Comedy

Boys Night Out

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Or rather, BNO, if you’re in the know, or are cool. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you worked at First Boston Corporation in the 80’s (now known as CSFB, or Credit Suisse First Boston), odds are you were somewhat cool. If you worked in the department that I did, while you were definitely a geek, you also had high odds of being smart and cool as well.

In the 90’s, most of the people in my department dispersed to other firms, with the overwhelming majority of them staying on Wall Street. At some point in the late 90’s, a bunch of them started getting together irregularly (at least once a year) for dinner. They called it Boys Night Out.

For the first few years, I wasn’t invited, and wasn’t even aware that these dinners were being held. I assume that they thought I wouldn’t be interested, but I’m not sure. After some number of missed dinners, I was finally invited, and I happily accepted. Since then, they’ve been kind enough to invite me every time (or at least I think so) ๐Ÿ˜‰ and even take my crazy travel schedule into account in asking me when I’ll be in town before picking a date. Thanks for that too guys!

There is a core of seven of us who try hard to make it each time. There are a few additions that used to make it occasionally, and to be honest, I’m not sure they continue to be invited, having missed too many to prove their coolness (or is it loyalty?). One time, we even had a woman join us from the old group, though we staunchly insisted that it be called BNO, even that night.

Last night all seven of us confirmed that we could make it, but at the last minute, one person had to back out due to work requirements. All but two times, we eat at a top steak house. Last night was our second time (at least only my second time with the group) dining at Sparks Steakhouse. It’s a fantastic place, and gigantic to boot.

One of the things that distinguishes each member of the group (perhaps other than me!), is that they are each extremely witty/funny/sarcastic/sardonic/etc. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t hang out with these guys if you have a weak bladder or a fragile ego. After you soil yourself, you’ll also have low self-esteem.

While we occasionally (OK, perhaps rarely would be a more apt word) discuss serious things (aside from the normal catching up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives), most of the evening is a raucous romp, ending with my cheeks hurting pretty badly. It’s most definitely not politically correct, so it’s best that it remains BNO to the extent possible. Unfortunately, we are louder than I typically care to be in public (yes, I’m totally guilty of being carried away with the merriment). It’s probably OK, because these large steak houses tend to be pretty noisy, but if we offended anyone (with our content, or just our volume), I offer up my most humble apologies!

Last night marked at least the second time in a row (but by no means only the second time!) that one particular member of our group insisted on treating us. The last time he treated, it was the most expensive meal I have ever been a part of (I can’t bring myself to mention the number in public, it was jaw-dropping), so the last thing we expected was to be treated again.

In fact, we tried (not as hard as we should have!) to split it, but he would have none of it. Sparks is not cheap (in the least), and we always order multiple bottles of fine wine, so again, he picked up a big one (but I’m guessing that it was less than 20% of the really big one, mentioned above, with the same number of people!).

The rest of the gang teases him when he treats, saying that it’s appropriate that he do so, since he’s the only one in the group without a job! I like to point out that I’m semi-retired, meaning that I work full time, but have zero income. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of the six of us who were there last night, I directly hired three of them (including our benefactor), one of the others ended up working for me for seven straight years, even though I didn’t originally hire him, and the last guy worked with all of them, but the two of us never really worked together. That said, I’ve maintained more of an active relationship with him than with the others.

When I thanked our benefactor at the end, he told me that if I hadn’t given him a start on Wall Street (he had no college education at the time), he wouldn’t have been able to afford to treat. Obviously, I had a good eye for talent, as he greatly eclipsed my not-too-shabby career, long ago. The rest of them have all done very well for themselves as well, so in that regard, I’m proud of all of them!

Another fabulous evening in the books, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

P.S. I almost always order a Fillet Mignon when I order steak. I love it, love it, love it. When I mentioned last night that I was going to order it, two of them insisted that I was crazy, and that I had to try the Sirloin Shell Steak. I did, and it was perfect. It won’t get me off of Fillets as a rule, but I admit that I savored every single bite last night…

Scott McClellan

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When news of Scott McClellan’s new book What Happened came out earlier this week, I was sure I would blog about my reaction the next day. By the time I got ready to start writing, so many things had been said, that I lost the zeal to share my thoughts.

The story continues to get an amazing amount of coverage, with commentary ranging from quite insightful to quite inane. By yesterday morning, I decided to ignore this topic. I am so far behind in writing about a number of things I’d like to, that this seemed to be done to death.

Then this morning, I see two editorials in The New York Times, and I get just enough inspiration to put fingers to keyboard.

The first one that I read was by Gail Collins, using Bernard Kerik as her whipping boy in the anti-loyalty rant that was breathtakingly naive.

The second is Bob Herbert, someone whom I’ve grudgingly come to respect (though not admire), at least for his intellect, and somewhat for his articulate and consistent portrayal of it. Unfortunately, while this editorial is consistent, he uses Scott’s book as an excuse to get some of that consistency off his chest, since he’s been busy lately taking Hillary to task a little more often than he’d like. Thankfully (for him, courtesy of Scott), he’s back on message.

While there are supposedly some things in the book that are downright laughable (I say supposedly because I have no interest in reading it, and never will), for the purpose of my discussion, I’d prefer to assume that 100% of the content is verifiably true!

Most of the White House responses center around the loyalty theme, not just the obvious stuff, but also the claims that Scott never shared his concerns, even once, with any of his colleagues, even ones he remained close with after he left. In that regard, they also claim that he was disloyal in not sharing those thoughts at the time, because they claim that the White House and the President in particular, were open to such candor of opinions (true or not!).

We can dismiss the majority of the golly, see we were right all along comments from people who up to just a week earlier happily painted Scott McClellan as an idiot puppet of the regime.

In between those are a fair number of insightful analyses on both sides of the political aisle. One line that amused me was by Dick Morris, feigning shock at the concept that a President would try and sell a war, pointed out that the Gettysburg Address was a propaganda speech. In other words, all Presidents sell all wars.

In a delicious irony to this whole story, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Scott’s Father, Barr McClellan, published a much ridiculed book in 2003 called Blood, Money & Power, claiming that LBJ had JFK killed. But I digress…

To me, the only interesting point is one of personal integrity. Again, keep in mind that I will suspend disbelief and assume that everything Scott says in the book is the gospel truth!

Exactly why does Scott choose to share this information with all of us? More importantly, why now? The famous saying:

timing is everything

doesn’t get repeated ad nauseum because it has no basis in reality.

If we are to assume (believe!) that he is doing this to save countless future generations the despair of this kind of politics as usual, then the timing becomes even more curious. He’s been out of office for just over two years. Couldn’t the saving have begun sooner?

Had he come out shortly after leaving office with his revelations, he would have been an even hotter topic on all of the shows that are drooling over having him on. Of course, it would have been hard to monetize that instant celebrity, and coming out with a book two years later would have been a complete yawn.

On the other hand, waiting until the new year, when the President would have been out of office, and the election over, one way or the other, might have yielded fewer book sales (perhaps dramatically fewer ones, especially if Obama were to win the Presidency, and the urgent need to paint McCain as four more years of Bush wouldn’t be as enticing as it is for some).

No, this is timed to extract the maximum amount of money for Scott. If for any reasons it also happens to sway the election toward the Democrats, so be it, though that’s giving Mr. McClellan way more credit and respect than is due him.

No, to repeat, this boils down to a personal integrity issue, one which Scott McClellan has none of, as in zero. This is but another in a very long string of kiss and tell books, coming in all shapes and sizes. I have no interest in any of them.

I am not interested in the ones that bash Democrats (e.g., the Clintons), Republicans (e.g., the Bushes), Hollywood (too many examples), corporate titans (also too many examples).

Why? Because most of them are written by nobodies (Scott included), that would continue to be nobodies, if it weren’t for someone else who had given them a chance. When they can’t parlay that chance into an honest career, they resort to kiss and tell, or in other cases, direct lawsuits.

This book, and the timing of its release, is no different than the various nanny tales that come out over the years (or bodyguards, etc.). Hangers on, who would be invisible to the world, except for the fact that they are always around famous people, by virtue of those famous people employing them.

If the book doesn’t sell well (already not realistic, but since I allowed for the possibility that it’s all true, let’s speculate that it might not sell well either) ๐Ÿ˜‰ then I strongly suggest that Scott get a job as a nanny for someone famous, like the Jolie-Pitts, so that he can have a second chance at fame and fortune, when he outs them in a tell-all bonanza…

To me, the saddest thing about the book being in print, is that it gives excuses (good ones, unfortunately) to people who can’t look forward. They get to climb back on their high horse, point their fingers, and tell you that they were right all along. Golly gee, I’m just as proud of you as I am of Scott McClellan.

And, just like Barr McClellan’s book likely influenced Jr.’s decision to cash in too, the success of this idiot book will encourage future idiots to sell their souls as well, for the almighty dollar…

Snarky Customer Service

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As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Girlyman. I have an alert service that informs me whenever there is news about them (and The Wailin’ Jennys as wel). Today, I received an alert pointing me to a blog about Brooklyn. In this post, she writes about a Brooklyn-based group called Sweet Bitters. She lists their influences, which include Girlyman, hence my alert notification.

So, I listened to the four songs on their MySpace page (linked above), and liked their sound. They only have two upcoming live dates listed there, one being on April 5th, 2008 at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t mind seeing them, and there’s a slight chance that we could make it there that night.

Sweet Bitters’ link to the venue makes it clear that the show is free. Since there is no place to purchase tickets, Pete’s is clear enough that tickets are free as well. They have a menu link, with five sandwiches listed and some cocktails, so one assumes that they make their money that way, but there’s no mention of a cover or minimum so who knows.

Utilizing the better safe than sorry theory, I sent an email to one of the addresses listed in their contact link (I think it rotates on reloads, because I saw another name appear at a different time).

If you read this space regularly you already know that the above italics aren’t rare for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will happily admit that I overdid the quote marks (to indicate the same emphasis I use italics for here). I thought I was helping highlight the underlying points. Here is my email in it’s entirety:

Hi. I’ve never been to Pete’s. I might be able to make it on 4/5 to see the 9pm show (Sweet Bitters), but I’m not sure yet.

Can you tell me how Pete’s “works”?

What time should we show up for the 9pm show to get good “seats”?

Are there tables or rows of chairs, etc.?

Obviously we’d like to give you “business”, so the above question is related to whether we show up early and order drinks and dinner, but whether we have to move afterwards or sit at the table and watch the show?

Do you “sell out” (we’d be coming from Manhattan, so it would be frustrating to show up and not get in)?

Thanks in advance, and I’m glad to have found out about your place today! ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. I don’t know if it matters, but there would be two of us for sure, and possibly four…

OK, a little over-the-top, but reasonably clear, no? In particular, the part about my desire to want to support the venue given that the show is free?

Here is the entire unedited response, cutting out my original email from the bottom:

“all” pete’s shows are “free”. if you are worried about “it” being ” too full”, then “come early”. you do not have to “leave your seats” from one show to the next. i hope this “response” was “helpful”.

for more “info”, go to www.petescandystore.com.

“take care”

OK, let’s analyze. First and foremost, did he respond to my questions? Mostly, but not as accurately as one would hope. What does come early mean? 8pm, 7pm, 3pm? It would seem that he mistook my question about selling out to simply mean is it free. Otherwise, he might have said something like “on occasion, in particular on Saturdays, if you don’t get here by 8:45pm, there is no room left in the place”.

More importantly, is his response appropriate? I’m a potential customer. Could he be sure that I was savvy enough to take his sarcastic reply in the (hopefully amusing/entertaining) manner that he intended? Wasn’t it as likely that if I’m so clueless as to have put the quotes in to begin with, that I might be offended at being made fun of?

Let’s assume that he doesn’t care (that’s my assumption!). After all, they’re not charging for the concert. In any event, they must have some reason to open their doors, and perhaps I would never come there, not just that night. Perhaps I’d even blog about it, affecting other people. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bottom line, I think his response was at best snarky, not necessarily out-and-out nasty, nor obviously meant simply to be humorous.

Is that the best way to get business? Who knows. I still don’t know whether I can make it or not, but I’d still like to. Whether I’m interested in giving them business is another matter, but we’ll see how that plays out as well.

I could have been indignant in my response, ignored it, or chosen something in between. Here’s the entire text of my response:

“thanks”, “cute answer” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hope he doesn’t think I was insulting him. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, I really wrote this post to promote Sweet Bitters, even though I am also indirectly promoting Pete’s Candy Store. I just couldn’t resist telling the whole story behind it, because I have written about the lack of customer service in the past, and this is but one more example…

Avenue Q

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The young folks spent the day running around NYC, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and spending time in Central Park. The old folks spent the day tethered to their laptops.

We met up at the apartment and walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House in mid-town. We had a fantastic meal there (no surprise), including having the one person in our group who was previously not a fan of seafood taking seconds.

We got there extremely early (Lois is always the overly cautious one), and that worked out. It was an unusually leisurely meal for the Duck House (which typically serves more quickly) and it all worked out perfectly. You can see how satisfied we all looked at the end of the meal:

Duck House Meal Before Avenue Q

They called for rain starting early evening, but it held off. That worked out too, since we got to walk from the Duck House to the theater, with no precipitation.

We had tickets to see Avenue Q at the Golden Theater on 45th Street. We got there at about 7:52 and were comfortably seated long before the curtain went up (or rather the lights went down, since there was no curtain) at 8:05 like most Broadway shows.

Setting the record straight, I exaggerated by saying comfortably seated. There’s nothing wrong with the Golden Theater, but we’re pretty spoiled by the Gershwin Theater (where we’ve seen Wicked seven times!), which is so much more comfortable, so much more spacious (leg room), and so many more seats…

Our goddaughter saw Avenue Q a number of years ago. She enjoyed it, but warned us that it was off color. That’s code for Lois should stay away! Both my godson and I were more than a little worried about her reaction, even though neither of knew exactly how off color the show would be.

The very first number is cute, but also sets some expectations in that regard. The words it sucks to be me are repeated too many times to count. It didn’t offend me, but I was already a tad worried about Lois. Completely due to chance, Lois and I ended up at opposite ends of our seven seat block, so we caught each other’s eye a few times, but didn’t talk about the show until it was over.

Without giving away anything material (trust me), Avenue Q is essentially an adult version of Sesame Street. In other words, it is done in the style of Sesame Street, and is meant to educate, while being playful (only this time, in an adult sense). The education is meant to teach some life lessons, but they use other techniques that are more traditional Sesame Street (as in teaching the meaning of some words).

As with Sesame Street, some of the characters are puppets, and some are honest-to-goodness humans. Different than Sesame Street, the puppets are controlled by humans who are on the stage acting alongside the puppet they are controlling, and singing and speaking without trying to pretend to be ventriloquists. It works perfectly well, so even if my description sounds cheesy, fear not!

Every single actor on the stage was excellent. There wasn’t a weak voice or performance among the group. The two leads, Howie Michael Smith and Sarah Stiles are fantastic. Great voices, great acting and great range (they each control multiple characters). That said, to repeat, the entire cast is superb, and you should check each of them out on the cast page.

Here are the two leads, then a photo of some other cast members:

Avenue Q Lead ActorsPhoto of some cast members of Avenue Q

The humor in the show is largely tongue-in-cheek, and goes over well with the audience. Lots of bursts of uncontrollable laughter from people all around us. But, an over-the-top focus on sex and sexual themes. Not innuendo, but rather explicit stuff. Keep in mind that they can do things with puppets on the stage that actors couldn’t get away with. Nuff said.

That kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, in any way, even when it’s completely gratuitous. I love comedy/humor in most forms. I believe I’ve said in the past that I like it even when it isn’t funny, as long as I can project where they were heading, if the unrealized destination would have been funny.

In this case, it also didn’t bug me at all. But, it was more than just over-the-top. It was actually vulgar at times, and I imagine that it offended a number of people (including Lois) though many (not including Lois) wouldn’t be comfortable admitting their discomfort. Even the vulgarity was good for cheap laughs, and the audience as a whole most definitely laughed heartily even at those jokes!

I tried not to look around too much, but I heard some people say something about kids being in the audience. I hope there weren’t too many (or rather any!). If parents brought young children to this show, thinking it’s only a puppet show with singing, they were sadly mistaken, and abrogated their parental responsibility to investigate the show in advance of bringing their kids. Of course, if they did, and still brought their kids, their judgment needs to be checked in other matters as well (in my opinion).

From very early on, it was entirely obvious that this was not going to be a PC (Politically Correct) show. For that, I applaud them completely. In my opinion, the PC in this country is out of control. Not wanting to offend entire groups of people is laudable. But, the same people that feel it’s verboten to say something against this particular group, have no shame in knocking something else (oh, let’s say Republicans or Christians).

Avenue Q takes no prisoners, and shouldn’t!

That said, they also take the obligatory shot at President Bush (only one, which was in itself impressive restraint!). The crowd whooped it up like they had just heard the funniest joke in their life! It’s fine, and wasn’t over-the-top in any sense.

That said, I found it incredibly ironic. Basically, the complaint is that life under W’s rule is horrible, and we simply can’t wait to get out from under it. I realize that at a minimum, at least half of the country feels this way, perhaps even more. So, it’s a legitimate point of view, right or wrong. But, in this case, it’s written by people who have a very successful Broadway hit on their hands (a Tony winner!), it’s being delivered by actors who are starring in a Broadway hit, and being received by people who can afford to take their dates/families/friends to a Broadway show, all in the midst of these horrible economic times.

Yes, the lives of all of those that shared this very clever joke all seem terribly in shambles at this time, entirely due to W’s iron-fisted madness!

Unfortunately, I really worry about the half of the country that thinks their lives will be immeasurably better when either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama become President. The magical thinking that goes on, that a President exerts such power to change things (in either direction) simply discounts what our government and economy have become and how they work. Oh well…

In and around all of the jokes, there are actually some very deep insights about life, and the plight we all experience as we grow up and make our own way. I’m impressed with the way the writers deliver those lessons (to those who are paying attention) in a subtle and lighthearted manner.

Bottom line: A very clever show, wittily written, with good songs, great singing, excellent harmonies, lots of funny dialog, top-notch acting and great puppeteering. If you don’t mind vulgarity (at times), and lots of focus on sex (even when it’s not vulgar), and you aren’t offended by non-PC jokes, you will really enjoy this show. I did, even though I can totally understand why some others might not.

When we got out it was raining. It was coming down reasonably steadily, but it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t windy (so the rain was coming straight down rather than blowing in your face), so we walked home (cutting through Grand Central as we did the night before). Given all of the weather predictions, so far, it’s held up remarkably well.

Another excellent day! ๐Ÿ™‚

Random Spitzer Fiasco Thoughts

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I really wanted to make one long post on this issue, and then put it behind me. Having Lois as a conscience made me behave otherwise. So, in my last post, I kept it simple, and just translated Eliot Spitzer’s resignation speech.

What follows are completely unrelated, random thoughts on this fiasco. It’s a mixture of comedy and commentary. It’s not news. If you stumbled on this post looking for anything important, please move along swiftly…

On Monday night, David Letterman had a Top 10 Eliot Spitzer Excuses. Some are clever, some are lame, some are deep.

While his #1 excuse:

I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago

was excellent, I propose knocking one of the lame ones off the list (you can pick your own), and replacing it with mine (perhaps even in the #1 position):

I thought I was joining a Prosecution Ring!

Keeping with the same inspiration, but moving to commentary from comedy, let’s repeat the #1 excuse again:

I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago

OK, so obviously, Bill didn’t quite do that. But, the joke isn’t far from a different reality. Bill Clinton legitimized this years ago. While many people were horrified at Bill’s behavior, probably more were only too happy to excuse his behavior, at every opportunity. After all, it was a private matter.

Well, Bill’s indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky might not have been criminal (though other allegations against him would definitely be criminal if true!), Eliot Spitzer is only too happy to be lumped in the private matter queue, even though his was clearly a crime.

One of the best words used by many commentators to describe Spitzer’s behavior is reckless. This too applies to Bill’s behavior in the White House. Why? Because at best, you leave yourself open to blackmail. Do you think that the people behind a high-end prostitution ring would be above blackmail?

How far do you think Bill Clinton or Eliot Spitzer would have gone to protect their secrets? I think pretty darn far, if they had the slightest notion that it might be kept under wraps. At best, that’s reckless, at worst, it’s disastrous. Thankfully for all of us, both of them were caught.

What’s the point of that line of reasoning? The point is that is has nothing to do with morals. To be clear, I would support legalizing prostitution, so I am not moralizing against this specific crime. But, until that happens, this is most definitely a crime, and engaging in it is simply reckless (or, in the immortal words of Wicked the Musical, well, not that simple).

Many commentators have pointed out that he has specifically prosecuted prostitution rings in the past. So, he can’t easily claim that he didn’t think it was a crime. What is more interesting (and has also been commented on many times already) is the fact that he was well aware that his banking transactions would likely be flagged!

He called the bank to ask them to break up a large transaction into smaller parts and was told that it had already gone out. He then asked for his name to be removed from the transaction and was told that this couldn’t be done.

Folks, think about it for a minute… Are you done thinking yet? This guy knows exactly what happens next. The IRS (in the past), and now likely the FBI as well, immediately start looking into what might be behind this kind of money movement.

So, even though they might have pieced together his past indiscretions (oops, I fell into the trap, as I should have said crimes), they might have had some trouble making an air-tight case if he hadn’t continued, allowing them to catch all of his conversations on his cell phone once they got a warrant based on the suspected money laundering.

People are calling that arrogant, or showing his hubris. That’s just plain kind. To me, it’s just plain stupid. Do we want a leader in any position of power to behave so stupidly that they can’t think through the consequences of the predicament they are in, and alter their behavior at least a bit?

I would whole-heartedly endorse a new set of laws on the books that would allow prosecution based on over-the-top stupidity. Sure, it would be abused with prosecutorial zeal at times (ironically, by the likes of Spitzer himself!), but in the end, we’d get some really stupid people off the streets. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, we’ve shifted gears already, so lets use the last theme to shift into a related one. (If you weren’t paying attention, that theme was stupidity.)

None of what I’m saying has anything to do with party affiliation, though I’m sure that a very few staunch Democrats will want to read that bias in this piece. A number of commentators on the cable news shows came out earlier this week and immediately started screaming about the comparisons between this fiasco and the ones surrounding Larry Craig and David Vitter (as if any prior bad act somehow excuses a current one).

Before you think I’m just picking on some obscure commentator, here’s an article in the vaunted Washington Post, making exactly that comparison. Some of the comments show that this is hardly an isolated opinion.

Before I make some observations, using the previous theme, let me state clearly that I think Larry Craig should be in jail! Not for the crime he’s accused of, but because he’s as stupid as they come in having plead guilty to said crime! I don’t care whether he’s gay. I don’t care whether he’s a hypocrite who railed against gays, even though he’s very likely gay. I care that he’s making laws for this country, but didn’t think to consult a lawyer as to the consequences of his guilty plea? Lock him up!

Sorry, it’s not entirely out of my system yet, so here’s one more thing. On February 19th, 2008, the situation comedy show According To Jim did a phenomenal parody of the Larry Craig bathroom encounter. It perfectly portrayed my original reaction when this story broke.

Let’s see if you think Larry Craig is guilty of this crime or not? To be clear, guilty of solicitation, not guilty of being gay! If he isn’t gay, how likely would he be to have a clue as to how to solicit someone in the next stall? I certainly wasn’t clued in to this technique. But, as Jim Belushi deftly showed us, there are possibly some situations whereby you could accidentally engage in this coded behavior.

OK, so now you’ve done the unthinkable, and accidentally solicited an undercover officer. When confronted with those facts, what do you do? Admit it, just to make it go away? Huh? It’s not even a matter of his position as a Senator. It’s a matter of complete incredulity that you might have done such a thing, a thing that you had never even heard of before.

The alternative is more obvious. You were soliciting, you got caught, and you panicked. In the famous words of a great comedian (Bill Engvall):

Here’s Your Sign

OK, are you satisfied that I can skewer a Republican as well? Good. Unfortunately, that’s not the point. There is very little similarity in their plights. Spitzer prosecuted this exact crime, and can’t pretend to not understand that it’s a crime. We’ve already covered the stupid defense of Larry Craig, and no, it’s not plausible, but it’s certainly not the same level of ridiculousness that would apply had Spitzer claimed a similar defense (thankfully, his stupidity has some bounds…).

They are similar in that Larry Craig was an anti-gay moralist, so they are both hypocrites, for sure. Larry Craig and David Vitter can’t enforce laws directly, and they can’t even pass laws without a majority of their colleagues agreeing with them. So, if they are influenced (as in my assertion above regarding blackmail), they can do damage, for sure, but not as much as someone who was Attorney General, and recently Governor.

Shifting gears again…

Did you notice that the only senior Democrat who didn’t immediately denounce (let alone distance themselves from) Spitzer was Hillary Clinton? There’s little doubt that she was wildly uncomfortable when asked to comment, but in the end, she wouldn’t disclaim his behavior, even after he publicly admitted it. You can read an article about it here, but the important quote was:

Let’s wait and see what comes out of the next few days

Why wait? Was there a possible good outcome or spin possible from this admission? No. She was caught between a rock and a hard place. If she denounced his behavior, the follow-up question would inevitably be Why didn’t you denounce Bill’s behavior? It would feel like splitting hairs to answer Well, Bill didn’t commit an actual crime…

While this may not cause her any more grief than losing one committed superdelegate, it shows one small consequence of Bill’s former reckless behavior. It put her in a position of having to be an apologist for someone that no one else felt a need to defend.

Ultimately, whether it hurts Hillary or not, her behavior has hurt all women. The phony stand by your man speech (when they obviously hate each other beyond description) has made it more difficult for other woman to stand up for their basic human rights to be treated with dignity by their partners. It’s interesting (and even a little amazing) to me that so many women look up to her. I only hope those women don’t have to live the private life that Hillary does…

Just to make sure that the last point isn’t misunderstood, I’m not saying that none of the aggrieved woman (no pun intended on McGreevy’s name) ๐Ÿ˜‰ should stand by their man. If there is love between them, or for the sake of the kids, etc., they should try to work it out. But, if it’s expediency, and in particular political expediency that keeps you together, then it harms all women.

I honestly think I can write for a few more hours, but I have probably lost all of my readers by now already. So, I’ll end with one last irony.

Since this scandal broke, the name of this particular prostitution ring (or rather, Escort Service) has been splattered all over the Internet. Even The New York Times printed their name: Emperors Club.

One has to wonder how much more money they are going to make in 2008 now that people know that a super rich person, who knows a ton about the industry, specifically chose them, including having women brought from out of state to pleasure him. I’d say the IRS has it’s work cut out when auditing this enterprise next year! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Translating Eliot Spitzer Resignation Speech

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I feel the need to provide a public service. Eliot Spitzer, Governor of New York, resigned today. He gave a heart-felt speech, that was carefully crafted to communicate as clearly as possible with everyone in the country.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the appropriate decoder ring necessary to un-craft the true meaning of his message. Thankfully for the rest of you, I have one. I ran his speech through the magic decoder, and here’s what came out:

In the past few days I’ve begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children and my entire family.

In the past few days, I have been very quiet, and have allowed my family to look at me with horror and disbelief. When I break the law, it’s a private failing, when others broke the law, I was there to demolish them.

The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me.

I know that this will forever be on the Internet for all to see. I am grateful that my family hasn’t pulled off my fingernails, at least not yet.

From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much ย- the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state.

I have been given much, and have taken a lot more, from many people. I deserved it all, and if I crushed people along the way, including innocent ones, I was on a mission, so it was all necessary.

I am deeply sorry I did not live up to what was expected of me.

I am deeply sorry that I was caught. Being Governor certainly wasn’t the last stop on my road to ultimate power, though now it looks like it might be.

To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.

To everyone, I couldn’t stand for anything in an honest manner, but at least I tried to appear to stand for something. For the fact that you now know that I was more of a do as I say and not as I do kinda guy, well, I’m very sorry you found out.

I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been,

I look back, still remembering what it was like before I was caught, ah, the good old days.

but I also know that as a public servant, I and the remarkable people with whom I worked have accomplished a great deal.

I’m sorry, but I can’t leave in complete shame, I simply have to take another bow, pat myself on the back, and throw a bone to some people who I hope don’t completely abandon me in the coming days.

There is much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work.

I had more to do (privately and publicly), but now that my private crime spree has become public, my work has been disrupted.

Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct.

While in power, I have insisted that people cave to my every whim, I believe correctly. It served my personal purpose. I made them take responsibility for everything, whether they committed a crime or not.

I can and will ask no less of myself.

Now that I have been caught, I have decided to hold myself to a similar standard, given that I would have been held to that standard by others, if I didn’t do it first. Of course, not exactly the same standard, since I didn’t resign immediately and I certainly don’t intend to go to jail. It’s not like I actually knew I was doing anything wrong before I got caught, so it’s really OK that I didn’t hold myself up to that standard a tad earlier.

For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor, and at Lt. Gov. David Paterson’s request, the resignation will be effective on Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition.

Don’t be mad at me for not resigning immediately a few days ago, nor for hanging in there for another few days. Other people urged me to take this route, and you know how much of a giver I am, I simply couldn’t refuse them.

I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

The people that I put away, or nearly ruined, had no redeeming qualities. I, on the other hand, will rise to greater heights shortly. Stay tuned!

As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family,

As I leave public life, I will duck and hope that I survive the coming storm at home,

then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children.

I will then try and assert my two-faced moralistic views on the rest of you, but I’m not sure exactly how just yet, given that I won’t be in a position of authority. That said, I’m a clever and very rich guy, and I have little doubt I’ll figure it out.

I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service. Thank you very much.

It’s unfortunate that David Paterson will now enjoy everything that is rightfully mine, but please, join me in a golf clap for his ascendancy to my throne.

Meaningless Opinions

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Once again, The New York Times proves how relevant and in touch it is with the country. Today, they ran an editorial which gives voice to eight former presidential candidates.

I couldn’t bring myself to click through to a single one of these. I’m not saying that the issues aren’t important. I am saying that none of these people has anything to say which can possibly affect this election.

Between the eight of them, they probably sewed up 37 delegates (or was that votes?), so clearly no one cared what they had to say before. (No, I didn’t actually check how many delegates they had collectively, it was a joke, that was directionally accurate…)

Thank goodness we have The New York Times to ensure that also-rans get a megaphone to scream that their opinions are still relevant, when millions of people have made it clear that they are not.

All we need is hope and change, we don’t need no stinking issues. Don’t make us think, let us dream!

Old Shoes

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A long and busy week at one of our portfolio companies is finally over. For Lois, all of the days were chock full of chores, but yesterday, February 29th, 2008 was particularly hectic and draining.

While not normally a superstitious person, I have a strong feeling that Lois is feeling happy that it will be four years before she has to experience a February 29th again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here was the culminating event of a tense day (for her). We were supposed to leave for Richmond at around 3pm. At 3pm, Lois was not at her desk, but I didn’t think about it as I was deep into something and I had my headphones on, so I was basically oblivious to what was going on around me.

One of the employees had a medical emergency. Lois was with him the entire time, waiting for the EMTs to arrive. When they took him away to the hospital, she finally came back to her desk. She asked if I had any idea what was going on, which you already know the answer to.

We packed up to leave, but Lois wanted to go to the hospital first, to check up on him. We gathered the things that he left in the office, and gave them to another employee that was headed to the hospital a few minutes before us.

Once we left the office, we loaded our car (as we always do). That included Lois putting things way in the back of the SUV. I then started driving toward the hospital. When we were roughly 10 blocks away, we heard things sliding around in the back (not that unusual), but also thought we heard a thud, which was not as usual.

Lois looked back, and noticed that she had never put down the rear door/window. Oops. Clearly, she was unnerved. I pulled in to a gas station, and Lois ran around to the back. She declared that nothing fell out, which seemed miraculous.

A quick digression, to set up the remainder of the story…

The day before, I mentioned to Lois that my shoes were starting to go. They might have had a ton of life left in them, but it could also be five minutes. I bought these shoes (Timberland) in San Francisco, in May 2004, on the remnant rack. They have been my favorite shoes ever since, even though they were 1/2 size too big. They were comfy, and (until now) virtually indestructable.

Lois decided that we would head to Walmart to buy new shoes after work that night. We did. I couldn’t find any shoes I was happy with. We headed from there to Super Target (1/2 a mile down the road), and while their selection was way smaller, I found a pair of shoes ($17!). I’m pretty happy with them (having worn them for two days now).

But, when we left the hotel in the morning yesterday, I asked Lois to put my old shoes in the back of the car, so that if the new shoes hurt, I could put the old ones back on.

OK, back to our main story…

When Lois declared that nothing had fallen out, I asked whether my old shoes were back there? She went back to check again, and sure enough, my shoes were not there. I didn’t care too much about those shoes, since the new ones seemed fine, but I pointed out that if she didn’t know the shoes were gone, perhaps she didn’t really know everything that was back there.

So, we decided to double back. Along the way, I was looking in the street on the opposite side that we were driving on (the side we had driven on with the door open). Nothing. Just as we were hitting the corner where our company building is, I noticed a guy walking away from us with my shoes in his hand!

I came to a quick stop, and Lois jumped out of the car and ran after the guy. She told him that those were her husband’s shoes, and he looked at her quite quizzically, but gave them to her. She then asked if anything else had fallen out, and he said no.

I then turned around, and we headed back to the hospital. I wasn’t allowed in to see the employee, because only two people were allowed at a time, and the other employee was already there, so Lois joined them while I listened to a bunch of music in the waiting room (mostly Girlyman, surprise!).

We then headed to Richmond. Along the way, Lois is now not so sure we didn’t lose anything else, but she’s at least sure that the critical things are still there, so that’s a small comfort.

The good news is that the employee is now feeling much better. We’re heading back from Richmond shortly, and will be seeing him later this afternoon again.

The only good news about the shoe incident was that it released a ton of Lois’ anxiety and pent up nervousness, as she couldn’t stop laughing about the absurdity of chasing down a man carrying my old shoes on the street. In fact, she was laughing so hard and uncontrollably, that she was extremely close to a full bore cry!

All’s well that ends well in this case. Whew! ๐Ÿ™‚

Geraldine Ferraro Leads The Way

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I rarely read the editorials in The New York Times. The regular contributors are mostly predictable, and spew venom rather than articulate thoughts. I religiously read the lead-ins in the daily email summary. They typically make me laugh. I don’t know whether the author picks the particular sentence or paragraph, or the editors do (I suspect it’s the editors).

Yesterday (Sunday), Frank Rich had his usual hate-filled opinion piece. I don’t have the summary email in front of me, but I’m pretty sure the lead-in was this:

The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidateโ€™s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating.

When I read that lead-in out loud to Lois, she asked me to read the entire op-ed to her, as she refuses to register at the NYT site, even though it’s free. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I admit to being too lazy to check now (this isn’t a normal Political Blog, so please forgive me!), but in the past, I believe that Frank Rich was a supporter of the Clintons. I know that hasn’t been true for a while, but this piece is an interesting hatchet job. Why?

Rather than just make the points that he makes (many of them are excellent, and the entire piece is extremely well written), he has to not only bash Bush (his favorite activity), but he has to ensure that anyone who hates Bush must now hate Hillary as well, since, according to him, they are now one and the same creature…

I wasn’t going to blog about it even though it amused me. Then, this morning, I read this opinion by Geraldine Ferraro. After reading, I couldn’t resist sharing a few thoughts, so why not throw in the Frank Rich opinion as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here was the lead-in that got me to read her entire op-ed:

Superdelegates were created to lead, not to follow. They
were, and are, expected to determine what is best for the
Democratic Party and best for the country.

An interesting premise. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, so I decided to read on. It seems to start off accusing the party of having been populated by cowards (my word, not hers!) previous to the brilliant stroke of creating superdelegates.

Most of the points that she makes are laughable, but in the spirit of not making this a mega-post (I know, most of mine are, like it or not), I’ll pick on a few. Here is the first:

Besides, the delegate totals from primaries and caucuses do not necessarily reflect the will of rank-and-file Democrats. Most Democrats have not been heard from at the polls. We have all been impressed by the turnout for this yearโ€™s primaries โ€” clearly both candidates have excited and engaged the partyโ€™s membership โ€” but, even so, turnout for primaries and caucuses is notoriously low. It would be shocking if 30 percent of registered Democrats have participated.

Where to begin? First, “Most Democrats have not been heard from at the polls.” So, those that don’t bother to go to the polls somehow prefer the elites of the party to make decisions for them, in particular, over-riding the wishes of those that did go to the polls? Could it be that those that don’t go to the polls weren’t active in electing the elites that Geraldine now claims have a responsibility to those same Democrats?

Here’s the next paragraph:

If that is the case, we could end up with a nominee who has been actively supported by, at most, 15 percent of registered Democrats. Thatโ€™s hardly a grassroots mandate.

So, by her own admission, turnout is greater now than in most years. Sure, this race is closer, but let’s do some napkin math. She claims that 15% does not a grassroots mandate make. Other than in a year when everyone else drops out (think Kerry in 2004), even a wide margin in delegates would likely be at most something like 75-25% (and that’s likely a stretch, or the second candidate would likely have dropped out).

If in that year, the turnout was more normal, it would be below 30%, perhaps significantly. In that case, the wide-margin victor would have less than 19% of the purported registered Democratic votes (75% of the 25% turnout). Should the superdelegates rush in to save the day? After all, the few idiots that turned out to the polls might be wrong…

This next paragraph was the middle one in a string of three related ones:

In the Democratic primary in South Carolina, tens of thousands of Republicans and independents no doubt voted, many of them for Mr. Obama. The same rules prevail at the Iowa caucuses, in which Mr. Obama also triumphed.

So, a candidate that can excite both parties (plus independents), what a horror, better get the party elite to wipe out that kind of across-the-aisle sentiment! Or, perhaps, her intended point is that Republicans and Independents crossed over to vote for Obama just to ensure that Hillary wouldn’t be the candidate, and that they have no intention of voting for Obama come election day. Who knows, as she doesn’t say!

No matter, Obama topped Hillary in South Carolina by 145,000 votes, so he crushed her, even if Geraldine’s assumptions about non-Democrats are correct. But, who cares about those Democrats anyway…

Then this:

Perhaps because I have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, I have noticed that most of the people complaining about the influence of the superdelegates are supporters of Mr. Obama. I canโ€™t help thinking that their problem with the superdelegates may not be that theyโ€™re โ€œunrepresentative,โ€ but rather that they are perceived as disproportionately likely to support Mrs. Clinton.

Huh? Is this an admission that they aren’t representative, or is it just a put-down of people who feel that Obama is legitimately creaming her? It might be a smaller turnout than Geraldine likes (even though it’s a larger turnout than usual), but Obama has now won 11 straight primaries/caucases, some by incredible margins. Where are all of the supporters for Hillary that weren’t turning out earlier, because they thought she was the inevitable candidate, but now know that without their vote, she’s toast?

Now we get this:

And I am watching, with great disappointment, people whom I respect in the Congress who endorsed Hillary Clinton โ€” I assume because she was the leader they felt could best represent the party and lead the country โ€” now switching to Barack Obama with the excuse that their constituents have spoken.

Really? It couldn’t possibly be that both Hillary and Bill have blown up in public so many times that it seems statistically unlikely to be an anomaly, and those same superdelegates have legitimately changed their minds on Hillary’s ability to lead the country? Not only does Geraldine know better than grassroots Democrats, now she knows better than superdelegates who switch from Hillary to Barack.

The hit parade continues:

But if they are actually upset over the diminished clout of rank-and-file Democrats in the presidential nominating process, then I would love to see them agitating to force the party to seat the delegates elected by the voters in Florida and Michigan. In those two states, the votes of thousands of rank-and-file party members will not be counted because their states voted on dates earlier than those authorized by the national party.

This one really makes me laugh, sorry, while I pause and catch my breath. So, the same party officials who are clever enough to give themselves superdelegate status, and know better than ordinary folks, should now be ignored (until the convention, of course). After all, who made the rules to not count the Florida and Michigan votes? Which candidates promised to honor that decision, and which candidate (singular!) went back on that promise?

Geraldine is so worried about disenfranchising those voters. She also points out that Hillary won those two states handily. Of course, she conveniently forgets to point out that the candidates all agreed not to campaign in those states. So, she wins (for whatever reasons), and now the other candidates, who might have won had they campaigned, should just accept the will of the people (of course, only if/when the will of the people selects Hillary). Simply amazing logic.

The bottom line is that Geraldine Ferraro has a distaste and disregard for people who want to exercise their democratic right to vote. Why not come out and say what’s really on her mind? Namely: everyone should stay home and let us leaders anoint the next nominee, since we clearly know better than the rest of you!

It amuses me that this is happening to the all-inclusive Democrats, when they could only wish this was happening to the demonic Republicans…

Discovering Stephen Bennett

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I just wrote a very long post a few minutes ago. At the end, I mentioned that I was sure I left out some additional nuisances. It turns out, that what I left out was one of the more important positives of the evening. It’s enough to warrant a small post on it’s own (now that I remember it), rather than burying it as a comment to my own post.

In that post, I mentioned that Antoine Dufour was hysterical. Here’s one example. He told the crowd that he didn’t understand how we Americans decided to pronounce ph as v. Specifically, he couldn’t understand the reasoning behind saying Steven when it’s spelled Stephen. He said that it became particularly strange for him when he was playing in Viladelvia. ๐Ÿ˜‰

OK, jokes aside, he used that lead-in to tell us that one of his inspirations in the guitar world was Stephen Bennett. He told us that Stephen is very ill and needs a kidney transplant. He wrote a song for Stephen, and sent it to him (along with the rest of the CD).

I vaguely recalled having heard the name before, and when I logged on this morning, I realized from where. I have previously touted DigitalDreamDoor top 100 Acoustic Albums list. While I have made a dent in accumulating a number of the albums on this list, I have a very long way to go to get to all of them. Stephen Bennett is number 45 on the list (at the moment).

Anyway, I just checked out a couple of his YouTube videos, and he’s great. Here is a video of him playing a normal guitar. Here is a video of him playing the harp guitar.

I hope you would agree that he’s amazing. I also hope you’ll join me in praying for his full recovery!

Thanks Antoine for introducing me to Stephen Bennett’s music! ๐Ÿ™‚