Friday, April 30, 2004

Salmon is Only a Crayon Color

The Bush Administration today announced under pressure a policy change where informative and lovable posters of "Sammy the Salmon" will be posted along streams and rivers that will be soon be extinct from non-hatchery raised wild fish. While the administration was reluctant to bow down to extremist environmentalists, a spokesman says that the pictures will be designed in such a way to illustrate the beauty and ruggedness of the salmon. He also added that the placards will be much more noticeable and informative than the extinct wild salmon who spent most of their time in the water. Additionally, streams and rivers where the extinct fish used to spawn will have attractive parking lots, gift shops, casinos (if on Native American land), and golf courses for the recreationer to relax while learning about the salmon that used to be. The American Forest and Paper Association was not happy with the decision, citing that this will be a precedent for all the other endangered species they wish to exterminate in silence.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

It Can't Happen Here

One of the things I love to do is extrapolate from given situations. It can be pretty fun and illuminating. For instance, given that the Bush Administration likes to give the label "terrorist" to people it doesn't like (the teacher's lobby NEA (by Secretary of Education), pro choice activists (by Bush flack Karen Hughes) ) and that the case being heard in the Supreme Court about TMOKG (The Madness of King George) being able to detain (or kill as Scalia intimates, no doubt with some saliva dripping from his fangs) anybody it sees fit essentially forever (see this article by Dahlia Lathwick where she eviscerates TMOKG by choice excerpts and really drives home how incredibly important this decision could be.)

So let us have some fun and do some headline extrapolations:

May 5, 2004: Teachers of Evolution Arrested At Nation's High Schools: "We have stopped Darwin's Terrorists before they can do more harm to our nation's innocent children!"

June 7, 2004: Federal Troops Close Planned Parenthood Offices Under Patriot Act: "Abortion terrorists of unborn children are evildoers who must be cleansed out of our society!"

August 5, 2004: Moveon.org Offices Torched and Destroyed in a Glorious Night of Crystal: "Known terrorists Move On have treasonously resisted the leaders of our Homeland in our patriotic fight against terrorism."

September 15, 2004: Democratic Senators Placed Under House Arrest By Homeland Security: "Terrorist lawmakers have consistently led the charge against our noble cause and given comfort to the enemy."

October 23, 2004: Presidential Candidate Kerry Leading in Polls, Arrested Today: "Senator Kerry Has emerged as this nation's terrorist leader in seeking to destroy this presidency."

November 2, 2004: Precinct Leaders in Democratic Majority Precincts Arrested, Precincts Closed: "Locally known terrorist leaders have been stopped before terrorists can further destroy Homeland."

Monday, April 26, 2004

Puzzled

So Earth Day was last week. I had expected The Madness of King George (TMOKG) to kinda just let it go by. I mean, what is the percentage in it for him? Let us take it as a priori that his government and policies are hitting about 100% on the anti-environment scale. Let us also take it as a given that those who are informed and care about our conserving our country know this.

What does that leave us with? I mean who are the people that will hear about TMOKG declaiming on wetlands preservation and say to themselves (as their lips move) "Hmmm...that guy really has a soft spot for ducks and stuff, he must be an environmental kinda guy." The people who would think that are so out of it anyway that they are probably a more than a tad bit in his pocket anyway. Are there people presently on the fence about TMOKG or even against TMOKG going to be swayed by this little photo-op? I just think the Venn diagram of the set of people who wish to or even have a propensity to conserve the quality of our air, water, forests, wildernesses etc. and the set of those who would vote for TMOKG consists of two circles pristine of intersection.

However, the thought occurs to me that this photo-op in Maine and Florida were purely local matters - specifically tailored for the politics of wetlands in Maine and Florida and really not intended for any national consequence. But then another thought intrudes: And a Democratic president is going to NOT protect the wetlands?

(Well, I could envision Clinton not getting around to protecting the wetlands, like so many other things he didn't quite get around to doing.)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Glade Runner

News reports today relate the story of a cat lost in Florida who surfaced in California seven years later. Mainstream media has only reported on the feel-good, wacky aspects of the story. However, here at jimblogjim we can give you the untold story of "Cheyenne". Here is the transcript of an exclusive interview with "Catty", the name he prefers to be known by.

jimblogjim[JBJ]: I think our readers would like to know a little bit about your history. Please describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about your mother.
Catty[C]: My mother?
JBJ: Yeah.
C: Let me tell you about my mother...WHOA [swipes at reporter] get that spray bottle away from me!
JBJ: Alright, alright, nice kitty, enough about your family. So, tell me, why did you leave Florida seven years ago?
C: I wanted more life, fucker.
JBJ: Hey boy, calm down. What was so bad about life there?
C: Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave.
JBJ: Wait a minute, your former owner, Pamela Edwards, says she treated you very well. Here is her quote "I have had cats walk out on me before, but not when I was being so charming."
C: Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch!
JBJ: Explain.
C: Her idea of "charming" was putting me into these so-called "cute" costumes. For instance, the one that drove me away was this babies get-up with a bonnet and this fucking rattle around my collar. I could never get my back leg up to scratch my ear!
JBJ: So you jumped on a grapefruit truck that stopped in Arizona. You jump out and you're in a desert, walking along when you see a tortoise, Catty, it's walking toward you.
C: What's a tortoise?
JBJ: You know what a turtle is?
C: 'Course
JBJ: Same thing
C: I've never seen a turtle. But I understand what you mean.
JBJ: So you reach down and flip the tortoise over on its back, Catty.
C: Do you make up these questions, jimblogjim? Or did you get them from some website?
JBJ: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.
C: What do you mean I'm not helping?
JBJ: I mean you're not helping! Why is that, Catty?
C: Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die. And then I ate him.
JBJ: You ate him?
C: Hey, I'm a cat, a carnivore. I ate him. Kinda stringy. Didn't taste like chicken at all.
JBJ: So tell us about the journey from Arizona to California, you must have had some incredible experiences.
C: Gosh, you've... really got some nice toys here.
JBJ: Over here kitty, over here! Good boy, now can you tell us about your journey? What did it take to survive in the deserts and mountains?
C: I've done ... questionable things.
JBJ: Also extraordinary things ... Revel in your time. This is riveting, Catty, what else can you tell us?
C: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack dogs on fire off the shoulder of Ventura Highway. I watched kitty toys glitter in the dark near the Golden Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
JBJ: Oh hey, you've got 7 or 8 lives left yet - don't be such a downer! What's next up for the Catty? Are you looking forward to seeing your old master?
C: What if I go north? Disappear. Would you come after me? Hunt me?
JBJ: No. No, I wouldn't. I owe you one.

...but somebody would.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

Yup, we are the land of the free of insurance and the home of the brave without universal healthcare.

When I was vacationing in Greece, I slid out while driving my rented motor scooter on a gravelly turn. I scraped up my leg something fierce. A taxi (without charge) took me to the nearest clinic and I was wrapped up and given antiseptics and sent on my way without a bill.

When I was living in England, I got a bad sinus infection and went to my local doctor. He examined me and then gave me a low cost prescription for some antibiotics. Oh, and no bill.

Now of course I didn't have a life threatening illness or a major surgery so I don't know how Greece's or England's medical systems deal with those, but I have to admit from my experience that these systems worked pretty well. I was reminded of these incidents while reading the first line of an article on health care in America: "Why can't the richest nation in the world provide health-care coverage to all its people?" I believe that one reason is the well entrenched tradition in America that if you fail there has to be real consequences. Additionally, if you fail, then you personally are a failure and should always be a failure. In other words, there should not be a safety net for real failures. Conversely, if you succeed, then you did it all by yourself and should not have to share it with society (namely failures so unlike you) - that is the consequence of success. It is like this Calvinist predestination has taken hold on Earth rather than Heaven.

There is a real anxiety in America because of this dichotomy. The majority of people know that it only takes one catastrophic illness, accident, divorce or even job loss to send them homeless, insuranceless and bankrupt to an early grave. Employers no doubt relish this anxiety because it makes the workforce a little bit more malleable. But of course they don't exactly like being the gatekeepers of insurance - however that little bit of weirdness ended up. Let's see, only people who have a job (therefore bringing in money) can get cheaper insurance - but if you don't have a job (therefore not bringing in money) then you have to pay for far more expensive insurance if you can even get it.

My father was an insurance executive way back in the days before individual clients could be sorted into all these separate categories all the better to be denied. There was age, sex, and probably race - like a census. But the rates between a 60 year old man with normal health concerns and 20 year old healthy woman were not as extravagantly different than they are now. But now the insurance companies have data up the wazoo and will deny coverage or have incredibly inflated premiums on the weirdest of scenarios.

For profit insurance companies have no vested interest in covering people who really need insurance. People who don't need much insurance have small interest in paying for those who do. Well, guess what. In a world where information can be used against you, if you have anything insurance companies don't like, you are shit out of luck. So, the pool of applicants that a company elects to cover becomes ever smaller and the number without coverage increases.

Well, what's the solution? How about going back to a system where you are a person with only limited information available - for instance, a male of this age, height and weight, and a non-smoker. And a system where it isn't tied to employment. Tax credits and "insurance stamps" (like food stamps) could be used for those with no or little income. That way there will always be a huge pool to share the risk and everybody has a chance to be covered.

But that has little chance of being implemented. Because America is too infatuated with seeing people fail - with there having to be real consequences for not being one of the successful ones. I believe that Reagan pushed people out of mental hospitals in the '80's and devalued other social programs precisely so that we can see these failures on the streets every day. How else can we really know how well we've succeeded if we never see those that really fail?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

On Being Odd

First, some anecdotes.

1. The father of my first girlfriend, when asked about me, replied: "I can't figure him out."
2. I entered a school-wide visual art competition in graduate school with a drawing I did the previous week. I came back to pick up the drawing and there were several people looking at it. I thought "Oh no, they are laughing at it...". I said something like, "Excuse me, that's mine," and hoping not to make eye contact. They replied, "We were just admiring it." I thought they were lying. I ended up winning second place.
3. My previous boss at my going-away lunch: "We are going to miss, your...oddness around here."

So where am I going with this? I'm not sure, but I think it is going to be about the joys and misfortunes of being the Philips screw in a flat head screwdriver world. In my drawing and painting I have developed a very personal style that I am positive that no one wants to look at. But it is the only style I want to do. When people ask me (when I let them know I draw and paint - usually I don't) what kind of work do I do, I hem and haw because there is nothing else out there to reference what I do. It is not any ism and it doesn't look like any stuff that any commonly known artist has done. I usually say something like "I work in a way that has grown from my figure drawing training into an abstract and linear space." That usually stops any more questions.

I have absolutely no desire to show my work in galleries or to sell it. Well, that presumes that I could sell it. Nobody in their right mind would buy my work, and I'm having a hard time identifying those not in the right mind with enough money to do it. Also there are two other reasons. One, I absolutely despise going out and selling myself in order to get into a gallery. I cannot network or talk to strangers. So I just won't. Two, what I do is so personal that I cannot sell them. Only carefully vetted people are even allowed to see my work. To sell a work and have some stock broker watch his plasma screen TV in the same room with a painting of mine fills me with nausea. Now, I know that people have responded favorably to my work - teachers, fellow artists, etc. but as the 2nd anecdote above shows, I have a hard time believing it.

So you see, I am odd. So why do I do make art? As I hope I demonstrated above, it is not a career or even a thing I do to "impress" people. I do it because there is no other state of being that is closer to heaven than that which occurs (sometimes) when I am drawing or painting. Oddly, the only other times that I felt like that in the past were when I was doing the high jump and when I was working on physics problems. It is a feeling of alertness and in-the-moment that really makes you glad to be alive. The book that best explains this is Flow. I gladly take being thought odd if it gives me the opportunity to have this flow of creativity.

I just read a review of a book The Midnight Disease. The book is about the possible neurological explanations behind the urge to write and it's "opposite" - writer's block. I am much less interested in the book than in Joseph Epstein's review. Mr. Epstein is a very good writer and has also taught a generation of writers. He knows what he is talking about when the topic is why writers write or don't write. In his view as opposed to the book's author, he posits that to write well one must jump off the one-dimensional, up-down diving board of determinism and plunge into the deep, dark, dangerous and exhilarating pool of free will. His review contains many sentences and ideas with with I totally agreed. In his short review he probably touches more of the truth of why creators create than does the whole book he is reviewing.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Phew...

The new Woodward book Plan of Attack once again fails to have anything juicy. I mean, having a Saudi Ambassador given secrets on a war plan in January 2003, even before our Secretary of State and then the same Ambassador promising to increase production so that oil prices plummet before election day isn't really a big deal. I mean, is that all Woodward can come up with?

Goddamm it, I'm sick of all the piddly-ass reports (like the one above) of blaming 9/11 on Iraq, ignoring Al Qaeda, outing CIA agents, reneging on treaties, etc. These have nothing to do with the sanctity of the office of the President. Until the liberal media can prove that GWB was really derelict in duty and did something so horrendous like lying about an affair then they should just lay off the President.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught

President Bush ordered Vice President Cheney to release the Energy Task Force records that he has been withholding from the GAO today, saying "A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught."

President Bush has rescinded his executive order that restricts public access to presidential papers and "reverses the very premise of the 1978 Presidential Records Act." Asked for the rationale behind the reverse, Bush claimed "A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught."

President Bush has committed to present details of a case involving "an Algerian man detained as part of a roundup of Muslim men after the September 11 terrorist attacks." The Supreme Court had asked "that the solicitor general file a response in the case, in which the federal government has refused to release the man's identity or even confirm the existence of the case and its circumstances." Deploring the consequences of a Star Chamber trial in an American court, Bush replied, "A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Do I Contradict Myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself. So sez Walt Whitman, and I have always agreed with this attitude - essentially we are all hypocrites at something. If we are human, then we are hypocrites. However, I think what we should strive for is coming to realizations about what we are hypocritical about rather than just letting them sit there unexamined. For instance, I am a hypocrite in professing to love humanity, but find it hard to volunteer at my local food bank. I am a hypocrite in vowing to love my neighbor when I bend over backwards to make sure that our North neighbors aren't discomfited by our roofing project (because they are really nice people) and couldn't give a flying f*** about our South neighbors (because they are inconsiderate alcoholics). And I am also a hypocrite in that I don't ignore other people's hypocrisies. In fact I tend to revel in them.

Now, my favorite hypocrites have always been the Christian hypocrites. My first exposure was at my childhood church where I couldn't reconcile the ostentatious wealth that certain families flaunted with the teachings that I was getting. I mean, we were drilled that the disciples gave up everything to follow Christ and that a camel would jaunt through the eye of a needle before a rich man entered heaven. And yet here was a family coming to church in furs and huge-ass Lincoln Continentals. The same family had a son the same age as me, and my mother once made me join some youth group thingy that the wealthy mother was hosting at her house. But oddly, her own son didn't have to join...I guess other kids needed saving, not hers...(The son also figures in another class-based anecdote I will save for another time.)

So anyway, I was greatly amused when I read this article about an editor who interviewed the CEO of GE, Jack Welch and then proceeded to have an affair with him, break up his marriage, and lose her job (I couldn't find a permalink for the article, so who knows if the link will still work next week...). This is all standard practice and expected for CEO's who have the morality of weasels and journalist's lives have never been known to be exemplary (even those at the Harvard Business Review I bet). However, I loved this bit:

She and Mr. Welch are to wed in a white-steepled church a few blocks away from their Beacon Hill townhouse, followed by a reception at home, in the ballroom. An evangelical Christian rock band will provide the music; Ms. Wetlaufer is a devout Christian.
A devout Christian. Yes, most devout Christians break up marriages and display on-the-job ethics that would make Enron proud. Ask the previous Mrs. Welch whether the behavior of the new Mrs. Welch is that of a devout Christian. Ask the unemployed of Neutron Jack's tenure if the way they lost their jobs were the doings of a devout Christian. Ask the people affected by the pollution in the Hudson River and other places that GE always refused to clean up if that was the act of a devout Christian. And here is the devout Christian's attitude on home breaking
You know, people fall in love all the time, marriages end all the time—sadly they do, but they do. People get divorced and marry other people. That happens.
Yes, other people sin and are bad, bad people, but "marriages end all the time" and, really, a devout Christian didn't have anything to do with it, it "happened."

One of the things that I really admire about Bill Gates is the way that he is using his money to fund things that really matter in the US and in the developing nations - no matter how much I vehemently disagree about the way he got the money. And yet he doesn't prattle on about being a devout Christian. What does that book say, "By their acts, you shall know them."?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Oh, That It Would Be So...

In a refreshing display of gut-level, local folks honesty that President Bush is famed for, the Chief Executive admitted today that Iraq posed no immediate threat in the months leading up to the invasion. Sharply rebuking those in his administration who fervently pushed for an invasion of Iraq because of their looming "weapons of mass destruction":

"There was nothing there [in the memo] that said, you know, 'There's an imminent attack,'" Bush said during a brief news conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian leader visited Bush's Texas ranch to talk about the Middle East.
The memo in question warned of the danger of leaving Saddam Hussein with these weapons, but Bush described the memo as a historical document that contained little new information. He said that the memo had come forth after he asked for an intelligence assessment.
"I read it and obviously was discomforted by the fact that Saddam Hussein hated America," Bush said. "But as I mentioned yesterday, we already knew that"
Also, in a stunning reverse, he specifically mentioned the investigations of the UN weapons inspectors:
Those investigations, Bush said, "comforted me. You see, it meant the weapons inspectors were doing their job, the inspectors were running down any lead."
While this stunning refutation of his own trusted advisors displays Truman-like presidential behavior, no timetable has been forwarded for the replacement of the administration figures that pushed for the misguided Iraqi invasion and occupation.

In other news, Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd and a glass of water will be assisting President Bush in his appearance before the 9/11 commission today.

Friday, April 09, 2004

And Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

A sage author (Elmore Leonard) when asked how he kept his books so interesting replied, "I leave out the parts that people skip." In the olden days of typewriters and paper, there was a self-limitation on writing those parts that people skip - it took paper and time and on the rewrites and editing, I bet those parts could be easily found by astute writers and editors. In these digital days, it might be a different story (story, heh heh heh...). Bloviated doorstops of books have become commonplace and I don't think I am being too Luddite in pointing out that the computer is making those phone books a little bit too easy to produce.

Hand in hand with this trend is the lack of real editing compared to days of yore. I remember reading of the magic that editors like Maxwell Perkins performed on Thomas Wolfe and I wonder if that same attention could ever be paid in today's bottom line culture. One gets the impression that the only thing that is edited in today's fiction is that the spellcheck button is pushed (sometimes). And what we are left with are books that have plot dead ends, superfluous description, characters that come out of nowhere, distract us and then go away again, and interminable interludes that drag on while we wait for the real show to go on. I've read some books recently where it seemed that 100 pages of the 400 page book could have been edited out and made the book infinitely better.

And so I get to the point of today's blog. I am reading Richard Ford's Independence Day, a novelization of the hit movie of a few years ago -- NOT! Actually, it is a Pulitzer Prize winning sequel to his previous book The Sportswriter. I read The Sportswriter a few years ago and so I thought I would like the sequel. Well, after 150 pages of a 450 page book it is turning into a slog. The protagonist has shown a house to Vermont couple, tried to get some rent from houses he owns and reminisces a lot about his life. But what is missing is the narrative drive - I really, really don't know why I should finish the present chapter and move on to the next. I am not expecting a mystery thriller by any means - but one should want to know what happens next if the author is doing their job.

And then Ford (the author) threw in a curveball in the passage I tried to read last night just before I went to bed. The protagonist had just arrived to his bedroom in his girlfriend's beach house and found de Tocquevilles' "Democracy in America" on the bedside table. He is dead tired and thinks, "I wonder if that book will put me to sleep like a charm like it always has in the past." "Ohhhh-kayyyy" I say to myself, "Is Ford going to do what I think he is?" And sure enough, he does. For the next two pages, he excerpts passages out of the book that sends the protagonist (and myself) to sleep. Now, really, was that necessary? I'm no fiction guru, but what could be more boring than reading about a character reading a book that puts him to sleep FOR TWO WHOLE PAGES...

Oh, I know, reading a blog about a novel reader writing about a character reading a book that puts him to sleep.....

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Jehovah's Witnesses Blanket Iraq

Further adding to coalition forces woes, a swarm of Jehovah's Witnesses have descended upon the doorsteps of Iraq's downtrodden populace. Reeling from sectarian violence of Sunni and Shiite rebel factions, this latest religious sect has thrown Iraq into chaos. In contrast to the Muslim sect violence which is mostly confined to well known hotspots of conflict, this latest action is seen by many Iraqi's to be more insidious as it is so pervasive. Iraqi families are fearful of opening their doors and getting into a one sided "conversation" with a Watchtower wielding fanatic that will never leave. An Iraqi, Ahmed (not his real name), related to this reporter the following story

They looked so nice, I thought they were from the NGO down the street where we have been getting water and MRE's. I invited them in and offered them tea. I should have known something was wrong when for a split second it appeared that "tea" was deeply offensive to them - however they recovered and said "No, thank you, tell me, Have you discovered the true Jesus?" I explained that I am a muslim and I do not wish to know more about christianity. He said that his religion is a Christianity that I hadn't heard about. It went like this for hours! He kept giving me this Watchtower thing that I can't read, but may be useful for the kids to scribble on. I finally lost it and screamed "Allah Akbar! Death to the Infidel and grabbed my rifle". I didn't really want to harm him but I was at the end of my wits. I am afraid for this country if simple men like me are fearful of opening our doors!
Some fear that a society already distrustful of the knock on the door from the deposed totalitarian state will retreat into an anti-social culture where nobody can be trusted - especially those who knock on doors. Unverified reports relate that an unknown force of men in shirt sleeves and black ties riding bicycles have massed on the Iraqi border. Could this be the last straw for civil society in Iraq?

Not being a terribly religious person, there are still some things I passionately believe in. For example, the Constitution, freedom of speech and assembly, equality under law etc. Another one is the "sanctity" of the trial by jury system. Numerous instances have shown a free trial can be subverted by prejudices or outright bribery of the trial judge or judges if there is not a jury. When there is a jury, extreme care must be taken that they are shielded from outside influence - so they won't be identified to be bribed or threatened. Also, in the jury room they are deciding as themselves, with the evidence and law as the basis to make their decision. That is why the mistrial in the Tyco case disturbs me. The identification of the juror during the trial was despicable and I was surprised to find out that apparently this public information is usually withheld by news agencies voluntarily - there is no law against it.

Now the Tyco people (Kozlowski and Swartz) seemed to be avarice personified and from reading the press it seemed like an open and shut case. But the press is not in the jury room, and it shouldn't be. The twelve people have to vote their conscience and it seems they all were going to. If the one holdout could not be convinced, then she is doing what the other jurors were doing if she was in good faith, and it appears she might be from today's New York Times article. I think that the system worked as well as it was going to in that case. What didn't work was the circus around the jury - the jury should be ignored by the press and should not be part of any reporting - they should be considered the invisible spectators in the courtroom.

What is learned in these cases is that prosecutors did not present a very coherent case (like the OJ Simpson case) and was burned by jurors who didn't buy the story or felt the defense's story was more compelling. So the prosecutor gets to go back to the drawing board this time, unlike the Simpson case where either a murderer was set free or an incredible framing job just narrowly missed perfection.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Dear Mr. Impudent

Dear Mr. Impudent,
My husband has a stepdaughter from a previous marriage. She is 15, and let's call her "Stacy." Stacy is welcome in our home whenever she wishes. However, Stacy dresses "over the top," for lack of better words. She will not wear an outfit unless her bust is busting out and over, even in the dead of winter. She parades around our home, in front of my children, thrusting her bust out. Even her PJs are tight. Also, she is rather large for her age. I am not a prude, please pardon the pun, but I do not want my children to be exposed to this. My husband tells me that IF he tells her to change her attire or bring different clothing along, Stacy will not want to come to visit. Excuse me? I have been firm with him and told him that Stacy may visit us anytime, but she must cover up. My husband and I have a continual fight about this. What can I do?

—Not Busting With Laughter

Dear !Busting,
Your stepdaughter is communicating with you and you are not listening or communicating back. In order to open the air about the situation, please try to engage her in her attempts to reach out. When you see her breasts pushed up out of a string halter top, she really wants you to notice them and it appears that you are not giving her the proper reciprocal attention. I would suggest something like "Hell ya, if I had those young things I'd show 'em too!" or "I can't quite see your nipples, is that intentional?"

Additionally, try to engage your family to communicate as well. Your husband should don a Speedo swimsuit when your stepdaughter comes over and you yourself might show off some of your lingerie. Mr. Impudent always says, the family that hangs out together, hangs together.

-Mr. Impudent, proudly.

Dear Mr. Impudent,
I'm 23 years old and am (was?) engaged to a wonderful 24-year-old man. He's met my family—they loved him. His family doesn't really like me, but they've adapted. Here's my problem—I came home from class on Monday (I'm in college; he works full time), and he was gone. Left his debit card, cell phone, and keys to the apartment on the table and just left—no note or anything. We hadn't been fighting, haven't had more than the normal amount of stress, nothing unusual. He just left. It's now four days later, and I still haven't heard anything from him. He's still wearing the ring I gave him, so far as I know. He usually refers to me to the guys at work as his wife. This is really breaking my heart. I'm wondering when do I quit waiting for a phone call, take off the engagement ring, and call it quits?

—Tormented

Dear Mented,
Your fiance is gone walkabout. Right now he is cavorting in Las Vegas in a desperate grab at the dwindling life of freedom that is about to be forever from his grasp. The memories of the threesomes in the bridal suite, the drugs on the hotel glass table, the bottles of Johnny Walker and the all night blackjack are going to get him through the decades of diapers, shopping, TV, mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage. Those little bits of inattentive musing and suppressed smiles on his face in the years to come are withdrawals from the deposits that he is making right now. If you want your future husband to be safely ignorant of the examined life that would drag you and your family into existential despair, please welcome him back with sweetness when he comes back home. Your future white picket fence awaits you!

-Mr. Impudent, blue velvetly

Dear Mr. Impudent,
Three years ago my family was shattered by the death of our dad. He was very young, and he and mom had been married over 30 years. Since his death, mom has stopped being involved in our lives and spends all her time with "John" (who just happens to be in his early 30s, one year older than I). My siblings can barely tolerate him, and I try to look beyond the age thing. Mom is 54, and I'm glad she's not alone, but I could live without the Demi Moore situation. My question is this: How can I try to get my mom more involved in the lives of her grandchildren? There are only two of them. She rarely sees any of us, calling only to brag about how much better her life is now. (Our dad was ill for several years, and she was his caretaker.) She tells us that she thinks that she and John are better than she and dad ever were, and this really grates on me. Also, she is fine with things when they are going her way or she needs to borrow something (which she trashes completely or fails to return). As I said, she rarely sees us, and when she does, all she can do is twirl in circles and brag about how great she is and how wonderful she looks. Maybe my question is not how can I get her more involved, but how can we get her back to being Mom and not a 54-year-old adolescent with a big bank account and no responsibilities?

—Crestfallen

Dear Fallen,
Would you want a life of grandchildren and meddling grown children when you got a boy toy? I thought not. Your mother has won the lottery and you have jealous sour grapes. Your "for the grandchildren" plea is transparent. In your subconscious you couldn't care less about that, rather you want a granny living only for two little brats that just happen to be yours. Hmmm....sound a little bit regressively Freudian? You would be well advised to take a look at your safe little life and learn from your mother - the ambassador who is telling you: "Live all you can, it's a mistake not to."

-Mr. Impudent, Stretherly