Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Halloween Story


Yesterday, I rode my bike to the neighborhood mailbox. I rode over the bridge, past Hulk Hogan's new house, across North Bay Shore Drive, and dropped my letter in. On the way back I was stopped by the Sunset Island security guard. He was wearing a uniform with the company logo Securitas (Latin, of course, for security) on it. The word Securitas made the guard, in my mind, seem a somewhat more respectable figure; still unspectacular. Something like a Praetorian Guard to the wealthy and isolated Miami Beach Brahmans, but not nearly that. Anyways, I digress.

The guards name was Dwayne. Dwayne is a moderately handsome black male. He has a faint accent, somewhere in there is the lingering trade winds of the Caribbean Islands, but his English is mostly impeccable. Mostly, only because of the long pauses he takes before answering questions. When I was bicycling back on to my Island home he seemed in the mood to chat. Normally, I have very little contact with these security guards (Throughout the 1990's they were uniformed under the company Kent Security). A month or two ago I did bring one of them a slice of pizza, that was Marco. He is Haitian, also very pleasant like Dwayne (who is not Haitian).

Dwayne and I started to chat a little, stopped in between by the cars he had to open the gate for. Occasionally, the conversation also paused, as I had to swat away sand flies who were viciously biting me as we spoke. I guess Dwayne is used to them, he didn't seem to mind the swarms circling around our knees. All part of the job.

A black Bentley pulled up. Dwayne, who usually recognizes everyone by their last name and car, had to talk to the gentleman in the very expensive automobile for a moment. The man in the car was young, playing music loudly, wearing sunglasses at dusk. Dwayne asked who he was visiting, I didn't really listen to the conversation. The man sped off, mostly indifferent to his surroundings.

Dwayne, asked me if I had a sister. I said no. "Oh, wait" said Dwayne. "Yeah, someone who visits you Eric, someone with long black hair?" No, I replied. "Hmm, you're from Africa right?" asked Dwayne. What?! Me, African? Dwayne: "Yeah man, like South Africa or something?" Not quite, I said. So basically everything Dwayne asked me was completely inaccurate. My previous confidence in him, as built up by his remarkable ability to remember the names of all the visitors to the neighborhood, was absolutely shattered. I told him a little bit about myself. I explained that I was looking for a job before starting any graduate school I have applied for. He thought I should take a job at the public library, probably the South Shore Branch, it's close by. "They pay eleven dollars an hour, Eric." Not bad, I thought, but probably a little boring. Dwayne told me that one day he'd like to live on Sunset Island. "That's the dream, Eric." He told me a little bit more about himself, his Aunt works at the same hospital as my mom. His brother goes to FSU, Dwayne is planning to start night school again, and that his wife is in the Army. He told me that if she gets pregnant she is excused from active duty for 12 months. This was a project he was planning to work on.

I rode back home and called it a day.

This morning, October 31st, I looked for a job on Lincoln Road. I refilled my propane tank for my gas grill at Chevron, and helped my mom set up a few Halloween decorations. During the set up, I noticed that the house next door, normally shuttered-up was now free of shutters over the windows. In addition, next door was the Bentley Dwayne and I saw yesterday. At the time I wondered how such a young man could afford this car. My mom, after lighting a candle in the shape of a number "7" underneath a ceramic pumpkin, told me the owner of the car was renting the house with another man. "You know what that means."

I went to work-out this evening with my Dad, and his Bulgarian trainer at the Flamingo Park gym. I arrived home at around 7:45 pm, my mom took the first shift of handing out candy, and just as I arrived home she left for work. All that was left was a handful of Blow-Pop style Lolly's and a new bag filled with raisins. My mom was reluctant to hand these out, for obvious Halloween related youth-palate-gastronomic reasons. I tried starting up my grill to cook a steak, I was very hungry. It didn't work. I must be doing something wrong. I went inside to fry the steak, covered it with pepper, I thought this would be a good idea.

No one rang the door-bell. I guess most of the kids had already stopped by while my mom was still here. I took a shower, but as I came out I noticed some kids chatting outside. I peered through the window in my front door. I overheard a few things they said. "Yo, come on, hurry up." That didn't alarm me. Then, a child's squeaky voice, "I don't want to go to jail." some more young voices off in the distance, I didn't really see any of their faces. It occurred to me they were probably going to egg my new neighbor's expensive car, not my Honda of course!

I went back to my room, organized some papers on my desk, and then took a look through my window. Oh no! My car was covered in toilet paper! Furious, and filled with rage, (Rage, Goddess, sing to me the rage of Eric!) I, still wet from the shower, put on some shorts, ran to kitchen and grabbed two eggs out the refrigerator. I was going to teach these little bastards a lesson. Dripping wet, half-naked, I ran down the street, shouting at another family if they had seen who threw toilet paper on my car. They didn't seem to understand my question. Then, as I planned to run further down the dark street that same family started to walk to my door. I had to turn back to fulfill my role as the candy-giver-outer. They were in front of me as I walked back to my house. I passed them, it now occurred to me how ridiculous I looked, holding two eggs, no shirt, and galloping to my front-door before they could ring the bell. The children's mother stood in the street bellowing at a car in the distance to slow down. The kids grabbed the last of the Blow-pops. When asked if they knew who "tricked" my car they replied that they thought it was decoration for the house. That was certainly an unexpected answer.

As I was handing the candy to them, one of the eggs dropped out of my hand, and cracked, clear albumen and yellow yolk spread between my toes, under my sandal, and on the floor near the front door. All I had accomplished now was egging my own house, the vandals were far away at this point. At this point, to my surprise, my anger had been quieted. I think it was the puzzlement in the children's eyes. There was some innocence there. Who was this man, half-clothed, running around outside his house looking to throw eggs at people? Who am I, what have I become? I said Happy Halloween, and slunk back to my bathroom to wipe off the egg, and to wash off the mess in the living room where it had broken. I promptly put the other egg back in the refrigerator.

How could I have thought of THROWING an egg at PEOPLE? What the hell was wrong with me? After I cleaned up, I walked outside to get a closer look at my car. It was fine, just a little toilet paper (clean) that took about two seconds to take off. On top of that, it was double-ply Angel Soft. I was struck by how thoughtful the kids were who did this. There was so little of it on my car it was almost pathetic, it felt like my heart was breaking. The feeling of seeing a sick kitten, or driving by one's old elementary school after so many years, crept into my mind. What thoughtful kids, to think they were scared they might go to jail for this? God, what innocence. I was suddenly happy for them. To think to say the word jail, not prison. To think that they would be caught at all. Innocent mischief. I was in awe that they would fear being punished for something like this. It was too quaint.

I sit here writing this with one thought in mind. It is a quote from an assignment Ms. Borona gave to my ninth grade English class. This is a response that was written by Rachel Neuhut that I have saved in the inside cover of the book for almost nine years.

"Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do in his life. He claims that he'd like to be the "catcher in the rye." There is a poem which makes him picture innocent children playing in a field. He wants to stand there watching them all day. Then he can catch them as they fall over the edge of the cliff. Holden seems to want to take care of anyone who is still innocent and hasn't learned the reality of the world Holden considers phony. He is afraid the poor ducks in Central Park may not know to fly south for the winter and may be frozen in the lake. His old friend Jane is vulnerable to the world, but sincere. Holden cares for her dearly and wants to save her before she can enter a world of sex maniacs like Stradlater and "phony" adults. Phoebe is Holden's beloved sister whom he also wishes to save from a world of "fuck you" signs and malicious people. Jane, the ducks, and Phoebe are like the children in the field. Holden wants to save them before they fall over the cliff, and land in reality."

Next year I'll leave their toilet paper on my car overnight.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Foley's Axel's

This story begins about a month or two ago... I was trying to sell my old digital camera on eBay, and I ran into a whole lot of muck:

Message: This is a complicated story, with quite a few details.

This is the item number: 19469213723

I put my item up for sale, and the highest bidder, formerly known as
"crystal_dawn49556" (now a non-registered user who changed his eBay ID
to "cheerfuldennis" also now a non-registered user) won it for $120.49,
I contacted him and sent him an invoice. He never replied. According to
eBay, his address is:

Dennis Morgan
320 Church Ave.
Raleigh, NC
27606

I looked this up on maps.google.com and it does not exist!

The shipping address for the item was for:

Deborah Jordan
108 Seven Mile
Blanchard, MI
49310

Since "Dennis" never responded, I called up "Deborah Jordan" twice. A
woman picked up the phone both times, and said that Ms. Jordan was not
there, and that she would leave a message but knew of no one by the name
of "Dennis Morgan". She sounded concerned and legitimate, she was
helpful, but I have not yet heard from "Ms. Jordan".

Then, I checked MYeBay again, and despite my auction having the
specification as shipping to US ONLY, a new shipping address appeared as
NIGERIA. This set off alarms, as I have heard (from Rich Berger) about other e-mail scams
asking gullible Americans to send money to Nigerian Princes, etc. I grew
very concerned at this point. I e-mailed eBay, and they responded with a
way of getting a contacts phone number.

Next...

I got the phone number for "Dennis Morgan" through eBay, it is (919)
926-1220. I called the number, and a man picked up claiming to be
"Dennis." The reception was terrible, and after a little further
investigation it turns out it is a NetZero Internet phone number, which
may explain the bad reception. He said he wanted me to ship it to
Nigeria, and sent through e-mail to me the following address:

Oluwafemi Morgan,
20B Apake, General Hospital Road,
Ogbomo, Oyo State, Nigeria.
234038

I eventually sent him an email (for which he has never responded) that I
am NOT going to ship it to Nigeria. And that I instructed him NOT to pay
me, since I think he had no intention of EVER paying me.

Later this evening, it appeared on MYeBay, that cheerfuldennis is no
longer a registered user! So, at this point I am thinking to myself...
What is going on here?!

Currently, I filed for a return of the Final Value Fee, which I have
already paid, and I gave the second highest bidder a second offer.

So that is the whole story, here is where eBay comes in...

On one hand, this may all be perfectly innocent. Dennis Morgan may
actually exist, despite a dubious address.

But on the other hand, why was "Deborah Jordan" of Michigan listed as
the person I should ship to, and then why did the man on the phone then
send me an address in Nigeria to ship to?

Why has cheerfuldennis canceled his registration?

I feel like there are too many fishy things for this all to be an
innocent case of someone who just wasn't very fast with payment.

Please let me know what you think, I am a little concerned that I came
very close to being defrauded.

Thank you,
The Deadly Gamesman

OK:

eBay eventually got back to me and let me know they would do some of their own investigation.

I sold the camera to a woman from Saddle Brook, New Jersey. I mailed it to her and...


She breaks it.

Now, of course, I knew I sent her a camera in working condition. But, she claims it arrived broken. After some argumentation I agree to refund her money, and she mails it back to me, and sure enough, it's broken. The LCD screen is now fuzzy, and pink.

I bring it to Best Buy, where I have a four-year warranty, and they agree to repair it. (It is currently being worked on by the Geek Squad, or so I have been led to believe.)

I thought I might also mention that Robin S. (The woman who bought it the second time) had many curious purchases on eBay of her own. According to her bidding history, the only other items she has purchased are flip-flops (hundreds of them) and cat accessories (such as jingle-jangley bell collars, also hundreds of these).

Last Friday my internet broke. My mom thinks I cut the cable when I was mowing the backyard. I think it was something else. I was right, because my internet is working again (all of a sudden.)

Time: 11pm. Date: Friday, October 20th.

Since it wasn't working, I go to Lincoln Road (I live in Miami Beach). This is a very popular outdoor-mall/walking street. My intention is to steal wi-fi internet from someone that lives in one of the numerous apartment buildings that surround Lincoln Road. I might also add that Lincoln Road has a huge Gay population, and a very large number of Gay bars. Think of Birdcage mixed with the Laramie Project, and sprinkle on a little Truman Capote.

I pull into a parking space, after circling around for a little bit with laptop open, on my lap, beneath the steering wheel. I parallel park into a space (there were a lot of unencrypted networks here, between Meridian Avenue and Lincoln Road) behind a Red Dodge Viper Convertible.

I look up, and to my great pleasure I see a vanity plate. I love reading vanity plates, I would never get one of course, but I do very much enjoy reading them.

This one said: RP FOLEY

Hmmm, that sounds farmiliar. Wait, holy shit! Representative Foley! Click! Lincoln Road = Gay Central! Click! Red, Sportscar, Convertible (as described by a NY Times article)! Click!

THIS IS MARK FOLEY'S FUCKING CAR! HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

What do I do what do I do?! Should I wait for him to come back? Holy fucking shitballs!

I immediately thumb-off a text message, to what I think it Richard Berger's cell phone number: (919) 926-1220 (It sounded familiar right? NY Area codes, start with 212, or 917, or 919 or something right?)

The Message:

Vanity
plate red dodge
viper in front
of my car is rp
foley!

FUCK! Then it occurs to me... Rich's number starts with a 917..... !

I'm thinking, Goddamit, goddamit, why haven't I added him to my contacts yet?!

Sweating, the A/C off, sitting with my headlights off behind the the Rep. Foley's car, feeling very sketchy, I do a quick Google search for a Reverse-Area Code lookup website. 919...

What is 919... OH FUCK! That's Raleigh, NC! I just sent a text message to Dennis Morgan!

So, after feeling a little embarrased, I forward the text message to a lot of other people, Rich included, and begin to feel a little bit better.

But I still can't take a picture of the plate, because my camera, which is usually in my car, is being fondled by the Geek Squad right now. Argh!

I decide to take a picture with camera phone, but feeling unsatisfied I go home, and risk losing my spot behind his car to get my mom's camera. I rush home, the dog barks at me in the night.

I floor it back to Lincoln Road, the spot is ofcourse taken, but thank the blogger Muses, Mark Foley's car is still there! Fhew!

So here are the long awaited pictures of Mark Foley's rear-end:








Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In Honor of Halloween

This blog will, for the rest of October, be officially referred to as
Not A-BOOOOOOOOO-t Delino Deshields

For good measure, here's a Halloween joke:

Q. Which building does Dracula visit in New York? A. The Vampire State Building.

and a fun pic!


















Happy Halloween, from this lowly BOOOOOlogger and President BOOOOOOOsh!

And with that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bid you good Friiiiiiiight!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Woodward lands a major Kerry interview

In the Washington Post today, Bob Woodward interviews Sen. John Kerry about his foreign policy prescriptions. For those of you in a hurry, here is the nut graf:

Bob Woodward: So, Senator Kerry. Imagine it's September 12, 2001. You're President of the United States. What do you do from there on out?

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA): CA CA Tora Bora CA CA Al Qaeda CA CA Wahhhh! Doody

Friday, October 13, 2006

A quick scene from my day

[The early minutes of a pizza party at a large Midtown law firm. Only Dan and a Prominent Lawyer are in the room. A Television blares "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer"]

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Five Bloggers You Meet in Heaven

So I arrived back to Miami, on Tuesday, from New York City. I have returned from my Hajj to the blogging capital of the world. What an eventful weekend I had! I thought I would highlight some of the people I encountered during my trip, with you dear reader.


First up is * (aka Kingspawn). I saw * from the corner of my eye, waiting in line for the midnight showing of Borat. His trademark brown locks gave him away. Quickly, Tom introduced him as Kingspawn, king of the flame. I squinted my eyes, could this supple-handed gentleman really be the flaming monster of so many of my past posts? I suppose he was, but quickly, conversation turned to current chess-related news such as the Kramnik's water-closet hijinks at this years' World Championship. I explained to * that I try to keep my chess posts at Delino limited to Chess Babe content, as there are so many sites out there that have the real inside scoop on other chess matters. I look forward to seeing * again. Smart young man.



Like a bolt of ligtning from a dark sky, I met, for the first occasion Rod *, (bka Actual Rod, aka govtiswatching, aka the Persian Diversion, aka Sulieman the Magnificent, aka the Iron Sheik). First thought, those are some sharp looking glasses. We made some minor chit chat as Rod ruffled through his shoulder sack. We began to shuffle into the theater, and we had some prime seats for the showing. Sadly, Rich and Dan arrived late so they had to sit at the back of the theater. I made some minor small talk, and saw that a man infront of me was sharing some Oatmeal Cranberry cookies with his girlfriend. I asked him for one, and he gave me the last one. Noah, smelling a cookie, grabbed his hand into the bag, but I caught him at the wrist. The cookie was safe. I divided it evenly, using a Pie-cutting algorithm, between Noah, Rod, Tom, and myself. I spoke with Rod a little bit about his impending journey to a town south of Kazan to teach English for the next several months. However, I forgot to tell him to read Pushkin's short story The Captain's Daughter. We spoke a little bit about Trotsky, and some other revolutionary folks, and then I asked Tom, sitting between Rod and I, before the movie started, what he thought was more inflammatory for me to say in the theater in New York, that I ran on the Communist party ticket in my High School election, or that I voted for President Bush in the 2004 election. Rod, proceeded to gag. Eric?! Voting for Bush. Yes, yes, its all true. In any case, Rod was flabbergasted, as expected, he remained pleasent throughout. Tom thought he was going to gouge out my eyes, he only gave me a light scratch later in the night as I said good-bye to him outside the theater after the movie. The man who gave me the cookie said he would not have offered it to me if he had known I was a Bush voter. Oh well, it was well on its way to being digested by that point, too late Sir. Rod, it was very nice to meet you in person, good luck in Azerbaijan, or wherever your travels lead you. Let me know if you need me to send you anything from WalMart.



Tom (bka Tom, aka the Tom in Dan/Tom), well there is much to share about this blogger. Perhaps most striking were his automatic reflex-like ordering abilities about Peter Luger's. I don't need to see a menu, Three Doubles, Two Medium Rare, One Rare, Two orders Spinach, One Order Potatoes, Water all around, a Diet Coke for the Gentleman in the Blue Shirt to my Right, Four slices of Bacon for the table. And make it snappy Eli. Tom is a skilled Peter Luger ordered, that having been said, there really isn't too much to consider when ordering there. Does anyone really need to be told that Medium-Rare has a Pink center at this point? In any case, Tom was instrumental in bringing Noah (aka doesnt blog, doesnt use facebook) to the roof of the Met to see a puff of black smoke on Monday afternoon. Alas, we were too late for the black cloud. Biking however, on Sunday, through Central Park, with Tom, and some old high school friends, I found an unclaimed Twenty Dollar US Bill on the street. I asked some people around me if anyone had dropped it, and no one said they had. So it was mine, all mine. I treated my friends to some Gatorade, of course everyone ordered Lemon-Lime, just like me, cows. Tom and Noah and I also went to the Yale club on Monday to Workout. I declined the Squash invitation. I thought the orange slices in the water dispenser were a nice touch, but where are all the women? I'd say the average Gym member I saw there was a 50 year old white male with a fat gut and a squash racket in his hand. We also had an opportunity to go to the bar Fat Cat's. Tom beat three times in Chess. I was obliterated each time after using my Chernev-recommended King's Pawn Opening. Illogical Chess, move by move. I didn't have much luck with the Giuoco Piano either. In any case, it's a cool bar, and the following night there was a live Piano Jazz music. One older gentleman was positively atrocious, but the other four or so pianists were fantastic improvisers. There was a clarinetist as well, who provided some backround music as I set up a file-attack check-make, using my Queen and Rook, against one David Leiberman. I'd say the highlight of the trip was when Tom ate about three pickles and drank an egg-cream at Carnegie Deli at around 3am, and then abruptly burped at around 80 decibels in the middle of a sentence. Classic.




On Monday afternoon, after leaving Noah's westside apartment, Tom and I traversed Central Park, and walked to the nerve center of blogging, the Delino Headquarters on the East side of Manhattan. As Nostradamus has described in brilliant detail in a previous post, the Berger residence is the stuff of childhood little-league blogger dreams. Dan showed me both the original Aleksander Vayner video resume, and the FoxNews broadcast he had recorded. My favorite part was when the leader of the round table WildCard discussion said "Well, we wish him the best of luck, I think." Dan let Tom ease into a comfortable position with Rich's laptop, on Rich's bed, using Rich's pillow to rest his feet on, and then wiping off the occasional druel with Rich's clean sheets. Dan set up a new program on the TV, called FreakShow starring David Cross, but I was too hungry to concentrate. Mrs. Berger stopped in. I must say, what an intouch Mom! Kudos to you Mrs. B, who knew, a Delino Fan, and long-time reader. She knew of my posts before I even introduced myself. Dan led Tom and I into the reading room, where he showed us some us his 3-D puzzles, including an exact reproduction, to scale of Il Duomo. Exquisite craftsmanship.


Finally, at the end of a long day, Rich arrived home. He gently admonished Tom for his transgressions, and changed into some evening wear for a night out on the town. Peter Luger's and then down to the village for some more Jazz at Fat Cat's. As we were walking back to the car at the end of the night, way after David Leiberman had discovered he had left, and sat on, his melted Gold chocolate Gelt from Luger's in his pocket, smothering his keys in delicious chocolatey confection, Rich was on the spot with some directions to a wayward couple seeking the oasis of a Jazz Bar in the neighborhood. Relenting to peer pressure, he issued forth his signature BeRiched! hand gesture, and we were off. Back up First Avenue, past the atrocious Ess-A-Bagel, aka No-Toasting-Of-Bagels-Allowed-A-Bagel on 21st street. And then the evening was over, as the Berger boys, dropped me off at a friends apartment. What a fantastic voyage, and to think of the details I have left out!

On the flight home, I was flipping through American Way magazine. I read over the diagrams of the different layouts of International Airports. Personally, San Fransisco and Charles DaGalle have the coolest designs on first inspection. Then flipping through the pages, I read an article on the woman who does most of the Wall Street Journals Pointalist portraits, also known as Headcuts. I had always if they were drawn by hand, or generated with Computer software. In anycase, it was an exhilirating find, probably tantamount to the thrill experinced in 1922 when Howard Carter unearthed the Tomb of Tutankhamen. By the way, the ancient Egyptians were the greatest of Ancient Cultures, there, I said it.

Here are the links to the WSJ artist/babe. Noli Novak moved to the United States from Croatia in 1984. (New category? Financial Analyst/Writer/Editor/Journalist/Artist Babes? Maria Bartiromo, the Money Honey, is an obvious call.)

1) Main Site: http://www.nolinovak.com/

2) NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4768811

3) Her band's website: http://www.novakseen.com/




From Publishers Weekly

"At the time of his death, Tom was an old man with a barrel chest and a torso as squat as a soup can," writes Brandon, producer of the bestselling phenomenon Unforgivable Blackness, in a brief post that is going to make a huge impact on many hearts and minds. Wearing a work shirt with a patch on the chest that reads "Tom" over "IT Guy," limping around with a cane thanks to an old Squash injury, Tom was the kind of guy everybody, including Tom himself, tended to write off as one of life's minor characters, a gruff bit of background color. He spent most of his life maintaining the computers at DE Shaw, a Manhattan Quantitative Trading Firm, greasing tracks and tightening bolts and listening for strange sounds, "keeping them safe." The children who visited the office were drawn to Tom "like cold hands to a fire." Yet Tom believed that he lived a "nothing" life-gone nowhere he "wasn't shipped to with a Laptop," doing work that "required no more brains than washing a dish." On his 83rd birthday, however, Tom dies trying to save a little analyst. He wakes up in heaven, where a succession of five bloggers are waiting to show him the true meaning and value of his life. One by one, these mostly unexpected characters remind him that we all live in a vast web of interconnection with other lives; that all our posts overlap; that acts of sacrifice seemingly small or fruitless do affect others; and that loyalty and love matter to a degree we can never fathom. Simply told, sentimental and profoundly true, this is a contemporary American fable that will be cherished by a vast readership. Bringing into the spotlight the anonymous Toms of the world, the men and women who get lost in our cultural obsession with flaming and fortune, this slim post, like Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, reminds us of what really matters here on earth, of what our lives are given to us for.



Dan and Rich gaze upon the highest Heaven; from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy Bloggo Paradiso.



Bloggo Paradiso

After an initial ascension, Beatrice guides Dante through the nine spheres of Heaven. These are concentric and spherical, similar to Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmology. Dante admits that the vision of heaven he receives is the one that his human eyes permit him to see. Thus, the vision of heaven found in the Cantos is Dante's own personal vision, ambiguous in its true construction. The addition of a moral dimension means that a soul that has reached Paradise stops at the level applicable to it. Souls are allotted to the point of heaven that fits with their human ability to love God. Thus, there is a heavenly hierarchy, but everyone is satisfied with his post, because he understands the fact that he is not capable of any greater experience.

The nine spheres are:

First Sphere: The moon - those who abandoned their vows . Dante meets *, brother of Dante's friend Forese Donati, who died shortly after being forcibly removed from his convent. Beatrice discourses on the freedom of the will, and the inviolability of sacred vows.

Second Sphere: Mercury - those who did good out of a desire for fame. Rod * recounts the history of the Roman Empire. Beatrice explains to Dante the atonement of Christ for the sins of humanity.

Third Sphere: Venus - those who did good out of love. Dante meets Charles Martel of Anjou, who decries those who adopt inappropriate vocations, and Cunizza da Romano. Folquet de Marseilles points out Rahab, the brightest soul among those of this sphere.

Fourth Sphere: The sun - souls of the wise. Dante is addressed by Tom Lehman, a Dominican, who recounts the life of St. Francis of Assisi and laments the corruption of the Dominican Order. Dante is then met by St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan, who recounts the life of St. Dominic, and laments the corruption of the Franciscan Order. Finally, Lehman introduces King Solomon, who answers Dante's question about the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.

Fifth Sphere: Mars - those who fought for Christianity. The souls in this sphere form an enormous cross. Dante speaks with the soul of his ancestor Cacciaguida, who praises the former virtues of the residents of Florence, recounts the rise and fall of Florentine families, and foretells Dante's exile from Florence before finally introducing some notable warrior souls (among them Joshua, Roland, Charlemagne, Godfrey of Bouillon, and others).

Sixth Sphere: Jupiter - those who personified justice.

Seventh Sphere: Saturn - the contemplative. For example, Dan Berger is found here.

Eighth Sphere: The fixed stars - the blessed. Here, Dante is tested on faith by Rich Berger, hope by Saint James, and love by Saint John the Evangelist. Dante justifies his medieval belief in astrology that the power of constellations draw themselves from God.

Ninth Sphere: The Primum Mobile ("First/Best Mover") - angels.


Beatrice leaves Dante with Saint Bernard who prays to Mary on behalf of Dante and Dante is allowed to see both Jesus and Mary. From here, Dante ascends to a substance beyond physical existence, called the Empyrean Heaven. Here he comes face-to-face with God Himself, and is granted understanding of the Divine and of human nature. His vision is improved beyond that of human comprehension. God appears as three equally large rings spinning within each other representing the Holy Spirit with the essence of each part of God, who according to Dante can equally be called a plural and a singular. After this vision, the book ends with Dante's vision growing ever stronger, and the vision of God becomes equally inimitable and inexplicable that no word can come close to explaining what he saw, offering him a vision how Divine Love is the power behind existence. Essentially, Dante described as much as one can in words the experience of the beatific vision.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Primary Colors

As I'm sure most of you know, Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in the August 8 primary and will thus be running for U.S. Senator from Connecticut on the Democratic ticket. What you don't know is the inside story of how this political nobody came to defeat a 3-term incumbent. So here goes...

It all started last December, when Ned Lamont, fed up with Joe Lieberman's support for President Bush and the Iraq War, decided to run for the Democratic Senate seat... Blah, blah, blah, blah.

The point is, this all culminated in me arriving at the New Haven train station on the morning of August 8, where Actual Rod (yes, THE Actual Rod) picked me up in his 4-door sedan and we began our Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort for Ned Lamont's campaign.

Rod took me to a polling place where we met an Indian-American kid named Paras, who was also working for Lamont. I think Paras is Sanskrit for Munz, because this kid was absolutely Munz-esque in his obsession with the minutae of the Democratic Party. Tired of shooting the shit about whether "Steny Hoyer will be demoted to Deputy Whip if the Dems don't take the House this year?", I indicated to Rod that we should get moving on Getting Out the Vote.

Rod agreed, but before we could go, he told me we had to co-ordinate with the other people working on Lamont's GOTV in the area. "Who are the other people?" I asked. "Oh, yeah. They're, they're some local teenagers, I think they said they were like 16. They're sitting under that tree over there," replied Rod hesitantly. I looked over and I saw two boys and a girl, none of whom could have been over the age of 12. One of the boys was wearing soccer cleats. The other had a "Vote Ned Lamont" sticker on his butt. The girl was punching the soccer cleat boy in the arm while the butt sticker boy pulled the girl's hair. Rod, perhaps drawing on the blood of former Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddeq that courses through his veins, valiantly organized that rag-tag group and made them responsible for canvassing half of the neighborhood, while he and I were responsible for the other half. Here is a picture of Rod giving directions to our junior colleagues... if you look quickly, you might think you're seeing "Washington Crossing the Delaware"




















After Rod and I parted ways with our "crack staff" for the time being, we agreed that the girl looked like she was a foreign policy wonk, while the soccer cleat kid likely had more of an interest in taxes. But we had little time for such idle chatter, as there was serious work to be done.

Rod and I had a list of Democratic voters who had indicated interest in Lamont, so we walked around a quiet, picket fence neighborhood near East Rock knocking on people's doors and giving our spiel. This is literally how it went down:

(knock on the door)
(Elderly Woman opens the door)
Dan: Hello Irene, how ya doin' today?

(Elderly woman is befuddled)
Rod: Have ya voted in today's Democratic primary?

Elderly Woman: Not yet, but I'm voting for Lamont.

Dan: Well that's just super. You have yourself a great day there, Irene.
(Exeunt)

Here's a picture of Rod patrolling the nabe:





















Soon enough, we finished all the houses on our list and reunited with our "crack staff." It was around Noon at this point, and Rod and I were getting the materials ready for the second round of houses. But unbeknownst to us, the soccer cleat boy had already called Mom to pick the "crack staff" up. So Mom rolled up in a Dodge Caravan. This led to the following interaction:

Soccer Cleat Boy (can't look Rod in the eyes): Umm, so, uh, my mom's here to pick us up for lunch.

Rod: OK, so what time are you gonna meet back up with us to do more houses?

Soccer Cleat Boy (still looking down): Well, ya know, I've got soccer practice later, and, uh, Tim has a piano lesson, so uh, we were thinking...

Rod: I mean, you make a commitment to something like this and you should stick to it--

Dan: -- Rod, I think the kids have some OJ to drink, and some Oreos to eat.

Rod: Hey, you know what, you're right. (to soccer cleat boy) Ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.

Soccer Cleat Boy (finally looking up at Rod): But, but we might come back in the late afternoon.

Rod (pensively): Who knows, maybe you will. Mayyybeee.

(soccer cleat Boy, the girl, and Butt sticker boy get in the minivan with Mom)
(Mom waves to me and Rod. We wave back)

After grabbing some food, Rod and I knocked on a few more doors. My route was uneventful. But Rod had a lengthy conversation with an elderly black woman about kids throwing garbage on her lawn, a practice which he agreed was an outrage.

Shortly thereafter, Rod and I raced to Lamont HQ in downtown New Haven. When we arrived in the office, I saw a guy I knew from the Trumbull poker table and talked to him for a bit, and he introduced me to a dirty rodent-looking guy named Chris, who I totally ignored. The Lamont people told us what polling place to go to, and we left. Rod then told me that "Chris" was actually Chris Bowers, of the popular liberal blog mydd.com, and I had committed a major faux pas. Rod agreed, however, that given Chris's rodent-like appearance, it was an understandable mistake.

At the polling place, we took over the duty of handing out Lamont brochures from a frail woman who must have been in her 70s. She had only 5 brochures or so in her hand, so we figured that the 100 brochures HQ gave us would go like hotcakes. But after an hour passed and we still had 90 brochures left, we realized what had probably happened. The old lady had said to a voter, "Hello, have you heard about Ned Lamont?" and when the voter expressed some interest, the old lady put 95 brochures in his hands and then farted.

By 4:00, Rod needed to get to his LSAT class and I needed to get home for the nightly Berger family viewing of Lou Dobbs Tonight. Fortunately, our replacement came to take over for us just as we were preparing to leave. The guy who took over for us was, I kid you not, a clone of Kip from Napoleon Dynamite in every way- from his fashion to his mannerisms to his lisping voice. The guy looked like an overgrown 12 year old with his ill-fitting shorts, a Lamont t-shirt with a couple Lamont stickers on it, and Lamont hat with every Lamont button ever made on it. The buttons were actually a point of contention:

Kip Clone: Hey guysss, ssso HQ sssent me to take over for you.

Dan: Cool, well good luck, it's been a little slow
(Dan is about to walk away)

Rod (to Kip Clone): Dude, uh, I've gotta tell you, "The Kiss" button- not cool.

Kip Clone: "The Kisss"?

Rod (pointing to Kip Clone's hat): The button with the picture of Bush kissing Lieberman on it. The campaign thinks it'll, ya know, scare away moderate voters.

Kip Clone (reluctantly taking the button off his hat): Ohh, okay. Yeah. I guesss that makesss senssse.

Rod: Sorry man. Not my decision. That's just the way the campaign went. Peace.
(Rod does not move)
------
Below is a pretty bad picture of Kip Clone that I managed to take by pretending to be making a phone call.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Chess Babe of the Month: Zehra Topel

Zehra Topel - Miss October 2006

Nationality: Turkish
ELO: 2252




Most played openings
Sicilian, Closed (4 games)
Sicilian, Alapin (3 games)
Dutch (3 games)
Sicilian (2 games)
Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav (2 games)
King's Indian, Samisch Variation (2 games)
Dutch (2 games)
King's Indian, Samisch (2 games)
King's Indian (2 games)
King's Indian (2 games)