Allison Two Speakers

Sarah’s dad was a 1960s/70s audiophile who liked fancy stereo equipment (fancy equipment of most kinds, actually — video, ski, camping, etc.) and when she was growing up, the family living room featured these two enormous Allison Two audio speakers. Allison was a cult/boutique audio company based in Boston (I think).

Five years ago we asked Sarah’s parents about the speakers and without very much warning, and at significant expense, Sarah’s mom (Moonraking readers may know her as Grandma Suzy) had them shipped to us. We got a few good years out of them and then they stopped working so well and we put them in the basement where their condition further deteriorated. Recently Sarah brought them to an audio store in town that came up with a $500 estimate to fix them.

I finally decided that these collectors-item speakers (or so I like to think of them) should find a loving new home with someone who can fix them, so I put an ad on Craigslist asking for $50 or best offer. Nothing. Very disappointing.

Then a couple weeks ago I check my spam filter and find two urgent week-old messages from a guy somewhere south of Chicago who is VERY interested and has a friend who could come to town to pick them up for me. I end up responding to a few questions about the conditions of the woofers, tweeters, and “mids,” and taking some bad photos with my laptop. Apparently it all passed muster, because he sent me a check for $50 and is going to get them over Thanksgiving.

Here’s the photos I showed him:photo-305photo-306

It sounds as if he may end up cannibalizing them for parts, but I still like the thought of some piece of them rocking on.  Sarah’s dad would have been pleased, I think.

Feckless Budgeting and Bad Math

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This is an amusing article (with a poignant side):

Kathy Peel, a Dallas-based family manager (that is, a life coach whose niche is training families to run their homes like businesses), said that incidences of feckless budgeting and bad math seem to be on the rise, at least judging from the reports of coaches trained in her system. Leslie McKee, a Peel-trained family manager in Pittsburgh, has noticed a pattern of “people signing up for discount stores that sell in bulk and over-purchasing ‘bargains’ that are so enormous they will not live long enough to use the item,” she said. “Then they call me and spend more money to help them organize it all into mini-malls inside their homes.”

I wonder if we could re-train in order to run our house as a profitable business.  Is there a market out there for products like cat poop, platefuls of rejected frozen peas, and avant-garde stagings of kittens being born out of eggs?

Mortimer Adler’s Syntopicon

This photo cracks me up:

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It’s from this NY Times book review:

In “A Great Idea at the Time,” Alex Beam presents Hutchins and Adler as a double act: Hutchins the tall, suave one with a gift for leadership; Adler “a troll next to the godlike Hutchins,” with a talent for putting students to sleep. Making the acquaintance of Hutchins through his works was, to Beam, “like falling in love.” By contrast, “to be reading Mortimer Adler’s two autobiographies and watching his endless, self-promotional television appearances was a nightmare from which I am still struggling to awake.” As an appendix to the Great Books, Adler insisted on compiling a two-volume index of essential ideas, the easily misspelled Syntopicon. A photograph in “A Great Idea at the Time” shows Adler surrounded by filing-cabinet drawers, each packed with index cards pertaining to a separate “idea”: Aristocracy, Chance, Cause, Form, Induction, Language, Life and so on. The cards registered the expression of those ideas — Adler arrived at the figure of 102 — in the Great Books of the Western World.

Ah, the Great Books and the Great Ideas.  I like the Great Books myself, some of them anyway, and have a residual respect for freshmen core curricula (I did a program of that sort myself), but the photo could not be more perfect as a representation of self-satisfied mid-20th-century academic pomposity.

The review also cites Joseph Epstein as commenting that Adler “did not suffer subtlety gladly.”

I just saw an interesting presentation on Digital Humanities and text tagging, and Adler’s cards struck me as a early manifestation of a similar urge; you have to figure this guy would’ve killed to be able to create a searchable/mappable online database of the 102 Great Ideas.

Here’s a funny clip from a t.v. interview with Adler explaining how he can read 10 books in one day — if by “read,” you mean “inspect them” and “put them on [your] bookshelf for future reference”:

The year CBS killed everything with a tree in it

Re: Wasilla Hillbillies, I found myself watching The Beverly Hillbillies recently with the sound off (but with subtitles) while working out on the Arc Welder or whatever it’s called at the Y, and thinking “wow, this is a really good show.”  The writing and acting seemed sharp and hilarious; I especially admired the physical comedy of Irene Ryan as Granny.  I kind of inanely mused, as I huffed and puffed, about the cleverness of the very idea of the “Beverly Hills Hillbillies,” re-imagining the “hills” of L.A. as a site of displaced rural Southernness.  So most likely I was just having a weird exercise endorphins reaction.

In any case, bear with me and check out these fascinating/weird tidbits from wikipedia:

Cancellation and “the Rural Purge”

Nielsen ratings for the 1970-71 season indicate that the bottom had dropped out for the perennial Top 30 series but was still fairly popular when it was canceled in 1971 after 274 episodes. The CBS network, prompted by pressure from advertisers seeking a more sophisticated urban audience, decided to refocus its schedule on several “hip” new urban-themed shows, and to make room for them, all of CBS’s rural-themed comedies were simultaneously canceled. This action came to be known as “the Rural Purge“. Pat Buttram, who played Mr. Haney on Green Acres, famously remarked that, “It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it.”[2]

In addition to The Beverly Hillbillies, the series that were eliminated included Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee Haw.

And some surreal details about the Granny character:

She was extremely scrappy and was an expert at wielding a double-barreled, 12-gauge shotgun, although the one time she actually fired it, unknown to her, Mr. Drysdale had replaced the shotgun pellets with bacon rind and rock salt after he arranged for Hollywood stuntmen to dress up as fake Native Americans to “attack” the Clampett mansion. She was also able to tell the precise time, to the minute and even the second, by looking at the position of the sun. ….Two of Granny’s phobias were “Injuns” (she actually bought wigs so the Clampetts wouldn’t be “scalped”) and the “cement pond” (she has a fear of water). In a long story arc in the show’s eighth season, Elly May dates a U.S. Navy frogman, which confuses Granny: After seeing the frogman climb out of the pool in his skin-diving wear, she thinks that anyone who swims in the pool will be turned into a frog.

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I think this was one of the shows that I would only watch when I was home sick from school. There was a taboo in our household on watching television during the daytime, so there was something distinctly unhealthy and corrupt-feeling about lying on the couch with a fever, drinking ginger ale (also only permitted when sick) watching hours of reruns.  I associate Family Affair, which I think was pretty awful, with this as well.

End of the Southern Strategy?

Two NY Times articles today suggest that the Southern Strategy — the Republican party’s coded appeals to racist working-class whites to peel them away from the Democrats — may now be dead.

Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally. By leaving the mainstream so decisively, the Deep South and Appalachia will no longer be able to dictate that winning Democrats have Southern accents or adhere to conservative policies on issues like welfare and tax policy, experts say.

That could spell the end of the so-called Southern strategy, the doctrine that took shape under President Richard M. Nixon in which national elections were won by co-opting Southern whites on racial issues. And the Southernization of American politics — which reached its apogee in the 1990s when many Congressional leaders and President Bill Clinton were from the South — appears to have ended.

“I think that’s absolutely over,” said Thomas Schaller, a political scientist who argued prophetically that the Democrats could win national elections without the South.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have “become a Southernized party,” said Mr. Schaller, who teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “They have completely marginalized themselves to a mostly regional party,” he said, pointing out that nearly half of the current Republican House delegation is now Southern.

Wow.  Could this really be true?  It’s been an infuriating constant in my adult consciousness of national politics that the prejudices and whims of racist Southerners have always exerted a disproportionately determining influence on elections.  And this electoral dynamic has surely allowed this racism to flourish, since it in effect normalized it and rewarded those who practiced it.

It didn’t occur to me until someone else pointed it out that McCain’s obsession with Obama’s “socialism” was linked to this tradition, since “redistribution” of wealth has often been code for “giving money to black people.”  I had been bemused at why on earth working-class folks would be upset by Obama proposing to raise the taxes of people earning more than a quarter million a year.

What a great thought, that racists in Mississippi who believe that an Obama victory may mean that that there will “be outbreaks from blacks” will be marginalized and mostly ignored in national elections.  It’s very satisfying to look at the “racism map” that shows the relatively small Southern region that supported McCain more strongly than it did Bush in 2004.  (Satisfying to see how self-enclosed and cut off that region is from the mainstream, not Sarah Palin’s “real America” in the least.  And of course, satisfying and a relief to see that Indiana is definitively not part of that region.)

Here’s a related Op-Ed piece.

Australian Slang

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Am almost done with this Australian mystery novel, The Broken Shore by Peter Temple.  It’s very good although to tell the truth, I’ve sometimes had trouble following the plot because of the Australian slang/jargon.  There’s a whole Glossary at the end which is helpful.  Here are some good items:

Quickpick: A lottery ticket that spares the buyer the task of choosing numbers by randomly allocating them.  Anything chosen without much thought or care.  Also a term for someone, not necessarily a prostitute, picked up for sex.

Pommy:  Someone from England.  The English are often known as Pommy bastards.  This has been known to be said affectionately.  The term derives from “pomegranate” as rhyming slang for “immigrant.”

Bludger: Once, a man living off a prostitute’s earnings; now applied to anyone who shirks work, duty or obligation.  A dole bludger is someone who would rather live on unemployment benefits than take a job.

I tried out one of the book’s pieces of slang, not one of the ones about prostitutes, on our Australian friend Catherine, and she immediately recognized it: spaggy bol, “Spaghetti bolognese.  Also called spag bol.  Italian immigrants to Australia were once called spags.

Ice Cream Social

Everyone’s feeling kind of happy and giddy.  Last night we went to an “ice cream social” at Obama headquarters downtown for volunteers.  It was nice.  The building they’ve been in used to house Tortilla Flats, but then (Steve tells me) they sold their liquor license and later lost all their business and gave up.  So the Obama folks took over the building, and now it is going to be destroyed next week.  They had paint and markers and were drawing and writing on the walls.  Celie and Iris really liked that — made a bunch of heart people and flowers, and wrote their names.

We ran into someone we know, a retired prof, who has been volunteering for the campaign since the summer of 2007!  It was cool to reflect that Indiana went blue because of all the people like him.  We found out that a number of other people we knew were also canvassing in Bedford on Tuesday.  Maybe it made a difference.

Let’s see, what else to say.  Iris and Celie were most interested in Obama’s line about Malia and Sasha having “earned that puppy.”  Possibly they are trying to figure out how they too can earn a puppy.  (Focus on earning the two kittens you already have, is my advice.)  I missed this, but apparently Sarah was watching Obama’s acceptance speech on tape with the girls and Iris cried: “because he’s just so good,” she said, overcome by all the emotion.

In a way, thinking about Malia and Sasha in the White House is one of the most surreal things.  So amazing that they will be the first children of the country.  I hope they can manage to enjoy it.

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