Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Brief Excursion Into The Tangled Underbrush of Heisenberg Family History

Out of nowhere this holiday weekend I got a letter from a supposed cousin of mine whom I've never met. This would be a cousin on my mother's side, the Quislings, Quisling being Teh 'Mom's maiden name, her father having been Glaven Quisling, born May 15, 1899, which those of you who've cared enough to pay attention will recognize as my birthday as well, except mine happened in 1960. And that — the fact that I was born on my grandfather's birthday — is why I was named "Glaven Quiznos Heisenberg" instead of something lame, like Steve Quick, or something lamer still, like Run Bitch Run1.

So anyroad, I got this letter out of the blue from this guy claiming to be the grandson of Glaven Quizgame's sister. Included in the letter was my grandfather's obit from the NYT in 1949.

The fact that the guy could trace himself back to my grandfather, Glaven Quisp, should on its own have been enough to prove he was for real, was an actual relative. But in his letter, he also included the odd but seemingly innocuous factoid that he was curious about my side of the family because his grandmother — my grandfather's sister — never talked about her brother. Obviously, there had been some sort of falling out between siblings, viz., my grandfather and his sister. I read that part to Teh 'Bride and she sez: "O, he's related to you on your mother's side of the family, all right!"

Because my mother was a skilled — nay: unmatched — practitioner of the Art of what Teh 'Bro accurately calls "Teh Shunning". Teh 'Mom, bless her Irish heart, was perpetually not speaking to someone or other. Teh 'Bro had been on the receiving end of this treatment more than once for some unclear transgression or other. (Rule One of Shunning: You never tell the Shunned why he's being Shunned. What fun would that be?) One particular 'Bro-aimed Shunning lasted for over a year, as I recall.

I myself was never Shunned, but that's only because I'm just objectively so goddamned, fucking lovable that you just want to Eat Me Up, not Shun me. I am, in fact, one of the few relatives of Teh 'Mom who wasn't Shunned by her.

Now, I can't say that these Shunnings were all initiated by Teh 'Mom, because if this letter from my long lost cousin proves nothing else, it proves this, at least: that Shunning in the Queequeg Family is pretty much a dominant genetic trait. Teh 'Mom was the Past Master at it — and why wouldn't she be? She had the most practice — but others in my family could Shun Teh Fuck outta you, too. Part of the reason I never really got Shunned is I tend not to notice when I'm being Shunned and not spoken to; I just enjoy the quiet and think of it as a gift.

So, okay, maybe I have been Shunned. I just didn't care enough to notice.

So normally, while I'm enjoying the unusual and welcome quiet of An Unrecognized Shunning, Teh 'Bride has to ruin it by being "observant". She'll ask, "When was the last time your sister called?" And I'll be like, "Who the fuck cares?" And she'll be, "You know, I bet she's mad because of ..." and then she'll name some truly lame "offense" that only someone of Quiply Family Lineage could possibly be mad about, and she'll insist this "offended" my sister and I'll be obliged to e-mail her and Extend Teh Olive Branch.

All because Teh 'Bride has to go and "notice" things!

So anyroad, this guy contacts me to kinda fill in the blanks about my Mom's side of the family. Boy, did he pick the wrong Quakely-Heisenberg! Because our family history is made up of a series of disconnected anecdotes that I vaguely remember Teh 'Mom recounting at various times about people whose names I couldn't keep straight, much less their supposed relation to me, and so these stories've lost, in Whisper-Down-The-Lane fashion, even more useful data in my version. Plus, I just totally forgot most of them, because they are stories about people I never met because they all died before I was born.

In general, my family history is comprised of oral-tradition2 anecdotes. Anecdotes that are impossible, by the way, to string together into anything that even resembles a coherent narrative — coherent narratives being one of the main tools we use to remember long and complicated stories. But for Qiusbro history, you might have this one strand that you know eventually connects up with this other strand, but there's like a decade missing between them and so you can't get there from here without resorting to Fox Newsing it (i.e., making up your own facts). And even if you could connect them? The story they'd tell would be more subplot than plot; you'd end up more Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead  than Hamlet.

But the thing is, I think there may be something more akin to Hamlet — or, better still, King Lear — in my family history, but those stories are probably lost.

I debated even responding to this guy, but Teh 'Bride and Teh 'Dad prevailed upon me, so I e-mailed him and have heard back already. He seems nice enough. I'll keep my distance, though, because I really already have enough family to contend with (there is currently yet another Family Shunning in progress, and who need the potential for more of that bullshit?). Plus, genealogical ties? Meh. Who cares? My adopted son and I share no genes, yet he couldn't be more my son. To me, shared genes are not what makes a family.

At times? They even stand in the way.
November Stats:
Running Miles: 110.27 (1013.4 miles for the year so far)
Walking: 32.73
Total: 143

You will notice that there are still no pussy-@$$ miles from riding my pussy-@$$ recumbent exercise bike because it's still broken. But I should be getting it back from Art's Welding any day now. We took it there a few weeks ago and Art promised to call us next day to tell us if it was fixable. He never did. I finally went there this past Friday and he said it got buried under a pile of stuff but was fixable and that it'd be done that day. We then promptly never returned to get it.

But we will. This weekend.

Other than that, I'm pretty happy because I was hoping to break 1000 running miles for the year, which I did. Now I want to make it 1100. Which I should have no problem doing .

November's 110.27 running miles just edges out March's 110.21 miles for the most of any month this year. And March had one more day than November.

There's a stat I won't Shun.
1 Praise Jebus I dodged those bullets!

2 As opposed to LuMu, who's more from teh anal tradition.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Doop-de-Doop-de-Doop ...

Tuh-hilk! Just a-hangin' out on Teh Intertubes, even though Ah knows there's nuthin' goin' on, whut with it bein' Thanksgiving weekend 'n' all ...

Still, it's better than the alternative, which, right now, would be doing exercise. Which I'll eventually do at some point this morning, just not right now.

O, here's on thing that might interest you, since I promised I'd tell you when this mystery was solve ... I found my missing gloves!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Anatomy of a Turkeytrotter*

* TITLE FOOTNOTE: First things first: "Anatomy" in this sense: a study of the structure or internal workings of something.

So ... no pix of my junk.

Sorry, Ladies.
This thing is long1and so I will spare those of you who are interested only in the running stats by giving them right up front so you can skip the rest of this post because, though I haven't even written it yet? Yeah, I already know it is going to be massively, colossally irritating in like 11,000 ways. So here goes:

My actual time: 26:12 (I reported 26:10 clock time yesterday but that, evidently, was "wrong". If you ask me, Diebold must have been doing the timing and they probably shaved two seconds off someone else's time and gave them to me, the fuckers)

UPDATE 11/28: Chip Time:  24:54. (So it took 1:18 to get to the starting line. From .1 mile away)

My actual place: 879 in a field of 3851 finishers.

Age Group Place: M50-54: 44/191

Pace: 8:26

There. That was short and painless (see FN1, below, and thereby save me the effort of having to write a second footnote). Those of you who care only about Teh Running Numbers are now free to move on because there won't be any more of that in this post. Though I don't know why you would want to. Move on, that is. Because there's nothing else to read out there in Teh Running Blogosphere. Exactly who else out there is writing blog posts on Black Friday when they could be spending time with Teh family upstairs, especially Uncle Clyde, who's already drunk — again — before Noon and is currently regaling everyone with his really, ahem, "interesting" theories on race and is making pretty liberal use of such epithets as "Jew-boys" and "the coloreds" and seems not to notice the collective cringing his choice of words provokes ... but you fucking well better not use the term "liberal" to his face to describe what he's doing because that'll just get him het up enough to use epithets that will make "Jew-boys" and "the colored" look quaint — complimentary, even — by way of comparison and you'll vaguely recall that, a few years ago, after Clyde left, everyone else sat around and tried to remember just how he was related to you all ("your side of the family? Because he's not from my side!") and nobody, not even your weird sister who goes to the library every weekend to do family genealogical research, can say exactly how he's related? And you suspect, but can't prove, that he just kinda showed up one Thanksgiving, back when you were 5 or so, and for some reason your parents never tossed him out, so now you can't kick him out because of some sort of Informal Statute of Limitations on Familial Identity Fraud.

Plus, he brings his own booze and shares it liberally.

Again, just don't use that word in front of him.
As I said in an earlier post, this is the fourth time I've run My Tiny Little Mid-Northish Joisey Town's Turkey Trot. In fact, I lost my racing cherry to it way back in 2007, when I was a still-vibrant, wide-eyed innocent of 47 and Teh Trot came along with its smoove line of bullshit, saying "Do me!" and I tried to resist but I'm only human and after awhile I just gave in and let it have its way with me and do you think it called the next day?

No, it did not.

Reader, I felt like a total whoo-wer. I mean, more than usual.

Anyroad, I've run it every year since then and, as I noted in yesterday's post, got progressively slower with each passing year. Which I didn't think was possible because my 2007 time was like 27:34, which is pretty slow. I'd like to say it's one of my slowest overall 5k times, but I'd also like not to lie to you, so you see my dilemma. Because in 2008 my time was 28:47 (okay ... I ran it with tendinitis in my knee that year, but still); then last year, totally healthy, I ran a 29:21!

My goal this year was to reverse this diminishing returns trend. But a time of under 27:00 would be sweet.

Yours Truly, pre-race. You can see the determination in my eyes almost as well as you can see the wind in my ears.
Once again, I have the wind in my ears. Pix like this remind me of why I usually let my hair grow — just to cover up those Dumbo ears. This pic was taken as I rounded the last corner in the race, so about .2 miles to go. I'm carrying my gloves for reasons I'll explain below.

I reckoned that the only way I'd get a decent time would be by cheating, by which I mean lining up with the 6-minute mile people. Or better. Because in a race where there are like 4000 people, there are always buttholes who have no business lining up near the front with the 5-minute milers; and yet, as we all know, they do. This year, I was determined to be one of those buttholes.

It's not even so much the egregiously slow runners, who move, at least, albeit glacially. There were fucking walkers in front of me this year ... still ... even though, truth be told, I lined up at the back of the 5-minute milers pack. (Because I inched my way up from the front of the 6-minute miler area.) So I was dodging these fuckers for like the first quarter mile.

Because when I lined up, there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people ahead of me. Literally. I was looking around at them all and very few of them looked to be capable of running faster than I; and I know looks can be deceiving, but I really think, e.g., that 70+-year-old dude whose orange timing chip was still stuck to his bib instead of slotted through his shoelaces was gonna run a 5-minute mile. I could be wrong.

And so it was slightly disheartening when, after the gun went off, we "5-minute-milers" still experienced a go-stop start — wherein you start to run at the sound of the gun, but you get only 5 feet before you come to a dead halt thanks to the slow "runners" in front of you. Even from the back of the 5-minute milers group — less that .1 mile from the starting mat — it took a full 45 seconds, I'd estimate, to get to the mat, and even then at barely better than a walking pace.

Total suckage. Next year, I am lining up as close to the starting line as I can. Fuck it.

And then, when you do start to run, you immediately start running into these fucking walls of walkers, walking two-, three-abreast, and even though you're a live-and-let-live groovy hippie type, you find yourself wishing something Saw 3-D-violent would happen to these jerkoffs. You wish you had the chutzpah just to run them over, but you don't, but you find yourself wishing someone would, just to teach them a lesson in running eddykit. Fuckers. They're worse than Hitler.

And thanks to the congestion and the walkers, and the slow runners, you spend as much time, in the first mile, running laterally, like pre-murder OJ, looking for daylight to charge through and out into the open. But even when you find it, you're immediately surrounded by another squadron of slow foax, on all of whom you are now wishing a case of the pox along with other vaguely Elizabethan imprecations.

My utter hatred of all the runners in this race was eventually redeemed when I got to about the halfway point, where there was, to my surprise, a water station. I don't think there had ever been one in previous years, most likely because with 4000 runners zooming by, how many do you really think will even be able to get to that little water station? Plus, it's a 5k. Most runners can manage not to become dehydrated in 3 miles — they can tough it out.

But for some reason, I decided to veer over and get one of the stubby little 4-oz (I guess) bottles of water; but it was hard (see FN1) to get over in time and when I got there the only person holding out a bottle was this like 9-year-old girl, and I tried to grab the bottle from her, which I did manage to do. But I immediately dropped it. And I'm like, "Dammit!" — I think more because I was afraid someone might trip over it.

So then, over the music playing in my ears (no, I'm not schizophrenic; I had my iPod on), I hear this dude saying, "You want mine?" And he's offering me his bottle of water. So I yell over the sound of the music that he can't hear: "ARE YOU SURE?" And he sez, "Yeah, I was just gonna splash my face." So I take it and say, "THANKS, DUDE!"

And so to the dude who gave me his water: Thanks, dude. (<-- Said in a more civil tone this time.)

I twisted off the top, got a swig or two out of the bottle, and tried to recap it, which I did, but loosely. So I'm running with it in my hand, and it's slowly leaking into my glove, which I eventually notice is pretty soaking wet. At around the 2.4-mile mark, I decide to try to drink some more water ... and I manage to drop this bottle, too. Said "Fuck!" this time, because I always try to escalate when it comes to my cussing, but it's rare that I skip over the intermediate "Shit!" and "Cocksucker!" and got straight to "Fuck!" but this time I did, I guess because I was filled with the holiday spirit.

God knows how many runners I was inadvertently guilty of taking out that day with my bottle-bombs.

So anyroad, that's why I have my rolled-up gloves in my hand in that picture, above: because one of the gloves was wet and I had gone with my shockingly scarlet pocket-less outfit that day because I like to make bold fashion choices and so there were no pockets to put the wet gloves in but I have no regrets because the pocket-less look is very slimming and creates lines that draw attention to my junk. Mystery solved because I know you fucking care and would have lost sleep over it if I hadn't explained why I was carrying my gloves. Incidentally, I can't find those gloves now, even though I know I brought them home. When I find them, I will let you know because I know how you hate unsolved mysteries.

So the rest of it: Finish line, meet up with Ian and Teh 'Bride, and then home to a hot shower.

The end.
O, yeah — one last thing: I went for a 6.16 mile run today (9:24 pace), which put me over the 1000-mile mark for the year. I have run exactly 1000.5 miles so far this year. Now I'm shooting for 1100, which I should be able to reach.
Bonus material that is unrelated to anything:

The weather held up pretty well for the race, but it snowed for quite a while afterwards. Not enough to snowboard. Or was there?

Ian shows you how to milk the promise of a doggie treat to the point where your dog sez "Eff this; it's not worth it" and just walks away.

1 If you actually had to come alllllll the way down here to this footnote to learn — - Surprise! — that all it was gonna say was "That's What She Said!1!" then you're either a noob to this blog or incredibly thick (by the way, that too is what she said1a) because if you read this blog with any regularity, or even when constipated, you should by know recognize when an irritating "That's What She Said!1!" FN is coming (That's What She Said!1!), because even I know I've been pretty much telegraphing them for awhile.

1a To be clear: our hypothetical she was talking about my hypothetical penis when she said that, not my intellectual capabilities.

And ladies? My hypothetical penis is nothing compared to my actual one, which is something "she" also noted by-the-bye.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey ... UPDATED!1!

... trot1.

It starts in like 45 minutes. I'll roll outta here in like 20.

Teh 'Bride bought me a $1 Bondi Band at a flea market the other day and I was gonna wear it in this race — and had I, it woulda been the first race in which I did not wear one of my two Daniel-san Karete Kid headbands with the oriental characters for "douche satchel" on them — but Ian absolutely would NOT let me because he said it made me look like a girl. "A pretty girl?" I asked.

"No," he replied. Then ran into the bathroom to scrub off the cooties.

Anyroad, after the race, we head out for a Noontide Thanksgiving Meal at this 300-year-old Inn. So it'll be a while before I get it up2.

So I leave you with this joke that I heard David Sedaris tell the other night, because it made me laff:

A guy is sitting alone at home one night watching TV and a knock comes on the door. The guy opens the door and looks down to see a snail there.

"I'd like to talk to you about buying some magazine subscriptions," sez the snail.

Well, the dude is so pissed at this interruption, he rears back and kicks the snail as hard as he can and slams the door shut.

Two years later, there's another knock on the door.

The guy opens the door and there's the same snail.

"What the fuck was that about?" sez the snail.
UPDATE 10:25: Well, I reversed the trend because my clock time this year was 26:10, and my chip time will most likely be at least 30 seconds faster. 

Last year's Turkey Trot clock time?

Twenty-nine: Twenty-one! (Chip time was 27:11.)

2007: 27:34

2008: 28:47
1 I coulda gone at least one other way, there. I could, for example, have gone "...day". It would have changed the whole trajectory of this post, if I had.

Hahahahahahaha! As IF! I jump from topic to topic in my posts, like a frog to his many lilypads! Unifying thread? I don't need no steenkin' unifying thread!

Which is wrong, by the way. I mean that parody quote. It's really a prody misquote because the actual quote from Teh Treasure of  the Sierra Madre is:
Dobbs: "If you're the police where are your badges?"
Gold Hat:
"Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"
But even that is wrong because the line is misquoted thusly in Blazing Saddles:

"Badges? We don't need no stinking badges."

Which, though wrong as a quote of TTotSM, is, in and of itself, a quote from a movie. So if you (or I) were parodying that line, you (we) were correct. Thus, if you ever say, "Play it again, Sam" — which is not the line from Casablanca — and some douche-satchel tells you you're wrong, just say, "Fuck you. I was quoting one of the myriad films in which that line is misquoted. In this case, the film being Play It Again, Sam, starring Woody Allen."

N.B.: Even though that's the title of that film, I do not know for a fact that anyone in the film actually says that line. It's been years since I saw it. In any case, your  douche-satchel interlocutor won't know that, either, so you'll be safe.

See? Topic to topic, no unifying thread.

2 "It" being my race report, you pigs.

Because the other "it"?

Yeah, that's already up.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You're A Good (Wo)Man, Charlie 'Bride

You may remember my mentioning a few posts ago that Ian chose, for his birthday, to go to the local Japanese Hibachi restaurant where part of the ritual humiliation is the chef's flinging cooked broccoli at you with his spatula, which broccoli you're supposed to try to catch in your mouth, a game that sprang up, I guess, because it's probably the only way to get otherwise sane people to put broccoli in their mouths.

But here's the thing:

It's only humiliating if:

a. You catch like a girl
2. You are susceptible to peer pressure.

Which, to put it another way, means that, as far as the H'berg family goes, it's humiliating only if you're Teh 'Bride because she embodies both of those qualities.

Because it was Ian, Teh 'Bride, Grandma (Teh 'B.'s mother), and myself at the restaurant; and Grandma, I suspect, catches more like a girl than Teh 'Bride, even, but when the chef tried to get her to participate, she politely, but firmly, declined, by telling him to go fuck himself1.

Ian and I, of course, caught our broccoli first try, which is a mixed blessing, because you can get all high-fivey, "Dude! GREAT catch!" about it, but also, when all is said and done, you end up with fucking broccoli in your mouth, which is massively ungroovy.

And so now it's Teh 'Bride's turn, and she's tying hard to decline, but someone, possibly me, is all, "Come on! You can do it! Think of the glory if, this time, Lucy doesn't pull that football away at the last moment! Think of how good it will be, you blockhead, if you finally catch that broccoli and can look the world in the face and say, 'I may be a girl, but FROM THIS DAY ON LET THE WORD GO FORTH: I NO LONGER CATCH LIKE ONE!1!'"

Spoiler Alert: Teh 'Bride still catches like a girl.

Because somehow, this blatantly nonsensical appeal worked and the chef flung a piece of broccoli at Teh 'Bride three times, and each one of them bounced off her face, nowhere near her mouth, and Reader? It was exactly as awesomely funny as you suspect. The highlight of the meal, in fact, as usual.

Anyroad, here's some more birthday/Ian-related stuff:

A post or two ago, I included a video of the stream in our backyard. Teh 'B., just last night during her quarterly review of this blog, read that post and pointed out that I managed somehow not to catch Ian's Teepee2 in that video — quite a feat, since it's right there (see above). And it's true: I missed it.

But ladies and gentlemen (and RBR) of the jury, in my defense I submit the image above: SEE how well that teepee blends in with its environment? When Teh 'Bride told me about it, I looked out our dining room window for it and could not see it! I managed not to see it while standing two feet away from it making that stupid stream video, too. What higher compliment could I pay it ... other than to point out how shapely — nay, pneumatic — it is3?

Ian got a pitchback for his birthday. He insisted it be "wrapped", so Teh 'B. improvised the "wrapping" above.

Here he is trying it out:

A few weeks ago, Teh 'Bride went to DC alone for the weekend to help a friend de-pile her house. Ian made the poster you see above to welcome her back — which seems to say "Welcome Home Mon", but, in his defense, I may have told him his Mom was in Jamaica because I thought it would be less traumatic.

And this is Ian after smoking his first Dubois. KIDDING!1! He had PLENTY of doobies before that one! No, really, this is the fireplace at Grandma's. It was roughly 75 degrees that day, but Ian insisted on starting a fire. Then ... he insisted on getting all college freshman "profound" about it.
1 It's okay, though, because she didn't say it in Japanese.

Also? She didn't say it.

2 Incidentally, that Teepee is made of branches and other crap that Mr. Y. cut down from various neighborhood yards and swept out on the street for the Borough Vacuum/Dump Truck to cart away. Ian recycled it to make a teepee because he's in fifth grade and they're studying Native American Cultures and he learned, evidently, that the Native Americans used every part of the garbage, not just its hide.

3 I should point out that the last "fort" Ian made was at his babysitter's this summer and he and the other kids made it out of a "fuzzy vine" material that oozed a substance that Ian got all over himself, even his face, and it was obviously poison something-or-other, because he looked like this for about 3 weeks:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Hodgepodge of Boring Crap But At Least It's Mostly Related to Running

On Sunday morning, I went for a 10.6 mile run; it was the first double-digit run I've done since October 24. It was at a 9:30 pace. Far from spectacular, but since the idea was to run long (for me), not fast, I think I'll manage to live with that pace.

Also this past weekend:

On Saturday morning, I went to the Expo for my Little Mid-Northish Joisey Town's incredibly popular Turkey Trot, for to pick up my bib and chip (mmmm ... bib 'n' chips ....). I am number 1195. There will undoubtedly be more people in this year's race than there are people who live in my town, whose population is just slightly over 4000.

The Turkey Trot is the first race I ever ran, way back in 2007. This'll be my fourth time running it. Interesting factoid: My times have gotten progressively slower with each passing year. But that is only because I'm honest.

See, more and more people run Teh Trot every year; I am not sure how or why it became so popular. The race organizers ask you to line up in the area designating the pace you think you're capable of running, which is typical for races of this size, I guess. But here's the thing: There are these — let's call them, O ... I dunno ... walkers — who evidently labor under the fucktarded delusion that they are going to walk 3.11 miles at a 5 minute pace. So you ("you" being "me", who lined up, honestly, in the 8-minute-mile pace area even though you're capable on a good day of a 7:xx pace in a 5K race) spend the first half mile of the race dodging your way through, not just slower runners, but also these douchenozzles walkers, who, by the way, always walk in packs of no less than 6 and frequently like to link arms, which technically takes them past the designation "douchenozzle" and propels them into the realm of Teh Truly @$$holic. GET A FUCKING ROOM, DOUCHENOZZLESSLASH@$$HOLES!1! And I hope NONE of you gets to second base, you hand-holding luuuuzers!1!

And even though the T. Trot has been chip-timed since at least 2007, it wasn't till last year that they recorded your start time (as well as your end time) with the chip. Of course, it takes those of us lined up in the 8-minute pace area at least two minutes to get to the starting line, after which point you're still weaving your way through the walkers and slower runners, and will be for at least another half mile.

And so last year — which in reality was the fastest year for me — was, according to the clock, actually slower than the two previous years. But okay, when they FINALLY posted the chip times, I was two minutes faster than what the clock time alleged to be the case, so ... big fucking deal, right?

But here's the thing. Not much happens in this town. So our local rag prints the names of all the runners — like six thousand, last year — in the issue after the race because the Turkey Trot qualifies as news. But chip time was evidently still not available when the rag went to press (or they consider clock time to be the "official" time, which is probably more likely); and so there I was listed by name in our local rag with the slowest time I had ever posted in this race, and it was an embarrassingly slow time. (Shaving two minutes off it did not take it out of the realm of the embarrassing, though.)

So this year — fuck it — I'm lining up with the 4-minute milers.

This morning I did my last training run before the trot, 6.56 miles at a 8:54 pace, the last 2.5 miles of which were on the main part of the Turkey Trot course. I can't remember the last time I had a 6+ mile non-race run at a pace under 9 minutes. I wish I could attribute this pace to my being self-motivated  but I can't because I'm not.

What happened this morning was, at about the 6-mile point of my run, I got passed by this other runner — possibly a fellow geezer, but I can't be sure because it was both dark and foggy this morning — who, I suspect, was running the T. Trot course as training for the race on Thursday. (You see a lot of foax doing that this close to the race.) He began to pull away from me, which led me to pick my own pace up. But he still opened up about a block lead on me. But I kept his lead at a block because I was pretty much running all out for that last half mile or so.

Otherwise, I'm pretty sure my pace would have been >9 minutes.

It's supposed to rain on Thursday, Trot Day, which will truly suck.
It's just possible, though unlikely, that you remember that I ran a 5k race like a week-and-a-half ago. Even less likely ... that you care now, or did even then. You'll remember (or won't) and you'll care (pffftt!  as if) that I did not, at the time of my report, know the results of that race because I didn't hang around to learn what they were and, when I wrote my report, two days later, they still hadn't been posted.

Well, for some reason, I decided to check the HS's web site again today, because I'm nothing if not anal thorough. And, lo-and-behold, there they were, the results, in nominally downloadable format.

Indulge me as I now engage in a Micro$oft-bashing aside:

For some fucking reason known only to Voldemort Gates himself, M$'s latest version of the Office suite — which, like the past ten or so iterations of Office, offers nothing really new — adds an "x" to the various file extensions. As far as I can tell, this is the only "new" thing about Office. So a word doc's name in this new suite would now be "billgatesisanevilfucktard.docx" instead of "billgatesisanevilfucktard.doc". Earlier versions of Word cannot open the .docx files; earlier versions of Excel cannot open the .xlsx files. Moreover, Microsoft's own fucking retarded fucking browser, which used to be able to handle Word and Excel files, cannot display these four-character-extension files. (Nor can Firefox.) If you want that Word doc to open in the browser, you'd fucking well better convert it back into the three-character-extension format.

Now, I use a Mac at home and I have Office 2004, which is to say, the last version to use the three-character extensions. The HS douchebags decided to POST THE FUCKING RESULTS OF THE RACE in four-character-extension Excel. I had to fucking download TWO 50+-meg converters JUST TO OPEN A FILE THAT CONTAINED THE RUNNERS NAMES, TIMES, AND FINISHING PLACES AND NOTHING ELSE!1!

This school hasn't heard of PDFs?

Anyroad, my official time, which by now you couldn't POSSIBLY give a flying fart about:

27:59. (Remember, it was actually a 3.3-mile course, not a 5k, as if you care.)

I was 16th out of 98 runners. so I guess that Schmatterhorn-esque hill at the end killed more runners than just me.

I have no idea where I was in my age group because the results are just one big long list in a file that I had to wrestle open in hand to hand combat and somebody, PLEASE, if you see Bill Gates, KICK HIM HARD IN HIS TESTES SATCHEL!1!

But I can deduce that I was either the 11th or 10th dude overall because here are 6 of the first names before mine:

 Meagan, Anna, Erin, Antionette, Nikki, Justina. If all of them were chix, I was 10th. Erin, I reckon, could go either way. There was also a "Tyler", but I'm pretty sure that's a dude's name, albeit one who gets beat up a lot and deserves it with a name like that. No wonder he's fast. 

But if Tyler and Erin were chix? I was in the top 9.

Suck my dick, Bill Gates!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Have We Become?

In 1992, two years after Teh 'Bride and I married, we bought the house we currently live in, and hope to die in1, from this older couple, probably in their late 80's at the time. The old dude, Mr. W., was a do-it-yourselfer2, and the house was spotless and things were orderly, including, to our amazement, the little 3-foot-wide stream that runs through the backyard. Because I remember in a certain episode of The Simpsons, there was this circa 1940s "educational" film the kids at Springfield Elementary were forced to watch called Man Versus Nature: The Road to VICTORY! and I'm pretty sure Mr. W. must've owned a copy of that film because the stream had fucking concrete and cinder block walls on BOTH SIDES as it ran through his/our backyard. The stream is maybe two-and-a-half feet deep? But for those full two-and-a-half feet and for the length of the 35 or so yards of our backyard?

Concrete-and-cinder-block walls, the whole way.

Needless to say, none of the other neighbors had such an unnecessary and psychotically elaborate structure lining the sides of their sections of the stream.

Also needless to say: Teh 'Bride and I immediately let those stupid walls go to pot. I think Mr. W. lectured us on how much work it took to keep them in good repair. I think our reaction to the lecture was, "Yeah, thanks. Got any Mallomars?"

Anyroad, skip ahead 28 [18. Thanks, Xenia!] years and most of those walls have fallen victim to the elements and the concrete has fallen off the cinder blocks and some of the blocks, often three still cemented together, have fallen into the stream and we've dealt with that, for decades now, by ignoring it, which made us great friends with our immediately-upstream neighbor because whenever it rained heavily? Yeah, those blocks formed effective dams and the water would back up and kinda flood the upstream neighbor's yard for like 6 feet on both sides and evidently caused what he called "erosion" of the banks, according to him, but WE knew that the banking crisis was all Obama's fault so we told him to fuck off and write a letter to the Kenyan Muslim in Chief if he wanted to yell at someone.

But anyroad, that was like 6-7 years ago3; now, we have hired Teh Fantastic Mr. Fox to do work on our yard and the exterior of the house. And one of the things he did was wrestle those cinder blocks out of the stream. And he brought them up to the front of our house, by the curb, where, in theory, they should have been carted away by the Large Item Garbage Dudes who allegedly come when the Regular Garbage Dudes see Large Items of Garbage in front of your house.

But it's been weeks now, and even though the LIGDs took other crap from the front of our house, including smaller pieces of cinder block, there's this one three-blocks-long chunk that is still there.

Or was, till this morning. Because yesterday Ian raked the leaves in our front yard so it would be clear for him to use the pitchback (which he got for his birthday) today; and so he got up first this morning to play, but that 90-year-old neighbor, Mr. Y., was already out there raking away the leaves that Ian had raked out to the street yesterday. So Ian went out to help him.

And then Mr. Y. got his sledgehammer and he and Ian busted up the cinder blocks so they could be moved away from the front of our house.

And so now it occurs to me that we — teh 'Bride and I — are this neighborhood's "bad neighbors", in that we are considered the ones with the eyesore of a yard, one small step away from having a rusted, wheel-less shell of a Chevy Mustang lying in our front yard. And I'm sure Mr. Y. saw those cinder blocks and thought, "Well ... the cinder blocks are already in place ... how long could it be before these hillbillies break out the rusted-out, wheel-less Mustang shell to put up on those blocks?"

And that's probably what mobilized him.

Because to him, clearing out those cinder blocks was like a preemptive strike by the Neighborhood Beautification Committee.

Tuh-hilk! Teh 'Bride 'n' me, how the rest of the neighborhood sees us: As Jersey Hillbillies

And so it occurs to me that we have somehow become the embodiment of the Teabagger movement.

An overstatement? I think not! Because guess whar we dun jest got back from?

Shootin' clay pigeons with shotguns in Ian's ex-babysitter's backyard, is whar!

Ian's ex-babysitter, Mrs. K., is a very nice lady, salt of the earth, and we love her, and her husband, Truck Driver and Second Amendment Enthusiast Uncle Buck. Last year, they invited us to their annual Thanksgiving clay pigeon shoot (only noobs call them "clay pigeons", though; we vets call them "birds") ; and even though neither Adrienne, nor I nor — needless to say — Ian had ever fired a rifle before, we said okay.

And Buck showed us how to shoot and we all (about 10 or 12 of us, all told) went into the field in his backyard and shot "birds" that were flung into the air by these "things" that were attached to the backs of their "pick-up trucks". And neither Ian nor Adrienne shot much (or at all), but I shot for the whole two hours.

And even though Mrs. K. and Buck consider us to be bleeding heart liberals bent on taking away everybody's Second Amendment rights, they invited us back again this year, where, once again, I did most of the shooting. And just let me say that, once again, if my shooting percentage were a baseball batting percentage, I'd be a benchwarmer at best, or, even more likely, I wouldn't even make the team unless I was blowing the manager. Or, to put it another way, the local clay pigeon population was not exactly in danger of being put on the Endangered Species List because of anything I accomplished today.

Last year, the kick from the rifles gave me an aching shoulder the next day. This year I don't think that will happen. Because this year, I somehow managed to hold the rifle in such a way that I absorbed most of the recoil with my right cheek. Luckily, it was my face cheek, because it's more padded than my @$$cheek because, as you know, I have a notoriously flat Irish @$$.

In any case, tomorrow it should look as though Teh 'Bride was beating me about the head and face again. Tomorrow she'll be all, "O baby, you know I love you and this will never happen again!" And I'll believe her. I'm so lame.

And so the Lurvely Couple of Mrs. K and Buck probably think they have converted us.

But the joke's on them because, before going to the pigeon shoot?

I contributed $50 to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in memory of John Lennon.
1 Fine print: Though not soon. Or violently. Or embarrassingly, like being caught in the company of male hookers we try to pass off as "personal assistants" while dressed in nothing but diapers (having nothing to do with old-age incontinence) or multiple latex bodysuits, even though I do have the rock-hard (WAIT FOR IT!1!) abs to be able to make such a get-up work but I can't figure out how to do so without getting Teh Ghey all over me, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Point is, we hope to live in this house for the rest of our lives and we hope those lives — our lives — will be long and fruitful. To be even clearer: The we "hope to die in" this house, above, should not be read as some sort of weird death wish or murder-suicide pact.

One of my favorite descriptions of Henry James' prose, especially in his late-career novels, is: He seems to be chewing more than he bit off.

I believe that I, in this footnote re: dying in this house, have achieved "chewing more than he bit off" status.

Another description of HJ's late-career prose: Like watching a hippopotamus try to pick up a pea.

I achieved that status somewhere around post number two, I think.

2 But not a very good one. When we had the house inspected before the sale, the inspector took one look at the metal shower that Mr. W. had installed in the half-finished basement — the draining in which was assisted by the sucking power of an electric motor — and pointed out that it was "an electrocution waiting to happen". Because, yeah, Mr. W. had attached the switch for the motor to the metal exterior of the shower wall itself. And — SPOILER ALERT!1! — showers are frequently wet.

Also: The plumber took one look at something or other Mr. W. had rigged on the boiler, and begged us to let him come back with a needed replacement part the next day because the thing that was on there was on backwards ("I'm not even sure how he got it to fit" qouth Teh Plumber) and "was an explosion waiting to happen".

There were a whole lot of electrifying and explosive things waiting to happen in this little house, and none ever did (THAT'S WHAT MRS. W. SAID!1!). I'm not sure if Mr. W. was a homegrown terrorist or just mechanically incompetent.

Our plumber back then, for what it's worth, was a Unitarian and a cross-dresser (though not at work; I mean, not the latter at work, because he probably was still a Unitarian while at work) and, as far as I know, he was no relation to Teh B*tch. (Full disclosure: This guy was kinda homely. Teh B*tch is a FAR more attractive shemale. See for yourself:

3 When the Kenyan Muslim in Chief wasn't even president but we, presciently, already KNEW that he and he alone was responsible for everything Dubya and Cheney did, up to and including fucking their wives, I think, though I think Teh 'Bride is still resisting my wife-fucking theory because she's soft on terrorism.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hibachi Nite

Well, it's Friday, which as you already know from this post is Go Out to Dinner at a Restaurant Night in Teh H'berg Household, and it's also Ian's birthday, PLUS it would have been his turn to chore1 which restaurant to go to even if it weren't his birthday and so it turns out that tonight we'll be going to the local Japanese Hibachi place because Ian loves that place.

It's easy to see why. The chefs put on a show for you2. They come out and cook the food on a grill right before your VERY EYES!1! and they do jokes like taking an egg and rolling it and then pointing at it and saying, "Egg roll." HAR! And then they chop up some veggies and fry them up and then put a piece on a spatula and fling it at you so you can try to catch it in your mouth, which I'm pretty good at doing, if I do say so myself, but why do they always fling broccoli pieces at me? I fucking hate broccoli of any kind, up to and including Cubby Broccoli, the guy who produced all those stupid fucking Bond movies, which I also hate, because you wanna know what the best Bond movie was? Help! And it wasn't even a Bond movie! And even though it was the best Bond movie without actually being one, it wasn't even the best Beatles movie of which it was one. Which should (in some convoluted way) give you a rough idea of just how much I hate Bond movies.

So anyroad, I, at least, can catch the veggies in my mouth, but then I'm stuck there with broccoli in my mouth and there's just NO WAY I'm swallowing that (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!1!). But I absolutely refuse to intentionally drop the flying veggie, because if I did that, how would I be able to make fun of Teh 'Bride when we finally convince her to let the chef fling veggies at her like 5 times in a row and each one hits her in the face, nowhere near her mouth, and her ears and cheeks get redder and redder with embarrassment and I laugh and laugh and helpfully point out that she catches like a girl!1!? And the final irony is, she likes broccoli and would eat it. No, wait, that's the penultimate irony. The final irony is I promised (in FN2) that this paragraph would be full of naked chicks and well-oiled thong-men and drunken revelry and I also implied it would no longer be about the pseudo-Benihana experience and it turns out that on both of those fronts, I lied. And that, as it turns out, isn't the final irony: this is: that I evidently don't know what "irony" means because lying to your readers is not an instance of irony. It more an instance of dickishness.

Kinda ironic, if you think about it3.

Anyroad, that's what we'll be doing tonight for Ian's 11th birthday. And I'll be spitting that broccoli out while everyone else is taking bets on where on Teh 'Bride's face the next piece of broccoli is going to hit. WIN!1!
Ran 6.8 miles at a 9:24 pace this morning and 6.73 miles at the exact same pace yesterday, which is kinda ironic4. This puts me at around 970 miles for the year. 1000 miles, here I come5!
UPDATE!1! More Nonsene from SteveQ:

1 If you don't know what "chore" means in this context, you'll have to go back and read that Hillbilly post I linked to above. Sorry. The rest of the class had to do this assignment. Why should you get out of doing it just because you were sick or lazy or had better things to do than read the archives to my blog? You will need a note from you mother, at the very least, to be excused.

You really should read that post anyway, because it's a restaurant review of this place that's pretty close to us and it's called Hillbilly Hall and I ended up giving it a four-Cletus review, which is the highest honor I can give to a restaurant that calls its selection of entrees "vittles", not even bothering to spell the word the correct British way, viz., "victuals".

Fucking Brits. "Victual" is the kind of word you normally first encounter by reading like 18th- or 19th-century English novels, Tom Jones, or some shit, and so, as a teenager, you of course end up trying to impress people with your ever-expanding vocabulary because you're pretty sure no one else you know is gonna know that word, and so you casually slip it into the conversation at, say, a family dinner, saying, "My, what a repast of tasty victuals!" not realizing, of course, that something like half of the letters in that word are supposed to be fucking silent and so you pronounce it "VIK-choo-ulls" and then your dad — assuming here that "your dad" = "Teh 'Dad" — stifles a laugh and says, "Nice try, Glaveykins. It's pronounced 'VITT-tulls'." And you're convinced Teh 'Dad is fucking with you, so you say, "Like what The Beverly Hillbillies are always eating? I call BULLSHIT! Because I've seen that word and it's spelled vee eye tee tee ell ee ess and pretty much means roadkill of some kind, mostly possum." And Teh 'Dad, who back then was into his Irish heritage in the same way he's into his Catholic heritage now, informs you, in an obiter dictum, that it's O'possum and it was the fucking Brits who took the "O'" away in an attempt to deracinate and co-opt a noble and clearly Irish animal whose main skill is pretending to be dead in the face of life-threatening danger, but he also tells you that vee eye tee tee ell ee ess is just the American spelling of "victuals".

And so your attempt to seem urbane and knowledgeable ends up making you look lame and stooooopud, but do you learn your lesson? Do you, next time, LOOK UP THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION of a newly-learned word before dropping it "casually" in conversation?

No, you don't. Because you're a fucking fucktard, is why. And so a few months later, at a backyard barbecue, you mention how something or other is "anathema" to you. But you pronounce it "anna-THEE-muh". Because, as I said, you're a fucktard.

Luckily, Teh 'Mom's there this time to stifle a snort and correct your pronunciation.

2 If you've been to a Benihana, you can pretty much stop reading that there second paragraph right now and skip ahead to the next paragraph, which I haven't written yet, because it will be full of scantily clad women, tastefully tasteless jokes, drunken revelry, and, For Teh Ladies, toned and well-oiled men in skimpy thongs and nothing else.

Of course, you can also skip that paragraph if you've been to Applebee's.

3 But don't. Because it's not.

4 No, it's fucking not!1! I really have to look that word up wunna these daze. At least I know its correct pronunciation: EEE-ran-ik.

5 That's what she said. But she was being ironic. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Measuring Our Pain

There was always a streak of solipsism a mile1 wide in the lyrics of John Lennon. ("I can show you that when it rains and shines/ It's just a state of mind" (Rain"); "Nothing is real" ('Strawberry Fields Forever"); the true Revolution is when "you ... free your mind instead" ("Revolution").) It should be obvious to anyone even remotely familiar with the details of John's early childhood precisely why a retreat inward to the life of the mind/imagination would hold such attraction for him: John was abandoned at an early age by his father and mother and was raised instead by his strict (but loving) Auntie Mimi; he reconnected with his mother in his teen years only to see her die tragically when he was 17; the uncle who helped raise John also died unexpectedly ... in short, John Lennon had a lot of psychological pain to retreat from.

But there is a (sometimes separate, sometimes competing) streak of engagement with the outer world in John's lyrics. This is, after all, the man who in 1968 sang "You say you want a Revolution ... don't you know that you can count me out"2 and then, less than three years later, would sing:
Say you want a revolution
We better get on right away
Well you get on your feet
And out on the street ("Power to the People")
... pretty much daring you to see any contradiction.

John wanted to re-make the world of his own mind, but he also strove to remake our shared world and, in a way, the Plastic Ono Band song "God" kinda holds the key to how he managed to rebuild his own world from the inside out.
Teh 'Dad always used to call the philosophical method that Descartes used to get to his bedrock I think therefore I am3 belief "Universal Methodic Doubt". In "God", John employs something akin to this doubting method to get to his own bedrock belief. In the middle of the song, there is a litany of things — many of them '60s icons, totems and sacred cows — that John doesn't merely doubt the efficacy of  ... he outright rejects them:
I don't believe in magic,
I don't believe in I-ching,
I don't believe in bible,
I don't believe in tarot,
I don't believe in Hitler,
I don't believe in Jesus,
I don't believe in Kennedy,
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra,
I don't believe in Gita,
I don't believe in yoga,
I don't believe in kings,
I don't believe in Elvis,
I don't believe in Zimmerman,
I don't believe in Beatles
The final one — Beatles — being perhaps the most devastating rejection of all.

But John never tore anything down without simultaneously building something else up. There is a caesura after John sings "I don't believe in Beatles", after which his voice, small, unaccompanied by any instrument, emerges as he affirms: "I just believe in me."

And that might be enough, his affirmation of the importance of the individual consciousness, but John continues from there: "Yoko and me. And that's reality."

In a comment I made the other day at hey dullblog, I kinda marveled at John ability to make some things that were so intensely personal and particular to him somehow still universal. I think I have mentioned in previous posts on this blog that John's "Beautiful Boy" is a song I associate with my own son, Ian, even though John wrote it about his own son, Sean, and even mentions Sean by name at the end of the song. And yet, to this day, when I hear this song, tears come to my eyes as I think of the day, 10-and-a-half years ago, when my own son arrived at Newark airport from Korea. A tear or two usually escapes my eyes when I hear the line "I can hardly wait to see you come of age" because I think of John and his then-five-year-old son Sean and I am devastated by the knowledge that this very particular loving father so unfairly did not live to see that very particular beautiful boy come of age. "Beautiful Boy" is a very personal song for me, yet somehow remains quite particular to John Lennon and his circumstances in 1980.

Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly at all, I feel the same way about "God". I occasionally take stock of the things in my own life, asking myself: "Well, what and whom can I really depend on? I mean, really depend, all the time?"

I come to the same conclusion as John: There's me ... and Teh 'Bride5.

I don't think I am unique in thinking I have, at one time or another, been let down by just about everything else in my life. And during those dark hours I actually do exactly what John does in "God": I ask myself what I have left to believe in. And the answer — myself, my wife and my son — is always enough. It is the borderline-solipsistic bedrock from which I can again start building outward to the external world. As long as I have that, I tell myself, I can always rebuild, reconnect.

Because John knew, as attractive as the retreat inward could be, we need to connect — to make our shared world a better one. And although he's been dead for thirty years, he's continued to do that — make this a better world.

The least I can do is my part.

What better way to start than this?

God is a concept,
By which we can measure,
Our pain,
I'll say it again,
God is a concept,
By which we can measure,
Our pain,
I don't believe in magic,
I don't believe in I-ching,
I don't believe in bible,
I don't believe in tarot,
I don't believe in Hitler,
I don't believe in Jesus,
I don't believe in Kennedy,
I don't believe in Buddha,
I don't believe in mantra,
I don't believe in Gita,
I don't believe in yoga,
I don't believe in kings,
I don't believe in Elvis,
I don't believe in Zimmerman,
I don't believe in Beatles,
I just believe in me,
Yoko and me,
And that's reality.
The dream is over,
What can I say?
The dream is over,
I was dreamweaver,
But now I'm reborn,
I was the walrus,
But now I'm John,
And so dear friends,
You just have to carry on,
The dream is over.

1 Or aboot 1.609 kilometres (for our Kanadian readers).

2 Yeah, but even here? There's some equivocation. Because in "Revolution #1", which appears on the White Album and was recorded before the faster, better-known 45 version "Revolution", John sang "Don't you know that you can count me out/in" because he hadn't made up his mind about his feelings toward more direct action. John wanted the slower album version to be the single, but was out-voted by the other Beatles.

3 "At the beginning of the second meditation, having reached what he considers to be the ultimate level of doubt — his argument from the existence of a deceiving god — Descartes examines his beliefs to see if any have survived the doubt. In his belief in his own existence, he finds that it is impossible to doubt that he exists. Even if there were a deceiving god (or an evil demon), one's belief in [one's] own existence would be secure, for how could one be deceived unless one existed in order to be deceived?
But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I, too, do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all], then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who deliberately and constantly deceives me. In that case, I, too, undoubtedly exist, if he deceives me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."
4 John pronounces Buddha "BUDD-uh" instead of the approved American (and, therefore, objectively correct) way, "BOO-duh". I always found John's Linda Richman-esque pronunciation amusing, wondering if he might be persuaded to believe in some sort of BUDD-uh substitute ... I Can't Believe It's Not BUDD-uh! maybe.

5 And Ian, of course; John, I'm sure, would have included Sean, had Sean been alive in 1970. But that's speculation on my part. Regardless of whether John would have included Sean, I do include Ian.

Ten Going on Eleven

This is what Ian looked like even before we had him:

He was one week old and still in Korea, then. That was November, 1999. He would arrive at Newark airport in mid-March 2000.

Tomorrow, he'll be 11.

Tonight, Teh 'Bride will let him know that one of his birthday presents is that he will be allowed to sleep in our room tonight (on a cot) so he can wake there on his birthday.

Believe it or not, this is still something he loves to do and will be very excited to know he'll be allowed to for his birthday. He may even like it better than the pitchback that is going to be his main present.

This is Ian now:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It was raining hard this morning (the wind and rain actually woke me), but it seems to have slowed considerably, so I may or may not be able to get my planned morning run in. In any case, the rain seems to have put me in some sort of mood.
When I came into work this past Monday afternoon just before 1:00 p.m., I was informed that the director's elder sister, Tera, had died. She was 54.

Tera used to work at the library, in administration, until she was forced to retire for health reasons — the same ones that eventually killed her: an infection (fungal, I believe) of her lungs that caused one of them to shut down completely before its progress could be temporarily halted. Tera had a low, raspy voice, which was not her natural voice. It sounded like that because of a procedure that had had to be performed on her that had damaged her throat.

A few years ago, the infection recurred and Tera had to quit working entirely because half of her good lung was compromised.

This past Sunday, yet another bout with this infection finally killed her.
Tera was well-liked at the library and she would occasionally stop by for a visit after she was forced to retire in 2007. Her voice kind of haunted me by that point, because it was obvious she was struggling for just about every breath and her voice reminded me of my sister Virginia's voice.

That raspy-sounding voice was no more Virginia's natural voice than it was Tera's, but it is how I remember Virginia's voice because it was how she sounded in the last few months of her life as she struggled through an illness that was at first misdiagnosed as bronchitis, and later determined to be terminal-stage lung cancer; by which point it had also reached her brain. Which I guess didn't really matter because the lung cancer was what quickly killed her. For Virginia, it was roughly two months' time from correct diagnosis to death.

That was in the summer of 2006. Virginia lived to see her 49th birthday. She died less than three weeks later.

I have mentioned a few times that I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family of seven children. Of the nine of us (I'm including my parents), seven smoked, to more or less of an extent. (Teh 'Bro, though, smoked only as a young man and only when he drank; probably a grand total of fewer than 200 cigarettes, all told). Virginia was one of two who never smoked at all.

I debated whether or not to include that fact in this post because it drives Teh 'Bride nuts that, when someone dies of lung cancer, people always ask whether or not the victim smoked. To Teh 'Bride's ear, there's perhaps a bit of accusation in the question — as though it were the victim's own fault in some small way; or perhaps in Teh 'Bride's view, people just like to fool themselves into thinking they are safe from this particular disease because they don't smoke, whereas the truth is, they're not. I'm not sure it's indicative of anything other than what people have been unthinkingly taught to ask when they hear of a lung cancer death. It may or may not be a slightly insensitive thing to ask, but there's probably no malice in it. In its own weird way, it is probably an attempt to sympathize, reach out, give you a chance to respond, to talk about your loss, to mourn. It's clumsy and open to misinterpretation but that is always the risk in such situations and, all-in-all, I'm glad people take that risk.

Virginia did not have a whole lot of time to prepare for what, by the time her disease was diagnosed, was the inevitable. My family faced its share of tragedies, but if I could take back but one thing I myself did throughout it all, it would be this:

We were all there in Virgina's hospital room when the doctor came in and laid out the treatment options. He talked about chemo, surgery to remove the brain tumor, radiation ... it was all kind of weird and dream-like and just sort of hard to believe was actually happening. And at some point he said something along the lines of, "And the best case prognosis is about one year."

And I guess I was more in denial than anyone else at that point, because I couldn't help but ask, in a clearly shocked voice, "You mean if we do nothing, if she has none of these procedures?"

And he, obviously feeling a bit awkward, answered: "No. I mean if she does."

I seemed to be the only one who hadn't realized this. Before I spoke, Virginia had been sitting on the edge of her bed, listening, occasionally nodding her head — which was so incongruous and surreal to me that it was a large part of the reason that I couldn't believe Virginia  could actually be hearing someone pronounce a death sentence on her; after my exchange with the doctor, Virginia lowered her head and quietly wept into a tissue.

It is perhaps self-indulgent to think that that — my question — was somehow significant in all of this for anyone else but me. It is probably closer to the truth that no one other than I so much as remembers it. That's not a whole lot of comfort, though, when you're dealing with regrets. I think about Virginia every day and when I do, I invariably come back to this moment when I stupidly forced the doctor to abandon his circumlocutions and essentially come right out and say that Virginia was going to die within a year no matter what anybody did. It doesn't matter — to me — that she (and everyone else) already knew what the doctor meant; what matters to me is that I made him repeat it in blunt terms, something I consider to have been cruel on my part, albeit unintentional.
But maybe that, too, is just self-indulgent — a way of making this thing that wasn't happening to me somehow about me. If that is so, I still have not learned how not to do that. When I learned of Tera's death, I wrote the director and her sister (a second sister who also works at the library) telling them how shocked I was to learn of Tera's passing and mentioning how much I had liked Tera and how her voice had always reminded me of Virginia's at the end and how heart-rending it was to hear it, to know what a struggle it must have been for Tera at times just to draw a simple breath. But I also attempted to include what words of comfort I could. And if any of them were of genuine comfort, no matter how small, it was because I could, to some extent, imagine how these sisters were suffering because I had suffered an analogous pain in my own life.

And maybe it is only by indulging — to some extent, at least — our own self-involved experiences of the phenomena of life that we are truly able, if just for a moment, to break out of the borderline solipsism of existence and share a genuine feeling of community, even if that be a community of mutual suffering and pain. And maybe that helps make it more bearable.

If it is not, then I confess I don't know how it can be done.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PR With A Twist

On Sunday I ran a 5k race and I PR'd.

I know, Reader, that at this point you want to stop reading temporarily so you can rush down to the comments area to be the FIRST!1! to congratulate me on my awesomosity and then come back up here and look for what you really swung by to see, which is how many mentions my n*ts@ck gets in this post (zero1); or if I say anything about Teh 'Bride; or mention a visit with Teh 'Dad; or post pix of Ian. You know: the good stuff.

But just hold on, hold on one tiny motherfucking minute, there, Reader, because if you do that and then come back up here to read the rest of this post, you're probably gonna wanna delete that comment for being premature[-cum-ejaculation], because here's the rest of the story, all relevant facts included:

I PR'd at this so-called "5k" because it wasn't a 5k. That's right. It was actually 3.3 miles long instead of the standard 3.1. and therefore it's a PR at whatever k 3.3 miles is the equivalent of.

And here's how that happened (short version): They made the course too long.

Now the long version:

The race was sponsored by the wrestling team at the local High School and Teh 'Bride spotted it advertised in our local county rag2 and cut the announcement out and gave it to me. Now, I like to take every opportunity that cums comes my way to support school-sponsored homoerotic activities and, as you all probably know, there is nothing homoeroticer or just plain gayer than Greco-Roman Wrestling (this here3 being the exception that proves the rule (not that there's anything wrong with either of these things)). Anyroad [WARNING!1! Fact-Free Speculation Ahead!1!), the wrestling team being full of jocks and, most likely, coached by ex-jocks, simple, basic math is not exactly their strong suit. And thus the course ended up being 3.3 miles4 long.

Okay, that's pretty defamatory and patently and demonstrably false. Because right after I finished the race, I heard one of the Wrestling kids who was doing the timing say to another runner, "Yeah, it's actually a little longer than 5k. It's more like 3.3 miles."

So they knew it was long. Which, hey, okay, I mean, your race, your rules, right? Even though there were any number of places they could easily have cut out that extra two-tenths of a mile. E.g., the starting line was about a quarter of the way around a baseball/soccer field (it was a trail race in a state park); if they'd just moved the starting line up a few hundred feet — eminently doable, by the way — there's your two-tenths' of fat trimmed off right there, easy-peasy. What kinda pisses me off, though, is the fact that the could have told us it was long at the beginning, but decided instead to make it a surprise; even more inexcusable, they outright lied about the length5, and here's the relevant part of the pdf file's course description to prove it:

Because here's the thing: I friggin' hate trail runs, but I evidently hate myself a lot more because I seem to find myself running a lot of them lately and I seem not to be allowing the fact that I know beforehand that these races are going to be on trails prevent me from signing up for them. So I had girded my loins6 for 3.1 miles, and that was it. So when the mile 3 marker rolled around, I had just about enough left in the tank to go that last 10th of a mile and no more.

But there it is, the 3-mile marker, and even though I'm still in the woods and on a trail, I'm thinking the finish line is just up ahead and I'll be seeing it after the next few strides. But then I don't. And I don't. And I don't.

And I'm getting kinda pissed here, because the last part of the trail before the 3-mile marker was such a gut-busting uphill climb that I thought I was running up Teh Schmatterhorn, which, for those of you who don't know, is a local killer hill I used to run up to challenge myself until it gave me tendinitis in my knee — or what you ultra foax would probably just call "a gentle, rolling hill". Because in that last part, I was huffing and puffing the way I do when I try to run up Teh Schmatterhorn; and my legs were doing those running-like movements even though it seemed like I was going at a walking pace, just as it feels when I try to run up Teh Schmatterhorn; and my lungs and my heart and my head, not to mention my whoo-wery loins, were screaming at me to stop running, but I gutted my way through to the top.

And there I saw that 3-mile marker; and I thought, "I did it. I really wanted to stop, but I didn't, and now just one little 10th of a mile and I'm done. I can stop running."

And then the fuckers hit me with those extra two-tenths. After running up the equivalent of Teh Schmatterhorn! It actually felt more like an extra half-mile, too. And this isn't the first time one of our local schools fucked me like this. Because about 18 months ago, I ran a "5k" sponsored by the local elementary school and was amazed to see that it was the slowest one by far that I had ever run, taking me over thirty minutes. When I got home, I measured the route on MapMyRun only to find — yeah — it was actually 3.6 miles long. A similar thing happened the first time I ran the Middle School's 5k ... but those extra 10ths-of-a-mile were run because the course was poorly marked. I ran the Middle School's 5k again this year, and they did a much better job of it, hiring professional race-organizers and scorekeepers this year.

I really hope the HS does a better job of it next year because the park where this race was held is really beautiful and the course takes you through some of the most picturesque parts.

There was no clock at the race; when I crossed the finish line, nobody told me my time; the HS apparently has no intention of posting the results, because I've checked their web site numerous time, the last time being roughly 30 seconds ago. So:

Number of Runners: ?
What Number I finished as: ?
Number of people in my Age Group: ?
My rank in my Age Group: ?
My official time: ? (Unofficially, by my watch, it took me 28 minutes, which is something like an 8:34 pace)

Some of this missing information may have been announced after the race, for all I know, but when 11:00 rolled around (the race began at 10) and there were still no signs that they were anywhere near announcing results, I just left, a bitter, defeated geezer with whoo-wery loins.
1 That's right — ZERO. Because that seeming-mention of it supra doesn't count because it's more a meta-mention than an actual one. I.e., it is n*ts@ck-qua1a-typical-Glaven-topic not n*ts@ck-qua-n*ts@ck. And so yeah, those two mentions of my n*ts@ck back there don't count, either, for the same reason; and the same goes for the mention of it in this here sentence.

1a Originally? I mistakenly wrote "n*ts@ck-cum-n*ts@ck", but immediately realized "cum" was the wrong word, its proximity to my n*ts@ck notwithstanding; but I nearly left it that way because, although wrong, it seemed so right.

2 That's a fucking lie right there. It wasn't advertised in the local rag. There was an actual article about it, because in these parts? A HS-sponsored 5k race qualifies as news.

3 Hmmm ... It occurs to me that a certain someone may get smart at some point and take that photo down from the Intertubes. It is my go-to photo for cheap tranny-based larfs, so I think it is high time I stole it and reproduced here just in case she does get smart:

Hey, I know it's not exactly some dude with his balls in another dude's face, but still, you gotta admit ... pretty gay. (NTTAWWT3a) 

3a = "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That".

4 Or, "one Glaven penis".

5 Okay, in the interest of consistency on this issue of lying, I feel it is encumbent upon me to admit that my penis is not actually 3.3. miles long. It's 3.3 kilometers.

That's right. My penis is Kanadian.

6 And I didn't even have to buy my loins dinner first, before girding them, because my loins are whoo-wers!1! O, loins! You'd let pretty much anyone gird you, wouldn't you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Now I Laugh And Pull So Hard ...

Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, sometimes became frustrated when Led Zeppelin were dismissed or praised as a heavy metal group, claiming that a full third of Zeppelin's group output was acoustic. I've never stopped to count or categorize each song, but Plant's accounting sounds about right. In fact, Led Zeppelin's third album, cleverly titled Led Zeppelin III, is largely acoustic and distinctly folksy in an eccentric British way.

The album starts off with "Immigrant Song" — two minutes and twenty-six seconds of pretty unrelenting Sturm und Drang1 throb-rock — thus seeming to promise Zeppelin fans more of what they had loved on the first two albums, both of which were largely (though not entirely) hard rock; but LZIII quickly switches tone with the very next song, "Friends", remarkable both for Page's weirdly buzzy drop-C tuned acoustic guitar (he uses the same tuning on "Bron-Yr-Aur", recorded during the same session) and its lack of any electric guitar. Hedging their bets, Zeppelin released "Immigrant Song" as their single from the album2, even though it is, arguably, the song least representative of the sound of the album as a whole.
"Gallows Pole" is without a doubt one of the standout tracks on LZIII; it is also my personal favorite on that album, which is odd for a number of reasons. The song is not a Led Zeppelin original — being, in fact, based on a centuries-old ballad (Renaissance-era at least; possibly Mediaeval) that probably had even older Scandinavian roots. I tend to like Zeppelin's original and harder rocking songs — "Trampled Underfoot" being, for me, the exemplar of a quintessential Led Zeppelin song — and "Gallows Pole" is not only far from a traditional hard rocker, it's pretty much fully acoustic3.

"Gallows Pole" features Jimmy Page playing acoustic six- and 12-string guitars as well as banjo; and John Paul Jones adds mandolin and bass. There's a fiddle in there, as well, which comes in last of all the stringed instruments, and is played in that unmistakable screechy, country manner that fairly requires it be called a "fiddle" instead of a "violin"; the screech nicely matches Robert Plant's own high-pitched vocal, something that is especially noticeable at roughly the 4:39 mark of the song, during the prolonged fade out, when the fiddle plays a particularly discordant chord while Plant wails "Ooooooooo, yeah!" and it is basically impossible to tell where the fiddle leaves off and Plant's caterwauling begins. Both Plant and the fiddle sound egregiously off-key to me here, but it somehow works.

The song builds tension by bringing the various instruments in one-by-one; the tension is further underscored by the song's tempo, which gradually speeds up as the song progresses — understandably, since the narrator is getting closer and closer to the moment of his own execution and is still hoping for some sort of last second reprieve. The main source of tension in the song, though, is its basic and simple plot: A condemned man, about to be hanged, pleads with his executioner to "hold it a little while" so that his friends and family can have a chance to arrive, perhaps with bribes sufficient to convince the hangman to set the condemned man free.

"Gallows Pole" is a version of the traditional "Maid Freed From The Gallows" ballad, but the Led Zeppelin version introduces two interesting variations: The condemned, in "Gallows Pole", is a man, not a woman — which we know only because the narrator's own brother refers to him as "Brother" ("Brother, I brought you some silver" etc.); and in the Led Zeppelin version of the ballad, he is not set free.

The verses of the song show little deviation from the quickly established pattern: The condemned asks the hangman to wait because he sees his friends/brother/sister coming; he then asks his friends/brother/sister what each has brought to try to bargain for his life.

His friends fail him:

I couldn't get no silver, I couldn't get no gold,
You know that we're too damn poor to keep you from the Gallows Pole.

But his brother comes through:

Brother, I brought you some silver,
I brought a little gold, I brought a little of everything
To keep you from the Gallows Pole.

The gold and silver are not enough, however, to propitiate the hangman. Thus, when the condemned's sister arrives, he pleads with her:

Sister, I implore you, take him by the hand,
Take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man

The sister complies with this request; the hangman, as he acknowledges in the last verse, gladly receives every bribe proffered him. The tempo of the song reaches a manic pace as the condemned pleads:

Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile,
Tell me that I'm free to ride,
Ride for many mile, mile, mile.

To which the hangman5 answers:

Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
Brought my blood to boiling hot To keep you from the Gallows Pole,
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard And see you swinging on the Gallows Pole.

This reversal is what makes the song so unique and effective. "Gallows Pole" is pulled from a traditional source in which the condemned invariably escapes the death that awaits him/her. It is more than a little shocking to see the twist (in both senses) that comes at the end of the Led Zeppelin version.

This reversal is also fitting — not in the sense that the condemned deserves to die, but in the sense that the song underscores the essential arbitrariness of what we, even to this day, call "justice". We don't know what the condemned man has been convicted of (if anything); we don't know why his sentence is so harsh; we accept the condemned man's belief that he can buy his way out of his fate with gold, silver and sexual favors, because the equivalent of this happens today, all of the time ... and we are shocked to learn that, despite it all, cruel injustice in its vilest and most inhuman form prevails.

It is also fitting that the song's long fadeout should consist of what is evidently the hangman's mocking of the dead body as it twists in the wind: Ah-ha-ha!
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
Think I see my friends coming, Riding a many mile.
Friends, did you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends, To keep me from the Gallows Pole?
What did you bring me to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

I couldn't get no silver, I couldn't get no gold,
You know that we're too damn poor to keep you from the Gallows Pole.
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
I think I see my brother coming, riding a many mile.
Brother, did you get me some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my brother, to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

Brother, I brought you some silver,
I brought a little gold, I brought a little of everything
To keep you from the Gallows Pole.
Yes, I brought you to keep you from the Gallows Pole.

Hangman, hangman, turn your head awhile,
I think I see my sister coming, riding a many mile, mile, mile.
Sister, I implore you, take him by the hand,
Take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man,
Please take him, save me from the wrath of this man, man.

Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile,
Tell me that I'm free to ride,
Ride for many mile, mile, mile.

Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
Brought my blood to boiling hot To keep you from the Gallows Pole,
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard And see you swinging on the Gallows Pole

1 Far be it from me to suggest that anyone reading this post would need to look up the meaning of "Sturm und Drang", but if you should feel the need to, I highly recommend you do so at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary site, not because its definitions are so stellar — they're really just okay — but rather because it supplies you with a short list of words that "rhyme" with Sturm und Drang, among which are: billabong, scuppernong, Vietcong and Wollongong.

Not one of which rhymes with it as well as, say, firm young wang ... just off the top of my head.

Not to suggest there's a firm young wang on top of my head.

Also, full disclosure: Sturm und Drang doesn't really rhyme that well with "firm young wang" if you pronounce the former in anything even approximating the approved Teutonic way. But it's still a better rhyme than "Vietcong", for the love of Baby Jebus.

2 The B side of the "Immigrant Song" single, however, was "Hey Hey What Can I Do", another acoustic number that for some reason didn't make it onto the album and was considered a rarity because it was the only non-album track released by the band while they were still together. It's a pretty good song and got (and still gets) a lot of airplay, perhaps in part because of its relative rareness. The lyrics to the song are yet another example of Robert Plant's casual misogyny; the narrator lamenting that his woman "won't be true" and just "want[s] to ball all day". (Anyone even remotely familiar with the band's offstage antics should immediately spot the irony in Plant's lamenting anyone else's lack of fidelity.) From "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)", on the band's second album (the album on which Plant first started making meaningful lyrical contributions) right up to the end of Led Zeppelin's career, you'll find Plant lyrics that are patently and gratuitously misogynistic. Led Zeppelin had its roots in blues music, and the that (d)evil woman done me wrong conceit is strong in the blues tradition, but Plant's visceral hatred of women seems to go above and beyond the call of the blues. His lyrics routinely portrays women as whores (e.g., "Hey fellas, have you heard the news? You know that Annie's back in town?/ It won't take long just watch and see how the fellas lay their money down" ("Heartbreaker"); "Come on, babe on the round about, ride on the merry-go-round,/We all know what your name is, so you better lay your money down" ("Living Loving Maid")) and at times he goes so far as to suggests that women are in some way not fully human ("I don't know but I been told/ Big-legged woman ain't go no soul" ("Black Dog")).

"Black Dog" owes more to a stereotypical military drill cadence than it does to the blues; it would also be a bit of a stretch to see a blues influence in "Hey Hey What Can I Do", yet Plant's ingrained fear and mistrust of women is nevertheless at the heart of these songs. And many others.

3 Allegedly, there's an electric guitar in there somewhere, but if it's there, it comes in so late and is buried so far down in the mix that I can't make it out, even when I listen to the song with headphones. I'm still not convinced it's there.

4 This verse is quite reminiscent of one of the major plot points of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure — one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", so called for good reason (which I won't go into here): Angelo, temporarily put in charge of the city of Venice, charges Claudio with fornication (on what is clearly a technicality since Claudio is, by any reasonable standard, married to the woman he has sex with) and intends to have Claudio executed. Claudio's sister, Isabella, a novitiate, intercedes with Angelo and Angelo — revealing himself to be the prototype of the current-day "family values" conservative Republican politician4a — makes it clear he'll set Claudio free if Isabella will fuck him. Isabella, though, refuses. When she tells the imprisoned Claudio of this offer, he, like the narrator of "Gallows Pole", pleads with her to consider it. But whereas the Sister in "Gallows Pole" agrees, Isabella refuses in a manner that is remarkably callous and cold-blooded, the dialogue for which is worth reproducing:

Yes, he [Angelo] would give't thee, from this rank offence,
So to offend him still. This night's the time
That I should do what I abhor to name,
Or else thou diest to-morrow.

Thou shalt not do't.

O, were it but my life,
I'ld throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.

Thanks, dear Isabel.

Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.

Yes. Has he affections in him,
That thus can make him bite the law by the nose,
When he would force it? Sure, it is no sin,
Or of the deadly seven, it is the least.

Which is the least?

If it were damnable, he being so wise,
Why would he for the momentary trick
Be perdurably fined? O Isabel!

What says my brother?

Death is a fearful thing.

And shamed life a hateful.

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling: 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

Alas, alas!

Sweet sister, let me live:
What sin you do to save a brother's life,
Nature dispenses with the deed so far
That it becomes a virtue.

O you beast!
O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch!
Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?
Is't not a kind of incest, to take life
From thine own sister's shame? What should I think?
Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair!
For such a warped slip of wilderness
Ne'er issued from his blood. Take my defiance!
Die, perish! Might but my bending down
Reprieve thee from thy fate, it should proceed:
I'll pray a thousand prayers for thy death,
No word to save thee.
 Yikes! The dude's about to be unjustly executed and his sister, not content with refusing to help, just lambastes the guy, even floating the rhetorical possibility that he might be a bastard ... "[f]or such a warped slip of wilderness/ Ne'er issued from his [their father's] blood". (Simultaneously and of necessity, implying that their mother was a whoo-wer, incidentally. Not content with implying it, Isabella pert-near comes right out and declares it: "Heaven shield my mother play'd my father fair!") Pretty harsh. This is one of the reasons they call M4M one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays. Because this is pretty problematic; and is made more so by the fact that the Duke, who put Angelo in charge, secretly witnesses all of this psychological torture and could put a stop to it at any time but chooses not to. But fear not, Dear Reader! It all ends well4b thanks to the bed trick, in which Angelo is tricked into fucking the wrong wench, Mariana, and she, lucky ducky, thereby loses a maidenhead but gains a sleazebag of a husband! See? Everybody wins! Angelo, instead of going to jail, gets saddled with a wife he clearly doesn't care for and so what are the chances that, six months after they're married, we'll be seeing him, shirtless, face blurred out, on the Fox Renaissance Reality Show, CONSTABLES, being arrested for being drunk on mead and beating his wife?

Roughly 100%, I'd guestimate.

4a Hahahahaahahaha! Just kidding! If Angelo were actually a "values" conservative, he'd've been trying to extort sex from Claudio's brother. Clearly Angelo is a hetero predator, and therefore more of a Democrat.

4b All's Well That Ends Well, it should be noted, is the other comedy in which Shakespeare employs the "bed trick". O, yeah, these are comedies. Although I think I've gotten as many laughs out of that truly craptacular "comedy" Two and a Half Men, i.e., exactly zero. So they're comedies, but also "problem plays" — for reasons that should be obvious by now.

5 The abrupt change in first person narrator — from the point of view of the condemned to the hangman — is another effective variation in this version of the tale. The hangman's callousness is chilling enough; but there is a distinct whiff of sulfurous evil when the hangman declare that he laughs as he ruthlessly murders the condemned man.