2005

2005 AD in retrospect.

When you look at the big picture, 2005 was yet another glorious year for our planet. There were three hundred sixty-five successful rotations, as predicted, with a leap second thrown in tonight for good measure. The Sun did not explode, and the Moon did not spin off into space. Well done, Earth.

From a much more narrow perspective—that is to say, mine—the year was a mixed bag. There was much triumph and much tragedy, some of which is even mentionable. The lows first, so I can end it on a high note:

Three acquaintances committed suicide this year, one of whom I wrote about in September. Two of them were high school classmates, and of course were very young; the third one was old enough that he should have known better. Very sad.

It took a whopping five months to process my Illinois provisional certificate, which was promised to take less than a month. I missed out on several good full-time teaching positions due in part to people’s inability to distinguish August from December.

My cat, Bill the Cat, the Greatest Cat to Have Pitter-Pattered The Earth, Bar None, died. Everything I wrote in the “Generic Recommendation Form” was, to the letter, true of Bill. His greatness lay neither in his tremendous girth nor his dominance over the other cats of the manor–which lasted even into the twilight of his life–but in his ability to leave me alone. All cats should learn from his fine example.

My grandmother, Angela Maria Viscariello, née Zaccardi, died on August 7th at age 95—and even though at 95, death is not unexpected, it was still… unexpected. Happily, everyone in the family had spoken to “The Old Girl” in the week before she died, and she was surrounded by loved ones in her home when she went. Sadly, she took her recipe for meatball tortellini soup with her. And although the cooks in my family think they can make it the same, they’re wrong.

And worst of all, my cousin, Tai Angellica Torres, died on September 25th at age 20. It was absolutely heartbreaking, especially on the heels of Gram’s death. Hopefully she’s in a better place now, and hopefully her family will continue to recover.

On to (mentionable) happier things:

I watched my first batch of Paxon students graduate—that was neat. I had a few kids who didn’t want to take the AP exams, for whatever reasons, and prodded them to do it anyways. I was proud of them when they passed, not only because of the accomplishment, but also because of the fifty dollar bonus I got per passing grade. Thank you all.

I “played” indoor soccer on my brother’s team this summer. I put “played” in quotation marks because I mostly walked back and forth up front until somebody passed me the ball, and then shot wildly at the net. Sometimes it went in. I had two hat-tricks, including one that was all-lefty.

I moved from Jacksonville to Chicagoland. In all, I’ve driven from one to the other nine times this year. I finally realized what was so great about Jacksonville: even though the roads are laid out like spaghetti, they are smoother than those in any other major city I’ve been in. But Chicago is glorious, and I’ll leave it at that.

Speaking of spaghetti, I discovered Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian roast-beef sandwiches, real deep dish pizza, and the generally higher quality of food that comes with living in a larger metropolitan area. I have discussed the food previously, so I will not belabor the salivation-inducing nature of the scrumptious breads, savory meats, ambrosial cheeses and delectable potations, even though they give greater impetus to our struggle against the brutal nature of this world, that we may eat more.

I met many relatives that I’d never met before, and got to know many that I had only met briefly. I’ve made some friends up here, and am verifying my belief that people, everywhere, are essentially the same. I’ve seen more snow in a few weeks than I have in the last twenty years. And I’ll probably see even more than that in the next few months.

All in all, I’d have to say that 2005 was definitely twelve months long. Here’s to a better 2006. Happy New Year—glug glug.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2005 at 2:06 PM.

One Response to “2005 AD in retrospect.”

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    January 4th, 2006 at 7:26 PM

You know, it only took me several days to realize that you had indeed named a cat Bill. Did Opus deliver the eulogy? Did Steve Dallas get rip-roaring drunk at the wake? Did his love child kick your butt?

And most importantly, did you bury Bill in his favorite diaper?

 

 

Merry Christmas!

What a great weekend. I drove down to Jacksonville to visit the family. I loaded a cooler full of some foods that, as far as I know, are unavailable in the South—at least, not at the same quality as in Chicago: a few pounds of bocconcini, two pounds of Sicilian olive salad, a wedge of locatella cheese, and two boxes of pizzelles (very thin, light Italian cookies that you need special iron plates to make). All was well received, even though I couldn’t find the cannoli shells that my mother wanted.

I watched the football games with an eye on my fantasy football team, which is in the league championship. It looks like I’ll win my first title in five years, thanks to my good friends Shaun Alexander, Santana Moss and Larry Johnson.

I also had the opportunity to check out my brother’s new big screen with surround sound. We popped in the Predator DVD, skipped to the scene when the heroes blast away at the jungle to kill whatever just killed Jesse Ventura, and cranked up the volume. There were many, many loud explosions. It was fun.

We had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at my mother’s place; turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes. I guess it’s traditional, anyways, normally our family had pizza and boiled shrimp. Separate, that is, not shrimp-on-the-pizza.

Dinner today was very good. Dad made rigatoni and bracciole. What is bracciole? Think of one of those wraps or gyros you can get at a sandwich shop. Now, instead of lettuce, tomatoes, and all those healthy meats, you put in anything else you want. In this case, he used prosciutto, bacon, hard-boiled egg, pine nuts, mozzarella, provolone, small bits of salami, and spices. And instead of wrapping it in a fajita or something similar, you wrap it in a well-flattened, well-tenderized sirloin. Tie it together, stick in some toothpicks, braise it in oil, and pop it in the oven. It’s excellent, even though my heart is probably marbled now.

And the whole weekend is being topped off by watching the Bears and Packers. If the Bears win, they win the NFC North, the #2 seed in the NFC, and a bye during the first week of the playoffs. Plus, they’ll have beaten the much hated, God-forsaken Green Bay Packers. Hopefully they will make Brett Fav-ruh bleed from as many places as possible because I hate him. I hope he cries.

Anyways, Merry Christmas and Happy First Night of Hanukkah!

[Updated after the Bears-Packers game, at 8:38 PM EST]

Bears, 24-17! I was yelling at the Bears to kick Favre in the back of the head on those last two sacks. Well, they let him walk away without severe brain damage, but I’ll let it slide because they won. Merry Christmas!

6 Responses to “Merry Christmas!”

  1. donnimikk Says:
    December 26th, 2005 at 12:18 AM

Hey. Did you know the Jags have record as good or better than three of the four division leaders in the NFC? I wonder which conference will win the Super Bowl?

  1. apushisfun Says:
    December 26th, 2005 at 10:05 AM

Well Mr. V, it seems like you had a heart-stopping Christmas. I would recommend that you don’t eat anymore of those bracciole because I don’t want you to die before graduation. Have a Happy New Year, Mr. V.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    December 29th, 2005 at 12:51 AM

You never know… I remember when the NFC won 13 in a row and no one thought Denver could beat Green Bay, and when the Pats somehow beat the Rams a few years ago. Whichever team comes out of the NFC (Bears) only has to beat one AFC team once to win it all.

Super Bowl XL: Bears 78, Colts 3. Any other result will prove that the whole thing is fixed.

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    December 29th, 2005 at 8:03 PM

Nah.

Super Bowl XL: New England 27, Washington 13

  1. MyCreativeAlias Says:
    December 30th, 2005 at 9:50 AM

I am hard-pressed to think of a more impressive scene in a movie – let me know if you can think of one.

As for Super Bowl XL: Bears 5, Colts 3. Peyton Manning will throw a minimum of 4 interceptions and Brian Urlacher will be named MVP with 20 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 blocked punt, and 1 blocked field goal – which would have been the game winner. Also, after accepting The Lombardi Trophy, “Lovie Smith” will pull off his mask revealing that he is actually Coach Mike Dikta. Did I mention the halftime show featuring the ‘85 Chicago Bears performing The Super Bowl Shuffle (Jarrett Payton will fill in for his father) as well as the resurrection of The Honey Bears?

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    January 15th, 2006 at 3:17 AM

Doctor Hmnahmna:

Wrong, although it amuses me that your predicted score was that by which New England was eliminated.


On “price-gouging.”

Today, New York City’s bus and subway workers went on strike. What a mess. I wonder whether it matters to them that the strike is illegal. State law forbids public employees from striking, so the Transport Workers Union is being fined one million bucks per day. That’s roughly $30 per TWU employee, plus losing two days’ pay for each day on strike, plus the possibility of going to jail. I hope it’s worth it for them, because they’re going to have to answer to a lot of angry New Yorkers.

Anyhow, I watched portions of Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference regarding the strike. He reiterated that the strike was illegal and estimated the cost of the strike to be as much as $400 million per day. The last thing he said before I turned off the TV in disgust was that there was a phone number to report “price-gouging” by taxi drivers.

Never mind the larger point about the potential troubles and inefficiencies of too much government involvement in an economy. Why is it that when every mode of transportation in NYC–other than the subways and buses—is under far greater strain and faces greater demand than usual, Bloomberg sees fit to put an upper limit on what taxi drivers can charge?

“Well, people need [stretch “need” into as many syllables as possible] rides, and it’s not right to take advantage of them in such a situation.”

So instead, people should be allowed to take advantage of taxi drivers? Imagine this scenario—which is probably happening, in some form or other, today:

A ride from Point A to Point B, both in NYC, normally costs $25 for a full cab, say, four riders. Group 1 and Group 2, four people each, need to get from Point A to Point B as soon as possible. The groups hail the cab at the same time. The cabbie pulls over, and tries to figure out which group he should take. Group 1 offers $50. Group 2 offers $100.

Mayor Bloomberg suddenly announces that taxi fares can not rise more than 100 percent today. Fifty dollars is the cabbie’s limit for the day. One way or another, he has to refuse fifty moredollars that somebody was willing to pay.

See the problem the cabbie faces? If not, maybe this’ll help: to legally drive a cab in New York, you need a “medallion.” These medallions are auctioned off by New York City, which controls the supply. According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission’s most recent auction results, the lowest winning bid for a medallion for a regular, individually-owned car was $332,027.62. Remember, that’s just to be allowed to drive the cab– it doesn’t include gas, insurance, maintenance, or the cab itself. Medallions were cheaper for hybrid cars and handicapped-accessible cars, but still over $220,000. They were more than $775,000 for corporate-owned cars. The cabbies have some pretty big costs to cover if they ever want to see profits.

People who complain about price-gouging seem to forget that when buyers are facing emergencies, so are sellers–because buyers are making greater demands of the sellers’ time, effort, and resources. Who is Mayor Bloomberg to single-handedly determine the value of a cabbie’s work, especially on a day like today? The cabbies and the potential riders have a much better grasp of how much the ride is worth to them. Let them work it out.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2005 at 8:34 PM.

One Response to “On “price-gouging.””

  1. donnimikk Says:
    December 25th, 2005 at 11:49 AM

Merry Christmas, Mr. V.


Tookie.

I stayed up late last night to watch the riots that might have followed the execution of Stanley Tookie Wiliams. Thank God, there were none. There were, however, plenty of stupid punks being disrespectful by mugging for the camera and calling their friends to tell them to turn on CNN or FOX. I wonder how those conversations went: “Hey, I’m on TV! Look at me! No, I don’t know why everyone here is depressed, ‘cause I’m on TV! LOOK AT ME!” I must confess to hoping the protesters would feed their placards to these laughing morons.

Anyhow, Tookie’s execution brought the capital punishment debate back into national focus. I don’t care whether you favor or oppose the death penalty. I favor it, but I acknowledge that there are many good, rational arguments against it.

However, there is one particular argument against the death penalty that strikes me as especially weak and silly– “straw-man” silly, “so-easy-to-attack-it’s-embarrassing” silly:

“Killing to punish killing is wrong.”

It looks good on a sign outside San Quentin—after all, two wrongs don’t make a right, right? For example, if you sleep with my wife, I do not show you to be wrong by sleeping with your wife. If you kill my son, I do not show you to be wrong by killing your son.

But the less that the actions in question resemble each other—in motive, in nature, or in consequence–the less valid and the less applicable the famous “two wrongs” dictum becomes. That is why this particular argument against the death penalty flops. It only works if you look at killing in the most superficial way and refuse to make distinctions between different types of killing. It only works if you think that all killing is wrong.

Let’s use a different “crime” in that sentence. “Holding someone against his will in order to punish holding someone against his will is wrong.” So, should we refrain from putting kidnappers in jail? After all, the police hold the kidnapper against his will, just like the kidnapper holds the victim against her will. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you can’t show that wronging is wrong by wronging.

You might say, “That’s absurd! It’s a bad example, because kidnapping is obviously different from incarceration.” You might say that because you might be using your brain. You were willing to look at the difference between two forms of “holding someone against his will,” and discern that one was more wrong than the other. One may even be the right thing to do.

In the same vein, we need to be willing to look at the differences between types of killing. We acknowledge that an intruder killing you in your sleep is not the same as you killing the intruder first; that a SWAT team killing a hijacker is not the same as a hijacker killing a hostage; that killing German soldiers on D-Day was not the same as killing Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz. In each case, one killing is undertaken because of the wrongness of the other killing; one is done to stop the other. But if we think and argue without discernment—lumping in premeditated murder with self-defense, lumping in genocide with a war of liberation, and condemning all of them equally as “killing”—we impair our ability to make moral or legal distinctions.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that even if you oppose the death penalty in general or simply for Tookie in particular, executing Tookie after twenty-something years of due process is not the same as Tookie murdering three motel operators and a 7-11 clerk for some cash.

Again, I’m not trying to convince anyone that the death penalty should or shouldn’t be legal. I just think that such an important debate needs to be conducted with more careful and precise thought than you would find on a bumper-sticker.

Gumbel.

HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” recently did a segment about Monday Night Football and its upcoming switch from ABC to ESPN, a move that would mark… the end… of an institution.

I don’t consider Monday Night Football to be an “institution” of the same significance as, say, an organized religion, or Congress, or marriage, or a university, but I’ll grant them that a change has occurred. An incredibly minor change, because while the Monday night game will be on cable, the Sunday night game will now be broadcast by NBC. By my math, it evens out.

Anways, at one point, Gumbel was interviewing one of the higher-ups in the company that owns ABC and ESPN, an up-and-comer called “Disney.” They were discussing the switch to cable, and the end of an institution and blah blah blahGumbel smugly asked this Disney exec, [I’ll try to get the exact quote from a rerun] You’re switching Monday Night Football to cable, what about the little guys who can’t afford cable? Is it tough luck for them, now that they have to pay for something they used to get free?

A few thoughts occurred to me:

First, an economic point: it’s imprecise to say that the little guys get broadcast TV for nothing. Businesses pay billions of dollars to broadcast networks and cable channels for advertising time, and they earn billions of dollars when the viewers buy the products they saw advertised. In other words, you indirectly pay for “free” TV when you purchase the stuff you see in the ads. The difficulty is that because it’s indirect, the signals from the viewer (buyer) to the networks (seller) can be difficult to interpret.

Then I thought Bryant Gumbel had a lot of nerve challenging this guy when Gumbel’s own show isn’t broadcast and isn’t even on regular cable—it’s on HBO. “The little guys” have to pay even more to watch Gumbel’s show than they would to watch Monday Night Football on ESPN. Is his show meant for the elite who can afford HBO, while Monday Night Football is simply to pacify the slovenly masses?

Gumbel’s questions implied that people are somehow entitled to watch Monday Night Football gratis—or they should be. If so, that’s a warped sense of entitlement. Is the NFL supposed to arrange a game between two teams with payrolls in the tens of millions of dollars, playing in a stadium worth hundreds of millions of dollars, over a television network worth billions of dollars—and broadcast it at zero cost to the viewer? Well, even at the supposed price of “free,” a lot of those viewers are evidently watching something else on Monday nights.

I’ve heard three types of response to these complaints so far:

1. “Oh, come on, you’re reading too much into Gumble’s questions; yes, it’s a business decision, but just admit that it sucks a little that Monday Night Football will be on cable now.”Maybe so. As long as you acknowledge that broadcast TV is not an entitlement, I will admit that I am reading too much into it.

2. “Why should the people who can’t afford cable have to suffer? Why should the rich guys be the only ones who get to watch Monday Night Football?” There’s the entitlement mentality at work. Not being able to watch football is not “suffering.” And when ABC is hemorrhaging $150 million a year because Monday Night Football’s ratings are terrible, the solution is to show it to more people who give you money and fewer people who don’t.

3. “Who cares?” I do, and you should, too. Hopefully this historic event of unsurpassable importance (the switch to cable) will mean the end of those Hank Williams, Jr. intros we’ve been suffering through for 16 years, and the end of those stupid halftime recap medleys by Cowpoke McBumpkin or whatever his name is.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 10th, 2005 at 4:59 PM.

3 Responses to “Gumbel.”

  1. scrappy Says:
    December 10th, 2005 at 11:36 PM

It is the probably the change from Monday Night Football being a non-excludable good to an excludable good that has gotten a few people’s goats. People must not like it when they aren’t allowed the possiblity to free ride any longer (the ones that don’t buy what is advertised during MNF. The invisible hand (or is it the socially conscious bird?) noticed a bit of a deadweight loss being created by an overproduction of football on the public (publicly paid for and enjoyed)… the marginal cost was greater than the marginal benefit and now the market must creep back towards equilibrium.

I sure hope I got an A my economics exam.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    December 11th, 2005 at 1:34 PM

Ah! The economic analysis is strong with this one. Be careful of your use of the word “public,” because in econ it means “government-funded” or “taxpayer-funded.” Taxes don’t pay for MNF.

Either way, I am pleased enough by your post that I will buy you a beer on your 97th birthday.

  1. jmanpc Says:
    December 14th, 2005 at 8:52 PM

… and he’ll dig you up to assure that he gets his beer.

Superdawg.

This weekend my aunt, uncle and five-year-old cousin took me on a short trip through the suburbs and into Chicago. We passed many landmarks of familial and general interest that reminded me how time can fly.

We stopped at the cemetery where my Grandma Marianne and Grampa Julius are buried. (For those who would understand: Julius was my Russian step-grandfather who was the source of the “Kate” accent.) Grandma Marianne hated geese in her day, which was probably why so many of them desecrated her grave in the particular manner they chose.

We drove past the hotel near O’Hare where O. J. Simpson stayed the day after his wife and her friend were brutally murdered by unknown assailants. You know, the hotel where he cut his hand. Accidentally. Innocently. It’s hard to believe that was more than ten years ago.

We drove past the high school my parents attended. We drove past the house where my Viscariello grandparents lived for decades. More precisely, we drove past the parking lot where the house where my Viscariello grandparents lived for decades used to be.

Anyhow, our eventual destination was one of Chicago’s minor but more charming landmarks: the Superdawg at Milwaukee, Devon and Nagle. It’s a drive-in hot dog and hamburger stand; you park next to one of the speakers, place your order, and a carhop will bring you your food. You sit in your car and eat. Not too many of these places around anymore.

Superdawg’s mascots are two anthropomorphized hot dogs named “Maurie” and “Flaurie,” after the owners. Maurie is the male hot dog, and wears a leopard-skin caveman outfit and sandals.Flaurie is the female hot dog, is blonde, has a blue bow, a blue skirt, and blue sleeves. I was unimpressed with the choice of mascots. They should have gone with a schnauzer wearing a hot dog bun, or a cape with an “S,” right? A hot dog wearing a caveman outfit was silly.

We placed our orders and the carhop brought us our food. It came in a small box with decorations reminiscent of the Fifties, probably because the architecture, look, and ownership ofSuperdawg haven’t changed much since then. The box didn’t have flashy coloring, it didn’t have a game piece, it had none of the trappings of modern fast-food advertising. The lid featured an image of Maurie resting on a two-piece chaise lounge. It had various writings on it, but the one that interested me most was:

“Your Superdawg lounges inside, contentedly cushioned in Superfries, and comfortably attired in Mustard, Relish, Onion, Pickle, and Hot Peppers.” (In my case, onion was crossed off, because onions and I—well, there’s history there.)

The caption was clever, but not edgy, or cutesy, or obnoxious. It, combined with the vision of Maurie unwinding on a chaise lounge after a long day at the office, changed my impression of him. It made Maurie seem like an exemplar of Hugh Hefner’s target audience: an upper-class, yet not uppity gent who enjoys his leisure and does some modeling.

But something was nagging at me: why wear a leopard-skin? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if Maurie were wearing a smoking jacket and puffing on a cigar, or maybe a pipe? I thought that would fit the caption better than a caveman outfit. But perhaps the leopard skin was more comfy than a smoking jacket, or his regular clothes.

I looked up at Maurie atop the restaurant, trying to discern the mind of this timeless figure. And then something clicked. I suddenly understood: Maurie looks relaxed in the picture on the box because it’s his subtle way of mocking us. That’s right, mocking us.

You sit in your fancy, modern car, thinking that Maurie and his wife look silly up there on the roof. You smugly bite into your relish-laden likeness of him, and might even think that you could create better mascots. You self-righteously finish your hot dog, and prepare to drive away…

…but then you catch that last glimpse of Maurie’s relaxed visage on the box, and realize that though you have consumed and destroyed a graven image of him, he is completely indifferent to it–for you are nothing to him. We are nothing to him. We don’t threaten him, or even raise his ire. Any feeble attempts at offending him fall pitifully short because we are mere ants before his mightiness.

Eyes blazing with primal ferocity, Maurie taunts the elements on the most punishing of these brutal Chicago nights, wearing naught but a flimsy leopard-skin as we mortals timorously drive by, snugly buckled in our toasty-warm cars, wearing our cowardly Gore-Tex parkas and our shameful mittens. We cower at the worst of winter’s bitterness and the cruel passage of time—Maurie roars at them, and at us, and towers over that blustery intersection, triumphant and unbowed for over fifty years.

Or maybe the owners just thought the caveman thing was neat, I don’t know. Either way, it was a pretty good hot dog. And it was nice to see timelessness, albeit briefly.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 5th, 2005 at 3:32 AM.

2 Responses to “Superdawg.”

  1. donnimikk Says:
    December 5th, 2005 at 10:00 PM

Grampa Julius also created my nickname. RIP

  1. ourladyofcoincidence Says:
    December 21st, 2005 at 10:41 PM

Just wanted to mention that the Noonan House is in the Superdawg area (at least a stone’s throw- maybe a little more…)- in case you’re not familiar… it’s got the tree that “grows” through the roof- very popular house in these parts.

Of course if you can’t get to the neighborhood, just go to:
http://wgntv.trb.com/news/?track=nav & then click on “Holiday Display” video.

Thought you might be interested….
Merry Xmas to all

 

On turning 30.

When growing up, you go through a stretch where birthdays are more than mere parties featuring the eating of cake, slurping of punch, and opening of presents. Starting at about your tenth birthday, they take on greater significance; you look forward to them with greater eagerness than before, for they mark rites of passage into adulthood.

At ten, you’re finally in double digits. At thirteen, you’re finally a teenager. At fifteen, you can finally get your learner’s permit, and at sixteen your driver’s license. At seventeen you can get into R-rated movies alone, at eighteen you can vote, at twenty you’re no longer a teenager, and at twenty-one you can drink legally.

After that, the excitement and anticipation die down. Twenty-two and twenty-three are no big deal at all. At twenty-five, your auto insurance rates drop and you can run for the House of Representatives—but that isn’t exactly thrilling. At twenty-seven, you’re as old as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain when they died. Eventually, you stop looking for any significance in your age, and may even forget that your birthday is coming…

Until your thirtieth.

Granted, the anguish over turning thirty is partly arbitrary. It simply means that you have been out of the womb for thirty of Earth’s trips around the Sun. It’d be fewer trips if humans had fewer fingers, and more if we had more. In a sense, “thirty years old” is younger than ever before: it is a smaller and smaller fraction of an increasing average lifespan.

And yet…

The night before turning “The Big Three-Oh,” you lie awake in the dark, trying to think about anything other than these irrational but very real mortal dreads:

…that your youth is gone and it is not coming back…

…that dreams and opportunities have irrevocably passed you by…

…that one day, however near, however distant, no matter what, you will simply end. It is utterly horrifying.

No more of those good milestone birthdays are coming.

Kids who you think don’t look too much younger than you call you “sir,” and you wonder whether you really look old enough for them to naturally address you with a term denoting respect—or, more precisely, a term denoting age.

It takes a little bit longer to stand up than it should. Maybe you just bumped your knee, or maybe you’re just a little tired. Your back has been sore for a while, but will surely get better soon—probably after you start exercising, like you’ve been planning for how long now?

You have more hair where you shouldn’t, and less hair where you should. Even worse, some of it’s turning gray. All those tiny little birthmarks of yours are changing size and color, and you consider going to the doctor to have them looked at, like old people do.

The stars of your favorite sports teams are younger than you. The hottest actresses are younger than you. You don’t get today’s music. Bouncers and bartenders don’t card you anymore. Strangers ask you if you have children. Children?

You’re a parent and turning into your own parents, or you’re disappointed in not being one by now.

You’re married and settling into a rut, or you’re worried that your marital prospects are dwindling with age.

You don’t have the job you knew you’d have, the car you knew you’d have, the house you knew you’d have, the money you knew you’d have by this time.

You are nowhere near living the life you thought you’d be living by now, and it is killing you

…well, what can I say? You’re thirty. Go ahead and die, you sniveling, geriatric whiner.

What, you thought I was talking about myself? In the second person? Wrong. I’m only twenty-nine. Thus, I don’t have to worry about aging, hopelessness, my own mortality or any of that crap that’s got your thirty-year-old knees a-wobbling.

I can skip and frolic and dance and sing tra-la-la… because I’m still in my twenties!

I can eat fast food, play soccer without stretching and let my cholesterol get so high it’ll have flashbacks for decades… because I’m still in my twenties!

I can go to the seediest bars, get impossibly wasted and schlep home at any hour of the night with some depraved, green-haired, tattooed strumpet and her shy, bespectacled twin sister who’s on leave from the convent… because I’m still in my twenties!

I can dodge the draft, I can drown my pregnant mistress near Chappaquiddick, I can go AWOL from the military, I can throw my Purple Hearts over the gates of the White House, I can drink, smoke, shoot and snort whatever I want and a year from now I’ll be able to wistfully say, “Ah, yes, I was young and foolish—I was still in my twenties!”

Now, am I actually going to do all those crazy, irresponsible things? Probably not. But the point I’m trying to emphasize in your moment of crisis is that you are a useless, washed-up mastodon, whereas I am not.

All those years growing up, I was always the youngest in the group. The youngest in my high school class. The youngest on my club soccer teams. I couldn’t drive when I graduated high school, couldn’t drink when I graduated college… Well, my thirty-year old friend, you may have gotten your license first, you may have voted first, you may have drank legally first, but guess what? I’ll turn thirty last, you ancient bastard. I win.

So happy 29th to me and gimme my cake and punch.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005 at 2:10 AM.

7 Responses to “On turning 30.”

bologna of mal intent Says:
November 23rd, 2005 at 12:05 PM
Rather depressing start, but thank g-d i have the whole picture of dorian gray thing going on with me cept its more like a school ID and no connotative sodomy involeved. But taking into consideration the latter half of ur entry i think i shall choose to not waste my younger years i will spend this extended weekend going out and partaking in all kinds of debauchery drinking smoking and [redacted] till i become skitzofrenic, but in my case since i will lack the ability of blaming it on my age for another 13 years ill just blame it on my cousin.
So happy birthday Mr. V go out and tp egg and trench those acient bastards homes, have fun and blame it on your twenties (that probably wont stand up in court thou)
PS just kidding about the [redacted] and smoking

[Moderator comments: Do you know what a “mandatory reporter” is? And please spell better next time.]

PaxonIB Says:
November 23rd, 2005 at 6:06 PM
ahhh.. Mr.V!!!! you are still such a kid at heart!!! you sure do know how to make history fun (even though history in itself is one big, interesting novel,—the 1700s in particular— some teachers aren’t as good as you)!!!! [Moderator comments: Be nice to them anyways.] Happy 29th birthday, and HAPPY Thanksgiving~~ we miss u…. PAXON misses u!!!!! enjoy ur birthday. may all ur wishes come true!

donnimikk Says:
November 23rd, 2005 at 8:19 PM
I’m saving this and sending it to every last one of my peers on October 21, 2017 and it will feel great. Thank you Mr. V for having been even more pathetically young when you graduated than I will be.

By the way, we murdered Forrest 8-0, were now 2-3. Everyone scored except for leading score from last year… But I’m not bitter.

PaxonGator Says:
November 24th, 2005 at 7:22 PM
[Moderator comments: Link to PaxonGator’s silly alteration of the “cake and punch” photo has itself been altered.]

Sorry couldn’t resist. Happy Birthday Mr.V

Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
November 29th, 2005 at 7:31 PM
Mrs. Hmnahmna and I copyrighted all our wedding photos. You now owe me, thanks to all the traffic your site generates and considering the going rate per hit . . . . $0.0015 in royalties.

Pay up. Now.

Vincent Viscariello Says:
November 30th, 2005 at 5:42 AM
I have some other photos that Mrs. Hmnahmna might be interested to see, Doc.

Pay up. Now.

PaxonGator Says:
February 14th, 2006 at 8:52 PM
And Van Goughish interpretation by Jason Nipper

“Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels.”

One of my favorite novels is A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. It tells of the recycling of civilization centuries after a nuclear war, from the vantage point of a Roman Catholic monastery in Utah.

My favorite dialogue is when Abbot Zerchi and a doctor argue about using one of the abbey’s courtyards for examining people exposed to radiation, and possibly recommending euthanasia for “hopeless” cases. Zerchi has just called laws permitting euthanasia “criminal.” The doctor responds:

“If I thought I had such a thing as a soul… I might agree with you.”

Abbot Zerchi smiled thinly. “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.”

The visitor laughed politely. “A semantic confusion.”

“True. But which of us is confused? Are you sure?”

You don’t have a soul… you are a soul. It’s a construction which differs somewhat from common usage, in which we refer to souls as something we own rather than something we are.

More simply: if you lose a thumb, you’re still you. If you puncture a lung, you’re still you. If you lose your left foot, you’re still you (unless you’re my brother, who never passes or shoots with his right foot). In many religions, traditions and personal belief systems, when your body dies, the real, true “you” is elsewhere and separate.

Even if you don’t believe in the existence of souls, you probably recognize that there is some essential being that a person is rather than has; and the existence of that being is in no way diminished by merely amputating a limb. But would it be diminished by a serious brain injury, or debilitating stroke? How would that affect you as a soul, or an essence, or whatever?

I think, and some might agree, that just as you are a soul that has a body, you are a soul that has a mind. (Temporarily?) But the distinction between soul and mind is much trickier.

The mind affects the soul in ways the body doesn’t; it is through our minds that we can learn about good and evil, or virtue and sin—apart from any intrinsic knowledge that we may naturally have. The mind’s health affects our ability to make moral decisions and thus incur guilt or maintain innocence. That’s why in our legal tradition, you can be acquitted of a crime due to insanity. This is roughly analogous to “this soul committed no sin because his mind was lacking.”

But where’s the cutoff, if there is one? I’m not asking that from a legal perspective, but from a moral perspective. At what level of mental dysfunction can someone no longer be held morally accountable for their action?

In Christian thought, this issue may ultimately be moot due to concepts such as original sin, salvation through faith alone, your finest deeds being as rags before God, and so on. I can’t speak for other faiths or philosophies.

What interests me is the status of the soul when the mind fades completely—when the brain deteriorates physically or simply can’t function as it’s supposed to.

For instance: I have an eighty-five-year-old grand-aunt who is suffering from dementia. Since moving up here, I’ve visited her every couple of weeks. Her short term memory is in terrible shape and getting worse. When I talk with her alone, no distractions, no other people in the room, she will ask the same three questions in a loop that will start over in as little as two minutes. When I ask questions, her answers usually lead into one of a few long-memorized litanies.

When more of the family is around, her condition is less noticeable because she no longer has to keep track of longer conversation with a single person. The more people, the more combinations of talkers and listeners, the easier it is for her to hide the problem by having several short conversations with different people.

Physically, she’s in just about as good shape as you can be at 85. If she loses her eyesight, or a leg, she’ll still be Aunt Mary. But, pardon the expression, as she loses her mind, what happens? If she loses all of her mental capacity—or if she simply loses her capacity for moral judgment, will Mary still “be” in her 85-year-old living shell?

Can the soul, without the mind, still be morally active? Can it still incur guilt? Can it depart prior to physical death? Is it inert, essentially frozen until physical death? How much of the “mind,” our cognition, is actually the soul, if any? If I were to make a Grodzin-like model of the relationship between the mind and the soul, would it resemble a layer-cake or a marble-cake?

A much shorter version of these questions: Was Terri Schiavo still in there? How would we know?

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 20th, 2005 at 6:06 PM.

3 Responses to ““Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels.””

  1. apushisfun Says:
    November 21st, 2005 at 6:07 PM

Mr. V, what spurred you to write about this very touchy subject?

Now my personal opinion about the terry schiavo case is that she wasn’t there anymore. She had been in that vegetated state for, I think it was, 10 years. There is no possible way that she was going to come out of that state. (off subject: Mr. V, my dad just told me to tell you I love you and get off the internet, but I’m going to finish what I have to say and then get off.) They [the parents] said that she would respond to their voice and that she said that she didn’t want to die. They could of thought she said that because they wanted her to live so much. But, in my personal opinion, I think that her body was just responding to an outside stimulus like the parent’s voices and that her “attempt” at saying she wanted to “live” was just another responce that her body enacted.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    November 21st, 2005 at 8:49 PM

I wrote about this “very touchy subject” because I would like to kidnap souls, and conscript the leftover bodies with minds into an army of zombies.

  1. bologna of mal intent Says:
    November 22nd, 2005 at 10:45 PM

ooooh cool, can i lead the army or atleast be one of luetentes or however you spell it and what if were mindless zombies?
but to deal with shivo i think their would be no possible way to know if she was still “there” autopsy showed that her brain had shrunk to the point where they can definitively say she was blind so likley any reactions she had were nothing but reflexes and i gota agree with the nerd above that her parents probably were only seeing and hearing what they wanted to hear

P.S: long live the secret brotherhood of VDV


A letter to President Bush.

Dear President Bush,

I would like to congratulate you for nominating Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the Supreme Court, where he would join such prominent justices as Antonin M. “Nino” Scalia. Hopefully his confirmation will be swift.

I would also like to take this occasion to suggest the following federal judges for any Supreme Court vacancies in the near future:

Anthony A. Alaimo

Ruggiero Aldisert

Thomas L. Ambro

Richard J. Arcara

Paul J. Barbadoro

Carl J. Barbier

Marianne O. Battani

Melvin T. Brunetti

Guido Calabresi

Richard A. Caputo

Richard J. Cardamone

William J. Castagna

David S. Cercone

Samuel Conti

Alfred V. Covello

Joseph A. Diclerico, Jr.

Paul V. Gadola

Arthur J. Gajarsa

Richard A. Lazzara

Joseph A. Longobardi

Kenneth A. Marra

William J. Martini

Frederick J. Martone

John R. Padova

Frank J. Polozola

Reena Raggi

William J. Rea

Charles J. Siragusa

John E. Sprizzo

Dominic J. Squatrito

Joseph L. Tauro

Michael A. Telesca

Ursula Mancusi Ungaro-Benages

I assure you, they are all judges of the highest caliber.

Sincerely,

Vincent D. Viscariello

This entry was posted on Monday, October 31st, 2005 at 12:56 PM and is filed under Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Silent “c.”

Yesterday’s indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby exemplified one of my many great observations about politics, morality, and life in general: Half the trouble you get into is caused by lying about the other half.

Look at Bill Clinton. If he had simply been honest about the whole Paula Jones-Monica Lewinsky fiasco, he would not have been impeached, found in contempt of court, fined, disbarred, etc. At least, not on that occasion.

Look at Richard Nixon. If he had simply been honest about Watergate, instead of trying to cover it up, there probably would not have been as intensive an investigation. There would have been no recommendation of impeachment from the House Judiciary Committee, and he wouldn’t have had to resign. And everybody would just love Nixon nowadays.

For now, it looks like no one committed any crime regarding the actual leak of Valerie Plame’s identity. That may change, but for now, no one’s been charged with the crime of “leaking”–and yes, I know it has a fancier name than “leaking.” But, if the indictment is true, Scooter lied about when and how he learned Valerie Plame’s identity. Which messed up the special prosecutor’s investigation. Which is a felony. Scooter got in trouble not for the act, but for lying about the act. Sound familiar?

(I think the real shame of the whole thing is that it took attention away from debating the merits of Joseph Wilson’s claims about the war. Those of you who pay no attention to the news may ask, “Who’s Joe Wilson? Who’s Valerie Plame? What?” In short, Wilson took a trip to Niger to investigate claims that Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake uranium. When he got back,Wilson said Bush invented reasons for the War in Iraq. It turns out that Wilson was lying about the trip himself. Plame matters because she’s Wilson’s wife and works for the CIA. Which was supposed to be a secret.)

Oh well. Don’t lie, scumbags. You’ll save yourself half the trouble you get into.

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 29th, 2005 at 6:25 PM.

4 Responses to “Silent “c.””

  1. jmanpc Says:
    October 29th, 2005 at 9:03 PM

Kinda funny how some people still think Clinton was the best president the US had seen in the latter part of the 20th century, despite the fact that he was a habitual liar. Er, wait… maybe Clinton was a great president because he wasn’t sure of the definition of ‘is’.

Either way, he looked like a scumbag to me.

  1. apushisfun Says:
    October 30th, 2005 at 3:03 PM

well it seems to me that, to state the obvious, clinton is a stupid idiot for lying to the supreme court. and it seems to me that mr. v likes making links to other websites. well isn’t that marvelous.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    October 30th, 2005 at 4:53 PM

As much as I dislike him, I did not intend this to be Clinton-bash time… he’s not the one currently under indictment. And my links are in fact “marvelous,” put in so that maybe people can learn some more stuff about various things.

  1. jmanpc Says:
    October 31st, 2005 at 5:12 PM

…but Clinton-bashing is so much fun!