A new cocktail, maybe

I made vanilla vodka a while back and promptly stuck it in the hall closet and forgot about it.  I rediscovered it over the weekend and it’s been sitting out on the counter bugging me.

Consider this an abortive attempt.

Vanilla-Suze Something

  • 1.5 oz vanilla vodka
  • .5 oz Suze (gentian liqueur)
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • barspoon grenadine

Shake everything except the grenadine with ice.  Pour, then pour the grenadine in; let it sink.

It’s not bad, but it’s not very distinctive.  Or it may be that I’m not into citrus juice cocktails these days.  More work is required.

Also, I’ve made a second gin.  I need to blog about it.

UPDATE: The cocktail is growing on me.

Unsilent Night!

It’s official—the Newnan City Council has approved my request to stage Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night in downtown Newnan on Friday, December 1.

Here’s what you need to know:


  • Composer Phil Kline composed Unsilent Night in NYC back in the 90s, and it has become a holiday tradition ever since.  He wrote four separate tracks of new age music—people obtained one of the four tracks (on cassette tape in the old days, downloadable mp3s now) and brought their boomboxes to Washington Square on the designated night.
  • On the command, everyone started their boomboxes and then strolled around Washington Square Park.  The four different tracks played against each other in an evanescent cloud of chimes and angelic choirs.
  • After 45 minutes, everyone gathered back and waited for all the music to die away.

Simple, right?

How to take part

  • Go to unsilentnight.com/participate.html and download one of the four tracks.  Don’t everybody download Track 1!
  • Rig up some way to broadcast your sound:
    • Burn the track to a CD and bring your old school boombox.
    • Download the mp3 to your phone or tablet, then hook it up to a portable sound system.
    • Wagons are cool!


  • Friday, December 1
  • 7:00–7:30, gather in Greenville St Park.  Do not plan to park at Newnan Theatre Company—they have a performance that night!
  • 7:30, we start our music and begin moseying up to the Square.  You may head up either Greenville St or LaGrange St, on either side.  Stay on the sidewalk and obey traffic signals—this is not a parade, it’s a promenade.
  • 8:00, when the Courthouse chimes the hour, begin to mosey back to the park
  • 8:15, we stand until all the music has died away
  • 8:16, we whoop and holler for a job well done

But wait, there’s more!

  • On the first three Wednesdays of November, Backstreet Arts will host a lantern decorating workshop.  Come and make a lantern to go with the music! Details to follow.

All ages are welcome—let’s make this the first of a new annual tradition!

A free idea

If you’re sitting there trying to come up with the central idea for your next science fiction novel, have I got an idea for you!  Feel free to use it.  If it makes you rich, invite me to your yacht sometime.

Imagine a planet like Saturn, with huge gorgeous rings.  They would have to dominate the sky, right?

But imagine that this planet has a smallish continent at one of its poles.  (It’s close enough to its sun that it’s warm, etc.)  It’s isolated enough that they’ve never had any contact with any other cultures on any other continents on the planet.  And they cannot see the rings.


So they hit their Age of Exploration, and an expedition sets out.  (No, I don’t know why they’d go sailing off the edge of the world if there weren’t pepper involved, leave me alone.  I’m not going to do all your work for you.)

What happens when they sail south and these rings begin to slide up over the horizon?  What is their reaction?  What do they tell people back home? How do they explain and incorporate this thing? Is there religion involved?  How much might this affect their society and its worldview, so to speak?

Anyway, there’s the idea.  That’s all I got: the look on their faces when they first encounter the rings.  (Or maybe the entire novel plays out on ship, their society in microcosm…)

Funeral oration

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate the life of Bill Jones, who had a great life, one of the best, believe me. Didn’t he have a great life?

I’d like to just say that Bill’s cousin Edna has been very appreciative of all I’ve done for the family in this difficult time. And she doesn’t even go to my church, and she’s telling me what a great job I’ve done, isn’t that great? Thank you Edna for your kind words.

I’d like to have gotten by the house for a visit, but honestly I just couldn’t. Y’all live on the other side of the interstate, and it’s much more difficult—so much traffic, you wouldn’t believe the traffic. So big.

Bill Jones was born June 16, 1952, and died last Thursday of a heart attack. So sad. Not as sad as Ed McClintock’s pancreatic cancer, now there was a sad death, a real disaster. You should all feel proud of Bill’s heart attack.

This is a great funeral, isn’t it? One of the best, believe me. I know people are talking about how will the family pay for it—I know y’all’ve been struggling—and I don’t even want to think about how it will impact your contribution to the church. I know we’ll have to have some discussion about finances, won’t we?

Speaking of finances, did you see the new church vans? Air-conditioning, cruise control, they’re the best. We got such a deal on them, a great deal, the best. I know they’re a comfort to you in this time of grief.

Thank you all for coming. I gotta be going—I’m heading out to Vegas. Got some funerals to do there, too!

An open letter to my legislators

Dear Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator David Perdue, and Representative Drew Ferguson:

I’d like to thank you for your unwavering support of the man who shot 600 party-goers in Las Vegas. Your principled stance to support his actions has not gone unnoticed.

By standing athwart any attempts to prevent a recurrence —or by simply saying nothing— you have guaranteed that it will happen again. This is what America has come to expect from you, and I say well done!

I appreciate that you feel required to express regrets over the “senseless deaths,” and to offer your “heartfelt prayers and sympathies,” because certain things have to be said. The forms must be observed, after all. But I can tell that your true “sympathies” lie with the man who smuggled an arsenal into a hotel room and opened fire on the crowd below. If they didn’t, you would be joining those who call for prompt legislation to combat this so-called violence.  But don’t!  Stand firm!

It’s okay, too, if you feel compelled to use counterexamples and analogies that deflect the naysayers, like “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” That’s a good one! I also like the one about people using knives and fertilizer bombs—also effective when you don’t really want to stop the “senseless deaths.” Keep that up—we love it!

Oh, and the whole “now is not the time” or “we shouldn’t politicize these deaths”—I think those are very effective!  They buy you time to wait for all the sturm und drang to die down so you can get back to business.

I’m sure there are those who hope to influence you to do something—anything—to prevent another lunatic from shooting more U.S. citizens than have been killed in any one day in Afghanistan or Iraq, but stand firm! Keep doing what you’re doing! I understand your position completely, and I support you.

Yr obt,
Dale Lyles


Recently I have been asked by a couple of people: whence Kenneth, the guy I’m always yelling at in my blog.  I thought I had already written about his origins here, but I can’t find it and I need a blog post for today anyway, so here we are.

In 1986, CBS broadcast journalist Dan Rather was attacked by a man who was convinced that CBS was beaming signals into his head.  For some reason, the man kept calling Rather “Kenneth,” demanding to know the frequency of the signals so that he could adjust his tinfoil, I guess.

The band R.E.M. picked up the phrase and turned it into their song, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”  From there it entered the public consciousness.

At least it entered mine.  I will confess that I don’t know R.E.M.’s song, but the Rather attack and the song both made sure that a crazy person without a firm grasp on what we laughingly call Facts yelling at KENNETH stuck in my head.

A second piece of Kenneth comes from the hysterical, vulgar, and deadly snarky Wonkette blog, in which house style creates an acerbic Valley Girl voice which takes, for example, half the nation opposing the GOP’s efforts to kill poor people and asks “how is that even fair, even??”  Again, the humor comes from the gobsmacking (assumed) cluelessness of the speaker.

The final piece of Kenneth comes from the Monty Python characters they called “Gumbies”:

“My brain hurts!”

So all of this gets combined into my head into a voice that, when faced with the inexplicable inability of amygdala-based lifeforms to grasp very plain reality, or when very plain reality has become gobsmackingly preposterous, has no recourse but to yell at KENNETH in a deranged, Gumby-esque way.

It helps if you read it with your head cocked a little to the side with your eyes wide open and glazed over.

Wanna quickie?

Too bad. You’re getting one anyway.

Steven Mnuchin, who is the Current Secretary of the Treasury, has made a name for himself defending U.S. citizens’ economic rights asking for a government plane to take him on his honeymoon and for marrying a woman who probably pays $1,795 for t-shirts.

And now with his boss being hilariously on the wrong side of the Colin Kaepernik racial justice issue,[1] Mnuchin has jumped feet first into the deep end. Here, go read.

Here are some thoughts.


“On their own time”?  Like ESPN’s Jemele Hill did on her own Twitter account?  And your orange boss still called for her to be fired?  Let me say that again for the hard of thinking: the President of the United States called for a citizen to be fired for disagreeing with him.  On her own time.


“The owners should make a rule”?  I think I might steer clear of the word owners in this situation, Steven.  It’s terrible terrible awful optics.  Which, Steven, because you’re rich and white and completely insulated from everything that is not rich and white, you will never see, Steven.  Can I call you Steven?


“…this is about respect for the military…” THE MILITARY? How godfupping Fascist can these people get before we vomit them out of our system?

Okay, I’m done.  Thank you for listening.


[1] Among other things.

This is offensive.

Not the photograph, certainly.  This is the inestimable Jon Hamm, star of Mad Men and general all-round very handsome guy. (Personally I value his talent for comedy over the much-vaunted Mad Men.)

No, the offensive part of this is the shirt.  It’s made by some concern named Berluti, and it costs $730.

The New York Times did a profile of Mr. Hamm—can I call you Jon?—which was innocuous enough: he talks about his rehab, his recent movies, and the death of his dog.  A general puff piece for Baby Driver and the upcoming Marjorie Prime.[1]  And salted throughout are the typical fashion shots of a good-looking celebrity wearing nice clothes comfortably.


The $730 shirt (and $85 tank top) was just the start.  We also got:

  • $560 shoes
  • $1,795 t-shirt
  • $7,995 jacket

(It was noted that Jon was wearing his own jeans, label unidentified.)

I have issues with you people.  A world in which someone can charge $1,795 for a t-shirt and then someone else can take a photo of that t-shirt and publish it as a clear advertisement for that item is not a equitable world.  My presumption is that the New York Times does this sort of thing because it has readers who will pay $1,795 for a t-shirt.  Readers who can pay $1,795 for a t-shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I doubt the contents of my closet add up to much more than $1,795 and they are certainly not equal to the $7,995 jacket.  If I were ruthless and gave away all the suits and jackets and dress shirts/slacks/ties that I am not likely to wear any more, my entire wardrobe could be replaced for less than $1,000—and even that’s excessive in my eyes.[2]

My Lovely First Wife and have often tsked over clothing like this through the years and joke that even if we won the lottery we’d never pay that much for clothes, and I like to think we mean it.  Because in our souls we know that to pay $1,795 for a t-shirt means that you have so much money that cost means nothing to you.  Money means nothing to you, and that’s dangerous in a world where money means life and death for most of the people in it.

Yes, paying more for an item because it’s well-made and likely to last makes sense. (See the Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ Theory of Economic Injustice.)  But paying $200 for a jacket that will last you 10–20 years is one thing; paying $7,995 for a jacket because it has a specific company’s name on it—that’s problematic.

So when you hear the Republican Congress talk about “tax reform,” understand that what they really mean is cutting the taxes of the richest among us: giving more money to the people who can and will pay $1,795 for a t-shirt.

$1,795 for a t-shirt.


[1] Marjorie Prime is a play I have proposed directing at NTC since it premiered; it is not yet available for the likes of us.

[2] Although I will confess that the zippers on $10 shorts from Rose’s are not well-made.  So I’ll pay $30 for decent shorts—but not for a t-shirt.

At least it’s an answer

Back in February, I emailed our senators a simple question:

On Dec 24, 2016, I emailed you to ask if you agreed with the president’s tweet that we should restart the nuclear arms race.  You haven’t answered.

Now it appears that the president, in a private talk with Putin, has denigrated the limitations of the most recent START agreement.

If this proves to be the case, will you support a nuclear arms race?  If so, to what end?

Yesterday I received a reply from Johnny Isakson:

 Thank you for contacting me regarding North Korea. I appreciate hearing from you and I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.

Kim Jong-un has chosen to follow along the same destructive path as his father, Kim Jong-il. Kim has refused to comply with regional and international pressure to discontinue North Korea’s nuclear weapons program by carrying out a nuclear test and launching short and long-range missiles. In July 2017 alone, North Korea has conducted 2 missile tests, and 22 since November 2016.

It is clear that Kim Jong-un’s repeated, unacceptable and deplorable threats cannot be allowed to continue. I support the additional sanctions placed on North Korea through H.R.3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and urge the President to implement this law fully.

North Korea has continued to show a severely reckless attitude toward the welfare of its own citizens by committing serious human rights violations and by continuing to pour resources into nuclear weapons. We must continue to support our allies that live under constant threat from North Korea, and we also must urge China to place greater economic and political pressure on the Kim regime. North Korea has shown that it is a threat to the entire world, not just the United States. Without China participating in this negotiation, it is near impossible to hold North Korea accountable. Additionally, I am strongly in favor of increasing our missile defense capabilities and working to ensure that we are prepared for any missile threat.

We as a nation must keep all of our options available, including the use of force if necessary, to protect the American people and remove the threat of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

(highlights mine)

At least I think he’s answering my nuclear arms race question.  Since none of my congresscritters have been at all responsive to my requests for position statements, I stopped tallying them over at the Easy Answers page.  I may have sent something specific to North Korea at some point, either via email or ResistBot.  Who can remember?  We’ll just pretend that this answers my nuclear arms race question.

Because it does.

The Trumpsters are hooting and flinging poo because their Current Embarrassment isn’t afraid to call North Korea’s unstable leader names, unlike his wussy predecessors who used sanctions and suasion to keep things calm-ish on the peninsula.  He’s not afraid to threaten nuclear annihilation to the madman who rules that country.  That’ll show him, crow the Trumpsters—USA! USA!

Neither they nor their Chief Poo Flinger ever think that they will also kill the 25 million humans who are trapped in the Hermit Kingdom, nor of the 51 million humans who live next door in our ally, South Korea, nor of the 127 million who live in Japan.  That’s not important. Showing Kim Jong-un who has the bigger club is what’s important.[1]

So if we need an analogy to help us understand the difference between the “Bomb them!” crowd and the deliberate approach pursued by sane politicians, I offer this video:

Obama, the Bushes, Clinton: they’re the English police dealing with a crazy man.  The Current Embarrassment: he’s the St. Louis police department.

I suppose it all boils down to which end result you’re after.


[1] And by “club” I mean “penis.”

Social contract? Pffft. Not worth the paper it’s written on.

This came across my Twitter feed today:

Technically it was a screen-captured image of the original tweet retweeted by Gary Bernhardt which was then ‘liked’ by Akilah Hughes, whom I do follow.  Twitter can be complicated. Gary Bernhardt’s added comment was:

Yes, we could call it “taxes.”

And there you have the Great Divide in a nutshell: those who understand what the social contract means and those who are oblivious to the idea that if we all pull together then we all will survive.

Three thoughts about this:


This is the same mindset that produces the whole conservative “Why should I pay for pregnancy expenses in my insurance if I’m a man?” shibboleth.  BECAUSE THAT’S HOW INSURANCE WORKS, KENNETH. The idea that we as a society are better off if we all chip in to provide a structure of support for all us—roads, schools, public safety, health care—is alien to these people.  I hesitate to attribute motives to them, but to me the whole thing smacks of sociopathy, and there’s a reason why.[1]


Years ago I was at the State STAR Student banquet (I am the chair of the selection committee), and the speaker for the evening was someone from the business community.  The man stood at the podium and lectured a room full of educators that if we were able to ratchet up “the graduation rate in Georgia to [some number I’ve forgotten], it would add an extra [some number in the millions] to our state’s economy.” What I heard—and what every educator in the room heard—was that it would be worth it to the business community to hand over a huge sum of money to the schools to make that happen, but of course that’s not what the business leader meant at all.  He meant that we should hop to it and test the children harder until they graduated more betterer.  Again, the idea that all of society had a stake in the education of all of society’s children simply never occurred to him.


These days the hummingbirds are fattening up for their flight to Mexico, and we have provided them with a feeder to assist them in their efforts. We actually provide two, one in the herb garden and one on the back porch, and our neighbor has one of her own, so that’s three feeders with four little flower outlets each.  Twelve little sipping stations, which should be more than enough for the six or eight hummingbirds residing in the hedge.  But hummingbirds are little assholes, and each feeder is dominated by one bully hummingbird who spends most of his time chasing away the other guys.  I watched one of the little buggers defend an empty feeder for a day (before I realized it was empty and refilled it).

To them, the feeders are a zero-sum game.  Chase everyone else away and you have All The Nectars for yourself.  To be fair, they’re birds, and there’s a reason we have the insult “bird brain,” but it’s instructive that birds do not rule the world: mammals do, and it’s largely because we evolved the capacity for empathy and altruism.

I do not understand why this truth, genetically implanted in us, eludes the conservative brain.[2]


[1] Go read the article at that link.  It’s disturbing, and I didn’t know any of it until I went looking for a satirical take on conservatives’ lack of social consciousness about health insurance.

[2] Actually, I do know why: the conservative brain is hardwired to operate through fear.  I have repeatedly referred to them on this blog as “amygdala-based lifeforms.”  See here, here, and here.