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All contents herein (except the illustrations, which are in the public domain) are Copyright © 1995-2011 Evan Morris. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited, with the exception that teachers in public schools may duplicate and distribute the material here for classroom use.

Any typos found are yours to keep.

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Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

 

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March 2013

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

readme:

Spring is here, spring is here, life is skittles and life is beer, I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring, I do, don’t you? Of course you do.

So sayeth the Bard (Tom Lehrer), but it’s been a whole lot like January around here lately, which is to say gray, cold and bleak. Of course, this is Ohio. I’m sure it’s nicer where you are. Unless you’re also in Ohio, in which case, can you fetch me some cat food from the store? That incessant yowling on top of the cold gray bleakness is getting to me.

You know what’s funny? It’s 27 degrees out there, has been for a week, we just got three inches of snow, and the grass is growing. Big green clumps of grass. Take a hike, suckers. This year I’m gonna spray the lawn with Agent Orange and tell everybody Global Pattern Baldness is to blame.

Onward. Gosharootie, lookie there! It’s March, which means that it’s National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. I have recently been informed that March was picked to be MS month because they both begin with “M.” Apparently I shoulda/woulda figured this out on my own were it not for my creeping enfeebleation, which [pausing for breath] I am told I may choose to blame on my very own MS but which is more likely actually due to my addiction to chocolate doughnuts and pizza. Whatever. Anyway, you should all donate to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society because they do real work and fund real research (as opposed to simply “raising awareness”). The official MS color, by the way, is orange, which is kinda yucky and reminiscent of traffic cones, but far enough from pink that they probably won’t get sued.

So, anyway, here’s the March issue. Have fun, send me some questions, dagnabbit, and if the mood strikes you, please consider subscribing. Every month around this time I nervously check my PayPal balance to see if our hosting charges will squeak through on the first of the month, and at the moment that is far from certain. Operators are standing by. Act now!

And now, on with the show…

February 2013 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

readme:

Way to go, Downton Abbey. Your show’s been staggering around on crutches since Matthew stood up from his wheelchair, and you blithely kick them away. This has not gone over well with either viewers or critics, quelle freakin’ surprise. The best analysis I’ve read (I’ve lost the source, sorry) is that the writers, having trod the well-worn path forged by Jane Austen, et al., had reached the point where Austen and the gang usually stopped, i.e., the happy ending/wedding.

But Fellowes & Co. forged bravely on, realizing too late they hadn’t a clue as to a proper plot beyond thwarted love, and wound up wandering in circles, spinning ludicrous subplots that went nowhere, and sporadically killing people. Literally in circles. Seriously, that’s the third maid canned for inappropriate romantic behavior, Daisy has unwanted suitors stacked up like incoming flights at LaGuardia, and why can’t poor Lady Edith get a boyfriend who isn’t a simpering wooden weirdo on wheels? (“Yes, you’re right, I am actually married … but my wife is in an asylum because she watched this show.”)

And now they’ve done away with arguably the most appealing character (Lady Sybil) and Matthew, who Slate dubbed “the Magical Middle-Class Guy,” the audience proxy and primary pivot in the arc of the show. Well done, chaps. That leaves Daisy the dramatic elbow room she’s always lacked, and the path is greased for another chapter in the treacle-sodden adventures of Bates and Anna. Perhaps they can open a Thomas Kincaide poster shop in town. But hey, no harm, no foul. Most of the audience probably shows up primarily to admire the furnishings and fantasize about how nice they’d be to their servants, so the fewer yammering actors in the way, the better. Not for nothing is PBS selling replica tiaras.

Yes, I know that Jessica Brown-Findlay and Dan Stevens, playing Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley, both declined to renew their contracts. But either Dan Stevens should have been replaced (it is a soap opera, after all, and that’s how soap operas handle such moments), or the entire series should have been rolled up and ended. But is life without Molesly, Little Jimmy, Thomas, et al., really necessary? Bewitched replaced Darrin and went on for another three years. It’s not too late to patch things up for next season. Why not go Full Gonzo and hire Charlie Sheen?

While we wait to see what lies in store for our plucky band, I recommend these two spirited and well done parodies made by the BBC back in 2011: Uptown Downstairs Abbey Part One and Part Two.

Oh well. It occurred to me the other day that if I ever won the lottery I’d probably watch a lot more TV. I see online discussions and I’m amazed that perfectly normal, intelligent people can actually DVR and watch 19 series episodes every week and be devoted fans of shows I’ve never heard of. But when you work at home, you really never leave the office, so there’s always a nagging feeling you should be doing something productive, which makes it difficult to really relax and veg out.

I’m also reluctant to watch any new series because I seem to cast a hex on whatever I decide to like and — bam — it’s immediately cancelled. Carnivale on HBO, The Event on NBC (I think), some weird thing about aliens in Florida a few years ago, and Last Resort on ABC have all fallen prey to my baleful interest. I started watching Law & Order UK on BBC America a while back, and in the third episode I saw they offed a major cast member. Seemed like a warning. Disheartening, to say the least.

For the moment, anyway, we’ve been watching The Americans on FX (an awful channel, judging from the ads they run), which centers on two KGB sleeper spies operating as a married couple with children in the suburbs of Washington in the early 1980s. The series was dreamed up by an ex-CIA agent and is predictably implausible, but does have some nice touches, such as a sly allusion to Soviet numbers stations and a plot involving an umbrella with a deadly tip, clearly modeled on the 1978 murder of Georgi Markov by Bulgarian and/or KGB agents in London. Note to the production designers, however: I seriously doubt that the Soviet embassy in DC in the 1980s actually decorated its walls with Bolshevik recruiting posters. But you can make up for that by showing the spies’ kids watching Rocky and Bullwinkle outwitting Boris and Natasha. Moose and squirrel forever!

OCD Update: OK, now we have our early 80s anti-hero crouched in the woods with a 21st century mini Maglight LED flashlight in his mouth, using what appears to be an early 2000s Kenwood transceiver and a small UHF Yagi antenna to communicate with somebody, hopefully somebody close by. Fifteen miles maybe, Moscow not so much. BTW gang, if you’re looking for authentic 1980s tech gear, eBay is full of it.

Here are some goats expressing their opinions.

As always, your support is deeply appreciated, which is to say that I spend every day obsessively scanning my incoming mail for those “You have a new subscriber” PayPal messages that keep us in peanut butter and cat food. So please consider subscribing.  And now, on with the show…

January 2013 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

readme:

What about December? You mean December of last year? Sheesh. I think it’s best if we all just look forward, y’know? There’s nothing to be gained by pointing fingers and dwelling on the missteps of the past. Things happened, mistakes were made, water under the bridge, ship sailed, case closed. Besides, what we have here in our shiny new January is one of those increasingly special times when I post an issue of this little circus in the same month as it says at the top of the page.

Anyway, ave atque vale, annus terribilis 2012. Meanwhile, thanks to all our friends who have subscribed and otherwise contributed to our well-being over the past few months. Quite apart from the fact that your support literally makes this site possible, the morale boost it furnishes is the reason I don’t spend my days watching Family Feud reruns.

As for the Great Thanksgiving Norovirus Adventure, I am better now, but not entirely up to snuff yet. Having missed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years entirely, I hope to be completely well soon, because I have a lot riding on Arbor Day. Anyway, I have all sorts of fun medical appointments scheduled (I seem to be anemic, among other things). I also have an ophthalmic exam coming up, which I hope will fix my inability to read anything. Seriously. I’ve spent the past two months with vision so blurred that I’m almost completely unable to make out lines of type on a computer screen. I am really hoping that the problem can be resolved by new glasses and isn’t a sudden increase in the irreversible loss of vision associated with multiple sclerosis.

Speaking of computer screens, my big LCD monitor gave up the ghost last year, and after spending a week or so struggling to use an old, dim and yellow 17-inch Dell LCD monitor I had left over from about 2001, I went online at Newegg.com (the totally awesome opposite of larcenous dumps like Best Buy) to see what I could reasonably afford. I discovered that while I was sleeping, the world had dumped the old LCD technology, CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent lamp) backlighting, and taken up with the cheaper, “greener” LED backlighting. OK. Whatever. So I hunted around a bit and found a suspiciously cheap (~$125) 24-inch Dell LED LCD monitor. (I think the deal must have been a drastic sale, actually, because the same monitor is now almost $200). So it comes, I plug it in, and boy howdy, that thing would have been visible from space. I’m now running it at 40% brightness. It looks like it might be sharper than my old LCD, but it’s hard to say because, as I said, I can’t actually read anything on the screen. Grrr.

So at the moment I’m relying on my aging but trusty T60 ThinkPad laptop, which has a slightly dim screen (which is OK because everything around me seems way too bright), but also sports 1024 x 768 resolution (a la 2004) and thus is much easier to read. I love my T60.

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