Don't Call Me Shirley

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen died yesterday at the age of 84.

Apparently, he was a dramatic actor before he switched to comedy, which is of course how most of us at ATK remember him. The Naked Gun movies were silly, but not as hilarious as Airplane.

From NPR:

He grew up 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle at Fort Norman, where his father was an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The parents had three sons, and Nielsen once recalled, "There were 15 people in the village, including five of us. If my father arrested somebody in the winter, he'd have to wait until the thaw to turn him in."

The elder Nielsen was a troubled man who beat his wife and sons, and Leslie longed to escape. As soon as he graduated from high school at 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, even though he was legally deaf (he wore hearing aids most of his life.)

After the war, Nielsen worked as a disc jockey at a Calgary radio station, then studied at a Toronto radio school operated by Lorne Greene, who would go on to star on the hit TV series Bonanza. A scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse brought him to New York, where he immersed himself in live television.
Canada produces some of my favorite comedians. Go fig.

Anyway, I'll raise a pint to Leslie Nielsen this evening. And I'll listen to this while I do!


Brew Masters

Monday, November 22, 2010

Last night, a new show debuted on the Discovery Channel called Brew Masters. This is my kind of reality show.

You get an inside view of the world of craft brewing as the show follows Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware (one of my favorite breweries and a damn good brewer). Why Dogfish Head? Their motto - Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People - says it all. The show highlights Sam's travels and travails as he works to push the envelope with his beers.

Yesterday's episode brought together all the players at Dogfish Head as Sony Records asked them to brew a commemorative beer for the re-release of Miles Davis' ground-breaking Bitches Brew. Calagione worked to create a fusion beer to match with Davis's fusion jazz, and the result is a beer I am going to try hard to find.

The show is fast-paced and well-produced. It does a good job of showing who Calagione really is: a total half-hippie kook who loves beer and brews a damn good one. He makes the show what it is with his half-crazed, nerd-uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin commentary, stacked on top of his pure, palpable passion for brewing and exploring the outer boundaries of beer. This is one hour wells-pent.


In Case You Needed Clarification...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I found this article on the WaPo's new "On Faith" column. Normally, I read this column because I hate it and it makes me insane. For some reason, I need that in my day; that anger, that cleansing self-flagellation of reading things that make me furious. But this article this time? I agreed.

It's written by a Jesuit, and is extremely critical of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The article is clear on their partisanship:

This year, as president of the bishops' conference, he [Cardinal Francis George] led the attack on President Obama's healthcare bill, which he claims will fund abortions even though the Catholic Health Association disagrees.
The conservative tilt of the bishops' conference was shown even more clearly by the election for vice president. After two votes, the final runoff was between the two most conservative candidates of the eight bishops on the ballot: Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who wants to ban pro-choice politicians from Communion, and Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the bishops' committee on the defense of marriage--the committee assigned to fight gay marriage. [emphasis added by me]
Now, none of this is particularly remarkable; gee, go figure, the Catholic Church is weighing heavily into our trumped-up "culture wars." Nothing really new there. But the article ends with the real point by this Jesuit, and it's the one that really got me going:
What is most remarkable about this meeting is that it took place in the middle of the most devastating economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the bishops said nothing about it. It was as if they did not know that almost 10 percent of their parishioners are unemployed, that the new Congress is going to take aim at programs helping the poor and that now is the time to speak out for social justice. Their silence was deafening.
There. It. Is. When it comes time for the Catholic Church's leadership to show their true colors on social justice issues, they don't. They stick with gays and abortion.

Tone deaf as ever, it saddens me that Catholic enrollment is up 1.94%. I'm not sad for the church (I rarely attend) per se, I'm sad because that means that this is a reflection of the priorities of parishoners. With 1% of the U.S. holding not only 34% of the U.S.'s wealth but also a wealth that is more than the bottom 90% of our population as an aggregate, with the gap between rich and poor widening, and with more people being forced from their homes and in need of and pa Hackett still only care about gays and abortions.

Or is it just that they find a spiritual home in the Catholic Church, whose leaders are simply tone-deaf to their parishoners' real needs?

Or...are the poor not going to mass because, amidst homilies on abortion, biblical literalism and gays, does the church really offer them nothing?


I Do Not Care

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God save the queen!  We mean, it, maaaaaan...
I do not give one single itty bitty flying fuck about roayl weddings, Princes, future Princesses, Queens and Kings. I don't care who Prince William or Henry, whichever it is, if that's their names, marries a hot chick (though I do care that she is hot). I don't care that the wedding may coincide with the Queen's "diamond jubilee," whatever the flipping freak that is. And when you report that both this royal wedding, which you have reported ad nauseum at least a year before it's even happening, and this "diamond jubilee" are desired by the royal family as "conservative, un-elaborate affairs," I want to choke on my own laughter and bile.

So please, NPR, CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, major newspapers and everyone else...please. Knock it off. 234 years ago we flipped the bird to pointy golden headpieces, and then had to kick them back out again in 1812.

That is all.


God Hates Figs!

Monday, November 15, 2010

We here in Lansing, Michigan are so fortunate that we will soon be visited by the loony bin commonly known as The Westboro Baptist Church! On November 18, they plan to visit East Lansing High School. From their lovely, completely rational website God Hates Fags:

East Lansing High School in East Lansing, MI November 18, 2010 2:50 PM - 3:20 PM
WBC to picket the worthless brats who attend East Lansing High School, as well as their teachers and parents who have taught them from the cradle that God is a liar. You reprobates will hear some truth for the first time in your lives, to wit: God does NOT love everyone and it IS NOT okay to be gay or to fornicate with anyone or thing you please. Instead, you are to flee youthful lusts that war against your soul and seek to live sober, righteous and godly while on this earth. Now that you are old enough to read for yourselves, check this out:

Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11); Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

Your parents, teachers, preachers and leaders - including Anti-Christ Beast Obama - lied to you because they hate you and they hope to justify their own sins by refusing to teach you what God requires of you. Well, WBC will teach you; here it is from King Solomon, the wisest man who EVER lived:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ec. 12:13.)

How blessedly simple. Now, just DO IT -- TODAY! This nation's destruction is imminent!!
I see that the Westboro goons also protested yet another soldier's funeral in McAlester, OK. From the article in Tulsa World:
Members of a Kansas church who protest at military funerals may have found themselves in the wrong town Saturday.

Shortly after finishing their protest at the funeral of Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey of McAlester, a half-dozen protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to their minivan, only to discover that its front and rear passenger-side tires had been slashed.

To make matters worse, as their minivan slowly hobbled away on two flat tires, with a McAlester police car following behind, the protesters were unable to find anyone in town who would repair their vehicle, according to police.
click on the's large enough to read the text...classic!
I personally haven't decided if I will go to East Lansing High and counter-protest. I'm caught in that weird zone where one part of me really wants to send them a message and join a rally against their stupidity and the pther part of me wants to turn the other cheek, ignore them, and hope that some day they go away because everyone ignores them.


From the Facebook Status of a friend of mine: A coalition of community organizations, clergy, and concerned citizens will be holding a counter-protest to the WBC this Thursday from 2pm-4pm in the parking lot of the All Saints Church. Please don't give these hateful outsiders what they want by confroting them at ELHS. Instead either ignore them entirely or join us at All Saints to send a message that East Lansing is a community that celebrates diversity and welcomes all who would make our city their home.


How I Spent Veterans Day

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tomorrow, the Smitty clan heads to Chicago!

We leave in the morning after breakfast. We plan on the Mrs Furious-style locate-golden-arches-with-playlands for lunch and to let the kids blow-off some steam, then it's off to our hotel.

Mrs. Smitty has some close friends (kids and all, of course) who live South of Chicago, and our hotel is not far from either, so Thursday night looks like pizza party night! Big fun.

Friday starts with a visit to Shedd Aquarium. Though all three boys have been there before, the Wonder Twins were too little to remember! But Smitty Jr remembers it fondly. All the kids are geeked about seeing all the fish, and Jr has informed his brothers, to their delight, that there are sharks.

If Shedd goes well and the kids still have some energy, we'll head back to the hotel, rest, and visit The Kohl Children's Museum. It's a hands-on science/learning museum full of the stuff the Boys like to do: dig, poke, prod, etc.

Saturday we head to the Chicago Field Museum to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Sue, the T Rex bones. Apparently, there are a lot of dinosaur exhibits built up around it in celebration of the 10th, and if there are 2 things the Smitty Boys enjoy, it's parties and dinosaurs.

We head back to Lansing Saturday evening, and surely handle 3 grumpy boys on Sunday, tired and over-stimulated from 2 days of sheer joy, surrounded by the stuff they love: Sharks, dinosaurs, and parties.


Soup Sunday

Monday, November 08, 2010

Winter looms in Michigan. Most of the trees have lost their leaves, either due to early freezes or from the few mild hurricanes that have swept through the mitten state. Frost covers the grass every morning. My kids bitch about how cold it is, yet still refuse to put on slightly warmer jackets.

Mrs. Smitty and I decided, then, that the way to warm our hearts on these increasingly-colder days is to establish a day to look forward to; Soup Sunday! What warms the heart better than a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread?

That's easy: soup cooked with beer.

Yesterday's installment of Soup Sunday was Cheddar Cheese and Ale soup. The fantastic thing about this recipe is that the flavor changes given what type of cheddar you choose to use and what type of beer you choose to cook it with. It's cheese, potatoes, and beer. Pretty Midwest if you ask me.

This recipe is so basic it's shameful. And the total time, prep included, is about 45 minutes.

4 Tb butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large baking potato, peeled & chopped
1/2 Cup flour
3 Cups chicken broth
3 Cups grated sharp cheddar, whatever kind you like (or multiple kinds)
2 Cups beer (I used Mackinac Pale Ale from MBC)
1 Cup coarsely chopped tart apple

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the onion and potato, and cook it until it's just slightly tender (about 10-12 minutes by my clock). Slowly add the flour, stirring it well to cover all the veggies, and then cook that roux for just a few minutes more. Slowly stir in the chicken broth, and cook it until the soup thickens. Add the cheese a bit at a time and cook until it's all melted. Add the beer, and cook it until it steams. From there, simmer it until you feel like it's ready to eat. Season it with salt and pepper, serve it up and top it off with the chopped apples.

That simple. Plus: it has beer in it. Give it a try, and try different beers and cheeses. Using the hoppy MBC Pale, the soup took on a slightly bitter quality. Maybe next time I'll try a Scottish Ale or a Barleywine...


Every Vote Counts

Friday, November 05, 2010

On Tuesday:

  • 300,000 Democrats stayed home, compared to the 2006 Gubernatorial election
  • 340,000 Independents stayed home, compared to the 2006 Gubernatorial election
  • there were only 72,300 more Republican votes this election than 2006.
In 2006, just like this year, the Governor, AG, Secretary of State, State Senate, State House, Congress, Supreme Court...all were up for election.  Granholm, unpopular, was facing Dick DeVos and his gobs of money.

300,000 Democratic votes, Indies notwithstanding (53% of whom were trending Democratic just 2 weeks out from the election), means Jocelyn Benson beats Ruth Johnson by 100,000 for Secretary of State.  It means David Leyton beats Bill Schuette for AG by 19,000.  It probably means Dems don't lose 9 incumbents in the State House, and win more than 2 of 13 "battleground" races.

It means Jennifer Haase, who led by double-digits less than a week before the election, doesn't lose her seat to a 23 year old waitress in a greasy spoon who still lives at home with her parents.

But Dem turnout was so poor - 15% in Detroit - that despite being up in the polls, the Jennifer Haases of the state lose.

Every vote counts.  I know loyal ATK readers vote.  But if any...any of your friends and colleagues bitch about the results, show them this blog post. If they, too, didn't vote and would have voted Dem, print a copy of this blog post and make them eat it. All of it. With no gravy or ketchup.


Slaughterhouse 2010, Michigan Edition

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Quite a night in Michigan politics. This is just a quick update; more detail forthcoming in the comments when I have time.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans took the Governor/Lt Governor (welcome Governor Rick Snyder and Brian Calley), The Secretary of State (Ruth Johnson) and the Attorney General (Bill Schuette).

Still somewhat unsurprisingly (but less so), the Republicans gained a super-majority in the State Senate. They have held that Chamber for a decade now, but Dems have controlled enough to be able to raise some procedural Hell when they needed to make a statement. But after last night, Republicans hold that chamber 26-12. The next Majority Leader in the State Senate is likely to be Senator Randy Richardville from Monroe. Actually a really good guy and a class-act. Little comfort for the Dems, though. No Democratic incumbents lost, but not that many were coming back anyway, what with 29 of the 38 seats being open due to term limits.

The surprise was that the Dems lost majority in the House. They started with 67 seats and last night the Republicans regained the House 63-47. That's nearly a 20-seat swing, folks. Equally shocking were the number of incumbents that lost: 9. 9 Democratic incumbents lost their seats, and Dems lost all but 2 open seats that were "in play." Jase Bolger, a Republican from Marshall (H/T to the home of Dark Horse Brewing Company!) is the next likely Speaker of the House. Of 13 "battleground" open seats (there were many more open seats, but many of those are safe...or were...), Dems won exactly 2 of them. 2.

Hell, Gary Peters, one of our Congressmen from Oakland County, barely won re-election against a guy who changed his name to "Rocky." Mark Schauer, a Dem with a mild manner, brains, and a decent policy mind, lost to the demon-spawn of Grandpa Simpson and Herman Munster. Gary McDowell, a Dem trying to replace long-serving Bart Stupak in the Democratic 1st District U.P. congressional seat, lost to a Tea Party candidate and birther.

In August, Michigan's Supreme Court was tipped 4-3 in favor of Dems when Granholm appointed Justice Alton Thomas Davis to replace outgoing "Republican" Justice Betty Weaver. Davis lost his chance at election last night, as voters returned incumbent Justice Bob Young and placed Mary Beth Kelly on the bench; it is highly unusual for a non-incumbent (Kelly) to beat an incumbent (Davis), but given how the votes went last night, and the fact that Kelly and Young ran together and even had their names together on yard signs, it's no big surprise.

At least we won't have to waste our time with a constitutional convention. That proposal get killed.

Now to pick up the pieces, figure out whose ass to kiss, and get busy!


Fun With Gourds

Monday, November 01, 2010

So for Halloween this year, rather than just a standard pumpkin, I decided to do something a little more special. Sure, everyone in the world has done the barfing pumpkin. It's fun and appealing for sure.

But in the spirit of Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen, I decided to do Cannibal Pumpkin!

I am already thinking of ideas for next year.  Maybe a Jesus Pumpkin, with eyes skyward, mouth  pensively prayerful, with 12 little gourds surrounding it?



Potential Drunks

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