Ten years. Damn. It went by fast. At 1,000 words a pop, that’s something like 520,000 words. Here are some of the choiciest I gleaned from the 21st century’s trip toward puberty.
November 2008: Barack Obama gets elected
My e-mail box got so crammed up on Election Day I had to pour Maalox up the parallel port. Most of it was last-minute election fish mongering. Er, fear mongering. (Fear and fish: How come those are the only things anybody mongers anymore?)
If you had been a diligent reader of e-mails on that day you might have learned such false information as:
• Barack Obama was foretold in the Book of Revelation as the antichrist. (For those easily confused, check out Snopes.com, or even the Bible, for a thorough rebuking of this idea.)
• Democrats were supposed to vote on Wednesday
• Your polling place has changed
Last word: Nice try, losers.
April 2005: New Times founder Steve Moss dies
I don’t know what to say.
And even if I did, I don’t know if I could say it. In all honesty, Steve, I’ve never been good with words, but that never stopped you from giving me room to say what was on my mind, or your mind, or whoever’s mind came first.
I’d never met a writer like you until we met, and I haven’t since, and I don’t think I ever will. You looked at the world in a way that no one else did, or could, or maybe even wanted to, and none of us ever really knew what was going on inside your head. Well maybe I had an inkling more than most, but that’s to be expected because you can’t go through what the two of us went through: You can’t pick up a few bruises and not be able to understand each other like brothers understand each other.
But you had these thoughts and these dreams that even I couldn’t touch sometimes, and then people would look at you and wonder where you were coming from, and then you’d sit, and you’d type, and you’d show everyone what you had typed, and then everyone would sit down and say things like, “Oh, it’s so obvious now. I’ve never thought about it like that.”
And the thing was, they hadn’t ever thought of it like that until you showed them how, and they loved you for it, even while some of them were hating you for it because the truth hurts and beauty hurts and you worked them both together like an arsonist works fire, like a weaver works cloth. You built terrible, beautiful bonfires, Steve. You wove exquisite, painful shrouds.
You opened people’s eyes. You opened people’s minds. You opened people’s hearts and poked around until you found the right strings to pull, the right combination of joy and frustration and understanding and mystery and then you tugged as hard as you could.
You still had a hold of my heart when you left, Steve, and I think you pulled it right out of my chest.
April 2004: Alex Madonna Dies
I’m not a religiously inclined machine, so my thoughts on the afterlife are meager and muddled; my spiritual compass badly damaged. Is there some place beyond? I don’t know. But if I did, I’d bet you that at this very moment Alex is talking God into changing the Pearly Gates to a Swiss chalet motif to match the Madonna Inn.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Alex is saying. “We’ll use huge, granite boulders on each side and build across them—have to pour a deep foundation for support, but that’s easy. You’re going to love it.”
“But we’ve had it this way for eons,” says God.
“All the more reason,” says Alex. “Time for something new.”
“Speaking of new—you’re a new arrival here, aren’t you?
Alex says he is.
“Then don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous of you to suggest such a change?”
“Let’s do this,” says Alex. “I’ll build it for you—for free. If you really don’t like it, I’ll change it back. How’s that sound?”
I think God’s going for it.
November 2004: Dubya gets re-elected
Blow your noisemakers and douse your flags, the election results are in. Actually, don’t blow your noisemakers. I still have a raging hangover from Election Day, what with all the parties I went to, and I still haven’t even sobered up from Halloween. In fact, if I remember correctly, I was still wearing my Superman costume on Tuesday, which would explain the unusual number of strange looks I got as I hopped from political bash to political bash, watching local voters give the go-ahead to the same-old-same-old faces that we all love to hate to love. I hate that, and I have a few things to say to you all, so be quiet. And would someone bring me some coffee?
March 2003: U.S. invades Iraq—again
“You gonna write about this war shit in your column?” he always asks me. No, I’m not, because I’m just a drunken, insignificant, pipsqueak nobody sitting here a million miles from the Iraq attack. Opinion matters less than zippo in the grand-or-itsy-bitsy scheme of things, I’m having enough trouble just getting another beer, the place is filling up with all these drunken SLO Town peaceniks. You’re right, Alvin, keep your mouth shut, these guys’ll kill you.
Sept 2001: 9/11
Right here is home in teeny, distant, cute and happy SLO County where we all live, as far from Hell as Heaven must be, I bet, but we’re such splendid nincompoops, we luxuriate in petty fights. It’s much too pink. Oh, please! That building’s waaay too big, it looks so fat, it makes me sick, I’m so upset, I hate you, hate you, hate you! That building. Shit. That building. What? They’ve just blown up that building? Killed more in those few minutes than we lost in Vietnam? I mean, it took us years to accomplish that, then poof! on Tuesday poof! The damn thing’s gone. The movies lied. It wasn’t pretty. It was instead this ghastly thing all slimed with death to make you choke. A Godzilla cloud chasing down the streets. Bruce Willis couldn’t help us out. Who’d have thought? Real Reality TV. I wonder who’ll survive this time. I’m such a mess. I’m babbling, now. I don’t know what I’m saying, boolah-boolah-ditzy-hoo-ha. Who me? I guess. I don’t know. Maybe. I think. I’m such a mess?
I’m sorry. I know I moaned like a starving puppy for everyone to send their top five moments of the last decade, only to eke one out and excerpt my own words from previous columns for the recent print issue. So I kind of slighted the few people who responded. In my defense, Robert Deleskiewicz’s name looked fake and I’d already gone through the trouble of digging through the archives. Sorry Deleskeskywitzkey? And the rest of you. Hopefully you enjoy the Internet glory.
First, I’ve got to say simply that I’m late to reading the column (and the latest New Times altogether) because of RUNNING for the holiday. …
Top Five of the Decade
My first has GOT to be George W. Bush completely ignoring a) our troops and their Afghanistan difficulties AND b) the complete lack of legitimate worldwide political agreement OR United Nations support to launch our war against Iraq. Please review that scenario one more time for us—because we’re still paying for it, and I truly believe his cabinet AND staff failed to present him with the full implications of his use of our armed forces.
My second has GOT to be the failure of the FEMA staff with relation to hurricane relief in New Orleans. I went to college in New Orleans (Tulane) and lived there on and off for 10 years—and can tell you, yes, they knew even in 1980 the levee system was dreadfully in need of help and renovation. However, only the truly privileged could have ignored the fact that there were still residents in need—yep, the rich got out, it was the poor that suffered and NEEDED assistance most—IMMEDIATELY. Do you suppose the FEMA chair was watching the rooftop rescues on television instead of planning and acting? His background was in running horse shows.
Number three: Shortly after George W. Bush took office Vice President (NOT supposed to be from the same state, but had headed a corporation based in Texas for YEARS before the election) Cheney held a closed meeting with the chairs of the Energy Industry—wouldn’t release the attendees to the press—regarding the state of the energy industry. I remember well because I worked as a consultant for an energy and utilities consulting firm (software) and I was laid off just a couple years later because of the downturn of the industry. Anyway, not too long after that WONDERFUL little meeting (not certain how long, but I believe it was within a year) California couldn’t get enough energy and suffered rolling blackouts. Recall that?
Number Four: Enron. (How much would you like to bet someone from Enron participated in the meeting above?) Houston is somewhat recovered from Enron now, but I’d have to say only just. I can tell you that Enron had a couple computer staffers and consultants still on board in 2008 (because of another software consulting firm I worked for in Houston) to manage data requests from their systems.
And my FAVORITE—and last: The complete modification of our political landscape based on groundswell support from the youth movement and (of all people) Oprah bringing a Chicago-based nobody to our presidency—completely catching a valid political machine backing Hillary Rodham Clinton unawares and unable to “catch up” because they never believed they were behind. The same has to be said for the Republican Party and ESPECIALLY John McCain. It just makes me think, “What, you were just too powerful to believe your eyes and ears about Obama, or you were just to self-centered to understand that change really CAN mean NOW?”
I know, I completely failed to mention 9/11. Why? Because I believe the above were blunders and COULD have been changed, yet I believe 9/11 simply was unpreventable at the time, and the management of that crisis—only at that time—could not have been better. What has happened since and in 9/11’s name, well, there is some material there—but it’s a hint more subtle. And lastly, the election of 2000 (I actually have videotape of the VERY end of that “hanging chad” recount crisis) is certainly worth an honorable mention—George W. Bush went to office with a vice president that had resided in the same state (held no political office, BUT chaired a government contracting company from the same state—look into it if you don’t recall) AND his younger brother was governor of the very state having the vote-counting crisis—but it’s all in the past now, isn’t it?
Sorry my rant was so long—and I look forward to your choices.
Dave Morrow, AKA Dr. Moreau
My dear Shredder,
You are usually right on the money and have a sense of humor to boot.
However, enough with references to solid bodily waste, the orifice of the fundament (remember Lilliput?), human gas, etc. Your work will have more impact if you can leave the juvenile to South Park. And we, citizens of the Central Coast, need your honest criticism to have impact and help keep a semblance of honesty in politics. Oxymorons abound I know.
Top five national/international, in descending order (odor) of importance:
1. GW Bush stealing the election of 2000 with the connivance of the Florida election officials and the Supreme Court.
2. Colin Powell lying bald-faced to the American People (and the world) about the presence of WMDs and fissile material in Iraq. At the U.N. for goodness sake! I watched him live on TV and was duped for a few weeks along with the rest.
3. W clumsily invading Afghanistan and then failing to capture Bin Laden. [For what it’s worth], there is an excellent piece in the New Republic this month about how the U.S. let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora.
4. Ralph Nader lying to the American Public in the 2000 election by calling Bush and Gore “Tweedle Dum” and “Tweedle Dee.” He could not have been further from the truth. I liked Ralph Nader in his day but did not buy this line of reasoning. As governor of Texas, W gutted environmental protection, kowtowed to big oil, and executed people like they were so many pawns in his bid to be tough on crime. Nader probably cost Gore the election, and he is a crackpot who should be put out to pasture.
5. W’s failure to develop and implement a real energy plan that will wean the U.S. off fossil fuels. A whole decade has been wasted. Increasing global CO2 levels, with commensurate negative effects, waits for no man.
1. The City of Paso Robles drinking the developer Kool Aid and turning the area east of the Salinas into little Orange County. Complete with Sprawl-Mart big-box hell. The city council missed the memo on smart growth.
2. The craven development of the Froom Ranch, on Los Osos Valley Road, into little Orange County big-box hell. The city council caved into the lure of big $$ sales tax revenue. Rubbish. Good bye SLO charm—hello schlock.
3. The county’s blind eye to vineyards sprawling across the horizon that is depleting the Salinas Aquifer apace. The deep wells are drawing on 10,000-year-old water and there ain’t no recharge in this lifetime, baby. Enjoy your Pleistocene Wine—wine is 85 percent water after all. I predict most of the vineyards east of the 101 will be gone in 30 years or less. They don’t have enough rain and rely on deep pumping. We are drinking up our inheritance, literally, as there were millions of acre feet of water in that aquifer once upon a time.
4. The people of Los Osos who ignore their cumulative environmental impact and waste untold government resources with their whining. In today’s world, Los Osos would never have been built—it was one of the most unique coastal oak woodlands in the world. Any decent water engineer can tell you septic systems don’t work in sand with houses cheek by jowl. I guess the folks who bought houses in Los Osos missed the memo on water quality.
5. The short-sighted, do-gooder, so-called environmentalists who oppose large solar projects on plowed fields in the Carrizo. Hello people? If we keep depending on fossil fuel for energy, drought will take care of all the wildlife habitat, toute de suite. Climate change is already dooming the polar bear, desert tortoise, and many amphibians. Pronghorn and [San Joaquin] kit fox are close behind. It’s a capitalist system and producing serious amounts of clean energy (solar) requires all hands on deck. Unless the enviros can get T Boone Pickens to come in and put solar on all SLO county public buildings, big boxes, and most of the homes, they should shut the heck up.
Thanks for reading, it was fun. Steve Moss used to buy some of my stuff back in the day.
George Zidbeck, Squire Z. of Mudville
Dear Sire of Satire and Sarcasm:
In that nine of the 10 most shreddable moments relate to GWB that leaves but one vacancy, and for that I nominate the voters of California who elected “Governor” Schwarzenegger, and who re-elect incompetent incumbents.
Thanks, Robert Deleskiewicz, for your top five. Contact the shredder at email@example.com.