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April 19th, 2015

02:30 pm - oh, that nick

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December 17th, 2014

08:57 am - Contemptuous Consumption
A perusal of the Hammacher Schlemmer online catalog last night led Sonya and I to make a lot of sardonic mocking sounds at the wide array of overpriced tchotchkes for the Romney set. After a particularly profane outburst I decided to write my own copy for some of the more egregious examples. I've got a Tumblr thingo up which is posting these sporadically across a few days, but you lucky lot, you get to see a whole bunch first! Wowie! There's a lot of huge images and cussing ahead; we cut because we care.

PS. I didn't edit a single one of the listed prices. For serious.

We will never understand the paper towelsCollapse )

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November 27th, 2014

01:51 pm - damoclean trash bags could be a metaphor for healing
May be broke. May be unable to find work. May be creatively bankrupt. May have failed at every single thing I've done these past few months. May have lost all perspective on what I am capable of because of this, because all evidence points to complete and utter incapability. May completely and utterly hate myself for this. May be watching this country finally swirl down the toilet after orbiting the rim for decades.

But at least there's still Arlo
And don"t nobody jinx that right nowCollapse )

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November 6th, 2014

07:31 am - A much more expanded MY GOD LIVEJOURNAL WHAT HAVE YOU DONE note retaining Old Man McGucket just for
the hell of it

Holy bubble bursts, Batman, but LiveJournal just ate itself.
That new redesign (seriously log out and see it if you haven't, then clear the hell out of your cookies), optimized for your pad's protection, is an abomination unto God and Tim Berners-Lee. You log in and are gleefully informed that you can "promote" your post to that very front page for some amount of tokens? Tokens! Whee! We're at the arcade, kids! Who's up for Skee-Ball?

Thankfully they've retained, for the time being, the ?style=mine tag which works on most URLs and the cookies seem to be respecting it. Should they ever drop that, though, I think we'd need to hop over to Dreamwidth Street.
But I bin on since aught-three! Old Man McGucket! Sittin' on a bucket!

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October 30th, 2014

11:48 pm - Our Mumbles
He wasn't my mayor--Joe Curtatone is, and has been for over ten years now--but he was Our Mayor.

Upon reading the news that Tom Menino had passed away only a few days after deciding to stop his cancer treatments, I wrote a quick little Twitter thingy what said this:
We may have called him Mumbles but he was Our Mumbles, dammit, and we knew full well he Gave A Damn. Plenty of them. Goodbye #MayorMenino
This side of New England has known its share of colorful and legendary holders of public office. Boston's history especially is full of 'em, from Honey Fitz to James M. Curley to Kevin White, who had the unfortunate job (but the strength to handle it) of dealing with the extremely violent racial conflicts of the late 60s and early 70s, including calming a city ready to riot after hearing the news of Martin Luther King's assassination--and doing so from the stage of a James Brown concert at the Garden. Providence gives us a run for our money considering they elected Buddy Cianci both before and after his nolo contendre assault conviction and subsequent forced resignation in 1984 (and who have the chance next week to re-elect him again after his 2002 conviction and subsequent imprisonment on racketeering charges[1]) but that's another story from another city besides.

Mayor Tom, Boston's longest-serving mayor of twenty-two years, easily ascends to this pantheon. He wasn't a flamboyantly corrupt public official (corruption often providing lots of the color) though he did share one trait with guys like Curley and Cianci: he was sincerely invested in the well-being and prosperity of his city. Not the city he ran. His city. He considered himself "everybody's neighbor", among other things ("urban mechanic" was another favorite) and he meant it.

Twitter is happily remembering Menino's LGBT support (judging from the pictures he sure enjoyed marching in Pride) and how one of his first projects upon taking office in 1993 was to start providing a better way of life for AIDS/HIV patients as well as extensive public outreach, needle exchanges, and other ways to fully educate the public about the diseases. He wanted his healthy citizens safe and well-educated; he wanted his suffering citizens to be treated as human beings. The Glob and other outlets are remarking on his plans, many of which proved fruitful, to improve disquietly blighted sections of the city. When he saw something that needed change he didn't just loudly pipe up about it; he went out and did something about it, even if "it" was just some trash blowing about on the street. He promoted bike lanes and alternative transportation options. He defended the Downtown Crossing pushcart vendors in the face of gentrifyin' corporations who didn't want "Those People" around the ground floor of their beautiful new fancypants condos. And according to a 2008 Boston Globe poll, over half the respondents said they had personally met him at one point or another. How many mayors can make the claim that they've reached out and shook the hands of so many?

And he was colorful, oh, indeed. He was Our Mumbles because sometimes the intricacies of public speaking got the best of him, his speeches needing subtitles. And if he got your name wrong on the second or third time you met, at least he remembered you. Albeit under a different name. He got extremely angry after that whole Mooninite incident in 2007 which in retrospect can seem very silly (okay, it was silly even then) but when Boston was bombed for reals last year, he showed that anger again and more besides. With his cancer already at a severe stage he defied his doctor's orders, stood from his wheelchair, mumbled eloquently and reverently, then oversaw the subsequent investigation's manhunt. When we finally got the surviving brother, that's what Menino announced: "We got him". Sent it to Twitter directly from Watertown. He'd been right there on the front lines. I can't see Bloomberg doing that. The anger over the Mooninite hoax came into sharper focus for me after that: Menino wasn't angry cause we'd been chumped by Adult Swim, he was angry because it had appeared Boston had been threatened. And you don't threaten Boston. Not on his watch.

While condensing so many thoughts into 140 characters I made do with the phrase "gave a damn". Now that I think about it, that's the highest compliment I can pay an elected official: One who gave a damn. We've had our share of career politicians all over, those who believe whatever office they're in is merely a rung on their professional ladder (and how's that working out for you, Mitt?) and those who are glad to have a nice title next to their names. Rare are the politicians who, indeed, actually give a damn. The loss of one certainly makes it painfully apparent that we need more.

Menino had a long-standing obsession to turn Boston in what he liked to call a "world-class city". It became a cynical shibboleth for those of us who did not agree that, say, bringing the Olympics to Boston would fulfill the nebulous requirements of "world-class", whatever the requirements may be. ("There he goes again," we'd say, using the first-person royal, when learning of a new proposed venture. "World-class, here we come!") I suppose the requirements involved elevating Boston out of the Brahmin Provincial or whatever New Yorkers like to call us when they're feeling frisky, but honestly, these requirements were unnecessary. While Thomas M. Menino never gave up his obsession, he still must have known full well that he already had made Boston not only world-class, but first-class as well. We'll find it difficult to live up to his legacy, but we will somehow. He showed us how it could be done; he proved it could be done. With a damn or two.

[1]. The legal technicalities behind this involve quite a long story but suffice it to say that the 1986 Rhode Island constitutional amendment permitting convicted felons to run for public office three years after the end of their parole or probation is known as the "Buddy Amendment". Oh, Cianci. How can you not like such gumption.

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October 22nd, 2014

01:55 am
I don't know if anyone on my friends list is playing Marvel Heroes so the full significance of this screenshot may not be readily apparent but let's just say a weekend in which they run two large server-side boosts combined with new changes to existing heroes such as Cyclops (including giving him the SUPER AWESOME CYKEBIKE) makes a man... uh, something-or-other. Especially when he's in his own vanity supergroup which allows him to change the little green name at will.

...oh, and sometimes if you do it right, the SUPER AWESOME CYKEBIKE doesn't show up at all.

EDIT: An incomplete list of supergroup names I have used in the past follows.

Ski Latveria
Irving Forbush Fan Club
Midtown Marching Society
Cerebro is my Co-Pilot
Occupy Yancy Street
Fifty Shades of CMYK (my personal favorite)

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October 11th, 2014

12:33 pm - It all makes sense now
Dear Focus on the Family,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the good work you're ostensibly doing in Singapore teaching youngsters all about the mens and wimmins through your sexual and relationship propaganda and indoctrination workshops. Rare is the publication which dares speak truth to power about reinforcing sexual stereotypes because it can't be helped; rarer still the publication which does so by using material from a Catskills comedian.

More importantly, however, are your lessons to young men that women are all passive-aggressive and can only communicate by saying the opposite of how they feel (I hope you paid the Catskills comic plenty for that), and your lessons to young women that teenage boys are only after one thing and they sure can't help it:
Many guys feel neither the ability nor the responsibility to stop the sexual progression with you. Guys need your help to protect both of you. In fact, if you want to be able to stop it, it's safest to not even start.
It is good for young men to know that it's okay, everyone knows they can't help it since the women dress so hot, and it is good for young women to know that they should always look their prettiest and best for their men because their gaze will stray regardless. And it is good for both sides to know that it's completely the woman's responsibility to say no when it comes to sex; it is also her responsibility to communicate this to the young men who are cool with the knowledge that, kinda like Bill Murray, they live in an eternal Opposite Day.

Whew! All this male-female relationship stuff is very complicated and cannot lead to anything good. Thank you, Focus on the Family, for opening my mind to this. Clearly the problem lies deep within the inherent and fundamentally immutable differences between man and woman and the gender roles which arise from the differences, and so the solution as you imply is very simple: Same-sex relations will avoid all this malarkey entirely. That way two women can say "no" to each other and have a happy, fulfilling relationship, and the men can just go around getting their stroke on wherever and whenever, since it can't be helped.

Thank you again, Focus on the Family. You're Helping.

hope you fry in hell,
d. spatchel

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August 22nd, 2014

03:24 pm - Speak nicely and then express your disgust
GoFundMe, that relatively successful crowdsourcing site, is currently hosting a campaign created by people who want to financially support Darren Wilson, the policeman named in the Michael Brown shooting. You know, the white cop who put six bullets into an unarmed black teenager in broad daylight for the crime known colloquially as "boy not knowing his place".

The campaign is at http://www.gofundme.com/supportofficerwilson and I don't suggest you visit it to give clicks. I especially don't suggest you visit it to read the comments from contributors, many of which are of the dittohead attaboy variety, wishing a man well for straight up murdering a kid, and that's the least ugly of the themes. If ever we needed proof Pax Americana is on the inevitable decline, here it is.

However, I do suggest reaching out to GoFundMe and gently noting to them that the campaign is in direct violation of GoFundMe's Terms of Service which prohibit, in part:
(d) items that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or the financial exploitation of a crime
Welp. The shooting of an unarmed citizen is surely a crime; last I heard it's still being treated as a criminal investigation. And the contributor comments pretty much cover the other three angles, though the entire context behind the campaign does that too.

I have always found it most effective, when contacting sites about shit like this, is to stay objective and point out the actual technical flaws which necessitate removal. "Remove this because it's fucking reprehensible, you shitlords", while possibly true (current shitlord status unknown) sounds much different than "Remove this because it violates your own rules (which you wrote to prevent fucking reprehensible things like this from happening in the first place)". Plus, if the shitlords then sit on their thumbs and do nothing about it, you have the additional thrill of subsequently and loudly calling them out on their hypocrisy and, honestly, who doesn't love a chance to get to do that?

GoFundMe takes great pains at many points to remind you that it doesn't endorse the campaigns on its site; they're just a facilitator, an easy way for People A to send money to People B for specific reasons. I completely understand that endorsement and facilitation are two different things entirely. I also know damn well that the line between the two can get easily blurred and that at some point, continued facilitation in the face of opposition becomes endorsement. Let's hope GoFundMe does the right thing here and keep things from getting to that point, because I like the site and I know people who've done well by it and I'd hate to lose it as a good resource. There are few enough Good Resources these days as it is.

I admit I was a little unsettled when the GoFundMe report-a-site page asked for my phone number in case "law enforcement needs to contact" me; I'm reporting a case for TOS-breaking, not fraud. Since the case involves law enforcement, well, let's just say I was sufficiently unsettled that I may have nervously fat-fingered my phone number in the field and messed a few digits up. Twice.

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August 15th, 2014

08:21 am - Wicked (Local Remix from Around Here)
It might be crazy, but I gotta say
I can't believe how they drive today
That freakin' outtatownah with New Hampshire plates
I'm gonna flash my brights, cut him off, then accelerate

(Because I'm wicked)
Livin in a triple-decker throwin' keggahs out on the roof
(Because I'm wicked)
My sister met Papi once, if you like she can show you proof
(Because I'm wicked)
Sprayed my name on a roadside boulder right next to "Class of '92"
(Because I'm wicked)
I painted it with my pal Sully cause buddy, he's wicked too

Don't talk to tourists, got no time for that
Yelling "Yankees Suck" in the laundromat
I should probably warn you that beer is mine
No offense to your mother, but she's lookin fine
And here's why

(Because she's wicked)
Like rush hour on the T, this place is packed through the roof
(Because it's wicked)
Got kicked outta Shopper's World for rockin' the photo booth
(Because I'm wicked)
Avery Bradley ran into my sister, she got his home number too
(Because she's wicked)
Anyone who's drunk-dialed a Celtic is totally more wicked than you
Bring me smokes
Here's a twenty
Bring me smokes
And some cheap wine
Bring me chips
And something for your brothah
Bring roast beef
Dad said "Don't forget the milk"
Bring some beer
Hi, neighbah!
Bring red cups
And some ping-pong balls
Bring some friends
And tell them
To bring their friends cause
(It'll be wicked)
Like Boiled Dinner Night in the parish hall at St. Ruth's
(Because it's wicked)
Doin' donuts at Dunkin Donuts cause you got nothin better to do
(Because it's wicked)
My sister went out to Foxboro, got drunk with both Gronk and Drew
(Because she's wicked)
If you really believe this palaver, then pally, you're wicked too
Current Mood: GO ON, TAKE A GUESS

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August 14th, 2014

11:45 pm - "Help, it's the police"
When I was a kid, my small rural town had two or three police officers and we knew each one. The daughter of one was in my elementary school class. Our family was friends with the family of an Amherst officer; we played with their kids a lot. My stepfather is a retired officer in both the Amherst Town and Amherst College police departments. We know these people. We love them. We know they're looking out for everybody's safety, even when we get hassled a bit (my father joked that once I learned to drive, he wanted to let the police know so they could flash their lights behind me and then wave--it never happened.) We are or were in small towns, however. The personal connections are strongest there, and yet I know there are professional codes that exist, a bond between coworkers which must be maintained.

My father, who was a volunteer firefighter and EMT, once told me that debriefings back at the station were often full of the most incredibly black humor pertaining to the calls they were just on, jokes as black as the coffee everyone drank while they made hideous remarks that could never and would never go beyond those fake wood panelled office walls. He never told me a single one; I never wanted to know. It was all stress relief, laughter, a much-needed valve because the demands of the job and the sights one sees and the dangers one faces can be horrific indeed. The lingo I do know the EMTs and ER workers share is cynical though humorous and never cruel or dismissive: "frequent fliers"; the abbreviation SOCMOB which stands for Standing On Corner Minding Own Business which is what nearly everybody who comes in beat up claims they were doing; and the ever-popular FDGB: Fall Down Go Boom. But the private stuff stays private and that's how it should be. It helps them and them only.

I do not know if the Ferguson police consider what they are doing as venting. I should certainly hope not. But it feels to me that their continued actions are indeed a lashing-out, a venting of pent-up frustrations and dark anticipatory wishes which go beyond just wanting to have a try at all that fancy military equipment they got from the government.

I am of two minds of the cops' "Thin Blue Line" standard, their own omerta, whether you assert it exists or not. I respect a professional's right to silence in many cases: the rescue worker's right to vent their demons by themselves with dark humor, the doctor's right to keep doctor-patient confidentiality, the police's right to stay appropriately silent when giving out information would actively compromise a current investigation, notify fugitives of their actions, etc. But I cannot respect or condone anyone staying silent to hide, deny, cover up or otherwise ignore knowledge or involvement in illegal actions--and let's face it, shooting an unarmed man in the back and then several times again when he turns around with his hands up in surrender is straight-up cold-blooded murder, plain and simple, no "he/we both reached for the gun" bullshit.

The officer had plenty of time, as Michael Brown ran and even turned back, to assess his situation, stand down, and choose an alternate course of action. That he did not is the problem. If it turns out that he had panicked and/or involuntarily violently reacted in the face of an assault perceived or otherwise, which is a completely legitimate scenario, then he needs to be taken immediately off the force pending investigation given some serious counseling before, during and after the criminal trial. Something ain't right and they need to address it. If, on the other hand, the officer straight up gave no fucks, then he needs to be given the banhammer, no paid suspension, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law under each crime committed, hate, first-degree and otherwise. As one often hears from justice-minded citizens, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time". Here are some crimes, St. Louis. Let's find some time.

But the real problem isn't that this is happening right now in Ferguson. The real problem is that it's happening all over the country and it has been happening; only the current spate of news coverage makes it seem surprising. Yet every time it happens the issue seems to just die out. A current joke floating around Twitter right now how the three big news networks are covering the week's events: MSNBC's headline would say "Police fire tear gas into crowd", Fox News reports "Authorities bravely holding back rioters", and CNN is going "Seriously, guys, where is that plane?" This is a form of humor last seen prevalent in the Czech Republic and other parts of Eastern Europe pre and post-Soviet breakup. I am glad to see it still exists; unhappy that it has to right now.

And when there is coverage, it's often completely and horribly twisted: Today's print edition of the New York Post has a headline in 96-frickin-point bold which simply reads "COPS RIGHT". (DOWN UP. WAR EURASIA ALWAYS.) The headline tops a story about New York Mayor de Blasio, a man with an ugly name and an even uglier attitude, telling New Yorkers that when it's time for their arrest, which he makes out to seem almost as commonplace and to be as expected as muggings were in the worst part of the 1970s, that they shouldn't resist and instead just lie back and think of Brooklyn. I'm copying the relevant quotes here so as to not give the NY Post the benefit of any clicks or Facebook data. You can go to nypost dot com if you wish.
"When a police officer comes to the decision that it’s time to arrest someone, that individual is obligated to submit to arrest..."
"Arrest is not always the goal . . . but once an officer has decided that arrest is necessary, every New Yorker should agree to do what they need to do as a citizen and respect the police officer and follow their guidance. And then there is a thorough due-process system thereafter..."
Ah, yes, this would be the same New York City court system where, in 2011, the nice lady on the other end of the police-run taxi complaint line told me that cases such as ones where a taxi driver ripped off his passengers, say, would take at least nine months to over a year to be heard, and even then both litigants needed to be personally present at the hearing. This meant, for out-of-towners at least, that if you chose to press charges you'd either spend time and money getting back to NYC only to find that the other guy just plain didn't show up, or you both don't bother to show up and the case gets thrown out. And all for twenty lousy dollars. So you'll pardon me, then, when I say that I'm not exactly confident by de Blasio's claims that if New Yorkers behave like good little doobees when the handcuffs come out, their case will be heard quickly and efficiently.

The mayor, by the way, was responding to comments made by his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who is a piece of work himself. Bratton recently about "...a number of individuals just failing to understand that you must submit to an arrest, that you cannot resist it," which puts me in the frame of mind of the government official in Terry Gilliam's Brazil who talked about how "a ruthless minority of people seem to have forgotten old-fashioned virtues" and how if only those people would just play the game...

The two weren't talking about the Ferguson police state, either; they were actually discussing the earlier case of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who recently died when police locked him in a chokehold. All over selling loose cigarettes on a stoop. I can't see any conceivable way in which that was justified. I don't care if he was mentally ill or they'd had problems with him the past or if they thought he was lying when he called out for help; you just don't kill someone over loosies. I can't believe I have to type that out. de Blasio's response is inconceivable and reprehensible. As far as the Worst New York Mayor Race goes, de Blasio is currently neck-and-neck with Jimmy Walker, both trying to gain on John Lindsay. I sure hope we don't go that far.

I was brought up, among the police I knew, to think for myself while respecting the law. The law could and should be questioned, but respectfully. The ability to stand up and say "Okay, but--" without fear of reprisal is a fundamental human right. So is the ability to say "I would like to know how/why/what..." when things personally affect you. Peaceful assembly, that's cool, too.

However, when it comes to sides and one or both break their inherent promise, things get ugly. The Ferguson PD is ugly. What they're doing is ugly. Michael Brown's death was ugly. The break-up of the peaceful protest was ugly. The subsequent looting and escalation was ugly. Eric Garner's death and the laissez-faire reactions from New York officials are all ugly. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Somewhere along the line the police turned from the people we knew and grew up with to a nameless, often-faceless force which couldn't care less about you even while they claim it's for your safety. I understand inherent mistrust; mistrust or at least skepticism seems justifiable. But there's also fear, which there shouldn't be. But there sure is.

Eight years ago I was awakened in the middle of the night by three Somerville police officers pointing flashlights and weapons in my face. They had received a call which Verizon had erroneously traced to my house; somebody claiming they had weapons and were going to either hurt themselves or someone else, I don't know. I honestly don't know the details of the call beyond that. Once the police realized they were indeed in the wrong house and neither the naked man they just scared out of bed, nor his cat, nor his other housemates were about to commit a crime, they turned off the tough guy act. They stayed police-professional, true to duty, even as they explained to us just why and how they had broken into our home (they broke in through our back kitchen door after trying the doorbell; we were all on the third floor sleeping in closed-off rooms with fans on) and that if we wanted, we could try to request reimbursement from the City of Somerville for our kitchen door, broken beyond repair, but "good luck with that". They didn't give names or badge numbers (honestly I think we were still so shocked we forgot to ask), they assured us the "full report" of all they had done would be available to view in a few weeks, and then they left us without so much as an apology.

The police never apologize.

That incident was the start of a lot of changes in my life, some good and some bad, many of which still affect me to this day. I'm not including it in this piece as an ego signal boost, neither as a message of "Oh I totally understand what the people of Ferguson are going through because look what happened to me me me" nor a message of "gee if a white middle-class guy can't be safe around cops, who can?" because honestly those are both crass as all hell. What I'm saying is that something has happened in America--let's not quibble when, it's happened--which should give us all considerable worry about the handling of authority, enough to find ways to stop it or at least make sure those who deserve justice get it. The cops who busted in on us in 2006 were Regular Guys. They had names, families, houses nearby, facial hair. They were doing what they considered to be their job. They backed off when they realized their error, which to be fair was the appropriate response. Maybe they laughed about it after their shift, maybe they just forgot it in all the paperwork. They've gone on with their lives and I certainly don't wish them any ill nor do I seek damages this long after the fact. They got it out of their system first; I'm still working on it though time does help mellow the memories. The emotions mellow much slower. Still, I can't begrudge them anything-- but I can no longer trust them.

And losing trust in local law enforcement is a terrifying outcome indeed.

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07:52 am - And now a lit-tle po-em. A-hem:

Two little catlets sleeping on boxes.

One little catlet dreams of hunting foxes.

The other little catlet dreams bagels and loxes.

Sweet dreams, little catlets.

purr purr snoxxsznzzzzz


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12:01 am - our Hestia is very encouraging of Good Decisions

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August 12th, 2014

09:09 pm - for sonya, her laptop, the couch and her sanity

Also it's usually not a wise idea to try to drive an invisible pedal car with a cat steering wheel

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July 13th, 2014

03:19 am - heave down the catfood an' heave-to yer dinghy
Every now and then we find bits of random detritus on the ol' hard drive and while I am not trying to imply there'll be any kind of lost blog entries from Abbie any time soon, I did want to bring to your attention a fine sea chantey that was written aboard Martha the Cat's own ship, the Flying Kitten. The appearance of the ink on the pages implies that the verses were added over time, and if the page numbering is anything to be believed (the song ends on a posthumous verse), there might be quite a few more verses out there. At any rate, here is what we currently have of the chantey about Martha the Cat, which was named by a crew member who apparently wasn't very imaginative.


Oh, Martha the Cat was a mighty fine pirate
The cleverest pirate 'pon these Seven Sinks,
When asked how she did it, she said "It's no secret:
A captain is only as good as she thinks."
Yes, boys,[1] yes
That is what Martha would do.
Martha the Cat helmed a mighty fast vessel
A frigate she was, Flying Kitten her name
Her figurehead was of a panther a-leaping
The colors she flew high resembled the same.
Yes, boys, yes
That is what Martha would do.
Now, Martha the Cat had a brother named Abbie
This brother, his appetite grew as he grew
For breakfast he'd start with a brunch and three lunches
And then finish off with a dinner or two.
Yes, boys, yes
That is what Abbie would do.
Well, Martha the Cat went out sailing one morning
The morning was fair and the water was nice
She sailed far away and came back in a fortnight
With her tail held up high and a holdful of mice.
Yes, boys, yes
That is what Martha would do.
Once Martha the Cat was brought up 'fore His Honor
His Honor, he said "We found you with the loot!
I've only one question to ask: did you nick it?"
And Martha replied, "I don't know... but I'm cute!"
Yes, boys, yes
That is what Martha would do.
Old Martha the Cat, she's now sailing far elsewhere
That elsewhere, it's somewhere you'll go and then stay
But a message I found in a bottle said "I'm good!
There's fine prizes here 'pon the old Milky Way."
Yes, boys, yes
That's where the good Kitten flew!

1. An annotation scribbled in the margin of the first page, written by Martha herself, explains that aboard The Flying Kitten, every crew member may be referred to as 'boy' because it is, in her particular cat dialect, the word for sailor. This has yet to be verified but we have top linguists working it right now. Top. Linguists.

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July 11th, 2014

03:01 pm - There must be a motivational poster which inspires execs to follow their most boneheaded visions
Just in case there is now a law which stipulates I always have to write about the wee beasties in this LJ, I will mention that Sonya and I left them alone for one night (one night!) and, upon returning home, discovered that they have transformed from kittens into miniature cats. Hestia's ears are growing into the large Siamese shape like her mother had; Autolycus is taking after his father with short equilateral triangles for ears. They will be four months old tomorrow. And now you know something completely innocuous about the kittens and that's all I should mention in this post, because it really is about a big big big loss for independent Boston theatre.

This is what I wrote back in January about the Factory Theatre, in which the Porpentine Players presented A Man for All Seasons during the cold month:
I maybe ought to take this opportunity to mention that the Factory Theatre is, indeed, located in a former piano factory in downtown Boston. The house appears to be in a former loading dock; it's a two-story bare brick room with enough length and width for a piano-totin' truck and all the mechanical hoisting thingamajiggers required to haul pianos into said truck. It is cold, it is drafty, there is only one bathroom and it's horrible; it is theatre in the rough and it is glorious, even if a bit masochistic.

The bathroom deserves special mention since it smells like a truck stop with kidney problems and the door locks every time and the key is usually lost so for god's sake prop the door open when you leave or we'll all be peeing out in the parking lot. The bathroom is also home to a very friendly cockroach who I presume acquired several nicknames, some of them pejorative and one of them pronounceable only by a shoe, from the cast and crew. (I called it Frankie.) And along with cockroaches, I learned this weekend that the place has spiders.
Yesterday word went quickly around Boston theatre people that the Factory had lost its lease and would be gone, gone, gone by the end of October. The rest of the renovated Factory was once artist loft space, but now it's mostly really expensive condo space which they call "high-end lofts" and let me tell you that's one of the greatest real estate euphemisms ever. Right next to "cozy with lots of character".

The Factory building management have decided that they would rather take out one of the last good venues for Boston fringe theatre, an actual source of revenue, and instead (so the rumor mill goes) put in a gym, something which the South End desperately needs because that's the only direction in which you can swing a dead cat without hitting one. But the rumor mill churns out the possibility that the gym won't even be open to the public; it'll be for the residents only. There goes another source of revenue for these genius Captains of Industry. GENTLEMEN, WE ARE MAKING ENTIRELY TOO MUCH MONEY OFF THIS VENTURE. IF WE WANT A GOLDEN BAILOUT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DEVALUATE THE PROPERTY AND FAST. MIGHT AS WELL GET BIALYSTOCK AND BLOOM TO BLOW THE PLACE UP. The Factory's parking lot will be gated--not that theatergoing proles could park there anyway--but this will bar even pedestrian access, and apparently the theater itself is just too pedestrian to live.

Far from expressing relief that one would never again have to deal with the one-and-a-half-person-wide backstage area, the drafts, the cockroach bathroom, the light booth with practically no view of stage left ("I'll just count to ten after your line, bring up your special and have faith you're underneath it by then") and spiders who'll upstage you every chance they get, everybody what does theater around Boston is angry. The Factory Theatre may be a cramped, cold hole but it's our cramped, cold hole, goddammit. And what with it seating fifty people who are no more than fifteen feet from the players at any time, it presented a terrific opportunity for really intimate productions. AMFAS worked great there. You weren't sitting comfortably in an auditorium watching Sir Thomas More underneath a proscenium, no, you're practically sitting in his house. Or in his garden. Or on the banks of the Thames, or in the Tower of London, or or or, you get the idea.

The Factory is/was home to at least four or five resident companies; the Porpentines got their foot in the door (which isn't so hard to do when you have to keep it propped open with a rock). Nobody is going to take this without a fight, or at least a new venue search--but new venue searches happen all the time and turn incredibly depresso after a while. This is all I know for now, but I know that we collectively get mighty upset when a place we in which we play is taken from us. We'll see what happens. If it turns into a gym, I sure hope every single person paying to live there uses it and uses it often. I don't want the gym to fail if it comes to that; I just hope that the area is well and duly used regardless of what it ends up being. There's simply nothing worse than corporately-wasted space, and I can say this with great certainty and conviction because I was in Burlington this morning.

Long live the Factory Theatre; long live fringe with a capital or lower-case F[f].

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July 5th, 2014

03:46 am - in which kittens learn that freedom isn't free, or some other bumper sticker bromide
The kittens did not have a good Fourth of July.

Thursday the city of Somerville shot fireworks off at Trum Field, which is on the other side of Ball Square from us. We didn't go, having plans to later that evening to see the Boston fireworks from Prospect Hill. You could hear the percussive reports at home, nice bass thuds which were fun for us but sufficiently loud to unnerve kitten, um, nerves. Hestia ran into Sonya's room and hid underneath a picture frame; Autolycus was just really really really on guard for quite some time. The puir wee bairns.

The Boston fireworks had been pushed back from Friday night to Thursday because of * Arthur. The * means I am lazy and as of this writing have not looked to see if it's a tropical storm or an actual hurricane or what. I'll look it up later. Then the fireworks started fifteen minutes earlier than that due to another incoming storm with no name. Sonya and I knew about the former but not the latter as we traveled to Prospect Hill. All we knew was that good god that looks like the Esplanade fireworks and didn't they say 10:30 and maybe someone accidentally dropped a match in the fireworks box or something. (It's been known to happen.) We got to the hill, sat down with rushthatspeaks and gaudior and a friend of theirs, watched the rest of the show, and then we all got caught in the huge monsoon which hit us approximately five minutes after we started back to Highland. Rush kindly drove us home through glass-like sheets of water and the most ferocious cloud-to-cloud lightning (and a few ground strikes) I have ever seen on land. We made it home and discovered that the kittens aren't too fond of thunder, either, at least when they're not the ones responsible for it.

This, then, brings us to Friday, the actual Fourth, which saw us in Lexington for most of the day. The kittens were fed and watered and assured that no fireworks were going to go off near them tonight. They were cool with that.

At this point I should mention that these cats are learning new and wonderful tricks. Hestia is getting very good at jumping onto things. She can get onto the kitchen counter with a running start half the time. The other half she reaches the counter with her front paws, flails at the cabinetry with her back paws, and flops to the ground for some composure grooming. Meanwhile Autolycus, who has more difficulty learning mobility what with oversized paws and all, is obsessed with bottle caps. He loves to scoop a cap up in both paws, rearing back on his hind legs in the process, then stick the cap in his mouth and run off it with all proud-like. Sometimes there's the problem of not enough loose bottle caps on the floor. Autolycus has observed us drinking from one-liter and 20-ounce bottles enough to understand that if you want the cap off the bottle, you have to turn it. We have watched him grasp the bottle cap in both paws, again rearing up on his hind legs (both of them are going to be bipedal cats before the year is out) and then attempt to hop-circle around the bottle. He doesn't have sufficient grip to create any kind of torque, but my god he's got the principle down.

(Anyway, the joke's on him; he was hopping righty-tighty, not lefty-loosey.)

While we were out, Hestia learned to jump over the gate we keep at the top of our entry stairs so that little cats don't lurk by the front door and accidentally on purpose get out. This is a slightly dangerous endeavor, jumping over gates at the tops of stairs, but Hestia had so much fun hopping over the gate she apparently convinced Autolycus to give it a try and wouldn't you know, the little fellow succeeded. What fun! What victory! What naughty kittens!

Then came this thing called consequence which cats will never seem to grasp, no matter how many cognitive skills they develop. The gate was high enough for the critters to hop over from the top of the landing, yes, but the other side is one step lower. The resulting ledge was too high to clamber back over and when we came home on Thursday evening we found two kittens sitting on that low step out there in NO CAT'S LAND. We have no idea how long they'd been there, though it appears thankfully not long enough for one of them to really need to use the now-inaccessible litter box. They freaked out a bit when they saw me round the stairstep corner, both flashed that "Oh, shit, we're nicked" look, and tried to jump back over the gate simultaneously and at the same time. This plan failed: they crashed into each other in mid-leap, landed on the low step, scrambled to get out of the way, tripped over each other again, and generally scrambled around in PURE KITTEN PANIC. Hestia recovered and, upset, managed to clear the gate from the lower level and ran off to the water dish. Autolycus, meanwhile, tumbled down three or four steps, was very annoyed by the whole deal, and ran off to the water dish as soon as I undid the gate.

They are doing fine several hours later though Autolycus has since fallen down the stairs twice; first while chasing a mouse toy he thought had gone that way. We hadn't put the gate back yet and I felt really bad about it. The mouse hadn't even gone down the stairs. After I put the gate back up Oly jumped over just to make sure. He landed hard on his paws, tumbled again, and was really shaken for a while. I went out to check on him while writing this and upon hearing my office door open he ran with a prrrp at a bottle cap by my feet, slid along the hardwood floor with cap in paw, bounced off the wainscoting and looked right up at me with big bright eyes. We're going to have to watch that gate, but yeah. The Ex-Runt is gonna be okay.

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June 18th, 2014

Someone who just wanted to get a little work done


WHEREAS the afternoon sun comes directly into the living room and the dining room, making such places broilingly hot; and

WHEREAS we made the wise decision of locating our offices on the northernish side of the house with a triple-decker next door; thereby keeping them away from direct sunlight







Play By, Follow and Don't Mess Around with:

as set down by THE MANAGEMENT.

If youse guys want to stay in this nice, cool room, perfect for sleeping and being super quiet:

  1. DO NOT CLIMB UP LEGS. Even if you don't really mean it. Even if they're wearing long pants. If you want up on the chair, jump on the chair itself or ask politely. DO NOT attempt to SCALE THE VERTICAL HEIGHTS OF MT. LEGMORE. Too many attempts, O youth 'mid snow and ice, and you're out into the desert there under the harsh Tatooine suns.

  2. DO NOT FREAK OUT AND RUN AROUND ALL CRAZY. To do so requires nice, long stretches of surface upon which to work up a good running speed, and WOULDN'T YOU KNOW the best place for that would be the HOT SALT FLATS out there under the harsh Tatooine suns to which you will be SUMMARILY DISPATCHED.

  3. DO NOT FIGHT AND MEAN IT. Master Blaster rules Thudnerdome. Master Blaster knows sometimes kittens want to take a round or two in the Thudnerdome, AS LONG AS IT DON'T GET PERSONAL. Once it do get personal, and someone CRIES UNCLE, combatants must CEASE ALL FIGHTING YOU CHOWDAHEADS and COOL YUH JETS ALREDDY. Should HOSTILITIES CONTINUE, the combatant with whom Master Blaster is MOST DISPLEASED shall be BANISHED to the DINING ROOM WASTELAND under the harsh Tatooine suns and maybe we're overdoing it with the science-fiction here.

  4. DON'T EAT ANYTHING YOU SHOULDN'T. The Management reserves the right and will do its utmost to remove from the floor WHATEVER IMPLEMENTS IT FINDS that YOU WEIRDOS might find APPETIZING. This includes but is not limited to
    • FOOD
    • NOT FOOD
    • ETC.
    Previous experience with PROPER MOOCHERS has reminded us that CATS are STUPID HUNGRY and will TRY TO CONSUME anything that looks like oh seriously cat what are you thinking that's caramel off a wrapper no Abbie you damn idjit just no.


_____what_____ T. AUTOLYCUS (cat)

___whatever___ HESTIA H. (cat)

______us______ THE PEOPLE. (people)


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Today's letter comes from Mr. P. Paternoster from Fort Worth, Texas, who writes:
Dear Guy Who Gets Asked Things,

In the song "Charlie on the MTA", which is all about Charlie on the MTA, there's a verse about Charlie's wife giving him a sandwich every day when his train comes through the station. Why doesn't she just hand him a nickel so he can get off the train and be done with it?

Yours drooly,
P. Paternoster

Dear Pat,

The answer to this one is simple: Charlie the eternal subway rider and his train are caught in a trans-dimensional wormhole where time goes by a lot differently than it does here on our home planet. Thus, if Mrs. Charlie were to hand her husband a nickel this afternoon as the wormholed train comes a-rumbling through, Charlie would receive it in roughly 50,000 years--enough time for both the nickel to devaluate and the exit fare to be abolished, return, and get hiked up exponentially. Even if Mrs. Charlie (whose name is Sylvia, by the way, and she very kindly did not hang up on me today) were to deposit that nickel in an account at the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank, the interest accrued by the time Charlie receives the passbook would not be enough to cover the fare. Besides, the Five Cents Savings Bank was bought by Citizens Bank a long time ago and the account gets socked fifteen bucks every month. You do the math.

The Guy Who Gets Asked Things

But, Guy Who Gets Asked Things,

Wouldn't this time dilation also mean that every sandwich Charlie's wife gives him arrives completely rotted and inedible?

P. (not Pat) Paternoster

Dear Pete,

Yes, but he's too nice a guy to say anything about it.


The Guy Who Gets Asked Things (right) is a six-time Battle of the Network Stars team captain and has many amusing stories about his Uncle Max.

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June 13th, 2014

02:58 pm - quick, they're napping for fifteen minutes
Oh, say do you see what I see?
Kitten sittin' here in sweet serenity
I could cheer; the reason's clear
For the first time in a year Psycho Kitty isn't here
And look, a cat is napping there
On my lap down in this chair, and he's not eating my hair--

I sing hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna, hosanna
And he's cool

Come ye cool, cool, considerate cats
Not the kind who run around amok and get in spats
You have thread, trash to shred,
Towel beds, fuzzy heads
It's real nice, there's cat food to suffice
And fun toys to entice, like well-chewed-up felt mice

We sing hosanna, hosanna
Their inbreeding and weird manner
Means they're cool...

(I'd write more but now I can get back to, like, actual work instead of pulling kittens out of places they shouldn't be.)

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May 26th, 2014

06:56 am - The Well-Ingrained Cat-herd
I swear this LJ shouldn't turn into All Kittens All The Time but really

Twice now in a row I have blinked awake to start my day and found a cat curled up next to me. This is one of the three best ways to wake up as far as I'm concerned, and it's something that hasn't happened in ten months. I still miss Abbie every single day in ways large and small, and most every time we visit Sonya's parents in Lexington I go put a stone on his cairn and say hey there buddy what's up. Most recently, the dandelions are blooming around the stones. He is turning into flowers.

To say that I have missed a feline presence like the dickens is an understatement. It is amazing, after the loss of a cat, how many procedures of which one simply lets go and forgets. The kittens, however, are bringing back so many damn cat-herding instincts I had forgotten I knew. Settling squabbles and other assorted disputes. "Okay, okay, somebody needs a time out." Giving a firm NO when discouraging something they oughtn't do but they're doing anyway. Holding fast and giving that NO when they grab you with claws out or bite without licking after. Securing every single cord as they find 'em or you remember 'em. Making a specific set of sounds when feeding to encourage the right kind of Pavlovian response. Knowing nuggets of folk wisdom, such as making the feeding sound can lure out a cat in hiding or just plain around here somewhere but I can't see. (Advanced cat luring involves actually making good on your feeding sound and giving a treat to the nice, well-behaved, no longer behind the toilet cat.)

We're keeping the kittens confined to the living room and the dining room for now; our offices, the bathroom, the kitchen and most of the third floor are strictly off-limits. The kitchen is protected behind two sets of box barricades, the closest one two boxes high and just annoying enough to step over to warrant putting in a gate NOW. The other box barricade is at the other end of the kitchen hallway; the center where the office and bathroom doors are located has been officially designated a DMZ by the Authority on Kitten Control.

In No Man"s Land, you enter and exit rooms at risk of invasion.Collapse )

The two other best ways to wake up, not in any particular order, are 2. with one you love beside you, and 3. with the realization that you don't have to get up now so go ahead, drowse back to sleep. These three best ways can be had in any combination, which is the beauty of it.

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