Archive for July, 2008

Big mean ol’ Unka Bredesen is taking money from widows and orphans! Or so the TNGOP would have me believe.

That’s what happened recently in Johnson City where the House of Prayer, a small nondenominational church on Milligan Highway that regularly holds yard sales in its parking lot to raise money to help poor people with their expenses, got a visit and a letter from Tennessee Department of Revenue saying the church broke the law by not collecting sales tax. The church’s tax bill: around $30.

I have to say that this is one of those arguments where I’m not really able to fully root for one side over the other. Is the State of Tennessee a bloated government with a gaping suckmaw of payroll and frivolous spending on ballrooms? Yessir, ’tis. Is the church just trying to raise some scratch to feed hungry folks? Yessir, ’tis.

But the church, by the TNGOP’s OWN ADMISSION broke the law.

Sure, it’s a stupid law. But last time I checked, the GOP was all down with everyone obeying stupid laws–especially if they’re stupid laws about who legally lives where. Right? RIGHT?!?!?

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My Google-fu is weak and my memory is weaker. I’ve decided now that I just need to give in and ask folks out in the world to give me a bit of a hand. Hopefully one of my well-read friends will be able to swoop in and say “this is what you’ve been looking for!” and my problems will be over.

Here’s the deal.

When I was a kid there was a series of books in my school library which were written at around an 8th/9th grade level. Sort of on par with Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew stuff. There were maybe three or four books in the series–if I recall correctly–and they were about a Jewish family at the turn of the 20th century in America. They either lived in St. Louis or New York City, I think. The books were sort of in line with Mama’s Bank Account in that whole “immigrants and first generation Americans experience the New World” sort of story telling. There was an uncle who lived with the family and also a baby. They were the first books where I heard about “kosher” and corned beef. As I recall there was also a plotline with a sickly relative–maybe the uncle.

I have long passed the point of being mildly curious when I recall these books and have no become obsessed. If I’m lucky someone else out there has read them. Please!!!!


This may be the most pointless blog entry ever. I was still obsessing so I decided to search again while dropping “st. louis” out of the criteria. (I think my mind was poisoned by “meet me in St. louis”). I believe the books I’m talking about are the All Of A Kind Family stories.

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The great thing about Wal-Mart is that you know you can get what you want there. If you’re driving two-thirds the way across the country and you need ice cream sandwiches, Febreze, nail clippers, caffeine free Diet Coke and a cigarette lighter adapter for an iPod, they’ll have it all right there. You can be on the road in the middle of Nothingville, Nebraska and then suddenly–like a monolith of comfort–a Wal-Mart appears on the horizon to solve all your woes.

Another great thing about Wal-Mart is that they hire a lot of friendly people to work there. So when you don’t quite understand the self-checkout in Nothingville, Nebraska, a heavy-set girl in her mid-twenties will cheerfully bob on over to help you. When you make excuses about not being able to work the machine because it’s different than the ones in Tennessee where you are from, the heavy-set girl will talk fondly to you about her memories of a visit to southwest Tennessee and some small-town festival she went to while there. She’ll then tell you that she picks up accents really well because she was in the Nothingville drama club in high-school. And then she’ll prove it by doing the absolute worst “British” accent you’ve ever heard.

The bad thing about Wal-Mart is that they are hyper-vigilant with their security. So as you finally start to leave the store a klaxon will begin to wail and all of Nothingville will look at you like you’re Al Capone holding a barrel of the finest Canadian hooch. Yes, you may have paid for everything in your bag, but it appears that while you were distracted by Drama Club’s tales of Mule Days and Madonna-grade “British” accent, you forgot to swipe your cigarette lighter adapter on the alarm deactivation pad. This is when a short, gruff woman with a permanent gravelly whisper (what’s with the voices in this town?) will stop you, go through your bag and check every item against the receipt. She’ll look the receipt over front and back, not quite sure that you didn’t print it out in some dank basement in an effort to steal that adapter worth all of nine dollars and eighty-seven cents. She’ll then open a Book Of Possible Crimes Against The Bentonville Protectorate and write down all sorts of seemingly unrelated information, all while you stand there under the scrutiny of everyone else in the store.

At last you are free! You can hurriedly make your way to your father’s car, where everyone else is happily eating Klondike bars. (What happened to ice cream sandwiches? I guess your mother prefers the Klondike bars with bits of Heath in the coating. There goes your opportunity to make all those Arrested Development/Ice Cream Sandwich jokes.) You’re now embarrassed and extremely angry. Somewhere some charlatan is robbing old lady’s pensions or selling drugs to eight year olds. Yet YOU were detained. All because you were nice enough to make conversation with the locals. To add insult to injury, the stupid adapter is in one of those hermetically sealed packages that no one can open without a jackhammer or mitre saw.

Disgruntled, you shove the adapter in your suitcase. Two weeks later your husband will exchange it at Wal-Mart for the ingredients to make homemade salsa. You’ll stay home because you want to wait awhile before going through all that again.

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First, a side note. If you sit in my peripheral vision and IM on your cell phone during the movie, I WILL have the manager take your phone. It’s distracting to have the screen constantly light up to your left or right. I cannot tell you how often I got pulled out of the film by this. It’s rude and you don’t deserve the privilege of having a cell phone. And, yeah, theatre policy at Regal Cinema is that two complaints = you lose your phone until the film is over. You can pick it up from the manager when the movie is over.

I loved this movie. Unlike the seemingly-unending dreck that was Spiderman 3, this film showcased the best of comic book/graphic novel filmmaking. Both films dealt with flawed heroes and the effect of the dark inner nature of a man on his outward heroism. However, The Dark Knight wasn’t so in love with candy-coloured flash as to lose the heart of its story.

I was slightly disappointed in the Joker, because I do like backstories. I felt a bit cheated that he was merely an agent of chaos designed to challenge the heroic nature of both Wayne and Dent. As agents of chaos go, though, he was a right good’un. I did appreciate the Nolans mocking me and folks like me as they gave the Joker several Oprah-styled backstories, which Ledger delivered sneeringly well. After No Country For Old Men, though, I’m starting to worry. Is there a new trend toward Just Because villains? I hope not, since the origin of villainy is a fascinating story–more so to me than the origin of heroism.

When Ledger died I didn’t really pay attention to the stories. With stuff like that I always like to wait for the tornadoes of speculation to blow over, and then pick through the information once it settles into place. Knowing that I was seeing the movie this weekend I decided to read through some of the articles on his death. With the facts of his cremation fresh in my mind it was eerie to see him deliver the Joker’s line “Everything burns” while standing in front of a pile of money. That scene is most definitely the perfect filmic depiction of Vanitas art.

As for the whole controversy about Batman=George W. Bush that I accidentally stumbled into, I think that any attempt to draw a bright line conclusion is doomed. There are aspects of the movie which serve as a sort of commentary on the WOT situation, but there is definitely no one-to-one comparison throughout the entire film. The movie does ask questions we should all be asking ourselves on a daily basis. How much power is too much? Is one life worth more than another? What do we value most? Whom do we choose to love?

I often complain about not liking message movies. In the past it’s been hard to explain, because I don’t mind when movies have messages. I just like for them to first entertain me and then let me tease the message out on my own. The Dark Knight did that, and did it very well. I had fun watching it and am having fun now as I think about what it had to say. That is how to do a movie with a message as far as I’m concerned.

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Whenever I visit my parents and sister I get sucked into their TV programs for at least a couple of weeks. Last year it was Rachael Ray and this year it’s Jon & Kate Plus 8. The more I think about it the more I feel as though this is the videodrone form of Montezuma’s Revenge–an unfortunate illness picked up on vacation that makes you very sick.

I had long had a policy that I wouldn’t watch J&K+8 after seeing them in Disney World. (My TiVo automatically records anything with “disney world” in the description.) Their obvious grab for the brass ring at the expense of their children was disturbing to me. My sister and mother watch it for the children and over the course of this vacation I found myself sucked into all the adorableness of 8 beautiful, cute kids.

As I watched the “Embarassing Moments” episode something sunk in that has so troubled me I’ve debated about even writing about it. I don’t want to bring more attention and publicity to this trainwreck, and the adage of “any publicity is good publicity” is fresh in my mind. After sleeping on it for several days and mulling it over in my mind I decided that it didn’t matter. I HAVE to say something. Even if no one hears me.

Kate slaps her husband. She slaps him hard enough to get a sharp “crack” and she slaps him frequently enough for it to not be noticed if you watch several episodes. It becomes a sort of background noise.

In the recent new episode they did a mash-up and she referred to them as ‘love taps’. I refer to it as ‘spousal abuse’. Maybe it’s my Mennonite upbringing, maybe it’s my parents long years of trying to curb my own angry childhood outbursts, maybe it’s just basic human dignity. I’m not sure. All I know is that I believe firmly that raising a hand against anyone in anger is completely wrong. There is no excuse for it. When you strike out in anger you murder a little bit of your own dignity, the dignity of the person you’re hitting and whatever relationship you have with that person. It’s inexcusable to hit.

This is a popular tv program that showcases spousal abuse as entertainment. If the roles were reversed and Jon was hitting Kate I have no doubt that women’s rights groups across the country would campaign to have the show taken off the air, but since it’s a woman hitting a man nothing is said.

I won’t allow the show in my home. I’ve written to TLC and to some sponsors of the show voicing my complaints. There’s nothing else I can do except repeat over again in my own little corner of the Internet that it is never alright to hit another human being out of anger or frustration..

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As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Seeing as how I learned to be a wife from my mother and grandmother, both of whom are old-fashioned.

Via Lynnster and Kathy T.

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I was just typing an email to someone and I wasn’t sure how to end it, so I just hit “send”. I feel kind of guilty because all my years of Letter Writing, starting in third grade when my teacher made the entire class write letters to Prince Charles telling him why he should marry her and up through Business Law have focused on the proper way to close a letter. I’ve spent at least a week’s worth of my life debating on whether to use “sincerely”, “cordially” or “formally yours”.

Now that email is big, the ending of emails is hotly debated. In thinking about how to close this most recent missive I ran down the mental list of various email sign offs and have decided that they each have their own very special drawbacks. Since email is informal anyway, it really looks odd to have “Cordially, Katherine J. Coble” as the closer. That’s like wearing a bow-tie with flip-flops. More often than not I just sign “Katherine”. The closer I am to a person the shorter my name gets. For instance, if you get “Kathy”, you’re in my family or high school friends list. Those are the folks who call me that. Everyone else is liable to get an icy glare, because I really HATE to be called “Kathy”. Really. Most folks I email get “Kat”, although there are a few out there who are the lucky (?) recipients of my hurried “K”. I like signing emails “K” because it makes me feel sort of like Zorro. It’s as though I snuck in, rescued the other person from boredom and swung out of their inbox after slashing my initial with a rapier.

There are a few email-enders I’ve read over the years, and every time I see them I form an opinion of the sender. It’s probably prejudiced and doubtless is very wrong, but I can’t help myself.

TTFN Grow up. Seriously. Signing an email like this is sort of the equivalent of baby talk. It’s a childish thing that is cute when the baby does it but looks silly if you’re a grown-up person. I know that it has its origins in Britain and Morse Code but everyone who uses it now does so because of Tigger. That’s probably why I get volumes of email from Disney correspondents signed this way.

Namaste *snork*. Is there anything more pretentious? Really? I don’t think so. I get lots of emails ending this way, oddly enough none of the senders are Hindu people or practitioners of the Hindu religion. I wonder why I only get “Shalom” emails from Sharon Cobb and no “Mahalo” emails at all. Both Shalom and Mahalo are culturoreligious salutations like Namaste, but no one ever uses them. I think it’s because “Namaste” seems all crunchy-granola hip, like those red-string Kaballah Light bracelets Madonna wears. I don’t like it when religion is reduced to an accessory. Speaking of which, that reminds me of a classic scene from Arrested Development:
Maeby: Do you guys know where I can get one of those necklaces shaped like a “t”?
Michael: That’s a cross
Maeby: Across from where?
That’s sort of how silly it looks to sign “Namaste”.

Sig Lines Sig lines are over. I remember back in the uphill both ways days of Unix and UseNet when we nerds were bantering over the VAX and labouring about the most clever possible sig lines to close out our posts. At this point I think I’ve seen every one that is remotely worthwhile as well as a metric ton of stupid ones full of ASCII angels and quotes stolen from refrigerator magnets. Years ago I came across the single best one ever, thanks to a poster at alt.folklore.urban:
Heisenberg May Have Slept Here

That’s it. Nothing can top that, and it’s useless to try.


Katherine J. Coble


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| (/\ Y /\) |
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‘._\) (/_.’
| |
/\ _ /\
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I really like Ken of Blue Collar Muse. A lot. So when he asked me to chime in on some website opposing toll roads in Tennessee I felt kinda bad.

There are a few conservatives out there I’ve decided to just live with disappointing. Terry Franks will never love me because I’m friends with a woman who masturbates, my dad thinks my libertarianism is sorely misguided and others out there just, well, let’s say they like Glen Beck more than they like me and that’s just fine. But Ken is a good guy and I like him a lot–his opinions on bankruptcy and toll roads notwithstanding.

See, toll roads suit me right down to the ground. I spend my life paying for schools I don’t send children to, national parks I seldom visit, public radio and television that bores me to tears. I also pay for “art” exhibits of varying levels of quality–nevermind the fact that if I wanted to see them I’d most likely have to travel to one of two costs to eyeball the fruits of my investment. I pay for guns and ammunition that I can’t use to shoot at anybody. With all that money in the defence budget you’d think I’d get a little thrown my way but since I’d probably use it to scare off the cretin who lets their dog poopuddle my front yard every day I can’t have any at all.

[For the record that last paragraph was meant to be slightly humourous. You really don’t need to leave a comment about Just Wars or how the kids in public schools today will be the brain surgeons of tomorrow or how the NEA makes us a healthier nation. Of course you can leave such a comment if it makes you feel better…]

Toll roads are the libertarian ideal. If you drive on them you pay for them. If you sit at home and knit an afghan or watch that vomitous Jon & Kate Plus 8 program or eat cheese fondue you don’t pay for the road. Scratch that. Since this is America, land of the tax and home of the partial wage, you do pay for the road. But you will pay less than you used to because the people who actually take their cars on the road will be paying more. And if the libertarians among you have their way the tolls will gradually phase out the taxes currently apportioned to the road(s) in question.

I have recently returned from riding along many roads. My ample arse has recently seen more than 2500 miles of asphalt, concrete and yellow paint. I can only imagine how much this country would benefit if we let a bit of that ground go private.

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My parents kindly invited me to go with them on a trip to Winter Park, Colorado. They have a time-share and their time-share had two extra bedrooms. So my sister and I played barnacle and fastened ourselves to their ship for the ride. Some of you may recall that last year I went with them to Gatlinburg.

Why, America, do I keep going on vacations to the mountains when I am afraid of heights?

I did okay once we arrived, but the trip was bookended by travelling over steep mountain passes, during which I mostly dissociated. And whimpered.

They wanted to go to the rodeo, but I put my foot down. Heights AND Clowns?!? No thank you.

I have learned some things about myself, though:

* I am a homebody.

* I am unhealthily fixated on dogs. Every time we saw or heard a dog on vacation I went a little nuts. I was like a two year old screaming “Doggie!!!”

* The food in Winter Park, Colorado was awesomely wonderful. Dungeness Crab enchiladas? Two thumbs up!

* The NBC channel in Denver is hopelessly left-leaning to an absurd extent. I watched a news story about business disruption in Downtown Denver which went on for several minutes. I heard about how the Secret Service and Fox News were shutting down whole sections of town. People were derisive and angry about how the conservatives were messing up their lives. Since I came in on the story part way through I was assuming they were talking about a visit from President Bush. Turns out they were griping about the Democratic National Convention. And bending over backwards to blame the inconvenience of that event on conservatives. Weird.

*After waiting more than a year for a local TV news station to do a story on my biggest blog confrontation, it has finally happened. When I was out of town. My opportunity to give input passed quietly. Probably for the best.

*Plants I planted have died and plants I didn’t plant have grown almost a foot high. I guess I didn’t successfully de-plant all of my Four-o’clocks from last year.

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What a weird night. Seriously. I couldn’t sleep, so I made my way down to my parents’ pool and just floated in the shallow end for about an hour. While remarkably soothing to my joints, it got downright cold after awhile so I ran freezing back to my room and changed into my sleeping-sweats. At home I sleep in the altogether–naked/buff/nude/bare–but when I’m away I like to lessen the chance of surprising my hosts with what’s behind door number 3, so I reluctantly wear some type of pajamas.

Once I was in bed and about asleep I heard this frantic buzzing noise. It seems that a beetle had hitched a ride on my wet hair in the pool. (“Hermownninny, you haff a water beetle in your hair”) I set him free and then finally fell asleep.

The thing about sleeping in a strange bed, though, is that you can be in pain more quickly than at home. And I was in pain, apparently, because I had a dream about having a bad backache. That’s just cruel, to not only not wake up but to carry your waking life into your sleep with you. Anyway, I had this bad backache and I asked Nikki, a girl I knew from elementary and high school, to give me a backrub. She said she would, but only if I paid her all the change from my piggy bank and gave my beautiful blue beach towel with all the fish on it to our mutual friend Karen. Reluctantly I parted with these things, but then Nikki wouldn’t give me the backrub. (Probably because in real life my back still hurt and my brain knew it couldn’t rationalise a massage in my sleep without just seeming weird.) I then spent the rest of the night trying to get Karen to give me my towel back. I first tried to reason with Karen. I gave the towel in payment for a service. Since I didn’t get the service I should get it back. That didn’t work. So I created a type of diversion that got everyone to leave the compound (we apparently all lived in some odd type of dormitory) in hopes that I could steal my towel back. I even argued with myself that it wasn’t stealing since the towel was rightfully mine. But as in all of my dreams I couldn’t read. I don’t know why that is, but I can never ever read in my dreams. For a person who spends all of her waking moments with words it’s a really odd side effect. Anyway, since I couldn’t read I couldn’t tell which sleeping quarters were Karen’s and didn’t know where to get my towel. I then tried to get an authority figure to intercede, but the towel didn’t seem important to anyone else but me.

I never did get it back, and I woke up this morning horribly upset at not having that towel. Oddly, though, I’ve never ever owned a towel that looked like that. Dreams are bizarre.

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