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Thursday, February 14, 2002
SHERRON, MY HEAVEN She's tough, she's honest, and she's easy on the eyes. Sherron Watkins, Enron's scrupulous accounting authority who presciently and poetically warned that the firm would "implode in a wave of accounting scandals" -- if you're reading this, won't you be my valentine?
posted by Robert 9:49 AM
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
LISTENING Some people simply refuse to listen. One "friend" of mine in particular, who is short of stature and quick of wit, erects the most preposterous and unnecessary seige works in the face of Truth that he resembles a medevil villiage to which a more enlighted kingdom has surrounded. Defeat, and hence enlightenment, is inevitable, and yet he resists! To him I say, "Lower thy gate, friend, for I come in peace."
posted by Robert 3:40 PM
THE MARKET SPEAKS: SEX PATCH Of course, the free market system is the best way to allocate scarce resources. That is not in doubt, certainly.
But stories like this one -- about Procter & Gamble investing hundreds of millions into a patch designed to make post-menopausal women more libidinous -- is just one of many indications that even the market system has its flaws. Every female I know has no trouble feeling fresh when she wants to; when one is homeless, one has nothing else to do, I suppose.
But even if there are throngs of ladies out there having a hard time with intimacy, does it not strike anyone else that curing such an infirmity might be not the least frivolous? After all, are not millions of people stricken with malaria? Consumption?
BYGONES, BYGONE Robert Sore's opinion is that squabbling over so mere a pastime as "pairs skating" is as ridiculous as squabbling over a presidential election. Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not have to sully its good name in this Canada-Russia mess, as that elitist cabal called the International Skating Union has ruled that Monday evening's score will stand: The Russians win.
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
THE TRUTH ABOUT SNACKS Although I am homeless -- a state of affairs hardly conducive to regular meals -- I make it a point to fortify myself at regular intervals, rather than with arbitrary loads of junk food. In short, I don't snack. Neither should you.
Should I find a tasty morsel, I won't devour it immediately like a beast or savage. Rather, I sequester nuggets of food in a special sealed plastic container until the appropriate hour. Then, I prepare a proper spread, and consume the assortment as a meal.
As the good doctor Ron Kennedy, M.D. will attest, snacking, even on otherwise healthy food, yields poor health. Foreigners now most commonly identify Americans by their offensive girth. Even among my street fellows, many are caked with unseemly mounds of adipose tissue.
The culprit is snacking, which allows no time for proper digestion, and tricks the body into a state of perpetual insatiety. If you wish to avoid joining the battalions of colossal Americans abusing their unfortunate Lazy-Boys, the key is to eat only at the appointed hours of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Is this so difficult? I think not.
TELEVISION ACQUAITANCES The National Broadcasting Company has apparently signed a deal with producers of "The Friends" to continue the television hit for one more year, according to the Associated Press. Each Friend will receive a million shells per episode.
I have never seen the program, since I do not own a television -- but that is almost incidental. Whom among us, television-owning or not, has not, during the past eight years, reveled in the emotional zeniths and nadirs of the half-dozen wisecracking allies who manage to afford living in Manhattan apartments without worry of employ?
Even among the homeless, "The Friends" is a must-discuss: Phoebe's long climb from the depths of depression, Ross's bout with sexual indeterminacy, Monica's adorable, curmudgeonly joi de vivre, Rachel's hair, Chandler's weight problem.
Monday, February 11, 2002
PHONIES Today a man gave me his cellular telephone. Just came up and said, "Here, fella, take a phone."
posted by Robert 3:47 PM
SALON NOT SO SMART In all their wisdom, the editors at Salon.com, a den of liberal punditry, have generously chosen to let the masses in on the Bush administration's nasty little secret: Al Queda probably does not have 100,000 trained cadres ticking away around the world, and there is at present no credible evidence of a specific and imminent threat against U.S. targets.
The writer assumes the average American too dim and naive to see through the administration's propaganda. Well, if Salon would just give as much credit to the American people as does the President and his Cabinet, I would have a lot more respect for the publication.
President Bush knows that his subjects have the savvy to see through his machinations regarding the scope of the terrorist threat. His speech was clearly intended for our enemies, in order to give them a false sense of strength and power, so as to increase the likelihood of foolish mistakes, and overbold moves more easily foiled than stealthy, under-handed actions.
Only a fool couldn't see that if the reason there have been no follow-on attacks as of yet is that Al Queda is fundamentally a poorly organized, ill funded operation that happened upon an unlikely piece of talent in Mohammed Atta. But the profile of the standard operative is clearly more closely aligned with the so-called shoe bomber -- the dithering dolt who forgot his lighter -- than any sort of "mastermind."
President Bush understands that, and he understands that we, the American people understand the situation and the need for strategic misrepresentations of fact in public statements. The only thing I see being overestimated here is, surprise surprise, a journalist's assessment of his own IQ when compared to the national average.
A ROTTEN ONION The journalistic entrepreneurship of The Onion, a small-time news-weekly out of the Middle West, is to be commended; the paper almost always has stories that the bigger media outlets, given their Olympian gaze, seem to overlook.
But my only wish is that reporters at The Onion take on a warmer, less clinical tone in their reporting. The paper routinely reports just the facts of a situation, failing to consider the human repercussions of those facts. Take this piece on the "rising tensions" between two businessmen -- one Indian and one Pakistani -- in Detroit.
The paper reports that Rajesh Srinivasan, the Indian owner of an Amoco gasoline station, and Majid Ashraf, the Pakistani manager of the Subway sandwich franchise inside the Amoco, are in a bitter battle over the small duties of their stores. Srinivasan is upset about Ashraf's refusal to mop up a portion of his shop; Ashraf is upset about Srinivasan's jingoistic attitude. (Incidentally, I studied the franchise rules at Subway's website. It seems that Ashraf, the Pakistani, is correct -- he does not have to take orders from the Indian. I wonder why The Onion did not print this?)
It's unfortunate that The Onion reporter (unnamed in the report) treats this situation so lightly; though experts do comment that the dispute could spill into war, the reporter does not investigate whether similar tensions are rising in the surely hundreds of other such convenience-store disputes all over the country. (Also, one can't help but sense an Indian bias in the story; why is there no mention of the indignities brought upon Pakistan since 1947 by the brutal Indians?)
I know, from my time at the shelter, that small daily rituals are important for personal well-being when one is stuck in tight quarters. All over America, perhaps, Pakistanis are being brutalized by the more politically secure Indians. Let's hope that a national newspaper picks up on this story where The Onion dropped the ball.
POPULAR CULTURE In his new book, Frank Bruni, a reporter for the New-York Times -- which I have not read since December 12, 1977 -- reveals that President Bush is "no more culturally 'with it' than Bob Dole," according to the New York Daily News.
Bush could not identify Leonardi Di Capri -- a child star, apparently -- or "Sex and the City," a television program that I, too, cannot describe, for I do not have a television. "When reporters on the campaign trail used words like 'vegan' or 'yenta,' Bush had no idea what they were talking about," Bruni says, according to the Daily News. (Before I checked the dictionary, I didn't know those words either.)
Does it matter to global security or domestic tranquility that the president keeps his nose above the cultural miasma, refusing to indulge in the idolatry that sedates our masses? It clearly does not. Of course the emperors attended the jousts, but they did it only to be politic; they knew, like our emperor does, that elevating the gladiators to near-gods threatened the empire. If only more people read Roll Call than Rosie, we'd have a wise world.
Sunday, February 10, 2002
"ENRONIC" Ah, another night at the shelter. In San Francisco, your typical homeless shelter brings visions of Dante's innermost circles of hell; indeed, the only reason one submits to such a wretched place is the heat.
Certainly the company here is not to be savored. If they're fortunate enough to have learned to say their first names, most of the souls in this establishment would consider the task too much of an infringement on their drink. And tonight, the others, the halfway conscious men who sometimes say an accidentally wise thing or two, are all embroiled in a comically turgid discussion of -- of all things -- global financial chicanery!
It's been impossible, these last few days, to walk the streets of this city without hearing some suited Johnny expound on his outrage over Enron, inevitably coining, amidst the thicket of his harangue, a new word to illustrate his cleverness.
"My job is so bad, it's Enronic," one tweed said to another this morning, slapping his fellow hard on the back and guffawing like a drunken toddler. And here's this from one of our ever-outraged politicians: "Enron should have been called End Run, because that's what they pulled eventually, an end run around investors."
Forgive my French, but that's all too much pissing in the communal well for my liking. Enron was a fine firm, in my estimation; the more money it hid from the rapacious government in those blessed havens, the more the company gets my kudos.
Now, if there were indeed some financial no-nos, I say let them off with a warning. Enron was, after all, charting new ground -- if the ride got a little bumpy along the way, they're not entirely to blame. I have spent a long, exhilarating while studying my Smith, and I know the invisible hand at work when I see it -- and, by God, I saw it in Skilling and Fastow and Lay. Give these men a medal, Stockholm!
However, one sour note regarding Enron executives' actions: In life, one ought to prize honesty and pride above all else, even comfort. One ought to be prepared to tell the truth, even if one ends up in a cell for it. In life, there is no "fifth amendment privilege," as my homeless colleagues who've tried that trick will be too glad to tell you, Mr. Lay.
This isn't me, but it looks like me.
The library doesn't have those scan machines. And I don't have a camera.
My name is Robert Sore. I am a homeless man in San Francisco, scraping out a living from trash cans and odd jobs. But don't think that I need your pity. If you see me on the street, keep walking, buddy. I don't need your money and I don't need you, in fact -- but I'd be willing to wager that you need me.
I have lived a long time, and I spend a lot of time in the library. A lot of time. I know what's wrong with this world. Why the politicians have it wrong, why the fancy professors have it wrong, why the United States has it wrong. Why the liberals are wrong and why the conservatives are wrong.
But I damn sure know what's right, too. And I'm going to tell you what.