit for the design!

I am to hear soon who named the Space Needle. I left at least ten people at the Space Needle working on finding out who named the Space Needle. But it has been ten hours now. The minutes tick. The sweat beads on the brow. Are my informers resolute? Prodding into the darkened halls of the former Pentagram corporation, are they even safe?

June 13, 2007

More Interweb Tubes Hijinks In Minneapolis

Once again, Doctor X posts this by cell phone from the Minneapolis International Airport.

Boingo sucks.

June 12, 2007

The Space Needle: Unfinished Business

Man, I miss the Space Age. I had about a year of unbridled American technical and cultural optimism, between the ages of four and five. It was nice. And here in Seattle we have a prominent reminder of that era, which has a certain beauty but is now beloved mostly for a kind a high kitsch - the Space Needle. Based on a German radio tower, it is nonetheless the most graceful of this type of building.

Long ago, there was a conspiracy (I believe our Exiled President may have had something to do with this) to torture the Laird by having an entire high school ask him, over the course of a day, the following question:

"Say, Vonn, do you know who named the Space Needle?"

The brilliance of this ploy lead to much consternation, but in the resulting confusion, we never found out who named the Space Needle.

The University of Washington has a set of fascinating drawings and paintings for the Space Needle and the Pavillion. This brochure from the 1962 Seattle World's fair presents the predictably hilarious and slightly prescient vision of the future:

Then comes a burst of yellow-golden summer sunlight and a home unlike any other you have seen appears. You notice the indoor swimming pool and garden, the private heliport, the way your home of tomorrow rotates to take advantage of the sun. You marvel at the slip-proof bathroom, wall to wall television and flick-of-the switch windows.

"Does it have a radar controlled supersonic, neutronic fission freezer?" It is a woman's voice.

"I'm not wise enough to predict all the inventions of tomorrow," comes the answer. "But certainly you'll have undreamed of conveniences. Your kitchen will be a miracle of push-button efficiency. Your telephone will be cordless. You'll see who you are talking to. You'll change the interior colors of your home to suit your mood."

Instantly, the lighting of the home before you changes to create a new, equally attractive decor.

Now you are in a rust-red world of autumn. A commuter's gyrocopter comes into view, its motor emitting hardly more than a purr. You gaze, fascinated, at cars with engines the size of a typewriter, planes that fly to any spot in the world in an hour's time, rocket belts that enable a man to stride thirty feet.

"We'll work shorter hours," your mysterious guide continues. "We'll have more time for art, sports and hobbies. Some of us will fly; some drive our air cars. But most of us will use rapid transit jet-propelled monorail systems."

The scene changes to reveal an office of tomorrow, its computers producing a metallic cacophony of sound. Automatic door openers, self-correcting office machines and TV telephones are as commonplace as today's typewriter.

"Executives of the next century will earn a minimum of twelve thousand dollars a year for a twenty-four hour work week," you are told.

You hear a little girl's voice. "Why? Where? What for? There's so much I want to know about yesterday, today and tomorrow." Now you are in a school of tomorrow . . . its walls made of jets of air, its tables standing on invisible legs, its floating canvas roof controlled to catch the sun. Memory-retention machines whir in the background. Television screens mirror the day's lessions.

The Space Needle turned out to an exclaimation point at the end of the modernist sentence, (one peaking perhaps at the '39 Chicago World's Fair, denuded of its revolutionary origins, fully digested by capitalism.) It was a final thrust of uncritical faith in technology, planning, and universality in human culture.

Here, for no reason, is Sasquatch playing drums on the Space Needle.

The problem is, although the architects were John Graham (the designer of the nation's first shopping mall, Seattle 's Northgate Mall,) Victor Steinbrueck; UW engineering professor Al Miller; artist Earle Duff; designer John Ridley, and design partner Nate Wilkinson, and the organizers were the Pentagram Corporation (maybe it IS the center of evil!), it is still unclear who actually named it.

I may call over there later today. Stay tuned.

Someone set up us teh ghey bomb!

Pentagon Confirms It Sought To Build A 'Gay Bomb'

June 09, 2007

An Enjoyable Diversion

Dr. X posts this from Wesnoth:

"I've enjoyed this game very much. Logical gameplay and tremendous scope for tactical and strategic thinking. It's actually quite similar in some of its key dynamics to Panzer General, and I mean that as a serious compliment. The problem with most RPGs and wargames is that they do not capture the element of dynamic movement.

"I am not just talking about modern warfare here. Napoleon made his name not just by fighting well in set-piece battles, but also by getting there, in Bedford Forrest's excellent formulation, "firstest with the mostest." Even at Waterloo he almost caught Wellington napping, and in point of fact got to grips with the British before they could link up with the Prussians. That wasn't luck - it was a hallmark of his strategic career.

"And I do not think the simulation has yet been written that can capture Grant's remorseless genius at the Battle of the Wilderness. It is one thing to get the worst of a horrible battle in the middle of nowhere, in which 30,000 men are killed are wounded. It is quite another to disengage and then advance quickly. That was the end of the Legend of General Lee - he could whip anyone on any battlefield, but not every day, scrounging for replacements and supplies, with a larger army racing him to Richmond. Grant's dynamism changed the state of play.

It's a shame more games don't try to capture this element."

June 08, 2007

"Beige Cams of Anchorage"

Northwest - Blue-Gray and grayish beige.

East -Gray Accented with grayish Beige.

Southeast- Beige and blue gray. Note the large, unusually more saturated orange building to the right. That's raw plywood- expect eventual beige.

Anchorage has a beautiful setting.


Sullivan Nails It

The Daily Dish: "Whoever doesn't feel an ounce of pleasure at the sight of this mega-rich non-entity finally being treated with a modicum of justice has surely lost the capacity to feel anything."

Washington Post: Mark Begich's Phone Rings

Even some dear contributors to Isengard.gov may be mystified by the floating face of an amiable, confident white guy with the slightest hint of a disco haircut floating to the right of our banner. This is the estimable Mark Begich, Democratic mayor of a Republican city where a full complement of far north Denny's somehow dominates the skyline- the former Air Crossroads of the World and now the Fed Ex crossroads of the world, where a $500,000 70's California-style split level is available in three shades of beige, grey-blue or light beige with blue-gray trim, and where if Frank Gehry were ever talked into designing a building there, he would be required by ordinance, apparently, to include T-111 siding with a choice of bluish grey, beige, or mauve, or possible all three at once. We speak of course of the charming frontier shopping camp of Anchorage, Alaska.

Most of us were born and raised there. Some of us still live there. We watched a rough Alaska town of unparalleled social, political and economic opportunity turn into mostly a corporate town of medium corporate opportunity for corporations, as beige, gray-blue and mauve buildings sprang up, or rather out, overnight, leading to the greatest set of architectural atrocities since Albert Speer unveiled Hitler's plans for the Volksmini-Mall. In the years leading up to Mark's election as mayor, years of tax-breaks, tax-breaks and tax breaks made Anchorage, to coin a phrase, Beige-hot.

Begich rode in a platform of just tax-breaks and tax-breaks, rather than tax-breaks, tax-breaks and tax-breaks, a policy which would allow a bit of public investment in education, infrastructure and paving the well-traveled Grovel Road that leads to BP's beige-ish-mauve office tower, improving life in the City that Refuses to Acknowledge that it is a City. He is known for an inexhaustible ear and a decisive manner, and deftly vexes Republicans on their own issues: roads, business development, and the city's alarming shortages of beige, blue-gray and mauve paint (the latter problem he solved by observing that the type of pallid, dusty mauve most often used to decorate major buildings and could be obtained by simply combining the blue-grey and beige. )

For five years, Begich ruled Anchorage with an iron fist. Then, with a wooden foot. And finally, with a piece of string.* Now, as the tower of Stevens and Young begins to crumble, an opportunity arises.

A moderate Democrat, he navigates a path that bridges Alaska's progessive past and its foaming right-wing present, reminding Alaskans what they once knew: that if you don't hang together, you're all going to fucking freeze to death.

Personally, there are other Alaska Democrats- other Begichs in particular- whose politics I am much closer to. But Mark's success has been built on tremendously hard work and attentiveness to the minutiae of local policies - he is a tremendously able politician succeeding in a politically hostile enviroment.

Will Mark run for the U.S. Senate or the House, and return an Alaska Democrat to D.C. for the first time in 35 years? We hope he considers it seriously (and if not him, perhaps another Begich. There a several. Why not one for each seat- double your chances. ) And it is high time for the younger, post-oil Democrats to take charge.

It is in any event a moment Alaska Democrats must take advantage of. The Rs are weakened, aside from their blithe governor, and will be more so as these stories develop; they should be taken down before they can rebuild. More, much more than Alaska is at stake here. The United States must rebuild the rule of law and prepare for a tough environmental future. A strong Senate majority must be built. It is not a moment to stay comfortable.

* This classic quip belongs to the 50s BBC comedy, the Goon Show. (The color of the string? Beige. )

Alaska Republicans: Jacking Up The House of Pain

The New York Times finally smells blood and dispatches a missive of dark implication from Girdwood on Ted Stevens, not a day after they rake over Don Young over the Florida cash atrocity mentioned below.

Message to Alaska: Ted Stevens has been among the most venal, arrogant, vicious insider senators for decades now. Stop acting surprised that he's probably a cheap crook as well. Hypocrisy is an art more elegantly practiced Outside.

It's time to stop taking the money and looking the other way. The Alaska delegation is and has been a national embarassment for years.

The Anchorage Daily News has been notably slow and cautious in reporting this and related stories since the May indictments. They don't have to wait on the FBI. Where are the hard questions for Alaska's political insiders? Where is the interconnection of decades of VECO's influence? Big Oil itself and its decades of easy campaign money and business opportunities for cooperative Alaska politicians sits unmolested.

You are not going to tell me with a straight face that VECO was an isolated case - that (primarily) Republican operatives and oil industry bag men never arranged for the Costco-valu-pack purchases of Alaska legislators. Is former Senator and Governor Frank Murkowski - who pushed through oil and gas tax legislation really clean? Look at other Senators, other governors, stacks of beady-eyed legislators, nameless petroleum nabobs who've been selling out Alaska for decades.

I'm sensing far too much caution from the Alaska press - you're getting scooped by the national press already. Don't embarrass the state more than it already is. The principle of wide-spread corruption based in the oil industry is established fact. Embrace the cliche and follow the money: when you find an Alaska politician with an unlimited ego, a cynical world view, an irrational skepticism of global warming and a sadistic streak, you've probably struck oil whore.

June 07, 2007

Oh, For the Good Ole Days

I bet Alaska's congressional delegation is pining for the olden days when nobody paid any attention to what was going on up in their little corner of the world...

Ted Stevens Pushing Earmark For Son's Employer

Sure, Mr. Young, You Bring Lots of Pork Home to Alaska...

...but this is going too far.

Hey, this gives me a business idea: can you think of a way to get a 10-million dollar return on just a 40-thousand dollar investment (25,000%) other than contributing money to Don Young's campaign? (I didn't think so!)

A Hot Humid Summer

Larry Flynt, the smut peddler who cares, says he got more than 200 nibbles after he ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post promising $1 million for "documented evidence of intimate relations with a Congressperson, Senator or other prominent officeholder."

According to the Chronicle, Flynt says 80 percent of the dirt is about Republicans. I'm going to go dust off the schadenfreudenator.

June 06, 2007

Why Isengard.Gov is So Popular?

The good news: according to Sitemeter - we're in 10,000 hits a month territory.

The less good news: A third were looking for this hamster.

On June 6th, Let's Just Pause to Say: Thank You

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June 05, 2007

Every time you say Paris Hilton, God kills a brain cell...

Still, I think this time the lovely and talented Sarah Silverman can be forgiven.

Today's TPMtv: Veco and Stevens


Blogging pit-bull Josh Marshall has his jaws locked on Stevens' jock. (This is gonna hurt, Ted!)

Presenting: A Kitten Playing With a Polar Bear, Aboard Ship, 1922

There's a moment when you've been talking about fascism too much and you change tack.

Amacker is Alive but Seriously Injured

Early Saturday morning, Amacker was in a motorcycle crash near her house. She was taken to Stanford Hospital with many serious injuries. Popmonkey pointed me to a blog set up by her brother. http://bullwinkle.org/amacker/ If you can stand graphic details about our dear friend's injuries, read it from the bottom up.

The good news is she's alive and slowly recovering from several injuries, any one of which could have killed her. Her father and brother are on the scene but she's in intensive care and is being kept asleep, so no visitors for a while.

June 03, 2007

In Case You Missed It

Dr. X posts this from the parking lot that used to be the Boston Garden:

"One of the greatest single-game playoff performances of all time the other night, by LeBron James. He scored his team's last 25 points."

The New Castro

Dr. X posts this from the Dana Street Roasting Co.:

"The Peninsula is an odd combination of old and young. The local fire guys tell me they do mainly medical calls as the people who moved in here in the 50s start to sign off. The people who move here do it for the schools, paying $1.2 mm for a place that would go for $150,000 in the Heartland.

"And there's not much in-between. Stanford and Santa Clara are here, but there's no college town in the usual sense of the word. It's too crowded and expensive. Everything that can be rented seems to be rented, and they tear down the old stuff and put up new stuff as fast as the creative financing of the California mortgage broker will allow.

"But I have to say, Mountain View is kind of an exception. Castro Street is big, and just starting to wake up. It's in that groovy place that I associate with Seattle in the early 90's - lots of Chinese Thai and Indian food, tech start ups, decent independent coffee shops, old shops looking for tenants. There's even single people with tattoos there.

"By the way, if you're enjoying the whole meebo thing, their office is on Castro Street. There's a sign up that says they need a Javascript ninja, if any of you are still into that sort of thing. Their online help-wanted page shows a few more openings. The office doesn't look bad. Nothing says 'startup of destiny' like Ikea furniture."

There's That Corpse Again.

Here's a good source for pulp fiction - and I'm working my way through the sitcom-titled pulp original There's That Corpse Again, from 1943.

...THAT made me sore. The way I felt about Pat, I didn’t like this lump of flesh calling her a sucker, even if she was one. I had the impulse to drive my fist into his belly, clear to the elbow.

I said, “If that’s all you want, I’ll go back before my soup gets cold.”

“It’s not all I want,” his eyes were small and careful. “A newshawk named Pyle was in here, giving me the lowdown on you, Doane. He says you’re smart and nosy. We don’t want that kind around here. There’s a train out at midnight. Take it.”
I just grinned.
“Sammy will stay with you,” he said. “You won’t be the first passenger he’s helped to ship out of Happy Valley”
“I might be the last if he tries it,” I said. “Keep him off my back, Edwards. I don’t like Junior, and I don’t like being pushed around,”

“Let me plug him,” It was Yellowface’s voice. He might have been asking permission to take a drink. “Let me plug him, Clint. He’s too smart.”

Edwards shook his head. “No trouble,” he said. “He’ll smarten up by train time, Sammy. Don’t worry. He’ll smarten up.”

This could easily have been the title for I Wandered Lonely as A Corpse.

June 02, 2007

This Time It's Personal

Dr. X posts this from the White Dog Cafe:

"As mentioned previously, Lincecum's first start in the majors was a forgettable one, against the Philliers. Re-match tomorrow night.

"An excellent analysis of how a 160 lb. kid can throw a baseball 100 miles per hour is here."

June 01, 2007

Rebar For Tootsie Rolls: I Wandered Lonely as a Corpse

The dripping dank dark danced with the dreary dawn drizzle, and the cold cut in like Fred Astaire on Ginger Rogers. I woke up on a park bench, my face and back aching. I rubbed my face with my hand. I realized that while I was out someone had come along and put cat pooh in it. I was on a bench near the Ferry Terminal with a damp suit and a wicked cut on the cheekbone from a fusillade of dungeoness crabs along the Wharf caused by my untimely but accurately expressed aspersions on a crabberman's sister, who I'd been seeing until she showed up with a Vichy French sailor at a Russian Hill fête, pom-pom in pom-pom. Also, I had cat pooh on my face, and I was still picking crab meat out of my lapel when my watch, a fancy moon-phase Bulova I’d grabbed off the wrist of a dying SS officer whom I'd shot with a spear gun in Venice over a curvy Venezuelan tomato and part time B girl (really more of an C-list A girl, credit where credit's due) named Imeldine Marquez-Marqueza, who didn't so much hustle drinks as inspire a lot of drinking, informed me I was late for a meeting at the Rusty Hobnail with a girl so cruel she the War Department paid her to taunt the Nazis on shortwave with phrases like "Hitler ist deine penis schrumpfend," a phrase repeated constantly in her low, harsh voice on a loop wire recording to jam Radio Hamburg until U-Boats started using the radio signal to hone in on New York; it all lead to the phrase “that boat’s a real dick-shrinker,” which you hear “down the docks” whenever some rust bucket hull takes in more water than an elephant in a peeing contest, or when, commonly enough, some sea-lawyer is comparing the ship’s Master to the great Square Moustache of Evil himself, as in “Aye, Aye, Captain Hitler!”

Washing my face in the Bay and straightening my tie, I gathered myself among myself and walked toward the Rusty Hobnail along the waterfront, dockside sounds abounding – a ship’s bell, the creak of a wooden mast, the gruff, siren call of a fairly convincing transvestite. Someone started practicing a saxophone with a riff from St. James Infirmary- practicing to discredit the saxophone as a musical instrument by producing a sound like a rutting walrus with asthma. I plugged my ears, which prevented me from hearing the Mack truck horn as it turned to avoid killing me and the shipment of cranberry juice in cans and ladies undergarments turned over and spilled, alerting me to the truck’s presence. Figuring the red stuff all over the driver’s face was cranberry juice, I continued my way west.

Finally, the Rusty Hobnail. Home away from home – if home smelled like barfly sweat and rancid whale oil. "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than have a frontal lobotomy" said the sign behind the black oak timber bar that took up exactly the same place in Crumples the disagreeable bartender's brain Wordsworth might have plugged up in a dreamy Stanford co-eds'; only when Dorothy Parker said it she was in the Algonquin Hotel, which was swank and beautiful, while the dingy, dusty dregs of this ill-kempt, upturned Forty-Niner ship, the last of old San Francisco's waterfront bar buildings, where I tended to store my liver when I wasn't walking around with it, utterly wasn't.

My memory wasn't what it was after the Case of the Omega Three Affair, when “Moose” Fritters the Novelty-Item Jeweler (he’d invented the moose-dropping swizzle-stick) dropped a crate of cod-liver oil fell on my head; now the only Wordsworth poem I knew - that I thought I knew - went:

I wander'd lonely as a corpse/
That floats on puddles in aisles,
When all at once I saw a crowd:
a host of skulking Pedophiles.

This wasn’t quite right- I made a mental note to ask that Stanford co-ed.

Contaminated by history, the Rusty Hobnail would make a good tourist trap if the sawdust on the floor was changed more than once a decade. I'd found four guns, casings, several sets of teeth, a skeleton with a two-by-four through the thorax and a whalebone corset while absent-mindedly kicking through the dust when tossing back a schooner of Beige Lightning, an illegal hooch brewed by separatist Episcopalians in the more sedate parts of Connecticut who rejected the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral doctrine as having one too many sides. These religious jokes, so Waspy they shared skin conditions, were known as radically anti-polygon-amorous, believing that the doctrinal squares would lead to immoral square-dancing, which was still a felony in Connecticut. For the Antipolygonians, most shapes had one too many sides, including, curiously, circles. I dated one of these girls once. She revered the Holy Duality, and once while drunk on Beige Lightning in a flop in Hartford, she insisted I cut out a silk heptagon and rub slowly it all over her.

I hadn't seen Crumples in a couple of months, which like saying I hadn't been down to the slaughterhouse for the view recently. The antebellum bare-knuckle boxer was getting the crud off the glasses the same way you clean a trout - with a knife - and his square skull covered in loose skin looked just like a plaster bust of Caesar covered in a sheet in an art-school still life. His stained, white hair grew thick as an old mattress dumped in a trash-can. He smelled the same: boot socks and formaldehyde. He didn't look any older, only because that wasn't physically possible. That would be like wrinkling a coelacanth. He was so old when he looked my way I heard his eyeballs creaked with menace, and so cranky, so surly, so belligerent and incivil, but not especially grumpy, I wondered just what had sucked the pixie-dust of joy back into the vacuum bag of his heart.

"Well, you ain't been around, has you?" he explained, before throwing the nearly black dish towel to the slop bucket in such a way as he let me now that he held both objects in much higher regard than myself. "It's like a god-damned Christmas dinner with a Gibson girl in here every night you get scarce."

“Nice to see you too, Crumples. A Lower-East Side Manhattan for me. With less Slovakian vermouth.”

“Yearghaaah,” he said, with a sound only a former pirate who boxed for thirty years in Brooklyn could make.

The Rusty Hobnail made your average rendering plant look like the Top of the Mark . You might ask why I came here. I asked myself this frequently. Crumples asked me frequently. The girls and the clients and the exiled European diplomats and the Mayor I met here asked me frequently. Just a mystery I didn’t have time to solve.

One of those girls was Belinda Wheels – the girl I was here to meet. She worked the hotels, the nice ones, like the Mark Hopkins and the St. Francis, did Belinda, specialty work, no hoy-toy-toy, but with a surprising amount of equipment. She got her past the hotel dicks with nothing but a wink- no one suspected that a girl with four steamer trunks was whipping, racking, and insulting the Supervisors for a substantial consideration. She had beautiful, cruel silver eyes, a high but savage brow and a pair of abusive nostrils. Her fierce black hair, shellacked into a angry shiny wave, dropped almost to her tiny but harsh waist. She had precise red cruel lips, and a cruel but winning smile, and adorable yet ineffably sadistic dimples. In that get-up of hers, her breasts were conical enough to splice the mainbrace. She wore a white mink and silk number that was somewhere in between a coat, a dress and satiny citation for public indecency, with shoulderpads Knute Rockne would envy. She sat across from me on the upturned barrel, drinking a Red Russian manipulatively, stroking my arm with the barest brush of a cherry red fingernail in a way that suggested my carotid artery was vulnerable.

Problem was, she wanted her husband. She wanted him dead.

“Mack. You're going to do it for me."

"No can do, Sugar Nostrils, I don't kill for hire." I wasn't a violent man, except when circumstances called, like when the nation was at war, or my girl was in danger, or I was out of money, donuts or whiskey, or when the sun rose in the morning just to piss me off, or when some jackass in a blue ’39 Caddy parked so close to me I couldn’t get in my Nash in an emergency and then had the gall to send me the hospital bill. She did have nice nostrils.

"What would make it worth your while?" She fluttered her eyelids – which on her was like being winked at by the Gestapo.

"Maybe a photo of Goering in tu-tu. Listen, Belinda, I don’t kill people. Scratch that, I kill a lot of people. But only for justice, for America
and things. And last I looked, you ain’t America.

“But I can do things,” she said, her voice cool and boozy with the classiest gin Crumples had, which was an old barrel of Nebraska corn vodka he’d stuffed with a dried up juniper bush he found while ginned up on Bush street.

“Forget it, Baby, my insurance doesn’t cover the things you do.”

She pierced me with her eyes, hard and silver grey like fine German number 8H pencils, the kind that almost never need sharpening, the ones that leave more of a gouge than a line.

“C’mon, Mack, you’re Aces! Just For me?” She worked the retort cutesy.

“I told you Belinda, I don’t just walk out and kill husbands. Unless they’re Nazis. Is he a Nazi?”

“He could be,” she said, flicking a comb on the table to make a loud crack. “Can you wait a week?”

“Why don’t you just divorce him?”

“He won’t give me one. Maybe you could rough him up a little. Break a thumb or two. ” A little smile crossed her marble face.

“You’re a tough woman, Belinda, tough like rebar for Tootsie Rolls. I’ve seen softer girls herding Teamsters. A man’s gotta wonder what made you spill your ice cream cone on the hot sidewalk of cynicism. “

Hollywood. You know- it’s old story these days.” Belinda looked dreamily away. “ Mom was big in the silents, she called herself Myrtle Clarion then – and she was heir to the Burma Shave fortune, if that interests you. She was a hard woman, Ma. When I was 16, She rented me out for a week to the UCLA Bruins for borrowing her best dress without asking.” Belinda's eyes narrowed and she dug her cruel nails into her bony, cruel knee. “That’s when I learned what men are: Bears with shoulder pads and a light switch that you have to operate manually. And Dad, Dad was a Professor of Industrial Hygiene at UCLA and vers libre poet. Never home except to bring home a sleazeball tweed-wearing literary type, reeking of Irish whiskey, like Lillian Hellman, or to dip the house in dry-cleaning fluid once a month. ”

“Nice story, Sister, but why are you whipping federal judges and dressing them like the Gerber Baby for 40 clams an hour?”

“Girl’s gotta have a hobby.” She gave me a look that said not only was I about to receive a serious and quite possibly physical rebuke, but I'd have to pay cash for it.

She wasn't quite my type. First, I get enough abuse for free. Second, I like my coffee black, my women sweet and my Nazis dead. I also like my women black and my coffee sweet and my Nazis dead. Or my women Asian and my coffee Irish and my Nazis dead. And Eskimo girls, my coffee solid, and my Nazis dead. I did date a Kurd once who was a total peach who served coffee with hemp oil, and my Nazis dead. Also, any woman that inconveniences some Nazis, or is breathing, smells nice, is a little tipsy and lacks self-restraint, and my Nazis dead. That last part is the important bit. I really hate Nazis. One more Lower East Side Manhattan and she’d be my type. But knowing Belinda, who was neither black nor sweet nor a dead Nazi, I figured I'd better humor her before she pulled a gun or something leather and pointy with spikes all over it. It was best to avoid bloodshed here, especially because Crumples put the damage on my tab, unless of course the blood was mine and then he’d let the other party drink free.

"Look Belinda, I'll go talk to the guy - but if you can't persuade him I don't hold out a lotta hope."

"O.K. Just talk. Here's the address.” She looked me up and down, and leaned forward a little. “ And Mack, I’ll be very happy if this works. "


“Why did you just say ‘Kickapoo?” She asked, arching a precisely painted eyebrow.

“I like the way that sounds.”


The address was some semi-swanky dump near Cole Valley called Casa Madrona- a Spanish-style apartment bloc, complete with bell and fountain, that looked like it was sitting about 400 miles too far north. Supposedly built for MGM - the place reeked of Hollywood. Every time I smelled film stock, French perfume and cocaine someone was about to close on opening night, forever, usually with a bullet in the heart and a knife in the back, an empty wallet and a look of perpetual disappointment.

Past the fountain, I climbed a short flight of stairs. Third floor: that frog Mr. Wheels' lilypad. Something was wrong. It was all too straightforward, too peaceful. The scent of set-up hung like an old Wharf whore around the waist of paid-off sailor. I took a swig of Alzheimer’s All-Tuber Vodka, which kicked like the Rockettes at Christmas and tended to eradicate unpleasant memories, like the time an actual Rockette kicked me for practically no reason.

I knocked, but the door just swung open. Time to try out the new gun - a .38 police special with a couple of the new radium tracer rounds, and a special oosik bone grip. I’d had the grip engraved with an exact copy of Brueghel's 99 Netherlandish Proverbs- ordered it while blotto, in 1934, from an engraver in Chinatown and he’d finally finished just about the time he became legally blind. A pal at O.S.S. had asked me to test the radioactive ammunition: if it didn’t kill you right off and not removed, it would do you in over the next four or five years, unpleasantly. Seemed a little vindictive, but he asked nicely.

I opened the door and called out:

"Wheels? You here?" Nothing. Quieter than a dead frog.

There was a bit of a smell: nutmeg, penetrating oil, rancid potato chips, maybe a hint of drying seafood and illegal Belgian massage oil – the cheap kind. I was in the living room, the place mauve and yellow and touched with quasi-Egyptian decorations. On the wall hung a 7-foot stuffed Manta Ray, a cheap print of Dogs Playing Poker and an expensive print of Afghans playing Baccarat. The sign under the Manta Ray said “To Stingy.” Belinda mentioned his nickname was Stingy, a name he picked up working first base with the San Francisco Seals by tagging hitters with spikes in his glove.

I also couldn’t help notice the plaster bust of Hitler on the mantle. This created a problem. It was new, so fresh the plaster was still warm from curing. Obviously Belinda put it there to convince me that Stingy Wheels was a Nazi. But she also must have known I would figure that out. So why did she want to get me to think that I thought she was trying to set me up by setting Stingy up as a Nazi? I knew most of the Krauty Von Weisenheimers on the questionable loyalty list– and the name Stingy Wheels never came up. Sure he was a small-time fence, but just for day-old baked goods to get around rationing – his real line was cupcakes, with delicious cream cheese frosting. Didn’t seem the type.

Suddenly a there was a loud pop. I fired back. I christened the new gun “Larry.”

I turned a corner to the dining room and there was Stingy Wheels on a chair, slumped about as quiet as a dead frog slumps, a .38 sized hole drilled in him. One still hand held his gut where he’d been shot. The other held a fully frosted cupcake. But it wasn’t my doing. The angle was all wrong. He hadn’t said a peep. I wasn’t even hungry. He sure as hell hadn’t fired a gun. I figured Stingy Wheels had already spun his last before I walked in. But the killer was near. The killer was here. Now I went through the place, my heart pounding, my face sweating, my calves itching, my sudden desire for lemonade unquenchable, gun drawn, ready to kill, preparing to die.

Nothing. I relaxed for a second.

The place was pretty clean, tidied, but it felt unused. I lifted the two-piece phone - the line was working.

“Operator, get me 1119.” A couple of clicks.


“Get me the Police.”

“This is the Police.”

“I mean get them here. It’s Mack Brain. Me…uh.. Private Eye – license 4342. Casa Madrona…right. Bring a meat wagon, and get that snapper Kamala from the Examiner. I need photos.“

I stood there for a moment, looking around. Trying to think. Not much came to mind. A few naughty dreams, kited checks, but nothing substantial. And I was being set up like an Erector set with no way to distract the little kid with the screwdriver. Sure, I had Belinda Wheel's $300 wrapped up like a tidy little walnut in my pocket – but it had just been so much bait in the rodent trap, and I was the squirrel in question. The only question: was I cover, or was it personal?

I turned to open the bedroom door and there stood a bird, the kind of bird you want to buy dinner and tequila and get all googly-eyed under the Moon and start looking for a nice place in Marin with. Hardly Belinda. It was Imeldine Marquez-Marqueza, the Venezuelan B-Girl I shot an SS officer over in Venice. I hadn’t seen her in months, and she was dark and fierce and soft and kind of squishy in the right places and she had an elegant but business-dealing Beretta pointed at particularly important things located right on me. Her big black eyes were narrowed in determination, and her face was a fetching, high-cheek-boned mask of cool anger with a touch of rouge, but she smelled like a host of golden daffodils, and that scent brought me the image of Klaus the SS officers’s expression as I, disguised as a gondlier, unloaded the spear gun (disguised as the oar) into his sorry S.S. self , and then I watched that expression, frozen forever, sinking into the canal, his now watchless hand above the water dropping his final cannoli to give a last Hitler salute to Imeldine, a gesture I considered superfluous at the time.

“Nice watch, Mister Mack.” I glanced at Rutger’s Bulova. I noticed the moon was waning. Then the pieces came together like a Swiss watch.

“Imeldine! You killed Stingy Wheels!

“Oh, Mack, Sure I did, Mack, I killed Mister Stingy Wheels, and you’re going to the death chambers for it. The policemens will see the Mister Hitler and figured you killed up Mister Stingy just for being a Nazis.”

“Fair enough. I’ve got a lot of dead Kraut notches on my belt. ‘Smithsonian’s already called me about it for an exhibit after the war- Gum on the Streets: The Private Detective’s Private War Against Fascism. But why frame me for a one-bit two-timing four-stroke joker like Stingy Wheels?”

“I liked my SS Boy, Mister Mack. And you killed hims over me, and that watch. Normally, such a thing seems nice…

“Which must be why we did the box spring foxtrot all that week…”

“But he was so very blond, and so very tidy. I miss him so very much, Mister Mack.” Her expression changed, a fabric of determination dropped down her face like the safety curtain on amateur ventriloquist night. “Much, much more than I’ll miss you. ” Her gloved finger played coyly with the trigger.

“So why not just plug me?”

The question stayed unanswered when Imeldine glanced over to mortal remains of Stingy Wheels and noticed he didn’t remain remains. He was gone. Stingy Wheels wasn’t dead. He’d ducked out the back door when the Reaper came for the rent, and he’d left- bleeding his way quietly out while we were chatting over old times. A trail of Stingy Wheels’ gore stained the carpet.

“Where’s Stingy!? Where’s Mister Stingy!?”

“So you’re acquainted with Belinda Wheels, I take it,” I said, changing the subject.

The Beretta insisted we take up the subject at hand, and the light in the dining room shattered with the impact. It missed me deliberately. I played the warning shot cool, and looked in her shining black almond-shaped eyes – I saw the memories, the soft heart of a woman, her long brown hair cascading around her perfect café-au-lait skin, the love we had shared in the most romantic city on this tired, rotten, check-kiting planet, and as I reached out to stroke her cheek, I knew she would never really hurt me.

Then she shot me and left.

“Owww!” I said, collapsing to the floor just as the door closed behind her. The cute little round from the Italian gun hit in the meaty part of my left leg, and it felt like I’d been harpooned by a whaler named Queegqueegosconi. I passed out for a moment.

I woke up to a buzz on the intercom. They buzzed like cops: insistent, like they’d be disappointed if you answered and cheated them out of the fun of breaking down the door and beating you like a beet into borscht. You could tell a lot from a buzz.

I hobbled over and hit the button. “Come on in, bring a tourniquet, and tell your Sawbones his stiff is still walking around.”

They barged in guns drawn with Lt. Whitey in his trademark bowler, green plaid suit and corn pipe, and the photo-snapper from the Examiner, a plucky, increasingly busty blond and sometime college student named Kamala Fresher-Greens I knew from The Case of the Developing Coed. She immediately started snapping away at the various blood stains. Stingy Wheels might live, but his carpet was a goner.

The Lieutenant, a short, alphabet cube-like man, took a look at Stingy’s stains. He guessed what happened. “Send a man after that blood trail,” said Whitey. A cop ran out the door, toting a huge magnifying glass.

Kamala the photographer went to work. She had on her trademark short skirt and striped angora sweater, and kept bending into different interesting positions for a better camera angle, and I completely forgot that I’d been shot until Vick the medic pulled the slug out of my leg with a huge forceps you could’ve plucked Zeus’ nasal hair with. Vick stuck me with a morphine shot and started stitching up the wound right there.

“So the Wheels are still turning,” Whitey said in a low chuckle. He had a large head. Watery blue eyes. Sad-sack kind of face. Cheerful sort, a little clueless. I’ll never forget the time the President visited town for a city gala and he kept insisting Franklin and Eleanor both join the Conga line.

Whitey sat down at the table and took out his notepad. While Vick the doc tried to bandage me, I tried not to bleed on Whitey’s notes.

“Alright – Klaus, the SS officer – you iced him in Venice.. that one’s okay, I would imagine. Imeldina hosed you – just now? Yes? Ok, then she told you she shot Stingy, but only to ‘set you up,’ and now she’s skidoodled, but then there’s the Pensacoola Mamba with Belinda, who actually tried to hire you to bump him off, but it was at this intersection of time that you agreed to just persuade him to give her a divorce, rightey-o? You hep to that , daddy-o, old bean?”

“Where’d you learn your gab, Whitey, the Harvard Jazz Society?”

In the awkward silence after this crack we heard the click of women’s heels on the wooden stairs.

“You expecting anyone?” Whitey whispered.

”I’ll lay a dime to a Bavarian Blintz that’s Belinda Wheels,” I said, and everyone in the room suddenly decided to hide. Why wasn’t clear. Whitey ducked behind the window curtain, Vick the medic fled to the closet, two of the cops hid behind a kitchen counter, and Kamala leapt behind the couch where I was, covering us both a comforter.

“Calm down.” I said.

“Shh!” She said. She smelled sweet and a little chemical, like cherry blossoms, bubble gum and photo fixer.

The clicks stopped. There was a rattle of keys. The door began to creak open. I peeked through a fold in the comforter just in time to see a fat black gun barrel appear behind the door, along with a shapely leg in a fishnet stocking. It was Belinda, holding a Sten submachine gun. This was unexpected. A fear gripped me, like a cold, slimy herring head chomping on my wind-pipe from the inside, a fierce, fearsomely fearsome fear.

She arced the gun around with a cruel, professional air - someone who knew exactly how to swing the kind of gun so lethal that if you cheesed her off enough it could reduce the nation’s unemployment rate.

She didn’t even look around- I watched her cruel but winsome feet click their way straight over to where Kamala Fresher-Greens and I were busily cowering under the sea-creature themed comforter.

“Get up, Worm.” She said. She kicked off our comforter. “Oh, Hiya, Mack. Who’s the little Blondie?

“Her?” I pointed.

“No, Amelia Earhart. The cutie-pie you’re gripping like a lost kitten.”

“Please don’t shoot us.” Said Kamala.

“Nice to meet you too, Honey,” said Belinda. “ Cower here often?”

Too bad the cops weren’t here. Oh, right, they were. They were just too busy hiding.

“This is Kamala – Kamala Fresher-Greens, photographer with Examiner. What’s with the heavy artillery, Belinda?’

“I find it helps situations where boys are involved.” With the gun’s butt propped on a shapely hip, she was viciously beautiful, still pretty cruel, and a bit arch. Then she lowered the gun. “Look Mack, I’m on our side… I was expecting someone else – and we need to talk in private..” she helpfully dismissed Kamala with the gun barrel. Kamala went off to the living room.

“Stingy is still alive.” I said.

“Goddamn, that slippery little Nazi.”

“Stingy Wheels is a Nazi? But you were married! “

“Put your clutch in, dad, I married him on orders. He finally crossed a line, and I had to stay clean. When O.S.S. found out that Imeldine was in America, I gave her a little info about you and a fresh Beretta, I hoped she’d shoot him. Sorry about your leg. Don’t give me that look. I can tell you this much about Stingy– it’s the cupcakes.

“It’s always the cupcakes.”

“No, dumkoff, the actual cupcakes. “

“Cupcakes?” The Medic’s morphine blast got me feeling like a baked snack myself, a little spongy with my head covered in frosting with a cherry on top. But Belinda’s contacts went much higher than I thought: The O.S.S. The War Department. She was a spook and a dominatrix, sort of a spookinatrix. Thank God she was our spookinatrix.

“Cupcakes filled with smuggled uranium! Stingy like a lot of pasty chefs was more than a Nazi sympathizer– he was a part of the German-food based spy network, the Kriegsbäckerei. But it’s more than baked goods - Strings of bratwurst, liverwursts, wursts of all worlds. Königsberger Klopse, Schwarzbrot, Spanferkel: Radio-transmitters. Microfilm. Counterfeit bonds, respectively. I tell you this: check your Hochzeitssuppe HocH – last time I got a bowl I found the blueprints for the P-51 concealed in a sliced pancake. “ It was hard to imagine Belinda eating soup. It would be cruel.

“But …cupcakes… are an American invention.” I protested.

“So we have been conditioned to believe,” she said. “But if Stingy’s alive, he’s more dangerous now. He got the uranium by bribing a security guard on a Candian ore shipment who was really, really hungry with illegal Lukschen Kugel. His radioactive cupcakes – I can’t go into it – are the cute little snack cakes of the Apocalypse” Belinda said, with cruel conviction. “

“I suppose we could track him – maybe a…a.. Geiger counter,” the morphine was working its way in my brain like an troupe of tu-tu’ed ballet dancers into a junkyard- I was beside the lake, beneath the trees, cupcakes dancing in the breeze. Things were happening- Noises, cries like ghosts, people moved like clown shadows in the background. I was higher than a rocket junkie. “I hear the 1942 model can locate the little pink people that live in your lost socks.”

Belinda started shaking me. “Mack, the Medic, he juiced you way up – and he’s gone! And if we don’t get Stingy Wheels and those cupcakes, America might not have a 1943.”

I was drifting off again. Get Stingy Wheels. Get Stingy Wheels.

The Complete Rebar for Tootsie Rolls Stories are at Ironcandy.blogspot.com. Like many things, they begin at the bottom and work their way up.