Sunday, December 18, 2011

Out to pasture, in style

Old folks get to ride, too

On Wheeling Island in West Virginia there was a rooming house
we spotted a few years ago on a walk across the ancient suspension bridge 
spanning the Ohio River.

From the looks of the house's exterior, the elderly hosteled there
were treated to cleanliness, mirth and merriment.

 The residents probably got to ride plenty of
fully -connected merry go round horses in their day.
Fancy should run the full gamut in life.
It looks like Wheeling Islanders know how to put their old folks
out to pasture, in style.

Of interest today:

1.  From RSN

Christopher Hitchens: Reason in Revolt

By Robert Scheer
Hitch is dead. Not, obviously, his brilliant body of work, or the stunning examples of a grand and unfettered intellect that will forever survive him, as will the indelible record of his immense wit and passion. But, sadly, a life force that I had assumed as an indissoluble part of our political and literary landscape, as well as my own close circle of friends, has ended, and with it an indispensable element of our collective moral code.
Christopher Hitchens could be wrong; we had harsh public debates about the Iraq War, but I never doubted that, even then, he was coming from a good place of humane concern. In that instance, he allowed his great compassion for the Kurds and his justifiable loathing of Saddam Hussein to overwhelm a lifetime of opposition to the arrogant assumptions of America’s neocolonialism. Despite the vehemence of our debates, both public and personal, he and his saving grace and wife, Carol Blue, held a gathering at their home to discuss a book I wrote on the subject. This was a man unafraid of intellectual challenge and committed to pursuing the heart of the matter.
That was his driving force, a seeker of truth to the end, and a deservedly legendary witness against the hypocrisy of the ever-sanctimonious establishment. What zeal this man had to eviscerate the conceits of the powerful, whether their authority derived from wealth, the state or a claim to the ear of the divine.
Hitch was the opposite of the opportunistic pundits who competed with him for public space. He took immense risks, not the least in offering himself for waterboarding before concluding it was unmistakably torture, or challenging the greatness of God, knowing full well that he was exposing himself as an object of wildly irrational hate.
So it ever was with the Hitch I knew for decades, going back to the young ex-Trotskyite challenging ex-Communist and fellow Brit writer Jessica (Decca) Mitford through nights of lively debate about everything, and then joining that equally grand and kindred spirit in several drunken and rousingly heartfelt renditions of “The Internationale.” Much like Mitford, Hitchens became world famous and well rewarded and, like her, Hitch was to the end singing that worker’s anthem on behalf of the deluded and abused masses with whom, for all of his personal success, he most profoundly identified.
He was a great man, perfect in his intellectual courage, but I am reminded more of the writer, profoundly dedicated to his craft and committed, for all of his sparkle and bouts of excess, to a prodigious workaday effort at making this a better world. In his memory I offer these lyrics from “The Internationale,” as I recall his somewhat inebriated and ever bemused, but no less heartfelt, rendering of these verses:
Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We’ll change henceforth the old tradition
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

That was him. A slayer of superstitions, thundering reason in revolt.
Lift a glass to comrade Hitch.

2. From today's NYTimes:

Panning Salon

The record $52.4 billion spree shoppers went on from Black Friday through Cyber Monday was really just for show. Beneath the holiday spending, consumers are grouchy. You can sense their mood just by scanning the posts at consumer-review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp.
“Produce59” at Trip Advisor had this to say about a room at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Fredericksburg, Va.: “The heating/AC unit was nice and quiet; however, the thermostat is on the wall, so turning the knobs directly on the unit will not get you any results.” We’ll keep that in mind. (“ExArmyRN” had this nit to pick: “It would have been nice if the mini-refrigerator had a small freezer section.”)
Viaggio Ristorante and Lounge in Chicago is positively reviewed, but “Johnny T.” logged in at Yelp to say this:
“The salad was passable ... The orecchiette was ... a little less than a-ok. Serviceable, perhaps... I enjoyed the white beans but there was no heat to the dish ... This was bland. I added red pepper flakes to the dish in search of some sort of seasoning. At the end of the meal, I was left feeling confused.”
Who are these people? I’m not sure, but they are more exacting than professional critics.
If you’re staying at, say, the Econo Lodge in Cave City, Ky., what do you expect at breakfast time? “Tropicanadan” weighed in at Trip Advisor: “The breakfast was adequate but unremarkable.” Really? At an Econo Lodge? In Kentucky?
If the consumer-review Web sites are any indication, the American consumer has become a pain in the neck. Maybe we were spoiled in the blinged-out 1990s and early ’00s and have yet to adjust to hard times. Take “Lisa C.,” of Millbrae, Calif., posting as follows at Yelp after having visited a Starbucks with her boyfriend:
“the barista ... looked at me confused when i said ‘grande hot apple chai’ as if he didn’t know what it was ... then he said ‘apple juice infused into chai tea?’ i responded, ‘yeah...’ my bf usually gets that ‘ice vanilla latte with restretto (sp?)’ and they stared at him too ... my drink didn’t taste that well ... something was off balance and i ended up tossing it...”
We used to understand that convenience comes at a price. The food you get at McDonald’s or Burger King is not meant to be a major culinary event. But now the chains, perhaps in response to customers hopped up on Food Network shows, have gone upscale. McDonald’s plans a $1 billion, Starbucks-like makeover of its restaurants, and Burger King has Whopper Bar restaurants. With the new frills come new expectations. After visiting a McDonald’s in San Diego, a Yelp contributor, “Caroline B.,” wrote:
“The Gelato was some of the worst I have ever had in my entire life. The ‘Watermelon’ looks like pink colored wall putty and had no discernible flavor of fruit of any kind. No one in our group was able to stomach it. I actually threw it away.”
She went on to say that she was no fan of the restrooms. Not because they were dirty. Because of their “faux marble and faux flowers.”
You can’t help wondering whether a full-fledged depression might be the only real cure for what ails us.
Jim Windolf is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on December 18, 2011, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: Panning Salon.


After Dec. 31, the Raccoon News will be working on its fifth year of existence.  The first post was made on that date in 2007.
The random blog-diary was set up for us by then UW-Madison college student son Leland who perhaps unknowingly gave us something we've loved to do.

We are nothing if not survivors so far.
And many said it would not last.