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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Well, resumption of business-as-usual here at the Hope Chest was short-lived. My p.o.s. Hewlett-Packard laptop has thrown up a blue screen of death and died for the umpteenth time. It’s becoming sort of interesting (I tell myself) exactly how many replacement parts and prepaid trips to the service shop this lemon is capable of absorbing. Hewlett-Packard must have lost their profit margin on it a long, long time ago, and there remain 4 years on the warranty package yet to go. At a certain point. you’d think they’d want to cut their losses and just replace the whole thing (I mean in one fell swoop, as opposed to a little tiny piece at a time, which is how we’ve been doing it, Hewlett-Packard and I).

San Antonio Daily Express, July 7, 1873. Here is a singularly pitiable instance of FBAS (False Bender Arrest Syndrome). In the headline of the post that inaugurated this thread I made a casual comparison between FBAS and contemporary hysteria over blue gum negroes. The resemblance actually runs deeper than I’d deeply thought about: Both are basically semi-secularized versions of witchcraft panic. In this case, we have a bit of an overlap with the whole rural wild woman phenomenon too. Everything that plummets must converge, see? Read More »

San Jose Evening News, June 3, 1904. Time to touch base with mince pie. Read more.

Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1889. Your average false arrest of a Bender suspect is a pretty prosaic affair: Some unlucky schmuck or schmuckess is in transit through a hick town, and a random resident of the latter spontaneously decides That’s John Bender! (sometimes senior, sometimes junior) and/or That’s Kate Bender! and/or That’s Almira Bender! An arrest or arrests ensue, and the newspapers triumphantly report that the long-sought criminal or criminals have been arrested at last and for sure this time, and no mistake about it. Often the coverage simply stops there until the next round, though sometimes there’s a sheepish follow-up item to the effect that, uh, perhaps the rock-solid Bender identification had been a bit premature after all. This one, however, is a bit more complicated. Read More »

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 26, 1904. Let no one accuse John W. “Black Spot” Williams of an underdeveloped work ethic.

Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1882. Hey, we’re back in business here at The Hope Chest. (And may I just thank the international service response team of the Hewlett-Packard corporation for fixing me up with working computer in just slightly more time than it would have taken for Rural Free Delivery to deliver me a can of Dapper Dan Pomade? Outstanding.) Read More »

Blocked from my regular blog praxis by the good people at Hewlett-Packard, makers of the valetudinarian paperweight known as the Compaq 6510b, I’ve been honing a new Erma Bombeck shtick over at the Chicago Reader (here and here). The first one blew up real good with the help of Twitter momentum provided by no lesser man than Roger Ebert, which I thought was kind of cool.

I just found out that my mince pie article is a finalist for a James Beard Award for best fish-and-chips wrapper of the year. It seems I am on a short list of three. I like those odds. It’s an honor just to be nominated, of course (and damn, would I love to win).

My laptop is once again dead, and the borrowed antique with which I write this permits no processing of clippings. What better time then for some inspirational poetry? This is by one of my favorite writers, Thomas Disch. He kind of let me down a couple of years back by blowing his brains out on July 4th. But I don’t feel that this invalidates the verse.
In a better universe than this, this poem would occupy the place that Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” does here: framed copies would hang in dentist office waiting rooms, psych wards, church-basement youth centers and other places of healing and uplift.


1. There is a man weeping as he sits by a roulette table, in Atlantic City; he has lost everything, he is ruined.

2. Another weeps as, yet again, the mailman drives by without stopping.

3. In a suburb outside Middletown tears of despair moisten a long-unlaundered pillowcase at 3 A.M.

4. These men are fortune’s fools who baselessly believed luck would favor them always because they had been lucky once.

5. They shall turn to their comforters and find no comfort. Their dinners are take-out, their wives live in distant cities.

6. I say to them: stop bellyaching. Mow your lawns. Rejoice in the music of Beethoven, and brush your teeth.

7. Behold! A procession of women approaches. They are old but their faces are bright with makeup. They do not complain of arthritis or their children’s neglect.

8. Here is a widow who paints landscapes and clowns. How chipper she is, how full of wisdom.

9. Here is her sister Judith. Four hours everyday she speaks with strangers on the phone about their asphalt driveways, and never repines.

10. This woman’s house is spotless. She breakfasts on her own preserves. Her hands are always busy.

11. How long are the days in July, how much there is still to be done.

12. Do not grieve, therefore, for resorts that stand empty in the Catskills, where once were multitudes; nor for the rivers where no bass strikes; nor yet for the small town’s only five-and-dime, burned to the ground.

13. What though there is not money for a wider drive: do not, each spring, the irises return?

14. The deer and the crow delight beneath the apple tree; the wise man sits by his TV and drowses; and the mouse is warm in the crawlspace.

15. Why, therefore, sorrow? A millennium draws to an end, but shall not another replace it?

16. Look on this book, a best-seller long ago, and just today purchased for two dollars at the Methodists’ Book Bazaar.

17. There is no death but only continuance; if not for those who have passed away, at least for all the rest of us.

18. The nonagenarian in the nursing home has heard the Nightly News, but her sleep is undisturbed.

19. The downsized trucker drinks his fill, and the chronically depressed waitress grows fat.

20. Above them all are the stars, beyond summary or comprehension; beyond all sorrow equally; unthinkable their distance from us.

21. And yet, how wonderful to think, it is those stars, so far away, that are the source of all our luck.

22. Let the wise heed these counsels; and let the ignorant live in their ignorance still. Selah.

Thomas M. Disch, The Word of God

Here are the results if the latest poll concerning some stuff. Results seem plausible to me.