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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   human shield
Sunday, December 7 2003
This afternoon Eleanor ran out to the end of the driveway barking, as she often does, and I stuck my head out the door behind her to tell her "No!" if she continued into the road. But I was too late. She was already in the road, and a car (a silver New Beetle) was coming. There was a thump and a squeal, just like in the movies. I was trapped for a moment in a parallel universe of cognitive dissonance, and then I saw Eleanor running back towards me, this time managing without the use of her left front paw. She'd been hit by the car, that was clear enough, but it looked like she'd been lucky and only broken one of her legs. As it turned out, she hadn't actually broken any bones; she'd just suffered a nasty sprain and surface abrasion on her left wrist. She'd also suffered a minor injury on her chin.
The people who had been driving the car immediately came back to knock on the door and tell me what had happened. I told them that Eleanor is a particularly stupid dog and that I've been trying to teach her not to go out into the road, but she was too damn stupid to learn anything. I also apologized.
The way I see it, the snow had focused Eleanor's interest on the part of the road that had been plowed, and, being black, she had been more or less invisible in the black and white world of asphalt and snow. Judging from her injuries, she had probably been standing at an angle on the side of the road, with her left paw furthest out into the road, sniffing something on the ground with her head facing away from the oncoming car when she'd been hit. The impact probably kicked her up in the air dramatically; the driver of the car told me that she'd been certain that Eleanor had been killed. Indeed, Eleanor probably would have been killed had the Beetle been going much more than 30 miles per hour. But there's a sharp curve in Dug Hill Road as it passes our house, and cars can't go but so fast without running into a tree (something that happens on occasion).
Eleanor was rather shaken up by the experience and spent the rest of the afternoon snuggling with Clarence and the blankets on the purple couch in the teevee room. She didn't seem to be in any pain except when she walked. The injury sobered her up from her usual non-stop giddy puppy ridiculousness, for the time being at least. The best thing I can imagine coming out of this is Eleanor somehow drawing on the experience and learning to stay out of the road.

Gretchen, meanwhile, had been working at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, and she called me at around 5:00 pm to tell me she needed a ride home. Her car was stuck at the sanctuary because of its steep driveway. I'd arranged for us to go to a meetup to see a movie about the ridiculousness of the war against Iraq, but she'd been working all day shoveling manure, and was exhausted. Once I dropped the bomb about Eleanor being hit by, you know, a car, she was even less enthusiastic. But this was the first time in recent memory that there was an evening's activity for which little logistically disabled me had handled all the logistics, and Gretchen wanted to give me encouragement, so she told me to bring her a change of clothes and meet her at Kathy's house (Kathy being the woman who runs the CAS).

Gretchen runs later than I do when it comes to appointments, figuring she can make up the time by driving like a maniac. This time, though, we had the disadvantage of being unfamiliar with the routes connecting 9W north of Kingston (where the sanctuary is) and Woodstock. The roads in this region are few and far between, and the ones that exist tend to be twisty-turny, sometimes for no obvious reason. The most direct route was Sawkill Road, but we didn't have a map and had difficulty finding where it began in the maze of streets that make up the nucleus of Ulster Township. The oddly gerrymandered shape of this township implies that it is what remained after the other townships in the county were formed. More than any other local geopolitical entity, it can best be described with the cliché "there is no there there." Home to Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, and the Hudson Valley Mall, Ulster Township's zoning board must be unusually indulgent of predatory megacapitalists.

Our movie meetup was at a little house to the west of downtown Woodstock. Our hosts were Robert and Jennifer, and they'd provided a spread of snacks and finger foods. In addition to them, there were two other people who had shown up for this particular viewing, although ours was just one of two thousand happening roughly simultaneously across the country.
We arrived late, but our hosts waited for a further twenty minutes or so before starting the film. Ten people had signed up for this viewing, and it was possible there would be people straggling in even later than Gretchen and I had been.
I was a little concerned that this was going to be a humorless experience of relentless (if cathartic) Bush hating, and my worst fears were immediately realized by the pre-movie banter that was happening as Gretchen and I walked in. One of the two other guests was a 40ish woman from Kerhonkson who was regaling everyone with her story of serving as a human shield in Iraq. "Oh Jesus," I thought, "it's a crazy person!" It seems there's always at least one of these people at every otherwise wonderful lefty event. The others politely indulged the human shield as she spoke of the urgent need to write her experiences down and have them published. Unfortunately Gretchen was off in the bathroom as the human shield told us about all the great things that Saddam Hussein had done for the Iraqi people, so I had no one to roll my eyes to. A little later, though, the moment was redeemed by talking a little with the others at the meetup, and they all seemed balanced and good-humored. Best of all, they seemed perfectly happy when the conversation wandered away from the strictly political.
The movie we'd come to see was Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War. As with the other two thousand viewings, it was being shown from a DVD mailed out from the mothership. I suppose the documentary made its case well enough, but it was hard to tell, since it was all old news to a news junkie like me. Best of all was how it exposed the wriggly nature of the Bush administration as it continually changes the narrative and rewrites its own history in the face of failure.
Post-movie banter thrived on our mutual hatred for George W. Bush and his henchmen, and all seemed to be going well until the hostess Jennifer brought up an intriguing new development in the peace calculus of Isræl versus Palestine, a new plan that bypasses the leaders and operates on a regional basis, a scrappy Linux to the Microsoft Windows of Bush's Roadmap (an analogy I would have made tonight, except I feared nobody would understand what the hell I was talking about). Isræl is a sensitive issue with Gretchen, and I was nervous how it was going to play out, particularly given the presence of a human shield acting in the capacity of Saddam Hussein spokeslady. As expected, the human shield didn't think much of Isræl. At first her critique was a logical one, that a state established on a non-secular basis was trouble in the modern world. By saying that, she'd already strayed into Gretchen's minefield, but that was still within the realm of polite conversation among strangers. When the human shield went on to say "anti-semetism isn't as bad as it used to be, and I say that as a Jew," Gretchen couldn't take it any longer. Her response was surprisingly measured as she asked the human shield whether or not she'd actually ever been to Isræl. No, the human shield hadn't. Well, argued Gretchen, if the human shield had actually gone to Isræl, then maybe she would have found, as Gretchen had found, that nothing is simple and there are no easy answers. Gretchen said that she herself held firm beliefs about Isræl before going there, and now it seems much more complicated to her than it used to. To this, the human shield replied that not everybody has the money to go to Isræl. This seemed like an odd thing to say, coming from a person who had recently traveled from Kerhonkson, New York, to pre-war Iraq to serve in the capacity of a human shield.
Appropriately for this being a MoveOn meetup, our host and hostess gently maneuvered the conversation such that we moved on from the divisive topic of Isræl to something about which we could all agree. But the human shield hadn't talked enough about Isræl, and she re-introduced the topic by insinuating a grand conspiracy between the Nazis and the original Zionists. She dropped this bomb and then moved on to some other topic, never providing any conversational space for retort. Gretchen didn't let her off so easily. I forget how exactly this played out, but it hardly matters. Gretchen was, after all, arguing with a human shield. That's another way of saying she was arguing with a crazy person.
Both of us liked Jennifer and Robert and would have enjoyed to hanging out with just them for awhile, but the human shield continued to linger well after she'd put on her coat and shoes. It was obvious she wasn't going to leave until we were gone. We continued chatting for awhile anyway. Among the things I brought up was a fascinating article I'd read in the New Yorker the other day about the profound effects of redistricting on American democracy (particularly how it has swapped the roles of the Senate and Congress and how the Voting Rights Act might have lead to the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994).

On the drive home, Gretchen and I had a good chuckle at the expense of the human shield. "I knew she was crazy the moment she said she'd been a human shield," I said. "I used to know so many people like that in Oberlin," Gretchen said, "they're Jewish apologists, and they don't know what they're talking about."

Back at the house, Eleanor seemed to have recovered most of her puppy zest. She was actually out in the snow taking care of one of her several bodily functions when we arrived, and her limping seemed greatly diminished.

How the copper double-hinged swinglamp ended up looking.
I added the final details and electrical supply cord today.

Note the special yoke necessary to attach the lamp to the sloping 45 degree ceiling.

The lamp fully extended in the teevee room.

Clarence the Kitten and Eleanor the Run-Over Dog
under the swinglamp on the purple couch in the teevee room.

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