He came, he saw, he caucused, he went home

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Last night I added another item to my list of “things I’ve now done that I never did before” — I participated in a presidential caucus. It was quite interesting, and became sort of a “Politics 101″ lesson for me on how delegates are chosen to attend the party’s national conventions. I had always watched the huge crowds waving their state signs and candidate banners every four years on TV, but never gave a whole lot of thought to exactly how they got there.

Feeling a bit unsure of what to expect, I arrived at the precinct meeting place shortly after the polls closed at seven; turnout appeared fairly light, with about 25 or so people there. There were two sign-in sheets, one for each candidate, and after entering our names to indicate whom we had voted for earlier, about half of those who had showed up left immediately. (Amateurs!)

The meeting was called to order with about 12 of us left, and we then learned that our sign-in vote tally had split right down the middle, with 13 warm bodies there for Obama and 14 for Clinton. We therefore got to split the six delegates allocated to our precinct 50/50, at three each. Supporters of the two candidates then gathered on each side of the room to introduce ourselves to each other and discuss who would like to represent Barack at the county and district conventions on March 29. At these meetings, representatives will be elected from the precinct delegates to attend the state convention in Austin on June 6 & 7. Attendees at the state event will then select the 193 pledged delegates allotted to Texas to attend the Democratic National Convention. So, it’s entirely possible that some of us there last night will have the opportunity in August to go to Denver in support of Barack.

Since my oxygen equipment makes travel a bit problematic to me, I deferred to the other folks in our little group who were more than happy to volunteer as delegates. Demographically, our bunch was a nice cross-section: two “young” (20′s) white folks, one each male and female, an older white gentleman who appeared in his 70′s, two middle-age black ladies, and a black man who looked to be in his 30′s. All of us seemed intelligent, articulate, and motivated to get involved in the political process, and we enjoyed talking about the issues and our hope that Obama could provide the leadership to move the country forward. I did sign up as an alternate delegate, so in case one of the chosen three can’t make it, I may be asked to step in.

As I went to bed last night, Texas was still “too close to call” but Sen. Clinton was doing well elsewhere. Today, I awoke to the discouraging news that the race will be slogging on for months to come, as Hillary won Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island — re-energizing her campaign and bringing Barack’s momentum to a screeching halt despite his Vermont victory. This unfortunately means that the two Democratic rivals will now continue to waste time, money, energy, and most critically, voter confidence by attacking each other in a divisive effort that will only weaken the real goal of defeating John McCain in November. So while I feel good about becoming involved in the phonebanking and caucusing during the last few days, I’m pretty damn frustrated with the end result.

Welcome to Politics 101.

The big day is here

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Hot damn y’all, I’m excited today to be smack-dab in the middle of what could be the most decisive day of the Democratic primary contest. Not only is the Lone Star state playing a huge role in the nomination this year, but according to the Wall Street Journal, my own little chunk of East Texas from Houston to Tyler is being watched especially closely. Bill Clinton himself was even in town last week stumping for his wife, which is practically unheard of in our little hole-in-the-wall. We seldom get anyone that important here, but seeing as how most pundits are speculating that Hillary’s campaign is over if she doesn’t score big in Texas today, I shouldn’t be that surprised. You’ve been (and will no doubt continue to be) bombarded with news from all sources about events here, so I’m not sure what else I can uniquely add to it, but I’ll just say it’s been very interesting for me to be politically involved this year in a way I haven’t been for decades.

This weekend I’ve made a few phone calls on behalf of the Obama campaign, and will begin making a bunch more here shortly to encourage people to go vote today. It’s been easy; they have a very cool web-based contact tool that allows you to make as few or as many calls as you care to (or have time for) once you register and log in. You’re assigned numbers to call in your neighborhood in blocks of 20, and as you speak with folks and determine who they’re supporting you simply click on large buttons next to their name on the web site to report their status back to the campaign HQ. Of course the idea is to encourage them to vote for Obama, and there are some sample script pages you can use if you’re not comfortable ad-libbing. However if the person you’re speaking with wants more detailed information about Obama’s stand on the issues than you feel qualified to discuss with them, you can refer them to the web site or a more knowledgeable volunteer. It’s all very highly organized, and fun too. You’re awarded points for the number of calls you make, with the goal being to get your name in the Top 10 callers — kind of like putting your initials at the top of the “high score” list of a video game.

So far I’ve mainly gotten a lot of answering machines, but have also had a few interesting conversations. Not surprisingly, since this is a red state (and a fairly conservative Christian area at that), I’ve talked to one or two staunch Republicans. I don’t debate them, just record their preferences and say thank you. I did run across one elderly-sounding woman, however, who claimed to be a Democrat but was under the impression that Obama was “one of them Muslims”. I hope I was able to straighten her out.

As I work the phones, I’m also telling people about the “Texas Two-Step“, which seems to have a lot of folks confused. Texas residents get to participate in a unique process for assigning delegates; first is the regular voting today, then after the polls close this evening we get to “caucus”. I have never “caucused” before in my life, so I’m very interested in what it’s all about. I had always imagined a caucus as being a bunch of hard-core politico-wonks getting together in a smoke-filled room to strut their influence and make deals, but it’s simply another word for convention. Specifically, in this case it’s an ad-hoc meeting of those who have voted in the primary to stand up for their candidate; as a result, roughly 30% of unpledged delegates will be assigned via the caucus. In a way, it’s almost like getting to vote twice, and as close as this race is predicted to be it could make a real difference.

So tonight I’m gonna caucus, baby! Woo-hoo! I’ll head back to the polling location about 7:15 PM and sign in under the name of the my candidate, and then we’ll see what happens next. If nothing else, it should at least be good for a blog post.

Back to the phones. Hello?

Superdelegates explained

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I discovered “Red State Update” today, a series of tongue-in-cheek parodies of redneck politics. (Sadly, even though it’s a joke, some folks actually think like this.) But we won’t worry about that now; Jackie and Dunlap finally clear up the confusion behind those mysterious “Superdelegates”, and delve into the heretofore unspoken relationship between politics and comic books. Damn, this stuff cracks me up.

Thanks and a special tip o’ the Toast hat to Gwen at The Super Happy FunTime Blog!

Never fear, Cap’n Toast is here

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

As the Texas primary looms closer on March 4th, I’ve been getting increasingly urgent messages from my good buddy Barack Obama. He’s been very pleased to tell me how well things are going, and how he’s been kicking Hilary’s ass. (Actually, I believe the exact phrase he used was “we’re on a roll” but I knew what he really meant.) More excitingly, Obama’s campaign recently wrote to offer me the chance to become a Precinct Captain here in my little corner of East Texas. According to the email:

Signing up as an Obama Precinct Captain means making a personal commitment to the campaign. But along with that commitment comes the opportunity to be a big part of our strategy in Texas. Here’s what Obama Precinct Captains need to do:

* Identify Obama supporters in your community and recruit more — campaign staff will provide you with a packet of resources to help

* Support Barack in your precinct on March 4th, 2008 and help mobilize neighborhood supporters to join you

You don’t need any previous experience to sign up. You just need to support Barack and be ready to turn your energy and enthusiasm into action. It requires some responsibility, but don’t worry — we’ll be here with all the materials, training, and support you’ll need every step of the way.

I have to admit this seriously appeals to me, as back in my college days I used to be somewhat of a political activist. In 1968 I helped organize local protests against the Vietnam War, mobilized buses to take people to rallies in Washington, and even cut off my long hair to go “Clean for Gene” McCarthy. Yes, I was all the picture of fresh-faced, bright-eyed, clean-cut college student respectability as I canvassed door-to-door trying to get people to vote for him and answer any questions they had about his positions on the issues (at least as best as I understood them at the time). It was a real feeling of empowerment to recruit and mobilize and all that good stuff, and I felt like I was having an ever-so-small yet perceptible impact. McCarthy eventually failed to win the nod (Hubert Humphrey was nominated following the death of Robert Kennedy), but at least I was out there working for something I believed in. After all the talk of “change” this year, you may note that it was being used as a campaign theme 40 years ago.

The main problem for me now, however, is the physical exertion required for all that recruiting and mobilizing; it’s not so easy tromping door-to-door when you’re sucking on an oxygen canula. However, I can speak on the telephone without difficulty, so I’ve decided to contact the Obama team and offer to help in that regard. I suspect they’ll be more than happy to have me make phone calls on their behalf for an hour or two each day.

You may find it surprising (at least, it certainly is to me) that after months of indecision I have come down firmly on the side of the Obama camp. I’m sure she’s a fine person, but there’s always been something about Hilary that has made me hesitate from the very beginning — I can’t tell you with any certainty exactly what that “something” is. Perhaps it’s her “professional politician” aura that comes from years of association with a political dynasty (i.e., Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes, etc.), which makes me wonder if she’ll say almost anything to get elected, or if she’s in the race more for personal glory than for wanting to improve the state of the nation. Or maybe she just plain scares me. I get the distinct feeling that if I were to ever cross her, I would be extremely likely to have my balls cut off. That sort of strength might be a good thing when it comes to dealing with the dangers of the world a president has to face, but after suffering through eight years of one mini-dictator I’m not sure I’m ready for another one, even if she might be way more competent and benign than Shrubya.

Nope; I think the simple answer is that I’ve caught Obama Fever. I don’t really know what kind of president he’ll make, or if he’ll get cooperation from Congress once the post-election honeymoon period is over, but I have a growing sense of optimism that things will be better, and sometimes you just gotta go with your gut.

As you surely know by now, Texas and Ohio have a major importance to the Democrats this time around which hasn’t been seen in very many years; most primary balloting has established a clear front-runner by the time they get to us. If Obama continues his momentum and extends his winning streak here, you might as well stick a fork in Hilary’s campaign: she’ll be done. She can go back to serving her constituents in New York, write a book, and maybe take another shot at it in 2012. There’s no doubt the Lone Star is a must-win for her, and if she is able to pull it out of the fire — particularly in the unlikely event that she decisively pummels Obama by double digits — it will give her new life and it’s on to Mississippi a week later, then Pennsylvania in April. But personally, I believe that Obama is unstoppable at this point.

But can he win the general election in November? A McCain-Obama matchup is going to be interesting, to say the least, and McCain is already taking direct aim at him as his presumptive opponent, stressing how his own combat and P-O-W experience makes him uniquely qualified for the role of commander-in-chief. “Where is the audacity of hope when it comes to backing the success of our troops all the way to victory in Iraq?” McCain said in a statement today after yesterday’s Democratic debate in Cleveland, during which Obama pledged to end the war by 2009. “What we heard last night was the timidity of despair.”

That kind of tough talk may appeal to those on the right, but Obama fired right back: “John McCain may like to say that he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he’s done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars.” Right on, as we used to say.

So we’re getting ready for a good old-fashioned Texas slugfest down here next week. Early voting began Feb. 19th; I’ve already cast my ballot for Barack, and I’ll be on the phone harassing, er, canvassing, potential voters between now and March 4th. Cap’n Toast reporting for duty — let’s rock.

Cheese Closure of the Pygmy Love Queen, and Other Favorites

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Since a number* of readers of this blog are known to spend lots of time in Libraryland, I figured y’all might be interested in the following news item which I ran across today:

The Bookseller magazine has announced the shortlist for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Here are the titles:

  • I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
  • How to Write a How to Write Book

  • Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

  • Cheese Problems Solved
  • If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
  • People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

Vote for your “favorite” in this poll; you may also wish to alert your acquisitions staff, as no doubt you’ll be getting lots of requests for these titles at your own local library.

I’m certain that it was difficult for the editors to come up with only these six finalists, as there are so many to choose from every year. Who could resist curling up at night with last year’s odd-title winner, the thrilling “Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification”. Then there’s the classics, like “Fish Who Answer the Telephone” (1937), “Explosive Spiders and How to Make Them” (1881), “Manhole Covers of Los Angeles” (1974), or 1981′s “New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People” by Robert S. Desowitz, of which one reader says, “Parasites are not only interesting study objects, but you can write very funny stories about them as well.”

Turning to the ever-popular self-improvement category, we have such page-turners as “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” (1995), “My Invisible Friend Explains the Bible” (1971), “Teach Yourself Alcoholism” (1973), and the intriguing “Sex After Death” (1983).

My personal favorite, however, has to be a lightweight treatise from 1954 entitled “The Coming Disaster Worse Than the H-bomb, Astronomically, Geologically and Scientifically Proven, The Coal Beds, Ice Ages, Tides, and Coming Soon, a Great Wave and Flood Caused by a Shift of the Axis of the Earth From the Gyroscopic Action of Our Solar System”. I can’t wait for this one to come out on DVD.

* I believe that number is “two”

Rumblings in the vast wasteland

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Remember that big dusty box in the living room you used to sit and stare at for hours back in the good old days of 2007? I think it’s called a “television set”, and it’s slowly coming back to life after months of reruns and reality shows. First to return with new material since the Hollywood writers strike was settled last week will be The CW’s sitcom Aliens in America, which kicks off with eight original episodes beginning March 2. By April, most programs that are coming back this season will be on the air. Since sitcoms are produced with a shorter lead time, they’ll initially make up the bulk of returning shows; dramas will begin showing up in late March.

Here’s a list of announced returns, courtesy of The Miami Herald:

March 2: Aliens in America (The CW).

March 3: Everybody Hates Chris (The CW).

March 17: How I Met Your Mother (CBS); The Big Bang Theory (CBS); Two and a Half Men (CBS).

March 23: The Game (The CW)

March 24: CSI: Miami (CBS)

March 30: Cold Case (CBS)

April 2: Criminal Minds (CBS); CSI: New York (CBS)

April 3: My Name Is Earl (NBC); CSI (CBS); Without a Trace (CBS)

April 4: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Numb3rs (CBS)

April 8: NCIS (CBS)

April 10: The Office (NBC); 30 Rock (NBC); Scrubs (NBC)

April 11: Moonlight (CBS)

April 14: One Tree Hill (The CW); Rules of Engagement (CBS)

April 15: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)

April 21: Gossip Girl (The CW)

April 22: Reaper (The CW); Law & Order (NBC)

April 24: Supernatural (The CW)

Fox and ABC still haven’t issued comprehensive lists of post-strike programming, although ABC will present new episodes of Desperate Housewives and Lost this spring. Some shows won’t be back; for example, the CW has canceled entertainment-news program CW Now and sitcom Girlfriends. And the network hasn’t ordered new episodes of family-on-safari drama Life Is Wild, an ominous sign. On the other hand, NBC has announced that its first-year dramas Chuck and Life won’t be back this spring but have been renewed for the fall. Same goes for Fox’s 24.

Other shows renewed for next season: ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, Lost, Dirty Sexy Money, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Private Practice, Samantha Who? and Pushing Daisies; CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer, NCIS, Two and a Half Men, Numb3rs, Without a Trace, and all 200 versions of CSI.

As for me, I can’t say the writer’s strike affected my viewing habits at all — which mainly consist of The Daily Show, (endless!) reruns of Law and Order, and DVD movie rentals. Still, I’m glad the strike is over and scribes can go back to work earning their measly $50,000 per episode. It ain’t easy, you know. To quote the late Hunter S. Thompson, “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason. There’s also a negative side.”

Love, and other forms of temporary insanity

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Today is the day many people have been waiting for all year: the day to tell their dearly beloved sweethearts how much they mean to them and how important they are, and buy them presents, candy and/or flowers. They might also get a cheap card for their husband or wife from Walgreens while they’re at it.

Yes, today is the favorite holiday of cynics (who nearly always refer to Valentine’s Day as “V.D.”), those who believe in their hearts that the significance of the day is way overblown, hyped beyond all common-sense reality by a greedy floral and greeting-card industry who are trying to turn every calendar event (St. Patrick’s day? Arbor Day, anyone? Bueller? Anyone?) into in excuse to purchase cards and gifts. These skeptics are quick to point out that Valentine’s Day is the only holiday that features a weapon-wielding angel as a mascot, and will make comments such as:

“Valentines day is just another stupid holiday created by the manufacturing companies in compliance with jewelry, candy, and cards. They make you feel obliged to get something for the ones you love. PUH LEZZE! It’s just another corrupt system using guilt on the people.”


“I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion. I would even go so far as to say that we should dig up Saint Valentine and martyr him all over again just for the fun of it.”

Of course, it could be argued that these are simply the bitter words of sad, lonely, twisted souls who have failed in their relationships due to their own selfishness, and want to ruin the holiday for everyone else. Or, they might possibly have been subjected to this example of romance run amok, which cannot be watched for more than thirty seconds without one wanting to claw out their own eyeballs.

Another possibility could be that they have seen any of numerous recent items in the news which would tend to discourage even the most optimistic of romantics. For example, consider this story from Germany involving a woman who is suing a web site at which she auctioned herself off to the highest bidder for sex. Six men were “winners” of the contest, and one got her pregnant. Unfortunately, she didn’t bother to get any of their names, so she’s suing the site’s operator for their identities so she can force the men to take paternity tests.

Meanwhile, in Seoul, South Korea, mobile phone provider KTF is offering their customers a service called the “Love Detector” which analyzes the voice patterns of the person you’re speaking to, and displays a “love meter” bar on the screen of your handset during the call. “We created this service because we thought people would want to know what others were feeling about them,” said Ahn Hee-jung, a KTF official. After the call is finished, the user receives an analysis of the conversation that breaks down the amount of affection, surprise, concentration and honesty of the other speaker.

In Charleston SC, WKLC-FM, also known as “Rock 105″, is observing the holiday with a special Valentine’s Day contest (as radio stations often do). The prize? A free divorce. The winner’s name will be drawn at random from all entries, and Charleston lawyer Rusty Webb will handle the actual filing. “Sure we can give away concert tickets, and we do,” said station Program Director Jay Nunley. “That’s going to make you happy for a little while. This is the chance to make someone happy for the rest of their life.”

Finally, if you happen to be one of those jaded, cynical, Anti-Valentine type of folks, I’ve got just the perfect job for you: UK Honey Traps, a private detective service based in Worcestershire in the heart of England, is looking for new recruits. Your work will take you to nightclubs and bars, where you’ll be looking to strike up conversations, flirt, give out your phone number, and try to make future dates. The hitch is, you’ll be targeting the husbands or wives of clients who pay you to test the loyalty of their partners, and will document the entire shameful affair for the client with hidden cameras and audio recorders. According to the web site, the agency is looking for “confident, bubbly, outgoing men and women with an ability to think on their feet.” Becoming a honey trapper demands reliability, honesty and accuracy, it says, and because most of the trapping takes place outside office hours, it can offer “an ideal second career.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dear New England Patriots:

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

I wasn’t going to write this letter to you, I swear. I’m not usually the sort of person to put their heart on their sleeve like this, but ….

How could you?

How could you have let me down this way, after we’ve been together for so long? I mean, not only have we been with each other for years, we practically grew up together! I was there for you when you needed me; remember those nights we spent in Fenway Park, way back in the good old days, before you moved to Foxborough? They were so very special for me, but I know now they must not have been for you. Even when things got tough, I made excuses for you to all my friends. “You know how guys are,” I told them after that recent nasty videotaping incident. “They must have just been shooting the Jet’s cheerleaders or something, and got the coach’s signals by accident.” How could I have been such a fool to let you use me like that? My God, I was so blind.

But today was the worst ever; you knew it was supposed to be our big day together. I had such great expectations, and was in such a good mood earlier this afternoon. Everything was ready at home, the food, the drinks, and my friends and I were all prepared to celebrate with you … but then … it was almost like you hardly bothered to show up. When you did, you seemed like, all defensive and stuff, and just didn’t show me that magic “spark” that I’d seen so often before. Oh sure, you finally made an effort, but by then it was just way too little, too late.

I have to tell you how disappointed I am. You’ve hurt me so badly, and I’ve decided I just can’t go on like this any more. So I’m sorry, but it’s over between us. I may not have anyone else in my life right now, but I’ve got lots of time, and maybe by next season I’ll find someone who knows how to treat me right and won’t crush my dreams into the ground like a used cigarette butt, the way you did today.

I wish you luck, seriously. Even though we’re through, I’ll always remember the good times we had. In the meantime, I think you should know:

I’m fucking Matt Damon.

A heartwarming winter poem

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Dearest readers…

As I sit by my cozy fire this weekend writing the blog and answering emails, I thought I would forward on to you an inspirational message I received from a close friend on this cold winters day.

I found this beautiful winter poem and thought it might be a comfort to you.

It was to me. It’s very well written and I hope that you enjoy it too.


by Abigail Elizabeth McIntyre

It’s Cold!!

The End

Secret Agent of Change

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

You may recall — unless you have a really short attention span, in which case you should click here — that a few days ago I came up with what I thought would be a really nifty theme song for Barack Obama. By making this idea public on the blog, I may have even secretly hoped that the candidate himself might hear of it, and realizing that my brilliant mind could be a great asset to his organization, offer to employ me as his Media Director — or at the very least his official Theme Songs Czar. Hey, I’m qualified: I enjoyed listening to Tom Lehrer back in the 60′s, so I know the value of a cleverly satirical melody with political overtones.

But then I realized that anyone from the Obama group might have a difficult time finding my post without constructing a very specific search query, so I thought I might help bring it to their attention by writing them about it. There’s a place on the “contact us” page of Obama’s website for “other thoughts and questions” which would seem to be a highly appropriate place to address the topic of, “hey, you should check out this song that is guaranteed to make people boogie in the aisles at your campaign stops.” (I’m all about the helping.) The form required me to enter my first and last name, so to avoid any possibility of confusion due to the fact that my real name would have no obvious connection to the blog, I typed “Last name: Toast”, and “First name: Mr.” into the contact form. I even hinted in my message that I was one of those “undecided” voters that candidates devote so much attention to, and that I might be persuaded to actually vote for Mr. Obama if he could adequately address some of my serious concerns about the future of this nation, for example:

• Appointing a presidential commission to study the possibility of designating beer as the “National Beverage of America”, a panel for which I would gladly volunteer to be a member;

• Offering large lump-sum tax-free cash compensation as reparation to certain individuals who have suffered lasting psychological damage as a result of tragic past events in our nation’s history — and by “certain individuals”, I am referring to readers of this blog;

• Sending Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin to the Guantanamo Bay Terrorist Detention Center to investigate conditions there, and conveniently “misplacing” their return tickets home;

I have many more concerns, but these will do for starters.

To be honest, I really didn’t expect much to happen; but amazingly, not long after clicking the “submit form” button, I’ll be damned if I didn’t get an e-mail reply! Although I must say I was initially a little disappointed, I still knew that someone had actually read my message and taken it under advisement, because the email was addressed to me personally!

Dear Mr.:

Thank you for contacting Obama for America, and sharing your ideas for Senator Obama. The volume of messages we are receiving has exceeded all expectations. While it is difficult to respond to thousands of messages a week as efficiently as we would like, the level of interest and nature of the comments reflected in these communications are very gratifying. Barack knows well that Washington does not have a monopoly on good ideas, and neither does he. That is why it’s important to hear from everyone, and we will take your ideas under consideration. Your thoughts on our campaign and America’s future are deeply appreciated.

Do you see that, people? My thoughts are “deeply appreciated” by an actual presidential candidate! How cool is that? As if that wasn’t enough, a few days later I received another email, this time no less than a personal message from Barack’s wife, Michelle Obama. (I hope he doesn’t mind his wife carrying on these conversations with total strangers on the internet; you know how freaky the web can be.) But as I read Michelle’s letter to me, I realized that I actually had something special that she and the rest of the Obama organization urgently wanted:


Thank you so much for writing. Right now, all across the country, thousands of Americans are taking their seat at the table and shaping the outcome of this election. One of the more than 100,000 donors who have given in 2008 is promising to give again if you make your donation today. Now is the time to own a piece of this campaign. We are building up our organization to compete in all fifty states, and your gift will help us reach our goal.

And that “something” … is money.

This week has seen regular correspondence from the Obama team asking me to input my thoughts, my ideas for the future, and most importantly, my cash. It is good to know that I’m such a valuable asset to the organization. Today I received a message from former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, alerting me to a slime email that is circulating that claims Obama is a Muslim who refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance, as well as other falsehoods. I’ll have to admit I was skeptical at first when I saw the return address “John Kerry” in my inbox and thought it might be spam, but the Senator again addressed me personally:

Dear Mr.,

I support Barack Obama because he doesn’t seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating — he seeks to end it. This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.

As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove’s twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone’s character just to win an election. But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it’s not enough to complain about a past we can’t change when our challenge is to win the future — which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears.

This year, the attacks are already starting. Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by email. These attacks smear Barack’s Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of “Swiftboat” style anonymous attacks.

These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we’ve learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked.

We need you to email the truth to your address books. Print it out and post it at work. Talk to your neighbors. Call your local radio station. Write a letter to the editor. If lies can be spread virally, let’s prove to the cynics that the truth can be every bit as persuasive as it is powerful.

Thank you,
John Kerry

Kidding aside for a moment, this is an important issue, and if someone happens to forward you this particular slanderously distorted email, I hope you will reply with the facts and set them straight. The truth should be the truth, regardless of what your political leanings happen to be.

In conclusion, while there’s been no definite word as to whether he wants to use my theme song suggestion, I’m still glad to know that I qualify for these regular updates from Senator Obama. Who knows, I might even vote for the guy, especially if he promises to investigate the conspiracy regarding the “Seabed Nectar” secret ingredient in Slusho, which causes people to burst open at the seams. (Do not drink Slusho! You have been warned!)

End could be in sight for TV writer’s strike

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Encouraging news for TV fans over the weekend: the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) has reached a tentative agreement with the studio conglomerates (AMPTP). The new terms set residuals on so-called “new media” which almost double the previous rates. While the striking Writers Guild (WGA) is a separate entity from the director’s association, it has been widely speculated that any deal with the studios achieved by the DGA would serve as a template for the writers to reach a similar settlement.

The leadership of the Writer’s Guild is closely examining the DGA deal, but issued a public statement today that I thought was a bit provocative, containing this less-than-conciliatory remark: “For over a month, we have been urging the conglomerates to return to the table and bargain in good faith. They have chosen to negotiate with the DGA instead.”

Nevertheless, most rank-and-file members are optimistic about the terms of the DGA’s contract. Noted director Oliver Stone said, “I’ve read the bullet points, and it is a step in the right direction, it shows that agreement is possible, and it brings a spirit of hope that hopefully will extend to the WGA and the AMPTP. If it is not taken in that spirit, that would be most unfortunate.” Many Hollywood notables attending this week’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, are also eager to go back to work. “I’m very pleased with the new [DGA] agreement and I hope it helps speed up the negotiations with the WGA,” actor George Clooney said in a statement.

Talks between the writers and the studios, which have been at an impasse for weeks, could resume as early as tomorrow, according to Variety magazine. However, don’t look for your favorite shows from before the strike to reappear any time soon. There has been much bad blood generated on both sides by the walkout, so it’s likely that several more weeks of negotiations could pass before any agreement is hammered out. Also, the delay involved in ramping up the studios to begin production (even assuming that the writers already have scripts in their laptops that they’ve been withholding due to the strike) could be lengthy. Still, it looks like progress is finally being made.

Today’s Bible lesson

Monday, January 21st, 2008

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then, using God’s great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. And Satan said, “You want chocolate with that?” And Man said, “Yes!” and Woman said, “and as long as you’re at it, add some sprinkles.” And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

So God said, “Try my fresh green salad.” And Satan presented Thousand-Island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, “I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them.” And Satan brought forth deep-fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it “Angel Food Cake,” and said, “It is good.” Satan then created chocolate cake and named it “Devil’s Food.”

God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and high in nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald’s and its 99¢ double cheeseburger. Then said, “You want fries with that?” And Man replied, “Yes! And super-size them!” And Satan said, “It is good.”

And Man went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed and created quadruple-bypass surgery.

Then Satan created HMOs….

(source: unknown)

Sofa-spud’s Lament

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

As the Hollywood screenwriter’s strike drones into its 11th week, the Writer’s Guild (WGA) seems to be losing public support in its struggle with the studios. Initially, audiences expressed the most concern about missing the political satire they’ve come to love on late-night talk shows, but now that Letterman, Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert have returned to the airwaves after negotiating independent agreements to continue their shows without their striking writers, public sentiment has largely turned to apathy. A recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted online by market research firm Synovate found that 75 percent are not very concerned or not concerned at all about the TV-viewing implications of the writers strike. Indeed, many people are openly hostile to the writers, feeling that their demands are unreasonable. For example, here’s a sample of comments from the online edition of today’s Miami Herald:

The real “damage” is what these writers generally do to standards of taste, imagination and experimentation by churning out week after week after week of recycled, formulaic, mindless crap. If this strike has driven even one shitcom couch potato or brain-dead housewife addicted to slop operas to read a book or go for a nice walk in the sunshine, it will be a net gain for audiences all over America.


It is good for the industry. Like a wildfire that clears the brush for new ground. Hopefully it forces most of the garbage shows and executives out of Hollywood and we get something better. How many serial killer shows can you watch. Stupid.


The shows can’t get any more stupid or worse in their banality. The network bigwigs are already addleheaded coke fans (not the diet variety). Quick: name three tv shows that are made for people with an IQ above 100.

I guess as a blog writer, I should theoretically be in solidarity with the WGA but I’m having a hard time seeing their demands as realistic. The issues are complicated, and I don’t pretend to understand them fully, but the crux of the disagreement deals with how writers will be compensated for programs appearing in “new media” such as Internet downloads, streaming, smart phones, etc. The studios want to continue to pay the same percentage of residuals that they negotiated for home video (VHS/DVD) content back in the mid-1980′s, but the writers are in essence demanding a “do-over”. They feel like they got short-changed 20 years ago; bitter and resentful ever since, they’re now unwilling to make what they see as similar concessions for “new media” distribution. Plus, the writers are asking to be paid even for non-scripted programs such as reality shows (e.g., American Idol) where there is no pre-written dialogue, which doesn’t seem right to me.

As is usual with most disagreements involving compensation, it comes down to how you define the word “fair”. AMPTP president Nick Counter says: “We are ready to meet at any time and remain committed to reaching a fair and reasonable deal that keeps the industry working.” Meanwhile, the WGA says: “Writers want to go back to work and will do so as soon as the AMPTP returns to the negotiating table and bargains a fair deal.”

In the meantime, everyone loses — the studios, the writers, the viewers, and most of all those people who support the television and film production industry such as cast and crew members, caterers, prop and costume rental companies, and the like. Recent estimates by ABC News put the loss to the industry at over a billion dollars so far. There is some hope that contract negotiations currently underway between the studios and the Director’s Guild (DGA) will lead to a deal that will serve as a model to coax the writers and studios back to the table. “I hope it sets a good template for everybody,” writer Leonard Dick said of the DGA talks, as he and about 200 others picketed outside Warner Brothers. “We want to put everybody back to work. My kids are sick of seeing me around the house.”

How has the strike affected you? Are you watching less TV, or channel-surfing more instead of tuning in specific programs? Are you spending more time on the Internet or (gasp!) reading? Please comment.

Chiken’s revenge

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Still yet more proof that I have way too much time on my hands: After ruminating on yesterday’s post for a while, this fell out of my head today (with a little help from Photoshop).

There’s nothing like the concept of interspecies annihilation to get the ol’ creative juices flowing, I always say. I suspect this is one reason why some people are vegetarians.

Eet mor chikken, use mor kompewter

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

So I’m in Houston today, having another round of pulmonary function tests. There’s great news to report: my numbers are UP since last time — woo hoo! My FVC (or Forced Vital Capacity, a primary measurement of lung health) has gone from 56% in October to 60% today. I will therefore dodge the transplant bullet for at least another three months.

What does this have to do with “chikin”, you ask? After leaving the hospital this afternoon and before beginning the long 3-hour drive home, I was hungry and decided to stop at a nearby Chick-fil-A for supper. While dining, I noticed that a number of folks had their laptops out and realized this particular restaurant had Wi-Fi, as is the growing trend these days — even at fast-food joints like Micky Dee’s. I had left mine in the car, but I was parked right next to the entrance and figured I would be close enough to still be in range, and might check e-mail from the parking lot before heading down the road. However, some public hot spots require a password, or a register receipt number, or something similar for access. So, as one of the friendly employees walked past me, I caught his eye and asked, “Excuse me, do I need to do anything special for Wi-Fi access here?”

He looked at my table (which at that moment contained only my Original Chicken Sandwich and an order of Waffle Fries) and hesitated only momentarily before replying:

“Well, yeah, you need a computer.”

Duh. Do I really look that stupid? Have they actually had customers who needed to be told this?

But I just laughed, and found that I indeed had to register first but could do so online once I connected to their network. I got the laptop from the car, and that’s what I’ve done. Since traffic in Houston is so god-awful at this time of day, I may linger here for a while to let it clear out a bit, and have a slice of pie and some coffee before doing battle with the freeway crowd.

In any case, this post represents a landmark of sorts, being the first time I have actually blogged from a public place. Other customers occasionally are staring at me; I wonder if they think I’m downloading porn or something. Maybe I look like that sort of a guy.

Nope. Only a low-life Blogging Degenerate. That’s better, right?

Theme song

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Every presidential candidate needs a snappy theme song to whip up the crowd’s enthusiasm at public appearances. Remember Bill Clinton, and Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)”? A great choice, and I honestly believe that the optimism expressed in this song played no small part in his 1992 election. The 2008 pack needs something similar, and today I had a flash of inspiration.

I’ve played the song “Mama” by The Housefellas (feat. Christine Moore) a few times on my radio show and always liked it, but I suddenly realized today that with one simple word change, this tune would make the perfect theme for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign. It’s got a funky, exciting groove and the words are spot on — just substitute “Obama” for “Oh Mama” as you listen to my 3-minute edit of the song, and see if you agree:

Let’s get it started y’all!
Let’s get it started for Obama!
C’mon yall … let’s take it higher! C’mon!
Obama, Obama (sing it again!)
Obama, Obama (sing it again!)
Obama, Obama (Bama … Bama … Bama)
You set my soul on fire
You set my spirit free
Your love just keeps on higher
Your love is burnin’ in me
It’d take a thousand lifetimes
To say the way I feel
Your light it keeps on shinin’
And now I know it’s real
I know you’ll take me higher
Into another world
Just keep the fire burnin’
Just wanna be your girl

Sing it again…
Obama, Obama (sing it again!)

Crowds already go wild for Obama, and I can easily visualize thousands of delegates in Denver next August in a mass frenzy, jumping up and down and chanting the refrain “Obama, Obama” in unison (sing it again!) as he makes his entrance onto the convention stage. What do you think? Am I on to something?

Brother can you spare some change?

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Welcome to the first Wind In The Wire blog post of 2008! Yes, I’ve been slacking off lately but I decided that I simply must get off my lazy ass and write something, anything — mainly so I wouldn’t have to continue to look at those two butt-ugly corn-bag-throwin’ redneck dudes from the video in my last post at the top of my page. It was starting to get embarrassing.

But I hope everyone had a great holiday. I’m writing this on the eve of the New Hampshire primary election, and by the time you read this the citizens of The Granite State will have spoken, and having decided the fate of the nation and perhaps much of the world by their vote, will have gone back into hibernation until 2012. I was born and raised in New England myself, and yes, it gets that freaking cold up there in January. Perhaps it’s the frigid weather, or the fact that the race for the 2008 White House has been going on since, oh, mid-2002, and now that the new year has arrived, has reached a full-blown fever pitch. In any case, the mood in New Hampshire, according to respected serious political journalist Dave Barry, can be currently defined in one word: “testy”. He says:

This was clear during the big televised two-party debate sponsored by ABC News, Facebook, Mountain Dew, MySpace, eBay, Viagra, Microsoft and the Select Number Sleep Comfort Bed. The debate, moderated by avuncular newsman Charlie Gibson, was the pivotal moment of the New Hampshire campaign, and across the nation more than 20 million interested American households tuned in to the NFL playoffs, which were going on at the same time.

But those who watched the debates saw history in the making, as it became clear, over the course of the evening, that one person, and one person only, embodies the wisdom, the judgment, the maturity and — yes — the simple humanity that this nation desperately needs in its next president: Charlie Gibson.

Unfortunately he can’t afford the pay cut. This means we’re stuck with the actual candidates, who, as I say, are in a testy mood, as was evidenced in the Republican debate when John McCain and Mike Huckabee, during a particularly testy exchange over illegal immigration, gave Mitt Romney a wedgie. The Democrats, meanwhile, continued their ongoing obsessive argument about change — who is the most for change; who has done the most changing; who can change with the changing times to bring change to those who need a change; who has taken the time, with all this tromping around New Hampshire night and day demanding change, to change their underwear; etc.

I haven’t commented much on the election in this space so far, despite my unabashedly liberal bent … probably because I’m having a hard time deciding who I like, or more precisely, who I despise the least. I think a lot of people find themselves in this position at the moment. Fortunately for that big amorphous blob of “undecided” voters like myself, there is no shortage of automated survey tools on the internet that will cheerfully spit out an ideal candidate based on your own positions on the various issues. I call these “Pres-O-Matics”, and here are just a few of them:


http://glassbooth.org/ (an especially good one)

http://www.selectsmart.com/president/2008.html (has some ads)


Finally, USA-Today’s “Candidate Match Game” has neat graphics featuring pop-up candidate heads. If only the actual voting in November would be this much fun.

The problem I’ve found after trying several of these sites is that they each suggest a different candidate even though I input the exact same information about my preferences on the issues. One will say “Oh yeah, you like Hillary, all right”, while another screams “Obama’s your man”, and still yet another says “If you were gay, you would totally do Dennis Kucinich.” So I’m confused.*

It’s damn lucky for me that I don’t play the ponies; my talent for “picking a winner” — as evidenced by my Fred Thompson prediction last year — obviously sucks. Nevertheless, Obama seems to be surging, so I’ll go out on a limb here and say I think he has the best chance to win in November. It will be interesting to see how it all goes; indeed, there will be no escaping it, unless one relocates here until 2009, which I am seriously considering. One thing we can say for certain: there will be change.

*BTW: for the record, I am not gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The Cornhole Song

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Discovered this today while surfing the web, and it seems fitting to wrap up the year with. I swear this will be my last Cornhole post.

Happy New Year, everybody! Here’s to a great 2008!

You ask, I answer

Friday, December 28th, 2007

In a comment to my last post, Sphincter asked: “BTW, what happened with the Cornhole Game?” Now you should know that I take these sort of questions from my readers very seriously, mainly because I realize that if I don’t, and as a result were to lose just one reader, this would … well, it would cut my audience in half, basically, and that would be tragic. So without further adieu* let me present — complete with color photos! — the conclusion to the Great Christmas Cornhole Caper of 2007:

Completed “naked” cornhole set prior to being painted, with a closeup of the retractable leg area. Look at the detail! Look at the craftsmanship! Look at how I forgot to remove my cutting guide lines!

After applying a primer coat and base layer of lovely slate-gray paint, I next proceeded to deftly add the mind-boggling complex design pattern atop the boards. (Ignore that big ugly overspray of day-glo orange on the front there in the left photo. OK, I had to repaint it, but I’m prepared to suffer for my art.) Finally, I applied several coats of Minwax Polycrylic® to seal and protect the finish, and give it a lustrous shine. Because that’s just how I roll.

Christmas morning: L&T opening the elaborately boxed and wrapped corn bags while the boards remained cleverly hidden in the garage. Initially, since they had no concept of the game, I played a little joke on them by pretending that the bags alone were their complete present. This kept everyone in a somewhat bewildered state (major source of bewilderment: trying to remain polite while wondering whether to call 911 for medical assistance since I clearly appeared to have lost my mind) for several minutes until I piped up with “Oh wait! I almost forgot, there’s something else that goes with it!” I’m such a kidder. The boards then appeared through the back door, and as they say, “the crowd went wild.”

While Cornhole is not exactly an indoor sport, we nevertheless risked damage to our windows, fine china, cats, and other breakable items by setting up the targets in the living room in order for me to demonstrate the detailed, highly complicated rules of the game, which can be summarized thusly: try to toss the bag through the freakin’ hole. In the photos above, Dead-Eye Brady takes aim; he shoots, he scores!! Seriously, the game set was a huge hit, especially with the kids. We’ve heard that they’ve held family back yard tournaments nearly every night since Christmas and L. is talking about making Cornhole sets for all their friends, and (unlike Mrs. Toast and I, barbaric heathens who live in near-seclusion) they know a whole bunch o’ people, mostly through their church back home near Austin. At this rate, if their enjoyment of the sport catches on, I may turn out to be singularly responsible for the spread of Cornhole into East-Central Texas, which will mean that if there was ever any doubt before, there’s none now:

I’m going to hell.

*Exactly what is “adieu”, anyway? And why should there be no further of it now? I’ve never been able to figure this expression out.

Christmas Eve

Monday, December 24th, 2007

At last, it’s here: that one magical night each year when kids of all ages go to sleep listening for the sound of sleigh bells on the roof and dream of dancing sugar plums. In keeping with that thought, it should not come as much of a surprise to learn that Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, more popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, is perhaps the most parodied poem in the English language. Its sing-song meter and old-fashioned imagery make it ripe for satire. Here are links to a few of the many spoofs of Moore’s famous work:

A Lawyer’s Christmas

A Nascar Christmas

An Intellectual Christmas

A Florida Christmas

A Texas Christmas

However, of all the adaptations of this classic holiday chestnut, the following, entitled “A Visit from St. Nicholas In The Ernest Hemingway Manner” is my favorite. It was written by the estimable James Thurber and originally appeared in The New Yorker exactly eighty years ago tonight, on December 24, 1927. Enjoy.

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mama and I were in our beds. Mama wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said Mama.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said Mama.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” Mama said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said Mama.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” Mama asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof.

“Shut the window,” said Mama.

I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mama sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” Mama asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mama lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked Mama.

“Just fly is all.”

Mama turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked Mama. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” Mama said. “You and your goddam flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” Mama said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if Mama was right.

Even our cat Tiger barely opens one eye from his holiday slumber to say…

Merry Christmas to all!