Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Hapy New Year everyone!
Here at Mondale Towers we await the arrival of a new Mondale. Nothing yet!
We spend our days taking strolls and eating fine lunches in our favourite places. Everything we won't be able to do in a week or two!

Henry Holland.

The man has a blog.
Not much on it but that is the way of the Holland.
I am sure that that will improve.
I anticipate photos of technical stuff and trips and boats.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Denis Healey

No, he's not dead (yet) but it's an interesting article about Mondale's British counterpart. Click on the title link.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford. (it began as Hiaku)

I went to his museum.
In Grand Rapids, Mi.
There was a lot to see there.

But almost all of it related directly to the administrations of others, like the space program or the fall of the Berlin Wall, or Vietnam or Watergate or the environment. I liked the way you took credit for everything that other people did. Or maybe you did it all yourself. Gee, you were busy.

There were also a few highly confused visitors from foreign lands who must have mistaken you for another Gerald Ford. The racing driver perhaps.

Anyway, Parking was easy and plentiful and we had a very nice meal afterwards.
All said and done it was a pleasant day out.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Book Learning #29

Rats. Observations on the history and habitat of the city's most unwanted inhabitants. By Robert Sullivan.

A fascinating read. Not just the rats themsleves but an unsavory history of the city we live in, of how rats affect our daily lives and how we affect theirs. Sullivan goes in for some cool history of the sanitation dept and living conditions on some of the tougher neighborhoods. He also hangs out with a lot of pest control folk. All good stuff.
My favourite bits were the comparisons of Brooklyn and Manhattan rats (Brooklyn ones are generally more chilled out) and the list of rat foods (they love mac n' cheese). Also some good myth busting- there are not as many rats as there are people.
All in all, not bad. I still hate the fuckers though.


Blogsters, please advise.
When playing the popular global domination board game risk (that's right I said global domination BOARD GAME)It's fine to make pacts and deals isn't it?
And it's even finer to smash those pacts into smithereens as your forces roll into Eygpt to seize control. Right?
And the whole point of the game is to continue a southward onslaught into East Africa and beyond. Yeah? Pacts are there to be torn up in the heat of global confrontation.

So why did my opponent get so upset by my 'cheating' that he stormed away from the table and sulked in the next room?

And my opponent was a man in his twenties.

"we had a pact".

I'm not making this up.

He had to be coaxed back to the table with the promise (brokered by another player I might add, I was not going anywhere near any UN negotiations) of restarting the game from scratch. I made it my sole game plan to wipe his forces from the face of the earth. This I did with some help from his (please dump him) soon to be ex girlfriend.
Of course, it was nothing personal.

Did i miss something? I mean, we were playing Risk.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A yuletide tale continued.

We pick up the tale.

Mr Goodyear and I, accompanied by Pat the Irish fellow are stumbling toward the Catholic Church. We have stashed our collection of 20 odd bottles of Becks in every avaliable pocket and orifice. As a result of which we managed to omit a curious clinking sound as we walk, in fact any type of movement is accompanied by a clinking noise, the happy sound of beer bottle rubbing up against beer bottle, or cellphone or cigarette lighter, or doorkeys.
As we make our way through the town I begin to hear some dissent from Mr Goodyear."But I'm not a bloody catholic". "No bother" I say. "They'll let you in, you're with me".
At this point Pat starts to get nervous about going to church but he's drunk and lost in a strange foreign town so he has very little choice but to succumb to the desires of his kidnappers.
I reassure my men, "It'll be fine, we'll sneak in at the last moment, find a seat at the very back, sing a couple of hymns and leave before we get too sleepy" Easy.
The catholic Church is about half a mile from the pub and we get there just before midnight. My plan soon begins to turn rather sour.

We enter the back of the church, I shepherd Mr Goodyear and Pat inside , Mr Goodyear is visibly relieved to discover that he has not been turned into a cloud of orange smoke by the protestant gods of on high and Pat is looking ever more unsettled. As We approach the back doors I begin to sense a problem. The place is packed , it's jamming with good Yuletide worshippers and there is no room. No room at the inn.
Ah, none at all. Not at the back of the church anyway.
Also the clientele is well, sober. It seems that the local boozy brigade go direct to the Abbey. There they can hide amongst themselves and smell bad and belch , fart and forget the words. They can crumple the hymn sheet and mumble the prayers.

Here at the Catholic church they actually expect you to know your stuff. Don't get me wrong, they are very pleased to see us , so pleased in fact that they give us a pile of books, a bible, a couple of hymn books and all. Books I tell you! We were expecting a zeroxed sheet with a couple of classic christmas hymns and that's it.

No. We were to participate fully in the entire service. Next in a lengthening line of unfortunate events was the seating. As I'd said there didn't seem to be any room. Had we been even slightly less drunk we could have turned and scooted out, abort the plan, no problem. It was our consumption of beer that done us in. That and the adorable old ladies at the door. "Hello loves, there's plenty of room right at the front".

We clinked our wobbly way to the front of the church. It was packed, the priest was about to start but he very kindly held things up "for a few happy latecomers". I noted my brother in the pews, quietly pissing himself as I led my curious entourage to the foremost pew. The drunk catholics and the sweating Protestant.

I need to admit something. I'm not much of a churchgoer. I would describe myself as a second row Catholic. I mean that I really need to see real religious types in front of me so that I can know when to kneel, stand, genuflect etc. Being in the front row mere inches from the Priest was no good for me, I kept having to look around everytime I heard a shuffling noise. Thankfully the Priest was well endowed with Christian charity and took to nursing us through the service by directing us to sit or stand with hand gestures and a kindly smile. Despite his efforts there were a couple of lapses which left us three standing alone at the front of the congregation until a small voice behind us told us what to do and when to do it.And of course, each and every time we stood, sat or whatever we were accompanied by the happy sound of clinking beer bottles. It's amazing how quiet a room full of people can be.

The sermon was long and the priest had a solid Norfolk accent. Even for those of us born and raised in the place we had a bit of trouble understanding him (or maybe we were just too drunk?)He was talking about "fillums" and we leaned over that we may hear him better. "Fillums? what are Fillums?". Then he mentioned the message of hope contained in the "fillum" The Shawshank Redemption. "Oh, he means films!" burst out Pat. "Yes, I said Fillums" replied the priest.

We muddled through, Mr Goodyear was desperate to leave, to pee, to drink, to do anything but sit through this mammoth Midnight mass-athon. The thing was, we couldn't leave. We were jammed in at the front. No escape. Mr Goodyear eventually dozed off, I did my best to stay awake through the whole thing and just about managed to avert complete family disgrace.

After what had seemed like days the priest put us out of our misery. In a gesture of real humanity he turned and thanked us for coming and wished us well, we clinked out through the crowds and stumbled home, clinking all the way. We had not intended to be quite so drunk and unlike many in the Abbey we had a genuine respect for those whose church we had so spectaculary crashed. We sang when we should have sang, we changed no words to invite rude words, we sat through the whole thing in a drunken puddle of mild embarassment and clinking bottles. I don't go to Midnight mass anymore but if I did I would have a drink or two, but no more.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A yuletide tale

It's that time of year again so why not regale you with one of my favourite Christmas anecdotes.

It's the late 90's. I'm in my hometown (just like Joseph I have returned to pay tribute to those who raised me). The traditional thing is to get blasted on Christmas Eve in the Feathers, the premier pub in town. Trouble is, everyone else always has the same idea and my erstwhile drinking buddy Mr Goodyear and I have decided that we'll need to get creative in order to maintain the world class buzz we are accustomed to.

We decide to try the Feathers until it becomes impossible to get beer. Think Times Square on New Years Eve. Times Square with priviledges but even so, being 6'5" and on very friendly terms with the barstaff isn't alway enough to ensure smooth drinking.

After a while and a bunch of hellos and bumps and spills we decide to move off in the direction of something a touch, well, quieter. This is a moment in time, a point has been reached. We have spent every available youthful moment in our hometown in the Feathers. We have drunk away many a summers evening there, we love the place and it loves us back. It's not a big pub, it's smoky, old and dark and only serves real beer. Untill a few years ago the landlord refused to play music, deeming it a mod con he could do without. He retired to the golf course and his daughter took over. She allowed music (both jukebox and fantastic open mic evenings), some flowers by the bar and even some design tips from regulars. My old room mate and cricket bat donor Blazeby and I once had a lenghty conversation about the lighting in the garden, a few days later Blazeby's suggestions were in place. Even now, it's a place of pilgrimage when returning home to visit the folks.

You get the idea. Going elsewhere on Christmas Eve was not a choice made lightly. The Feathers offers many things to many wonderful people, It's that rare thing, a pub that genuinely crosses class and cultural barriers without any sense of effort. What it is not, on Christmas Eve, is a quiet haunt.
We were getting old.

We stumbled over to the Green Dragon. This instantly placed us into a much older, grumpier demographic. If the Feathers was all bending about, spilt pints and loud, boisterous smiles the Green Dragon was a smaller crowd of folk whilstfully drinking the remainder of the year away. The oldest pub in town it dated from the 1500's (the Feathers a mere child being only about 250 years old)and had a reputation for misery.

Still we thought, why not? it'll be quiet, we could catch up with each other (Mr Goodyear and I had not seen each other in a while and didn't mind having a conversation) and most importantly we might actually get a beer.
We find a seat and soon get chatting to an Irishman. He's older than us and is in town visiting his sister for the holiday. Grand! We'll all just hang out and talk politics! What better than that? Me the Republican, Mr Goodyear the Unionist and Pat with no fixed abode. We enter the pub raffle. The grand prize is 24 bottles of Becks.
We win! We Drink! We talk Irish history! We laugh! We stop laughing, we are in the Green Dragon.

Another traditional aspect of Christmas Eve is Midnight Mass. The town has a very large and very old Abbey. It's the bastion of the local conservatism and whilst it's an impressive building it's never been my idea of a place of worship. The usual thing is to get slightly, rather, very drunk and when the pubs close rush over to the Abbey stand at the back and belt out a few hymns. It's like the best of both worlds, religion without the faith and drunkeness without the... no , wait.
The trouble with the Abbey is that it gets packed on this night, the back overflows with drunks, you can't see or hear anything and you spend an hour needing to pee.
Anyway, I'd grown tired and bored of this charade yet something inside me wanted to be festive, I wanted to join in some type of celebration. The Abbey was not for me. Then it hit me, The best idea of all...

We would cross the street and go to the local Catholic Church!

Absolute genius.

I was a failed Catholic, I could get us in the door. Mr Goodyear was raised a conservative Protestant and we'd pulled some Irish bloke. That and the 24 bottles of Becks, we were laughing!


Why not?

The Catholic Church would be full of real people who actually cared about the reason for the season. It would be warmer than the Abbey as it's smaller and only 60 years old (The Abbey is almost 950 years old and built for mediaeval worshippers who didn't seem to mind drafts and the cold winter air). Catholics are warm and friendly. So what if we're a wee bit tipsy? It's Christmas Eve for God's sake. We'll sneak in the back, relax, sing a few hymns and leave in time for Santa. Yeah! An honest alternative to the mayhem in the Abbey.

So looking at our watches, we grab our pints and set off towards the Catholic Church.

To be continued....

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Bought a red bugaboo frog.The chameleon was too big and made out of a nasty fleecy material, I wanted canvas. Canvas rocks. Red means no green but hey, what can you do? The salesman at Buy Buy Baby on 7th ave was very talented and won me over. I liked that when we decided on a frog some of his coworkers came over and gave him high fives and said things like "dude! another frog!". It's like he's the champion bugaboo salesman. His name is Jamie. He rocks.

Got rid of two nasty old chairs, sidewalk style.

Second weekend of serious nesting, revolutionised the apt.

Just ready to meet 'lil'un'.

Frau Random Doubt has shown interest in another cool name for a male child. This came about after I recounted a highly amusing story concerning a child of that name. I asked him what I should call my child were it to be a male child. His instant response was "my name". This made her laugh.

Happy Holidays

It's a long story, a story of my family's failed attempt at Roman Catholicism and my oldest friend's constant attempts at riduculing it.
This year I received this Christmas card from said friend.
The penguins represent members of the Orange Order, a Protestant Unionist organisation for gentlemen who fear and despise the Catholic hordes (like me).You can see the real thing in the top picture.
This is one of those moments when one's ethnicity has absolutely no bearing upon one's everyday life. It's an amusing, long running gag between me and aforementioned old friend.
Just thought you all might like to see the card.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The year in first lines.

Stolen from Unwellness.


I've decided to add short reviews of all the books I read in 2006

So, like, what exactly does a Groundhog look like?

When friends of friends of friends hit "reply all" aren't you just tempted to reply WHO ARE YOU?

My sister and her family are in town, here are some of the latest pictures.

Right out of the traps I hit a not unfamiliar problem with this one.


At last!




Naughtie is the aggressive host of Radio 4's Today programme where he harasses politicians at a time too early in the morning for anyone to make a lot of sense.

After a series of random and sometimes drunken conversations over the past few weeks, conversations with Americans AND my Dad.
I have finally pinned a location on the 2008 European Championships.

His replacement may well have been hired.

Americans may feel free to disregard this post.

In the past couple of years I have been given bits and bobs of the 1977 David Frost- Richard Nixon interviews.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Currently obsessed with...

Jesus Christ Superstar.
It's sort of christmas music isn't it.

Gawd bless 'em

I didn't want to write about this before the event, for fear of it not happening and/or there being a nice fine.

But goddammit those heroes of the streets the DSNY only went and took away the rotten carcass of our old sofa. I know, it's their job but it still delights me to see such a dirty job done so well. I know there will be as many of you out there with a nightmare story to tell but I just want to say, right here , right now I love those guys.

I grew up in a town where getting rid of old/broken furniture meant borrowing Dave's van and a saturday afternoon at the 'tip'. In Brooklyn you just dump the crap on the sidewalk. Marvellous!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Listmaker in Central Park.

In the middle of a fantastic field trip (you can tell because the grown ups are all smiling).
We were all taking pictures of the kids on a massive rock. I turned around and snapped a few of the snappers.

The daily grind.

Crate and Barrel

Due to circumstances involving the winter party, my boss, some coworkers, a pulled pork sandwich, several (read many) pints of Brooklyn lager and a magical late night cab ride I spent last night on the couch in the living room.
Imagine my astonishment when the phone rang at 6.15 am. I thought the worst (well one does when the phone rings at odd hours) I thought family disaster, Trafford has died, something like that.


It was Crate and Barrel calling to confirm a 7am delivery of our new sofa.


Up I got, scrubbed and scrubbed some more and within half an hour two marvellous gentlemen had presented us with a shiny new chocolate colored sofa and storage ottoman!

I'm thinking of calling the lil'un "crateunbarrel".

Right, now it's silent reading all day.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I took the opportunity to walk to work this morning. The Gowanus canal in all it's glory at 7.45 am

Sunday, December 10, 2006

sofa of my lethargy.

Ah, the old sofa*, the trusty old family, post college sofa. Handed down from generation to needy generation until you are grown up enough to be able to afford your own furniture. This sofa was one of those "I don't know how they got it in (broken walls and light fittings actually) but I sure as hell have some good ideas about getting it out! Today is the day of your destruction!

Kitten puts up a bit of suffragette style protest, as I began to cut through the fabric to locate the wooden slats she refused to get off the aging couch.
Der Vetter Kevin, sleep deprived following the arrival of wee Emerson gets handy with a circular saw. I was a bit disconcerted when I thought I saw him begin to doze off mid destruction.

The tattered remains of many a night of drunken slumber, of pints of Ben n'Jerrys, of Law and Order marathons.

At last, out on the street, Brooklyn style.

*The nasty Tex-mex pattern was long ago covered by a much more tasteful suede cover.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Only in New York.

(Or possibly anywhere else).
I wanted a new pair of Levi's. I'm not a clotheshorse, I know what I want and I know where to get it. I can be in and out within minutes and not many minutes at that.
I went to the place where I have bought Levi's before and managed to evade the facile floorwalkers until I got to the bit of the store that had exactly what I wanted right in front of me.


"I'm fine thanks, I just need a pair of those".


"No, that's the size I always get, that's what I'm wearing now".


"I know it looks like that but I'm really tall, It just looks that way".

Outmanouvered, she changed tack.


"It's about Bill Clinton".


At this point I was able to walk away.

Just another dose of minutae.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The names have been changed.

The school secretary is an indestrucible woman of mature years. She's seen it all and done most of it too.

In my class I have a boy with a double barrelled surname of Italianesque, nay, baroque proportions.

Today I heard her thick Brooklyn accent over the intercom.

"Mr Mondale? Mr Mondale? Can you tell that kid with the name that he's being picked up by Lisa's mom"


"You know, Mostin Berlusconi-WHATEVER"

Joe's nyc

It's taken a year for me to finally link.
Amazing pictures.
Fantastic eye candy.

Some news.

Do you remember Joe? The kid with Leukemia, I got my head shaved etc?


Well in amidst all the insanity of his treatment it should not be forgotten that his mum was pregnant.

Yesterday, 7lbs etc, a girl!

Mum and baby are happy and well.

You can see a picture of 'tinsel' by clicking onto getwellsoonjoe below.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Book Learning #28

The Survivor. Bill Clinton in the White House. By John F.Harris.

As I write this I am listening to Richard Nixon justify his actions.
There are few similarities between Nixon and Clinton. Self justification in the light of poor judgement and/or illegal behaviour is one of them.

That aside Harris has written an intelligent and highly readable account of the Clinton White House years. The chapters are alternated, some heavy discussion of policy such as Healthcare reform and deficit reduction and then the more engaging, personal stuff such as Clinton's relationships with his wife or senior members of his administration.

Some thoughts...

It's easy to forget how strange the first term was, the shutdown, healthcare fiasco, poor approval ratings and doubt about America's foreign policy.

When I began to read this book I had no real opinion on the junior Senator for New York, at the beginning I was discourteous in my heart towards the former First Lady. By the end of the book I was feeling much more benign, almost willing her to run and win in 2008.

I'm still unsure about Al Gore. Like many I suppose.

Wouldn't it be fun to hang out with Bill Clinton?

So much he didn't get done.

As I read this book I couldn't help but wonder, 1998, budget surplus, a less confusing world and a competent President in the White House. It changed so quickly and so irrevocably.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not a crook.

In the past couple of years I have been given bits and bobs of the 1977 David Frost- Richard Nixon interviews. Yes, this is a tremendously geeky thing but yes, I am a tremendous geek (especially concerning Presidential history).

I would like to thank Weasel for the video of a couple of years ago and more recently Paperbag for finally finding the complete interview on cds in her car and allowing me to download them into my itunes library.

I currently sit listening to the disgraced former President explain his policies on South East Asia.

Weasel, Paperbag, you both rock.