Nice windows. Too bad if somebody broke them


I got a call from the cops today. It was kind of an interesting call. Haven’t had this happen before.

The phone number that came up on caller ID had an area code that I associate with cell phones. So I picked it up. Normally I don’t pick up the phone unless I recognize the number or have some other reason to think I might be interested, but I sorta figured this was somebody I knew, whose phone number I didn’t happen to recognize.

“Is that Mr Rantz?” The caller said. I didn’t place the name immediately, but there was a Jay Rantz who occupied this apartment before I moved in, ten years ago. But I brought my old phone number along, so while this was Rantz’ apartment, it isn’t Rantz’ number. Curious.

Incautiously — when will I ever learn? — I said ‘No, this is Michael Smith’. Imagine my dismay when the caller made it clear that he was calling on behalf of the police force, soliciting money for some supposed charity. Naturally I was nauseated, and hung up after a brisk and brusque ‘not interested’.

Now, of course, I’m wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. I suppose I should have made static noises and clicks and quietly hung up, but what can I say? I’m a naif idiot, basically.


Waiting for the ferryboat today, on my way home from the salt mine, I overheard a conversation between two thirtyish women, well turned out, obviously ‘educated’ (as that term is understood in this country) and, judging by their attire and demeanor, somewhere healthily over the median income, though not one-percenters by any means.

It was actually more of a monologue than a conversation, now that I think of it. One of the women — let’s call her Narratrix — was telling a rather intricately circumstantial story about her son’s preschool, and the other — Echo — made soft cooing sounds of sympathy whenever Narratrix paused for breath.

Narratrix’ narratio began with an Incident. Apparently some crazed parent Made A Scene(*) at the school, and, in Narratrix’s absolute unselfconscious words, “refused to leave the premises when directed. That’s private property!”

If Crazed Parent committed other atrocities — pulling out a shootin’ iron, for example, or defecating on the Head’s desk — we didn’t hear about them. Unruliness, as far as I could tell, was the A to Z of it.

It developed that Narratrix herself was not present for the Incident. She heard about it because the school’s headmistress promptly emailed all the other parents, told the story — or rather, told her story — apologized abjectly that anything as coarse as human passion and anger was allowed to impinge on their little darlings’ lives and possibly interfere with their edumacation, and assured them that Steps Would Be Taken to ensure that no such horror ever occuurred again.

Now up to this point I had thought that Narratrix was telling this tale as an example of wretched excess and absurd overreation.

Wronnng. It developed that Narratrix’s response was to call the school and berate them for not acting more strongly. She said — I jotted this down on the flyleaf of the book I’ve been hauling around, as soon as I got on the ferry, so it’s pretty close to verbatim:

“I said to huuah(**), no, this is not enough. What about graduation(***)? You know, that woman could come back. And it’s not crazy. These days, nothing is crazy. She could come back and shoot the place up. So you need, like, extra security. What are you going to do about that?”

Ungenerously, I hope the school takes the suggestion, and subjects all its parents to a robust, uncompromising cavity search before ‘graduation’. But I can’t help feeling that Narratrix would approve, after one or two small grunts of muted discomfort, such as we all emit, involuntarily, once a year or so, on the doctor’s examining table.

Like many of her fellow citizens, she has fallen in love with Security, and can’t get enough of it.

It’s conventional to depict this passion for policing as a response to fear: people trading liberty for security, in old Ben’s oft-quoted words, because they’re so scared of terr’rists or whatever.

I no longer see it that way. What struck me about Narratrix’ telling of the tale was the lip-smacking relish with which she recounted her demand for more ‘security’. I’ll see your twenty cops, and raise you a SWAT team.

Hers was not the tone of person accepting the lesser evil, because she’s frightened of what might happen otherwise. It was the tone of a person thoroughly invested in being, you might say, on the right side of the gun.

My guess is that Narratrix works in a place much like my own workplace, where shit, as the proverb says, flows downhill. I don’t think she’s very far up the hill, but she likes the thought that there are people down in the declivities who are deeper in the shit than she is.

She’s not allowed to misbehave, or emote, or make a scene. Disaster would certainly ensue if she did. So it follows that anybody else who does these forbidden things must be punished severely, and steps must be taken to ensure that it never happens again.

This is why I’m very pleased about the dismal employment prospects of the twentysomethings. Fewer and fewer of them will have the opportunity to turn into this vengeful, punitive, twisted harpy.

(*) I would very much like to hear the crazed parent’s side of the story. Just sayin’.

(**) Jersey accent. IPA doesn’t have glyphs for these diphthongs.

(***) Apparently preschools now have ‘graduations’, perhaps the most depressing note in the whole story.


Heh. Got you with that one, didn’t I?

Over on Counterpunch, Jeffrey St Clair has written a very droll piece, detailing his persecution — or would-be persecution; of course, like any sensible person, he loves this stuff — by a prudish Trotskyite groupuscule. (Yes, Virginia, there are — still! — Trotskyites.)

His piece will give you all the backstory you need, and it’s a fun read anyway. Teaser: Jeffrey is being taken to task for publishing a piece about some Hollywood ‘personality’ in which there appeared the four-letter word that entitles this post.

Needless to say, much brouhaha about this atrocity on the lefty mailing lists. ‘Sexism!’ cry the Trots. More thoughtful folk have attempted a class analysis of the Hollywood personality’s tits, without much success, since as far as I can tell they are (or, alas, were) in a class of their own.

Why ‘tits’ should be unsavory while ‘breasts’ is OK is entirely beyond me, except that the former is vernacular whereas the second, for some reason, is genteel.

I can’t see why. ‘Breasts’ seems to me both illiterate and prurient, since in English as she was well-spoke, back in the day, no individual had more than one breast.

To pluralize it calls attention to anatomy while purporting to elevate one’s gaze therefrom: consummate Pecksniffery.

But a great deal of campus-PC diction policing comes down to parlor gentility, with a thin — very thin — left cover.

I had an aunt — great-aunt, really — who used to quote the old chestnut ‘horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow.’ She meant it, too. It wasn’t till years later that I realized this wasn’t original with her.

The same dear lady thought it was quite important whether you said ‘couch’ or ‘sofa’, ‘drapes’ or ‘curtains’, ‘dinner’ or ‘supper’ (though the last was almost Talmudically complex; each term was acceptable — in its place).

‘Tits’ was actually acceptable too, but only if you were talking about a cow. She would have spelled it ‘teats’, but pronounced it ‘tits’.

Spelling it as it sounds would, of course, have been coarse.

Auntie, if dire necessity had ever forced her to refer to a lady’s tits, would have said ‘bosom’. Anybody lewd enough to pluralize — ‘bosoms’ — would have been cast immediately into the outer darkness.

I don’t suppose she ever met any Trotskyites, but she wouldn’t have thought much of them either. She would have figured they were some odd kind of Methodists.