Reverse sondering

Leftovers & Links #44

My backfiring old beater is being recalled, for some possible mechanical issue. I know this because I’ve received a post card from Chevrolet. Every month. For the past three years. 

Take a hint, Chevrolet. 

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his wife dropped off his ballot for him, which is illegal and punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison

Nothing will come of it, of course. After all, he's the Governor, not Crystal Mason.

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Almost everything I ever write starts as a handwritten note to myself, ideas scribbled in magazine margins, on index cards, on paper bags, whatever. I’m a lazy slob, though, and I’ve let the notes pile up. Half a milk crate of notes!

Now I’m going through ‘em all, page by page, and already five New Yorkers and two Harper’ses are in the trash, plus half a ream of scrap paper. That's what’s with this flurry of these leftovers the past few days, sorry.

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I’ve written about sondering, the realization that each of the billions of us on this rock has their own dreams and drama, failures and phobias, all as complex as your own. 

I’ll call this reverse sondering, then: the realization that all of us, you, me, the Mayor, the President, every rock star, everyone in the Taliban, every evangelical Christian — we all enjoy a good fuck if we’re lucky, and beat off if we’re not. All our feet stink, and all of our pits, and all of us sometimes haven’t wiped as tidy as we thought. 

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Because they rarely call racism racism, here’s the New York Times’ top 10 euphemisms for racism.

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I became aware of an unexpected blotch of color on my otherwise beige ceiling, which was a dime-sized spider. I dislike but usually tolerate spiders — dislike, because they’re disgusting and terrifying, but tolerate, because I’ve heard spiders are mostly harmless and eat bugs that aren’t. So I gave the spider a pass, and just watched as it hurried across the ceiling toward the window, on the other side of the room.

An hour later it was back, in the same area of the ceiling, above my computer monitor. I’m assuming it was the same spider, because the apartment isn’t infested, and I rarely see spiders. Again, I wished it well, and again it made seemingly the same journey toward the window.

An hour later it was back a third time, standing still and upside-down on the ceiling above my monitor. “You’re in jeopardy, my spider friend,” I said aloud. It stayed still for a few seconds, then began crawling across the ceiling again, but this time toward the ceiling space above my chair. I would’ve let it make a few more trips toward the window, but I’m less patient with a spider directly over my head, so it got bookflattened cuz I hate spiders.

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Was the Escape from Alcatraz escape successful? The answer is still unknown, but here’s something I didn’t know: In 2013, police received a letter purportedly from one of the escapees:

“My name is John Anglin,” it read. “I escape[d] from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!” 

...In the letter, the writer explained that he was the last living member of the trio, with his co-conspirators dying in 2005 and 2008. He offered a deal: If authorities announced on television that he would receive a single one-year jail sentence, in which he could have the medical treatment he needed, “I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke…” The FBI did no such thing, and instead repressed the letter.

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There are rules we all live by, like paying the rent on time and renewing the tabs on your license plates. There are also lots of ‘extra rules’, from God and family and work, and especially from plain old peer pressure and always trying to ‘look good’ — rules that aren’t required, but rules most of us follow anyway.

I fuck up and sometimes those extra rules snag me, sure, but for the most part I ignore all the optional rules, and that’s what I recommend whenever anyone’s dumb enough to ask my advice: Write your own rules to live by. It’s worked out OK for me.

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Other than dreams of my late wife — always wonderful, but then sad when I awaken — and dreams of other dead folks, and long-lost friends, and forgetting to get dressed before going to work, my most common genre of dream is difficulty driving.

Like, for some reason I’m in the back seat, but still steering the car contorted. Or lost on suburban streets that make no sense and follow no maps. Or the dream I had last night: I’m in traffic, surrounded by little foreign cars, so little that I can’t see whether there’s a car in my blind spot, and now I have to back up, but I can’t see whether there’s an itty-bitty car behind my bumper.

My driving record is pretty good — only a few cars pulverized in my whole darn life — but I guess driving is neither first nor second nature to me.

What’s your common genre of dreams?

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From the always-excellent Anderson Valley Advertiser:

“I couldn’t help but notice the large number of locals who did not stand for the national anthem, certainly a departure from years past. I overheard one end of a gruff exchange when a man seated in front of me angrily explained to somebody down on the field why he hadn't stood, words to the effect that “the flag doesn't represent me anymore.” Well, it sure as hell represents me, and I've spent my entire adult life opposed to this country's policies, foreign and domestic. But these bitter chasms between us citizens is recent and sad. And ominous. Used to be you said where you stood, I said where I stood, but we still managed to pull at the same oar. No matter what, we had more in common than not. No more. This working man at the Boonville football game Friday night seemed ready to go to war.”
    —Bruce Anderson

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Neurons jangled oddly this afternoon, and I remembered my mom long ago saying, “You’ve got to get out of the house. Go play with your friends.”

“I don’t have any friends, ma.”

“Well, get out of the house and go make some friends.”

It’s good advice, probably, but I’ve never much taken it. Why would I get out of the house, where I have a cat, a comfy recliner, and a fridge full of exactly the foods I like, to venture out into the world where there’s none of that? 

Other than a weekly breakfast at the diner, quick errands to keep the fridge stocked, and daily walks I’m increasingly skipping because winter is here, I haven’t left the house since... March?

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I’ve been trying some new-to-me podcasts over the past few weeks, and finding nothing that’s worth listening. Your suggestions are invited, but I am a picky bastard: 

I don’t like cutesy ‘banter’ between the hosts, won’t slog through panel discussions with four different guests at the same time, and I’ll click it off if it seems NPR-style professionally over-produced. I’m likely less interested in anything created for profit than in something created for fun. I’ll put up with some advertising on a podcast, because this is America damn it, but there is no quicker way to drive me away from your podcast than by beginning with an ad, soon as you click 'play'. That’s the audio equivalent of a pop-up, and announces that the show is about the ads. Outta there.

So — anything you’d recommend to a very finicky listener?

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 Mystery links  — Like life itself, there’s no knowing where you’re going:


 Sing along with Doug:
School's Out, by Alice Cooper 

Sincere tip 'o the hat:
Captain Hampockets
Follow Me Here
Messy Nessy Chick
National Zero
Ran Prieur
Vintage Everyday

Voenix Rising

Becky Jo
Name Withheld
Dave S.


Leftovers & Links 

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  1. That Alcatraz blurb is infuriating. Might have been bullshit, but the Feds could have sussed that out.

    My most common dream is having to be somewhere, and suddenly the path is wrong. I need to get to class, turn down hallway D-2, but it's NOT hallway D-2, it's A-1, or some completely unfamiliar corridor. Or I'm trying to get to work, and the streets are all wrong. Shit like that. I hate it.

    Podcasts - most of what I listen to, you wouldn't like. But a damn fine one is "Criminal." Some ads. I just finished a series called "Monster : The DC Sniper," about that series of murders. Was pretty good. You might like "Stuff The British Stole." Interesting and infuriating. "99% Invisible" is great, it covers things that are common, but we don't really think about.

    1. Yeah, the Alcatraz thing feels like the feds saying, "Go ahead and die, fucker," and I'm sure he did.

      I'm checking out two out of four of those podcasts, thanks. Not much interest in true crime.

      Sweet dreams, and don't get lost on the way to the toilet...

  2. Get your car fixed! It's a recall, it should be free!

    1. My time, though, isn't free. Even if they can do this repair without needing the car overnight, I have better things to do than spend hours at a car dealership.

  3. OK, a restart didn't do it. I'll get a few hours sleep and try a full down and up boot. Are you sure I haven't been blackballed by the Teamsters? I think I just saw Jimmy Hoffa limping past my home office window dressed in concrete.

    1. Sadly, it's a non-union site, no Teamsters involved.

      Sorry again that your comment got eaten. It's *really* frustrating, I know.

    2. Hi Doug. I rebooted, cleared cookies and masturbated on my CPU, but my comments still get rejected. I tried logging in under the name Clyde Tolson, and I could actually hear the software laughing at me as it spit me out. So maybe it isn't a Hoover fan, or maybe it just doesn't like '60s progressives. I do have an older computer, but I just oiled the crank (not a paleologism, for masturbation) and nothing helped.

      I'm reluctant to comment on this here path, because it sort of makes you into an old-time telephone operator, connecting people with topics on the giant switchboard in the sky. Any ideas? Feel free to respond on the site if you'd like. I get the impression that other people have this problem from time to time. I might be the first chronic case, but it seems unlikely.


    3. Hmmm. I have not heard of anybody but you having this problem *repeatedly*. Even when my own comments disappear, it happens once a month or so, not time after time. Let me know if you notice any cause-and-effect — like, is this happening on *everything*, or only on longish comments? On any browser (*all* my disappeared comments were on Chrome).

      It's not my software, of course; it's Google's, and I don't expect they'll be in a rush to fix it. I opened a ticket with them once for a *paid* service, and it took a week for a reply. The website isn't a paid service...

      Emails and comment form *always* get through, and I can paste it into the page in just a few seconds. It's no hassle on my end, though it will have to wait until I happen to check my inbox.

    4. Just to be clear, I am now able to post because I created a gmail account. So the problem with posting as an anonymous caller persists. It just doesn't persist with me. Heaven help the next anonymous. . .
      "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
      Only this and nothing more."

      I quote your software. Sorry, Google's software.


    5. Interesting, good to know, and strange. Having a Gmail account is not (supposed to) be required.

    6. Doug,

      I suspect that that non-requirement is only valid if you can ID yourself anonymously. (Please don't try to diagram that sentence: there be dragons). Which is to say, anonymous IDs are at least partly dependent on the architecture and coding of other browsers, and although Google sometimes thinks they set the standards for the world, they mostly don't.

      The farther we get in time from the design point of any two pieces of software, the higher the risk that one or both will accidentally or intentionally violate a standards agreement.

      In any case, since there was another way to get here, and that other way involved one piece of Google software interacting with another piece of Google software it seemed worth trying.

      So far, so good.


    7. Glad you found a workaround way, sir.

  4. While I was incapacitated by software last week, you included a short piece about the murder of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. I sent a brief comment, but I forget whether that one made it or was quashed by Google software. So, I'll rinse and repeat . . .

    My favorite kind of movies by far are documentaries, and one of the best documentaries ever made was "The Times of Harvey Milk". Certainly if you are from San Francisco or spent some time there you will be familiar with this award-winning 1984 film. Everything about the movie is right: perfect scene cuts, very light narration, movement forward and backward in time that is seamless. The film editor had a huge job, with hundreds of hours of contemporaneous news film of Supervisor Milk's rise from community activist to District Supervisor and clear future candidate for Mayor to Dan White's rise and fall and his absurd Twinkie Trial.

    And the final 15 minutes of the film, a hundred thousand mourners walking up Market Street in the late evening, all holding candles, all silent, with almost no narration on the audio track is a stunning quarter hour of film, capturing the American gun disease and its horrible consequences. Like many men, I was socialized to not cry, but I went through most of a box of Kleenex both times I watched the doc.

    To nobody's surprise, The Times of Harvey Milk won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and I started crying again, for Harvey and his friends, for San Francisco, for George Moscone, and, ultimately, for all of us.

    I assume most of you have seen this film, but if you haven't, or haven't in a while, you should consider watching it.

    Warning: The Wikipedia article on this film warns that there are are some badly edited and badly transferred versions of this doc floating around out there. Be sure to check out which version to watch.


    1. JTB — The Times of Harvey Milk is an excellent movie, which I haven't seen in ages and ought to watch again. He was killed before my time in Frisco, but we absorbed the history and loved the guy posthumously.

  5. You must have seen this film, yes?


    1. I definitely remember hearing about Streetwise -- it was a big deal doc about street kids in Seattle, while I lived in Seattle -- but back then you had to actually go to a theater and pay a few bucks to see a new movie, and I was probably seeing Ghostbusters instead. Now I'm not sure I ever saw Streetwise, so it's on the list. You've seen and recommend?

    2. I'm not him, but saw it years ago, and recommend it.

    3. Saw it yesterday, and it's damned good.

    4. It's great, one of the best docs of the 1980s.

    5. My rave review is mostly written, for the next batch of seven. It amazed me, yeah. One of the best docs I have ever seen. Thanks for nudging me to see it.

    6. Glad you liked it! It's a remarkably compassionate and clear-eyed film, unlike most Hollywood "poverty tourism." And maybe more relevant now with the wealth disparity so much more common and pronounced, especially in cities like Seattle. They actually showed it to us when I was in high school in the midwest, couple years after it was released. Blew my mind.

    7. They showed it in high school? That's amazing. We never got any movies that weren't either dull history or bland reinforcements of the norm. I'm guessing they wanted to teach you the perils of disobeying even the slightest rules.

      There's also a sequel of sorts to Streetwise, called Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell, which follows up on the now middle-aged life of the main girl in the movie. Like most sequels, it's not as good as the original, but it's grand seeing that she's survived, and she's basically doing as well as any of us in this insane society.

    8. It's funny in hindsight, yeah, because I went to a parochial high school, so there may have been a lesson-learning motive involved in showing the film. But I don't remember anything other than the teachers checking out of real work for a couple class periods, thankfully.

      Agree about the sequel. There's also this, which seems to have been made mid-point between the two films:


      Reading the wiki page for the original film and following up on the kids is either incredibly sad or pretty inspiring, depending on the individual.

    9. Will probably see the 2nd of the trilogy today or tomorrow, grazi.

      Rough life those kids led, but I have massive respect for the survival they eked out against all odds. Blocks from where I lived, too. Jeez.

  6. Thanks. I vaguely remember hearing about it. I think I was back east when it came out, and by the time I got back to Seattle I'd forgotten about it. All those years ago. I'll check it out. Thanks a lot.

    I was waiting for a time when I had time; now I have time but a rapidly fading memory for all the things I wanted time to do.

    Thanks again.


    1. > I was waiting for a time when I had time; now I have time but a rapidly fading memory for all the things I wanted time to do.

      Words to live by until we die.

      I wish I'd kept a list (it would've been more like a database) of all the things I wanted to do, places and people and movies and meals ...


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