Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Creative Destruction

Crane-Capitalist VampireIrwin Stelzer, summoned to the front of the room to deliver his book report on "Why Late Capitalism is So Endlessly Awesome," furtively struggles to disguise the sudden onset of adolescent priapism:
GENERAL MOTORS, which, like Ford, lost $1.3 billion in the third quarter, will lay off 30,000 workers and close or downsize 12 plants in a desperate effort to avoid bankruptcy. Kodak is frantically attempting to build its digital business as the use of film declines. Knight Ridder shops for a buyer as the collapse of its local newspaper monopolies destroys its viability. Several airlines have declared bankruptcy as their uneconomic cost structures cripple their ability to compete for customers. Telecoms companies watch the value of their wires drop as cell phones, voice-over-internet, and cable companies poach their customers. Blockbuster flirts with bankruptcy as new, more convenient ways of delivering films ("content," to use the more modern term) to the screens of couch potatoes make a trip to the rental stores unnecessary.
Not that we should be surprised by anything disgorged by The Weekly Standard, but Stelzer's parting thoughts are worth noting, as he heralds the Great Upheaval as "[g]ood news for creative destroyers and consumers, bad news for hidebound managers and their shareholders." As for the workers heaved into the void by GM, Polaroid, Delta, Bethlehem Steel and other companies who have creatively destroyed their communities, livelihoods, and employee pensions, Stelzer doesn't even bother to say "blow me."

I'll sign over a $100 out-of-state check to anyone who can persuade me that people like Stelzer should not be lined up against a wall and shot.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What Thanksgiving on the Island of Dr. Moreau Would Look Like

For Thanksgiving, I was invited to a friend's house to gorge myself on a southern delicacy known as "Turducken," which consists of a de-boned chicken stuffed inside a de-boned duck stuffed inside a de-boned turkey, bound together with string and larded with various kinds of stuffing (ours was sausage and crayfish.) This little matryushka doll of poultry proved to be the centerpiece of a glorious eating frenzy that rivaled in gluttony (while surpassing in elegance) my own family's Thickburger eating contest last year (discussed in some detail a few posts below). I can't begin to describe how amazing this bird of paradise was. If we had been eating at my house, I would have used a toilet plunger to force another serving down my throat.

Friends and family members not fortunate enough to be present at the deluge are seemingly curious about what a Turducken actually looks like. The following photos are not mine (my wife had absconded to Wisconsin with the digital camera), but they accurately depict the mystery and majesty of the Turducken:


After dinner, conversation turned to politics, at which point I suggested that next year we might invent a new Alaskan dish known as a "Halideevens" -- a de-boned halibut stuffed inside a de-boned Sitka deer stuffed inside a de-boned Ted Stevens.

Photos of that project will be forthcoming.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm Still Alive

B00004VUHB.03.LZZZZZZZI haven't posted anything in nearly a month, for a host of reasons that include but are not limited to the following:

(1) Conference travel. In early November I waddled off to DC for the American Studies Association conference, where I delivered a paper, drank lots of beer with Erik Loomis among other fine scholars, and stayed in perhaps the worst hotel in the world, the President Inn — a befouled hovel that various former patrons have reviewed to hilarious effect here. (My favorite commentary includes the following observations: "The greatest disadvantage to this hotel is its location. The neighborhood was filled with helpful people, but at the same time they were always reminding our group to stick together because 'people like you get robbed.' There were prostitutes on the street and in the hotel. In one instance a man offered to sell a member of my group cocaine, which was a kind gesture, but we were all uninterested.") At the President Inn, I commenced each day with a free copy of the deliriously conservative Washington Times and a stale donut from the hotel's "continental breakfast," which could be found in what appeared to be a converted laundry room. No one ever offered me cocaine, but I was usually in a hurry to get the fuck away from the hotel and probably missed some opportunities to score. Story of my life, believe me.

(2) Modern medicine. My wife and I recently had prenatal screening for spina bifida, Down Syndrome, neural tube defect, and Edward Syndrome. The standard preliminary screening involves a blood test that measures four different proteins -- alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), unconjugated estriol (uE3), human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and Inhibin-A -- that are present in the fetus and pass into the mother's bloodstream. Based on the age of the fetus, the weight of the mother, and a few other factors, the test indicates an elevated or reduced risk of these four conditions. Unfortunately, the language used to describe the test results -- including words like "positive" and "negative" -- is not especially helpful, especially when you receive word from your doctor that your baby has tested "mildly positive" for Down Syndrome. What the tests actually indicated was that the baby's risk of Down's had shifted from 1/350 (the average risk when the mother is 34 years old) to 1/140 -- in other words, instead of a 99.7% chance that the baby did not have Down's, we were now looking at a 99.3% chance that the baby did not have Down's. But because my wife and I had not adequately researched the tests beforehand and did not know the right questions to ask -- and because our doctor did not offer up the actual odds until I called back several hours later -- we lost our goddamned minds. And because Juneau doesn't have adequate facilities to follow up on the initial screening, we flew to Seattle last weekend for a high resolution ultrasound that indicated, somewhat anticlimactically, that the baby is quite likely healthy and quite likely female. We're quite obviously thrilled by the good news, but the whole ordeal proved to be a tremendous waste of time and money, to say nothing of the unnecessary stress that prevented me from grading papers, preparing for classes, walking my dogs, and resuming work on this unreadable blog. Had we not gotten to spend time with some good friends in Seattle and catch the New Pornographers' show at the Pyramid Alehouse on Saturday, I would be leaving a flaming bag of shit on our doctor's porch to mark this Thanksgiving holiday.