I received word this morning that my favorite aunt, who has been sick for quite some time, has decided to have no more treatment and has been moved to a hospice. She isn't expected to live very long.

My Aunt Doris is my father's younger sister. Born in Montana, she lived most of her life in a series of small towns in Idaho. I remember her as an energetic younger woman rather that the older lady she's become. I prefer it that way. She was a female working when such things were fairly rare. She worked for years as a draftsperson for J.R. Simplot and earlier as a draftsperson at Boeing in Seattle during WWII. She worked on the B-29 bomber I'm told.

It reminds me of how I'm getting older, not in a sad way so much as in a resigned way. The trials and tribulations of people facing life and death sorts of struggles mean more as you get older. At least they do for me.

I just want to say thanks to Doris, even if she can't hear me, for all the nice e-mails and visits when I was younger. You're a pretty tough old girl...and I mean that in only the best way.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, June 30, 2005

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Sometimes You Just Shouldn't Get Up

When I awoke this morning I had to fight to keep my eyes open. While this may be normal for most people, for me it is most certainly not. I'm usually wide awake. But not this morning. Oh no. Not this morning.

I did the bleary-eyed shuffle to the back door and threw open the drapes. The Bay Area has slipped back into its usual summer marine layer phase so the sky hung low...very low. In fact, so low that I think I bumped my head on it. I've had a headache all day.

I brewed up a pot and read the paper, though I kept having to reread the same paragraph because I couldn't concentrate. I thought a shower might help - but I struck out. I stood in the shower for several minutes wondering why my vision seemed so poor. I noticed that I was still wearing my glasses.

After the shower, it was off to work on the job hunt. I went to all the usual sources and even some unusual sources to look for leads. Nothing. Bupkiss. Certainly not worth the tedious effort I put into it. Suddenly, I remembered it was a holiday week and likely to be that way for the rest of it.

I drank some more coffee and felt the jitters work their way up my body. The caffeine high took over, but none of the positive side effects showed up. I was a quaking, jittery man in a permanently vegetative state. I kept waiting for Jeb Bush to show up at my door and pull the plug on me.

When good daughter Claire woke up I took her for a ride she'd been asking for. Perhaps a nice drive in the country would be nice I thought.

On the way out, I stopped by the Post Office only to remember that I'd not brought the letter I meant to mail. I stopped by the bank to deposit some checks. When I reached the ATM I realized I hadn't written the amount on the envelope and couldn't remember how much it was. I bagged the deposit until later. We did manage to drop off some DVDs at Blockbuster. It was my day's only success.

We headed for the other side of the hills under the theory that the fog would have burned off over there as it usually does. I dived off the freeway onto what I thought was a back road that I had driven before. Some new condos led to more condos, which led to a traffic jam. I turned and tried another road. It was a little better, but not by much. After several attempts we headed home. On the way we were almost squashed by a huge truck.

Claire, bless the child, was patient about all of it. She made the best of the traffic and didn't even object when we had to close the sunroof to avoid the dust storm roused by the construction.

I could tell you more, but I won't. It only went downhill from there.

You know? Some days it just doesn't pay to get up.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, June 28, 2005

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An Open Letter to Rev. Billy Graham

Among my many writing assignments over the years was a weekly music column I wrote for the student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, during the early 1970s. Called His Master’s Voice, it was supposed to be an insider’s guide to the national music scene, providing band trivia and gossip with a personal touch to the collegiate masses.

Now the smarter among you might reasonably ask, “How did a 19 year old kid - living in a small Kentucky town a million miles away from the nearest industry insider - manage to pull off a weekly column about the ins, outs and minutiae of the music biz?” Well, it’s been 30 years, so now I can admit something – I cheated.

Each week I’d comb through every music magazine and newspaper I could find, even using the largess of the Kernel to snag a few unauthorized subscriptions. Once my clips started wending their way through the system to music promoters, I began to get freebies galore (free records, promotional items and even the subscriptions I needed to keep the ruse alive) and was well on my way. It paid off. A one hit wonder band that even I don’t remember used one of my review quotes in their advertising – probably explaining why they were one-hit wonders.

Don’t get me wrong, I was no Jayson Blair. I didn’t make the articles up, I just borrowed liberally from other sources and used my considerable skills as a rewrite man to make them sound fresh and new. To keep it believable, I used small, out-of-the-way items that most people weren’t reading. One example was a series of short blurbs I gathered from Rolling Stone and several other west coast music mags that discussed rock impresario Bill Graham of San Francisco. The gist of it was that he was squeezing the life out of rock & roll by treating his famous acts rather ham-handedly. Today, the guy, although dead for several years now, is a sort of local hero. Go figure.

I wrote my little attack article. It went to press. And I - and I’m sure everyone who read it - promptly forgot about it. Well, not exactly everybody.

Several months later, as a poured over my stack of music company freebies, I came across an important looking letter with a finely embossed return address for a law firm in Charlotte, NC. Puzzled, I opened the envelope, took out the letter and began to read, “Dear Sir. Our client, the Reverend Billy Graham, was quite offended by the article that appeared in your newspaper on blah…blah…blah.” My jaw dropped as I skipped to the end of the letter where it said, “therefore, we demand that you immediately print an apology in the referenced publication within 30 days and further demand that you cease and desist writing any articles about the Rev. Graham.”

To this day I wonder how that particular clip made its way to Reverend Billy and how anyone - even someone as brain-addled as I believed him to be at the time - could possibly mistake the rock & roll promoter Bill Graham for the famous evangelist Billy Graham. In the midst of the Watergate era it gave me more than a little shock to think I might be on someone’s famous Enemies List. After all, the Rev and Tricky Dick were very good friends at the time.

End the end, I quietly laid the letter aside and decided to wait to see what happened. Nothing did. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, I nearly forgot about the incident and lost the letter. Pity, I’m sure I could get a good price on eBay with it today. However, I still have some hate mail I got from the American Nazi party (NOTE: this is actually the link to these loons' site, so don't go there if you are squeamish.) about another article, but that’s a story for another day.

Since the Reverend is doing his final revival this week, I hope that he’s forgotten about this little incident too. He may be old, but he’s still friends with an impressive list of presidents, prime ministers and other potentates. I always figure it’s not a good idea to cross a guy like that. But still, it sure would be nice if I had a copy of that letter.

So Mr. Graham, if you still have a carbon copy, could you shoot one to me. I swear I won’t say anything bad about you.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, June 27, 2005

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What's In a Name?

One of the wonderful - and sometimes one of the not-so-wonderful things - about living in the Bay Area is the sheer eccentricity of the place. Each day there are as many events, happenings, gatherings and mobs as there are people. For example, today is the Gay Pride parade, led as usual by Dykes on Bikes. Then, there's the monthly Critical Mass ride or the ever-popular Bay to Breakers race with its naked runners. These are certainly not the sorts of events that take place in heartland spots like Wichita and are part of what makes the place a sort of happily (or hippily) warped version of America.

You'd expect the newspapers in a place like this to be a little eccentric too, and the San Francisco Chronicle is no exception. Their assortment of odd news and political coverage gives way to descriptions of the cultural landscape every Sunday when "the Pink" arrives on the doorstep. For me, one of the joys of this weekly read are the advertisements for bands appearing at thousands of local venues. As I read them, I try to think of what sorts of images each one conjures up. Here are some of my favorites from today's edition:

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, June 26, 2005

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Three Things I Don't Understand

Life is full of imponderables, maybe mine more so than other peoples'. Rather than go off on a rant this evening - which would be very satisfying - I thought I'd see if anyone out there can tell the old Poobah if they understand these puzzlers:

Why Do People Pay to Exercise?
A century or so ago peoples' lives were an unending struggle with the elements. There were fields to plow, wood to cut and water to tote. Hell, even baking an apple pie required enough physical exercise to burn off the excess calories before they were even baked into that wonderfully gooey, cinnamon-scented creation. Think wood chopping, apple tree climbing, fire starting and lots of aerobically sound dough-kneading. A minimum of 400 calories off right there. Even before the scoop of hand-churned ice cream.

Today, perversely, people pay big bucks for the privledge of running, squatting and grunting on all manner of Goldbergian contraptions at the local "fitness center". They hook themselves to electronic doo-dads to make sure they are getting their heart rates up (and therefore their money's worth). They watch themselves in mirrors, forming a gaggle of sweating, red-faced narcissists that look pretty damned foolish when you think about it. They watch TV in the ultimate couch potato tradition. They spout slogans like, "no pain. no gain".

No pain, no gain?! Just tell me, wouldn't baking a pie ala 1876 be more rewarding and less expensive?

Why Do Famous People Do Such Stupid Things?
We live in an era when "Breaking News" could mean anything from overly religious hoohas crashing airliners into big buildings to Michael Jackson taking a dump, so why do famous people think they can get away with doing something incredibly stupid while avoiding scrutiny?

Just ask Mr. Bill. "Mr. President, did it ever occur to you that a horny, 20-something woman might be inclined to blab to her friends about the world's most powerful man schtupping her with a cigar? Have you seen Girls Gone Wild? Of course you have. What were you thinking?"

Just ask Michael. "Mr. King-O-Pop, what the hell were you thinking when you fed some kiddies the Jesus Juice and twiddled their giggly bits? Did you really think you - a person who looks like a plastic surgeon's worst nightmare, sleeps in a coffin and bought the bones of the Elephant Man - could travel incognito (even wearing a glittery surgical mask?)"

Is There a Toothpaste Conspiracy?
Despite this question, I'm not usually a second gunman, Roswell UFO, Who Shot JR? kinda guy. But, could Procter & Gamble be peddling toothpaste containing sugar? Before you just dismiss this particular conspiracy theory out-of-hand, listen to where I'm going with this.

Who hasn't had a dentist tell them they need to brush more often or for longer? Now suppose they put sugar in your favorite dentifrice? No more artificial sweetener - sugar! The more you brushed, the more damage you would do to your teeth. The more damage to your teeth, the more your dentist would cajole you to brush more. The result? Rotten teeth that would make a meth-head blanch.

Sure, this plot would need extremely close cooperation between P&G, the ADA and the government, but that's happened before (well, thinking back to stopping the overly religious hoohah plane crashers, maybe not). But still, think smoking! Think weapons of mass distraction! A little lie about sugar in the toothpaste would be small potatoes for these punks, especially with the revenue stream it could bring in.

Stranger things have happened. Trust me.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, June 25, 2005

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Blog News

This is just a shout out to all you very supportive peeps who've been checking in on a regular basis. If you haven't been, please do. If you haven't already done so and would like to be on our mailing list, drop the old Poobah a line. We promise we won't sell your information to a credit card company or a bank so that it can be lost or stolen. We also won't barrage you with e-mail. You can trust us. Expect a short note about once per week telling you about new content or features.

Oh, you can also feel free to pass our link around. At the risk of sounding like an Amway scheme, we'd like to build traffic. At latest count we were listed around the 701,272nd most popular blog. Not bad out of 11.6 million I guess.

New Photos in Visios
We've added a new gallery to Visios. Please stop by and take a virtual trip through the Hayward Japanese Gardens, a surprisingly beautiful little place. Our next photo gallery will probably be an all Canadian extravaganza, eh? Stay tuned


The old Poobah likes your comments and gets more of them that he could ever have hoped, but let everyone else feel the love too. If you click the "comments" link at the end of each entry you can let everyone else know what you think too and I'll still get an e-mail at Omnimedia Galactic HQ telling me what you think. (See the "Dear Abby" entry for an example left by some anonymous commenter.) Half the fun is engaging in the conversation. It's what we in the business call interactivity, oooooo...aaahhhhh.

Links Ahoy
We put those links over on the right side of the page far a reason. Try them out. Half the fun is seeing what else is happening in the world of blogdom. We change them every update, so if you aren't checking in frequently, you really are missing a lot. Also, feel free to try out the host of blog directories and ranking systems (the small logos also over there on the right) where we appear. You can vote for us, review us or dis us. It's up to you. The power of the Blog Gods is in your hands.

And that's it for this little pieces of self-promotion/self-agrandizement. See you around the blog.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, June 23, 2005

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Happy Birthday to Me...Happy Birthday to Me

I am 50 years old today. My actual chronological age has finally caught up to my "cosmetic" age, but I'm not sure it makes all that much difference.

I've always been taken to be older than I really am. At 16, I routinely test drove cars at the local dealership without once being asked for an ID. In fact, I've never been asked for an ID...ever. My first stepmother once told me that I was the oldest young person she ever met. I was 31 at the time. I was the old man of my Air Force squadron at the ripe old age of 20 and I got my first "command" on the way to report for basic training. I was put in charge of six other inductees because I was the oldest one. Despite what you might think, I didn't lose a single person. They gave me this medal.

Having said all that, I should point out that there is a big diffence between being old and being mature. I'm not sure that I'm mature, even today. In fact, I'm not sure what mature is. Maybe it is when you stop stressing over enough gas money to make to to the prom. Who knows?

For the most part I don't much pay attention to age. When I look in the mirror I don't see some old grey and balding coot (although that is, in reality, what is there). I just see me. I feel like I've always looked this way - and always will for that matter. I am timeless, but ever aware that I'm not immortal. I am vintage.

I don't understand the big whoop-di-doo about aging. I can't see why people have plastic surgery. The idea of hair implants seems foreign to me. As I've gotten grayer and fat I've mostly just chalked it up to normal aging. It happens to everyone, why should I be any different? Who am I to defy the Gods? Besides, I'm not sure I can use L'Oreal. I'm never quite sure if I'm worth it.

I once saw a news item about a man who ate nothing but salad, about five pounds per day by his count. His idea was that he wanted to live to be 125 so he could enjoy the world and his family. His wife didn't look nearly as enthusiastic and I'd be surprised if they lasted another year, much less another 100 or so. I think his kids will be dead by then as well. And I'm guessing lettuce gets really boring by the time you 97 or so.

I always say, "everything in moderation". Age should be no different. So, "happy frickin birthday to me."
Wooo Hooo!

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, June 22, 2005

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Just Take a Little Off the Top

I went for a haircut today. Not exactly a momentous event for a grown man, but one that, for me at least, carries its own little saga. And no, it has nothing to do with my increasing baldness thank you very much.

As a very young boy, I remember barbershops as really cool places where I would crawl up on a board placed across the arms of the barber chair. I happily submitted to the scissors, relishing the grown up feeling I got when the barber finished the cut off with a quick zip of the straight razor around my neck and ears, a light dusting of talcum applied with a big brush and a splash of Odell's Hair Trainer in my hair. To this day, I can still feel the wheat chaff of my hair as the trainer dried into a perfect element that tamed my cow lick, if only for the afternoon.

As I grew into a teen, my father and I sometimes had disagreements about how often I should be shorn. It was a common enough argument between fathers and sons in the late 60s and early 70s. By then, my father had begun taking me to a shop run by an ex-sailor who learned the production line method of "hair styling" in the Navy. I remember him as a bitter middle-aged guy who was angry at anyone with an opinion that was in disagreement with any of the myriad ones he held. He loudly pontificated about blacks, hippies and queers. One of the original black helicopter guys, he also believed the government was on a personal crusade against him and his business. In this guy's mind, there was nothing right about the world and he felt duty-bound to tell everyone he met about it in as loud a voice as possible. In fairness, I should point out this wasn't particularly unusual behavior in the southern barbershops of the 60s and 70s. He was just your garden variety cranky young coot. Pissed off about his admitedly modest lot in life.

When I became old enough to drive myself to the shop, I fought the frequency of the haircuts a little more. Although I told my father it was just the typical hippie-hair disagreement, there was more to it than that. What I didn't mention was that when I went to the shop on my own, the cranky old shit took every opportunity to tell me what scum I was for being such a hippie. He called me a queer and suggested that my lack of sartorial splendor was the first sign of a long, sad road that would eventually see me living in the gutter as a drug addicted drag queen. My meek little way to fight back was to always stiff the guy for a tip. As you can see, I was the original rebel.

I resented the guy so much that when I finally left for college and was no longer subject to the clean cut rule, I didn't get another haircut for four years. My first post-college coiffure was a 30-second shave the Air Force gave me in basic training. I was pleasantly releived that theirs didn't contain any of the old vitriol - although one sergeant did call me a pissy little turd for not moving fast enough getting out of the chair. It was just and a loud NEXT! After that, my only hair hassle was when my squadron mates made fun of a small, round spot of grey hair I'd had since third grade. It looked like a small spot of silver spray paint. Of course, I chose to take it as a badge of honor as the 20 year old "old man" of the outfit.

A few years ago, I was visiting my father and needed a haircut. I asked him to take me someplace where I could get a quick trim. I was shocked when we pulled into the same parking lot I remembered from the fuzzy (no pun intended) past.

When we went in, there were many fewer customers than I remembered. I suppose that he'd driven most of them off with his lunatic rants. The angry middle aged barber was now an angry senior citizen barber. Of course, not much had changed in his world in the past 35 years. All the old fear and loathing still spewed from his mouth.

As he dragged the scissors through my hair he kept pausing, assuming I suppose, that a middle-aged southern man would agree with his ravings. I never did and he never flashed any recognition of me.

At the end of the cut he zipped the razor around my ears and neck, dusted me with the talc and said, "That'll be $3.50". That was the same amount he had charged 35 years ago. As I dug through my wallet I found myself smiling. I found great satisfaction that 35 years of disquiet and anger had driven off most of his customers, kept his rates at sub-minimum wage and reduced his entire world to one small and very angry barbershop. Meanwhile, I had escaped his chair, saw the world and not ended up as a drug addicted drag queen in some gutter. Sweet revenge!

Oh, and I stiffed the guy for a tip one last time. After all, I am the original rebel.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, June 21, 2005

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Gitmo O'My Heart

Twenty-five years ago I visited our sun-dappled Caribbean outpost, Guantanamo Bay. I can't say that it left many lasting memories. However, I do recall that it was a decaying backwater that was so boring that sailors stationed there preferred sea duty. At least the ship moved occasionally and they could get off. For excitement they would gather on the beach each afternoon and drunkenly try to flag down the gleaming cruise ships that were cruising tantalizingly just off shore. It reminded me a bit of Gilligan's Island without the intellectual companionship of the Professor. Oh, and no coconuts.

These days, of course, Guantanamo stands for so much more. Now it has brand spanking new, state-of-the-art prison cells containing small pointers toward Mecca to help the prisoners with their daily devotions. I understand that the Pentagon PR hacks always point them out to visitors as a sign of how progressive a little detention ward we run there. By contrast ,the detainees have to have their fun in different ways. I understanding that drying off their urine-soaked Korans and staging hunger strikes are quite popular diversions.

I think about my old Cuban haunt because of some lightly-reported news that came out over the weekend. In order to train guards to the more exacting standards they've been promising of late, a Marine volunteered to dress in detainee garb and play the part of an unruly enemy combatant in a practice "hostile take down situation". During the takedown, the Marine was beaten so badly that he suffered permanent brain damage, despite the fact that he yelled the knock it off code word several times. The beatings only stopped when the Marine's prison clothing came open and revealed the uniform he was wearing underneath. After investigating the incident, Marine officials discharged the Marine and are now refusing his attempts to be reinstated. I'm guessing the brain damage may have something to do with that last part.

When asked for a comment, DefSec Donald "Rummy Boy" Rumsfeld probably mumbled something about having to, "go to prison with the guards you have, not the guards you want". Or maybe, "you now the unknowns that you don't know except when you don't know them. You know?"

I do know this though. On the same day this small story broke, there was a much bigger one. Rummy wants to promote the high level commanders who have been responsible for Gitmo and Abu Graib so far.

You can some thing for old Rum. If nothing else, he has an impeccable sense of timing.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, June 20, 2005

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A Kinder, Gentler Blog

While there is no shortage of topics to get myself worked up over, I think it's time for a kinder, gentler blog today. I watched the sun come up under a soft blanket of low cloud this morning, infusing the whole sky with some color and magic. You just can't see something like that and go off on a rant. It just isn't right.

For some reason, mornings seem to suit me. There is just something about facing the day in the peace and quiet of the gathering dawn. In fact, I've been known to wax rhapsodic about sunrises. Take this early morning weather report from one of my previous writing endeavors, the Intermittent Argus (2/25/97), "The sun crept slowly over the eastern hills this morning. First a tiny peek of red, then a little blink of yellow. Finally, the blue came streaming over like a soft wave rolling onto an inky black beach. Ghostly white gulls reeled on the light breeze and soaked in the morning like down covered pillows. Yes, there was haze, but it lent a certain gauzy infusion that was both delicious and sublime. We stretched. We yawned. We met the soft morning and it became ours."

And with that, there just isn't anything else I can add.

Editor's Note:
Expect the next gallery to be introduced in Visios early next week. When it's up, I'll drop a note to everyone who already asked to be added to the distribution list. If you would like to be added, drop us a line. You can expect no more than one e-mail a week, maybe less.

We've also been pleased with your response so far. Remember to pass our link along to friends (we're a little like an Amway scam that way) and stop back often because we're trying to keep up a near daily update cycle. If you have comments or topic ideas, please pass those along too.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, June 18, 2005

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Tenacious JEB Digs in His Heels

In a move that's sure to cement the Bush family's position as the political dynasty with the shallowest gene pool, Florida Governor Jeb Bush is refusing to let go of the cold carcass of Terri Schiavo. Close on the heels of an autopsy that supported Michael Schiavo's position that there was nothing that could be done to help Terri, Bush has now stepped in requesting an investigation of a 15 year old charge that Michael was tardy in calling 911 on the day that Terri slipped into the coma.

Bush's refusal to accept his defeat on this matter is even shocking to the most brain-addled politicians. Even though Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist seemed to forget the "diagnosis" he made from the well of the Senate (suggesting he has a touch of the old "persistent vegetative state" himself), even he wasn't stupid enough to pursue this dead dog, er woman, preferring instead to let it lie.

"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote in his request to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome." Jeb, I hate to tell you this, but the "without preconceptions" boat sailed when you cooked up this cockamamie request.

Perhaps we can rely on the good sense of McCabe. As the state DA, it's his call whether or not to launch an investigation. Cooler heads should prevail, but there is a major reason we still haven't heard the end of this nit-witted case...McCabe is a Republican.

You know...Sometimes when it rains, it pours.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, June 17, 2005

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And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

Those of you dropping in from cyberspace who do not know me personally may want to skip past today's post (but check back tomorrow when we move on to more universal subjects). It seems that the Poobah's launch into the blogosphere stirred up some old correspondents who want to know what's up with me. In the interest of efficiency - if not personal connectedness - I'd like to take this opportunity to answer some of the burning questions that you, the audience, wants to know:

Q: How can you, a poor air traffic controller's son, afford to be without a job?
A: The truth is I can't. At least not indefinitely. But I am frugal by nature and was the recipient of a lucrative separation package - there's also a great corner where I wash windshields for pocket money. So I'm taking a much needed sabbatical as I mount a job search. Lest you think I'm only sitting around blogging all day, I'd like to report that as of this morning I've sent out 39 resumes, gone to eight interviews, turned down two jobs, am waiting for the results of a recent interview and have another interview pending next week.

Q: Do you miss working?
A: As anyone who knows me personally will attest, I'm not a strong proponent of work per se. I personally think that work is one of the worst things that humanity has every visited upon itself. It ranks right up there with pestilence, disease and disco music as far as I'm concerned. So the answer is, ummm, NO! WHAT A STUPID QUESTION!

Q: Where'd the pictures come from? I didn't know you could take pictures.
A: I started my photographic career with a Brownie box camera (which I still have) at age 5. Along the way I've photographed famous people (Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffet), events (school busing riots, gubernatorial elections), personal friends and family (a shout out to Mom and Claire) and a wide assortment of landscapes from cities to wilderness to interiors. My next gallery addition will be about a Japanese garden. Stay tuned.

Q: Do you do this whole blog thing all by yourself?
A: Of course not. I bought it at Blogs R Us. Dumbass! I may seem inept in real life - Lord knows I've certainly been told as much by many bosses - but I actually can do things. I cook, collect flags, play the drums, tutor the illiterate and operate power tools. I'm also a licensed airplane mechanic, world traveler and contributor to a famous controlled language.

Q: Where do the ideas come from?
A: The voices in my head give them to me.

Q: Where did you learn to write?
A: If you mean the actual forming of the letters, Mom and Dad taught me before I went to school. If you mean the stringing together of words, I'm not sure that I've learned that yet. What little I have mastered is a function of painful practice and baffling variety. I've written stories since my first long-form essay in third grade about a trip to Mars. I've also written magazine and newspaper articles, technical materials, corporate communications (er, forming communications frameworks that yield increased synergies across the enterprise) and short stories. As many of you know, I suffer from lack of confidence in all the things I do, so I now expect you to praise me lavishly while say "aw shucks" and kick cinematically at imaginary rocks on the street.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, June 16, 2005

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Dear Abby, Dear Abby, You Won't Believe This...

Unlike our Dear Leader, I read newspapers every day. I am, after all, a media mogul - and I also have a brain, but that's beside the point. One of my daily "must reads" is the advice column Dear Abby (musician John Prine sums it up best in this song). Each issue, I try to take in the sheer Darwinian depth and breadth of the people who ask advice, the shadowy woman who gives it to them and the people who write in to complain or compliment said advice.

There's always a steady procession of broken romances, failed dinner parties and people who got drunk at the office Christmas party while hitting on the owner's wife and copying their naked ass on the holly-bedecked Xerox. At best, they unfailingly show abysmal judgment. At worst, they should probably be euthanized. I sometimes question the veracity of these letters. They sound suspiciously like cleaner, Midwest versions of Letters to Penthouse. However, I always encounter a similarly warped person in real life and I'm depressed to find out that they actually do exist.

If Abby's correspondents ask questions that are as predictable as the tides, her answers to them are equally predictable. Almost every problem - regardless of what it is - is cause to "seek counseling". The boyfriend won't divorce his wife to be with you? Get some counseling. You ran over your cat with a steam roller? Get some counseling. Living with a crazed, plastic surgery-addicted pedophile (oh my, how do these references to Michael Jackson keep slipping in)? Get some counseling.

I should say up front that I'm a believer in counseling when appropriate. It helps many people and keeps them from creeping over the hairy edge into the void. However, if you have to ask a stranger what to do when your girlfriend cheats on you with your father for the 28th time, "counseling" is a bit of a cop out. At this point it seems to me that Abby owes the human race a greater debt than that owed to the correspondent. She should take action to deepen our collective gene pool and get this person off the street. Permanently. Perhaps some advice to take very strong anti-psychotics or throw oneself under a train would be more appropriate.

Sometimes Abby seems to be blissfully unaware of the physical laws that govern us all. Take the passage of time for example:

Dear Abby,

I'm really, REALLY depressed. I mean I'm so depressed that I am perched on the ledge of my office building as I write you this note. I want to fling myself off, but I'm really concerned about damaging the BMW parked in front of the building. It's such a beautiful car. My cheating boyfriend has one just like it.

Abby, should I indulge my impulse to fly or get some counseling?

On the Edgeeee

Dear Edgy,

Take a look at the beautiful blue sky. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Stop and smell the roses. Take your time before you make any big decisions. Perhaps you should call the National Suicide Hotline, but no hurry, think about it first. You wouldn't want to make any rash decisions. Please write back next month and let me know how things work out. I'm a little concerned that you might be depressed.

By the way, what color is that BMW anyway?



But the most amazing thing about Abby is how much I envy her. I'm looking for a job. I want a well-paid gig where I don't have to work very hard. Do you think she needs any help answering the letters?

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, June 15, 2005

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Step Away From My Brain!

I suppose we need a little pithy commentary here to lighten things up a bit. I'm sure the natural choice would be to hold forth about Michael Jackson, but there's nothing natural about him - or about me for that matter. Instead, let's head north of the border to see what those crazy Canadians are talking about these days.

A recent article in the Canadian newsmagazine, Macleans carried a little tidbit that I found quite troublesome. Marketing gurus have added a new weapon to the arsenal they are so intent on using to control our buying habits...neuromarketing. The truly Orwellian genius behind this little weapon of mass consumption (WMC) is the use of brain scans to determine what makes people respond to products.

Let's repeat that again. BRAIN SCANS! Marketeers are no longer satisfied with subliminal messaging, brightly colored packaging, oppressivly agressive advertising and rampant stadium renaming to get us to buy crap we don't need. Now they're on the slippery slope toward imprinting our very DNA with messages like Faster Pussycat...Buy...Buy! (and yes, that is an homage to Russ Meyer.)

Of course, the marketeers put their own spin on this new technology. After all, they really only intend it to help mankind by utilizing value-packed synergism to bring the absolute best product offerings to market in a competitive, high-quality and low-cost way. Watch for cheese flavored hair spray any day now.

"What we are trying to do," said Karl Moore, a management professor at McGill University, "is understand what people's emotional visceral responses are to marketing stimuli so we can be more effective in things we design." I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to not be visceral about anything I buy. That suggests a certain intimacy that I'd rather not have with my products...well designed or not.

The article makes a case for this being "leading edge stuff", which I am sure it is. In fact, a little too leading edge for my taste. When it comes to tinkering with my brain in the interests of mass consumption, I'll take the bleeding edge every time. There have already been tests involving sight, smell and sound. Can scratch and sniff television commercials be far behind? "We used to joke in this business that it's not rocket science," said Fred Auchterlonie, a Sr. Veep at one of the companies developing the technology. "Now we say it's just brain surgery."

I'm not laughing Fred.

There is a strong parallel between this scheme and a core belief that I have about humanity. To whit, we are much better at finding very creative ways to damage ourselves than we are at finding ways to use technology for good. In other words, we can find ways to better market sugar water full of empty calories, but we can't use the technology to keep a child molester off the street (Oh dear! How did that Michael Jackson reference creep in there?).

I suppose I should sleep more soundly at night though. The article points out that Ralph Nader's Commercial Alert organization is on the case (surely a case of the loonies guarding the bin). They've already fired off an appropriately nasty letter to the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. The letter asks, "What would happen in this country if corporate marketers and political consultants could literally peer inside our brains?" I'm sure that the Republican Chairperson, John McCain, probably thought, "What a great idea. I wonder if I can get these guys to help me out in the 2008 elections." In fact, Ralph was probably thinking the same thing.

Maybe I shouldn't feel safer at all.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, June 14, 2005

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Of All the Things...

Obviously this writing everyday thing isn't working out as planned, but really, I do have an excuse. Your Omnipotent Editor has been working hard on new, original content for you and it hasn't left much time for the writing thing.

Be patient. Stay tuned. I think you will be pleased.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, June 13, 2005

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Media Gadfly Launches Blog

An internationally famous media gadfly has rocked the online world with an announcement that he intends to launch a new blog through his publishing conglomerate, Omnipotent Poobah Omnimedia, Ltd. (OPOL). Analysts predict the move is the first in a series of high profile maneuvers that will allow the upstart company to compete with the likes of ex-con, Martha Stewart and con-artist and owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch.

"I figure if an ex-con and a looney Aussie can have that much power it's time for me to get a piece of the action as well," said Jack Koeneman, OPOL Publisher and CEO at a press conference in his glamorous hilltop retreat. "The opportunities are just boundless. If we can meet the synergistic challenges inherent in a highly leveraged, multi-faceted amalgam like this one, I know we can beat the media pants off of a couple of washed up media darlings in their 14th minute of fame," Koeneman said.

OPOL--publisher of several newsletters including the Irregular PIN, Enterprise, Edge, Potential, Virtual Picayune and the Intermittent Argus--will be adding the new offering to its other highly successful online properties. Current plans call for an expansion to related writing and photogrpahy properties designed to burnish the Omnipotent Poobah brand. Koeneman has retained brand experts Ogilvy Interactive to craft a brand strategy for the launch. The contract is worth an estimated $6.3 billion rubles. After conquering the blog space Koeneman also plans to move into other commercial tie-ins including Omnipotent Poobah-branded mechandise like toothpaste, car wax, canine toiletries and Chia Pets.

OPOL stock rose 16.5 points on news of the announcement lifting the big board to solid gains for the day.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Friday, June 10, 2005

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