Thursday, December 30, 2010

Overheard at Table 3: Tron

yeah, I took the kids to see Tron Legacy . . .

it was about what I'd expected . . .

I'd showed them the video of the original when I had them the weekend before . . .

yeah, the one we saw when we were their age . . .

like I said, it's almost like the original - great SFX, but absolutely no plot. Man, I'd forgotten how the original didn't have any story at all - I guess we were just blown away by the light cycles . . .

I guess this one had a little more - direction, I guess you could say, but still, the 3D is always worth it - I'm glad we've got that going for us these days. I don't even really mind the ten bucks a pop for the glasses, especially when you just wanna be blown away - I guess we really shouldn't even be expecting a story in movies any more - just go there like it's some sort of roller coaster and just sit back and enjoy the ride . . .

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Overheard at Booth 2: #354.

from 364


His feet touched the earth, just as
my feet touch the earth.
His lungs took in air, just as
my lungs take in air.
His eyes burned from the dust in the desert wind, just as
my eyes burn from pollution of the refineries
belching in from Galveston county.

He cried, chest-tight and stomach-pained, when
His friend died, just as
I cried when my parents died.

He never had a bone broken, but
He bled out from a spear to the side and
His flesh was split by rock and bone and nail, just as



. . . thankyouJesus!

A Message from Verble Gherulous, Proprieter, Zen and Tao Acoustic Cafe

I would just like to state that I have thought long and hard about my New Year's Resolution and I have determined that for one month, the month of January, I will not listen to any news: neither MSNBC, FOX, CNN, NPR, or Pacifica Radio. I have a suspicion that simply knowing about current events is a detriment to my sense of peace and well-being, and it is my earnest hope that by ignoring all news sources I can regain a clearer mind, and a more balanced disposition.

That being said, let me state at this time to what conclusions I have arrived during 2010 regarding the current state of America as well as the world:

1) The Republicans are wrong about everything. They are hateful, snide, mean-spirited little devils whose every singular position is contrary to the will of God.

2) Open homosexuality in the military should be a non-issue. Our military is here to protect us, and if our fighting soldiers are more interested in expressing their sexuality than they are in submitting to the more noble calling of protecting us, then they shouldn't be in uniform.

3) Allowing prayer in school is following the first commandment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which essentially is to think about God with all that you have. However, to FORCE children to pray to Jesus is contrary to His second commandment, which is to love everybody equally. Therefore, there should be a time set aside, each day, in every school, for prayer or for meditation, or just a "quiet time" - it's good for the soul, it's good for the mind.

4) Liberals and progressives are following the second commandment of Jesus Christ in their attempts to do things for others, but they need to understand that while (as the bus as read) "Millions are Good without God" (which is true), that's not really the point. The point about Jesus' first commandment is to get our minds off ourselves and focused toward something greater than ourselves, so that we can lift ourselves above ourselves. Again, I believe Progressives will understand this instinctively, while Conservatives will sneer and go cheat somebody out of their home.

5) We need to stop the wars. Now. Immediately. Bring all the soldiers back home. No excuses, no ifs ands or buts. Just do it. Foreign wars are contrary to the will of God. And anybody who claims to be a follower of Jesus and is supportive of war is in conflict. If you disagree, read your Bible.

6) We have a problem with hispanic immigration, but if we want to solve the problem, we must help build the Mexican economy. People only move away from their native country when there are no jobs in their native country.

7) There is a problem with the drug cartels running Mexico, but that is because Americans are shooting drugs into their veins. We as Americans have to stop our drug addiction. Right now. Immediately. Every single addict in America has to go cold turkey - RIGHT NOW. Because for every needle injected, some poor women dies brutally in Juarez.

8) Pro-Choice is right, Pro-Life is wrong. Yes, abortion is terrible. But back-alley butchers are even more disgusting, and to return to a society like that would be an abomination in the eyes of God. If you don't want a woman to have an abortion, help her - support her - tell her you will take her unwanted baby and raise it as your own.

9) Corporations will kill human beings in order to make a greasy dollar. They are contrary to the will of God. They are not human beings themselves, and yet we treat them like such. Corporations cannot be expected to act morally, because they have no soul. Yet we are giving them equal rights under the Constitution, which was made to protect people. Conservatives are trying to make Corporations into the People, and we have to stop that. It's a travesty of justice.

10) The First Amendment protects freedom of political speech, which is the right of the people to stand in the middle of the street and say that the government is doing something wrong and needs to change. Free Speech does NOT protect any person's right to say nasty hateful things about other people, and it CERTAINLY does not protect pornography. We really need to get that straight!

11) ANY politician who uses the phrase "the American people" more than three times in one minute has nothing to say. Don't listen to them. They don't care about the American people, they are only sucking up to you to get a stab at their own power.

12) Oh yeah. It's sad that lately all the intellectual writers, even those who claim to be Christians, believe in the historical Jesus (i.e. the Prophet, great teacher, cool Zen guy etc) but shy away from the fact that Jesus was/is/will always be God in Flesh. That's really sad, because the only people claiming that are Conservatives, who say it but obviously don't believe it, because every single one of their actions is contrary to the will of God.

So, let me just state: Jesus IS God, in the flesh, one aspect of the Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), who came here to lead us all. He made it very clear: Love God with all you are (i.e. get to thinking beyond yourself) and love everybody else the same way you love yourself (i.e. stop being so selfish, and make sure everybody else has exactly the same that you have).

Basically, He's telling us to stop being so selfish, and get out there and dream big and make those dreams a reality for the improvement of the entire world.

Let's do it!

God bless you all! The Cafe is open for all thoughts and ideas and comments and plans and actions. However, this will be the last political statement I make, at least until February 1st.

On second thought, let me just break my "news fast" on Groundhog Day. 2-2-11.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Overheard at Booth 5

. . . just walking down Louisiana and there's this well-dressed businesswoman on her cellphone and she's saying 'don'tchoo THINK I won't pay nobody $50 to go over there an' shoot-choo in DA FACE!' and


I nearly fell off the curb in front of a Metro bus!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

From the Zen and Tao Acoustic Cafe: MERRY CHRISTMAS

Verble Gherulous, proprietor of the Zen and Tao Acoustic Cafe, on behalf of himself and his family and staff, would like to wish the world a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.

May peace and blessing be upon us all, and may we find the joy and love that all of us so desperately need, and may we find the solace in the loving arms of the God who created the Universe, and who chose to rip Himself from eternity to break through into this stream of Time, in order to walk among us for a little while, possessing a body made of the same flesh and bone that all of us have, the same cellular structure, the same musculature, the same heart, lungs, eyes, lips and nose - so that He could dwell among us, not only to show us how possible it really is to live a sinless life, but also to finally give Himself over to forge a way to Heaven, so that while He spent a blink of an eye in the world, we could spend an Eternity in Heaven.

We celebrate this day, once a year, as a reminder of the moment that God fulfilled His own plan and our destiny, coming to be born as an innocent baby, the most precious of all gifts, and the single unifying factor in our humanity. For we all, even the most cynical of us, understand at the moment of birth, how precious, beautiful, and fragile is this creation of Life.

Jesus Christ is the Light and the Way. Jesus Christ is the Zen and the Tao.

God bless us, every one, this Christmas. Not only today, but for all days, and all ways.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Gift

Verble says, "This one has it all, truly. It's my second - well, third - favourite Christmas album, and one of my favourite acoustic albums, and it even has a cover that deserves framing. It's just magical!

"The Christmas carols played here, I mean, they sound so much like the standards, but then, they also don't sound like 'just Christmas tunes' if you know what I mean. This is just an album you can play all year long. The acoustic guitar and the woodwind, they blend perfectly together, they balance and counter each other gracefully, you even just forget that they're playing instruments at all - this album just becomes part of your background, part of your own natural rhythm. I don't know how to explain it other than that.

"Sometimes I think that this was the way these carols were originally played - by people, in a room somewhere, small house, quietly backing up to the moors. Foggy night before Christmas. The entire village packed into one guy's house. The dancing music has faded and all that's left now near midnight is the hush now, the guitar and woodwind lulling low, getting the people ready to hike their coat against the wind and head out into the fog to the church for Midnight Mass.

"Ah! It's almost like I'm remembering those days, from over four hundred years ago! That's what this album does to me - takes me back to a place I've never been and makes it a part of the fabric of my own tapestry.

"Like I said before - they don't make 'em any better than this!"

Overheard at Booth 2: Christmas

there was so much there and it was so much stuff it kept falling off the shelves and i was running through the aisles and i had a basket but the wheels kept getting stuck and so it kept veering off to the left and bashing into the shelves and the stuff it just kept falling and some of the stuff was falling into the basket and some was just falling out over the sides and onto the floor and it was the best dream about Christmas shopping that i ever had in my life!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

At the Counter

John Steppenwolf says, "I don't really think the Internet killed civility. I think it just opened the floodgates for people to hide behind their own nasty tongues."

Verble says, "There once was a place for polite disagreement, sure, and passionate debate. I miss that part about us, you know, as a people. Nowadays, all we get are these Facebook flare-ups and petty disputes . . . "

"FOR FRIKKIN'REAL?!" shouts the Barista, coming out of the back, and thumbing her phone in a rage, madly. "Block ME from your Facebook just because I'm friends with Maggie - well, we'll see about that, little miss puckerhead!"

Verble turns back to Steppenwolf, and says, "I rest my case."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Overheard at Booth 5: Not at all like Christmas

My daughter took down her tree last night.

The small one she had in her room?

Yeah, the one Trav got for her. She packed it all up, nice and neat, and took all the stuffed Santas and reindeer she had all around her room, packed them up in a little box, put them out in a supply closet.

What's that all about?

Trav was all mad at her for breaking her grounding, going out with her friends to the mall. I mean, she called me at work to see if she could, and I didn't know Trav had already had a talk with her about it last night, making sure she knew that she was still grounded from cheating on her algebra test at the beginning of the month.

I see. Playing the old mom-against-the-dad routine.

That's my daughter. Very resourceful.

So why'd she pack up all her Christmas stuff?

She said this year isn't at all like Christmas. She said there's no Christmas Spirit when all she wants is her freedom.

Well, that's an eighth-grader for you!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Overheard at Table Two

Ava Guday: You know, Spanish is a stangely musical language.

Ana Phalaxis: A strangely musical language, you say?

Connie Undrum: Yeah, every time a doorbell chimes, somebody says "Key in S" !

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Overheard at Table 3

Charlie: I heard on NBC that there was a bomb that was discarded in an airport in Namibia, a bomb that was made by an 80 year old granny from California, and she said it wouldn’t work because of a ‘boo-boo’ - a 'boo-boo'? Seriously? I mean, you just can’t make this stuff up!

Niall: Better than any fiction writer, lemme tellya, but get this, I heard about and 83 year old serial killer in Austria who got out early because of bad health so she could go on a trip to the Vatican, and then she just disappeared! Vanished, poof!

John: And we think that the kids are running crazy - this is the year of the wild octogenarians.

Niall: Yeah, one’s a terrorist and the other is Hannibal Lector. It’s a sad sad world when you can’t even trust Grandma anymore!

Overheard at Booth 4: Storm from the East by Milton Viorst

1: . . . and this has been the best book I've read this year about the wars in the Middle East - it didn't sink to any level of rhetoric, it was simply an honest attempt to look at the history of the region to explain why certain current events have unfolded the way they have. It goes back all the way to the 6th Century, even, and it really really made me think about why these people are actually so completely utterly locked in the P'O'd mode all the time.

2: I thought it was just because they were evil.

1: That's the answer that people want to you to think when they don't want you to think. Seriously, every American should be made to read this book . . . AFTER they are forced to read Why We Fight. Then they can see the COMPLETE difference between sheer paranoic chest-thumping rhetoric and thoughtful crafted historical commentary.

3: Yeah, but I think you’re forgetting something. We LIKE the rhetoric. We don’t want to have to think.

2: Right, come on, dude, that’s why we have Fox News!

3: . . . and I like a bit of chest-thumping every now and then.

1: Good lord.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

At the counter: Advent Countdown

Lucky Moran says, "I love this time of year, when there's a nip in the air, everybody's all hunkered down in their coats . . ."

"Blizzards swamping New England."

"Well, I feel sorry for those guys, but"

"All the way from Nashville to Chicago,"

"OK, OK! Some people have to get themselves into the Christmas spirit and some have the spirit dumped on them in four feet of snow - I - GET - IT!"

Otis smiles. Sips more of his mocha latte.

Niall Carter says, "I'm with you, man, I love advent. I wish they would make a road movie out of the advent story."

"A road movie?" Lucky asks.

"Yeah," Niall says, "it's got everything: mystery, romance, danger - roadside bandits - and high tension - this woman's almost full term, man, and she's riding on the back of the donkey, I mean, you KNOW they had to be worried that her water'd break and she'd go into labor right there on the road!"

"Hold on there!" Otis jokes, "This is a family establishment!"

"Cut it out, Otis," says Lucky. "Niall, that's why they had something called 'Faith' - they'd been told by Gabriel what was going to happen, they shouldn't have had anything to be concerned about."

"Listen, I KNOW they had faith, but they were also two human beings, a middle aged guy -

"Late twenties, early thirties" Otis interjects.

"That's middle age for then," says Niall. "And a fifteen year old girl - riding through the desert, which is dangerous in the best of times, man, don't tell ME they weren't the least bit nervous!"

Lucky muses, "I see your point. Road movie. Are you thinking more along the lines of Mad Max road movie or Little Miss Sunshine road movie?"

Niall says, "I'm thinking something more like Fandango."

Otis says, "I like your Mad Max idea. Joseph whipping some Philistines with his staff like some sort of Talmudic Jet Li - that'd be cool."

"See?!" says Niall with a smile. "NOW you're getting into the spirit of Advent!"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Overheard at Table 1: The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphries

One of the best books I've read all year . . .
and I've been reading like a mad dog, lemme tellya!
This one is incredible! Here's the synopsis real quick: these are forty short pieces, about two to five pages long, each one set at each time the River Thames has frozen over during the recorded history of London. This starts back in the twelfth century, and just goes forward, sometimes a generation or two, sometimes with a hundred years between stories, sometimes one year after another.
Each story is told from the point of view of a different type of character - sometimes a Queen, sometimes a cobbler, one of my favorites was from the person who looses the royal dogs on the rabbits, one was set during the plague year, it talks about the fairs that were held on the frozen river.
It's partly a character study, and partly a history lesson. Personally, I think that's when literature really rises above just simply telling a story, when it can actually encompass history, make it come alive.
And I know it sounds silly to say this, but it's absolutely true - when I was reading this book (and lemme tellya I was reading it at the tail end of this summer!), I actually could feel the chill of the ice, I could almost see my breath coming out in little puffs of steam, I could taste the moisture which was frozen in the air.
And that - is good writing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Overheard at Booth 3

"and my eleven year old couldn't go to sleep last night he kept saying that the top of his head hurt, and my husband looked at it and said, 'It's just a pimple, now go to bed' and he kept coming out saying that he couldn't sleep, and finally my husband gets up and goes into our room and comes out with this cream that he rubs into the spot on the top of his head, where it hurts, the pimple, and my son says, 'what is that?' and my husband tells him, it's itch-stopping cream, and he goes off to bed, and I ask him 'will that really stop his scalp from itching?' and he looks at me and says, 'I don't know - but it'll sure kill his athlete's foot!"

At the Counter: the Fantasy of the Middle Class

Niall Carter, John Steppenwolf, and Hugo Payton Payne and sitting at the counter, while the Barista cleans the espresso machine.

They're discussing politics. Niall is saying, "I thought Greta Van Shusterson was the only one I could stand on Fox News, even though she was trying to sidetrack John Bolton the other night."

John Steppenwolf says, "I caught that. He was focusing on America's drug addiction and she was trying to bring him back to admitting we need more troops on the border."

Niall, "But the next night, she was 'interviewing' (and I use that word loosely!) the Dem Senator from Louisiana, and just grilling her! I mean, this is supposed to be a reporter, and instead of asking questions, she is saying, 'What I think is . . . blah blah blah . . . the American people are mad at all of you blah blah blah' - it was disgusting! That's - not - reporting."

Payne says, "That's because there is no reporting any more. There is no free press. A free press is as dead as bellbottoms. Fox News turned the press into a carnival. The public goes to see the carnival they want to watch. They want to watch acrobats, they turn on acrobats. They want to see elephants, they turn to elephants."

Steppenwolf, "They want to see Roman gladiators killing Christians, they turn on Fox News."

Payne, "Exactly."

"Well," Niall says, "Personally it just makes me sick. I just want hard news. Facts. Let me decide for myself. Give me the facts, the objective truth, and I'll determine. I don't want the press telling me that this or that is bad."

"It's treating you like a child," Payne says, "The conservatives who have bought the press have you addicted to candy, like a child is addicted to candy, and they will keep spoon-feeding it to you to keep you addicted."

"Until when? Until all my teeth fall out?"

"Metaphorically speaking," Payne replies. "The goal is to create an oligarchy while maintain the illusion of limited government. Limited government means nothing more than business has no restrictions, and business has only one goal in mind, and one goal only:"

"To make money," Steppenwolf says.

"Right. And when they have your money, they will loan it back to you again and again and again until you are doing nothing but paying the interest on the money that you used to have. That's why this is important to remember, whenever you hear any politicians talking about the middle class, they are either blind or corrupt. There is no middle class any more. When they say 'middle class' they are trying to pander to everybody, because everybody believes that they are middle class. Only the very rich and the very poor know exactly where they are. Everybody else is just fooling themselves."

"So if there is no middle class," says Niall Carter, "where are we?"

"We are here, in the Zen and Tao Cafe, having coffee and wondering why we're not saving enough for retirement."

"I think I see where you're going with this," says Steppenwolf, "and if we have to ask ourselves that question . . ."

". . . then we're not among the rich," concludes Niall.

"Precisely," says Payne. "Precisely."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Overheard at Booth 1: the girl says

I'm tired.

And stupid exam week is next week.

And I want some gum . . . watermelon is preferred.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At the Counter: Cold Turkey Instant Karma and all that jazz

Verble says to John Steppenwolf, "I always get a little misty eyed, on this day, of all days . . ."

"Yeah," says Steppenwolf, "in memory of John, right?"

"That's right. It's amazing how a semi-accomplished guitarist could have made so many excellent acoustic tunes."

"Really?" says the Barista. "Most people remember him for all his Peace Love and Understanding."

"Ah, that was a myth, a persona he used because it felt good. He was really a right regular wank most of the time - but the beautiful part of him came out in some of his best tunes . . . and I'm not talking 'Strawberry Fields' or 'Come Together', no, I'm talking more like 'Norwegian Wood' 'Across the Universe' 'Julia' . . . "

"Two Virgins?" offers Steppenwolf.

"Musical masturbation," counters Verble. "Told you he was a wank, but still . . . man, Lennon did make some great songs. 'Dear Prudence' - gives me chills to this VERY DAY!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Overheard at Table 4

1: I thought John Bolton was spot on last night on Greta Van Shusterwhatever's show, they were talking about the 14-year-old headchopper and he made the point that all in all, when you really break it down, this is all about our drug addiction. If we weren't buying, they wouldn't be selling.

2: Probably though we should really think about sending more troops down there. Enough of this war on terror, which is halfway around the world and stagnated like a skyscraper on wheels moving through Louisiana swampland, we should really use those same troops to take care of the drug cartels.

1: But that's the point - those cartels wouldn't BE so strong if WE didn't have all the drug addicts! Bolton was funny, he said "I don't know who the drug addicts are, but somebody's buying them to the tune of 5 billion dollars!"

3: That's where he's lying. He does know who the drug addicts are. He's in government, for goodness sake! That's what I can't stand, all the politicians thinking this is a drug problem of the lower masses. Listen, meth addicts don't import their drugs - they make it in their kitchens! Same with crack. The poor have to make their own whack drugs. Now the coke users, the smack junkies, they can get theirs from sources. But the high class, now they're the ones who get their designer cocaine from the Columbia and the wherever. So don't beleive them when they try to pass this off as the addiction of the poor.

[a pause]

1: You seem to know an awful lot about the drug trade. Is there something you wanna tell us?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Before the Flood" by W.S. Merwyn

Why did he promise me
that we would build ourselves
an ark all by ourselves
out in back of the house
on New York Avenue
in Union City New Jersey
to the singing of the streetcars
after the story
of Noah whom nobody
believed about the waters
that would rise over everything
when I told my father
I wanted us to build
an ark of our own there
in the back yard under
the kitchen could we do that
he told me that we could
I want to I said and will we
he promised me that we would
why did he promise that
I wanted us to start then
nobody will believe us
I said that we are building
an ark because the rains
are coming and that was true
nobody ever believed
we would build an ark there
nobody would believe
that the waters were coming

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

At the Counter

Verble leans over the counter and shoves this under my nose and tells me, "You've gotta get check out this site . . . I mean, the title alone says it all!"

I read it. "" I ask.

"Yeah! All my life I've been waiting for this moment! A website that does nothing but give me acoustic songs!"

I'm tempted to say, "You're a very lonely man, aren't you?" but something in the gentle innocent cheer of his demeanor (that, and he's got about ten million more friends than I do) helps me to put my sarcasm in check and breakout my notepad to start seeing who I might be able to get to come in and play some Saturday afternoon well into the night.

Overheard at Booth 2

Belgium Mercado: What's that one part of the Bible where it talks about putting your mind on
good things? "Think about good things and you'll be happy" - or something like that . . .

Independence Peaks: Wait! Wait! I've got it on my phone . . . here it is:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Belgium Mercado: Right, that's it. So if I just keep thinking good thoughts, I'll have a great life, right?

Independence Peaks: I don't think it's all as simple as that. I take it as a kind of holistic litmus test, kind of a 'clear your mind of all the bad karma' type of stuff.

Belgium Mercado: Isn't that mixing your religions?

Independence Peaks: More like a cross-cognation of terminology.

Belgium Mercado: You confuse me sometimes.

Independence Peaks: But that's a good thing, right?

Belgium Mercado: I don't know. I'll think about it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Overshouldered at the Counter

I'm looking over your shoulder as you are looking at the NPR webpage and we are reading this article, and I tell you, "Man, a Republican who is a true Christian!"

And you reply, "I knew there was at least one."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Overheard at Booth 4: Temporary Security Essential Liberty

Billy: Heard this crud on the teevee the other night about the old Ben Franklin saying that those who will give up essential liberty for the sake of temporary security deserve neither.

Joe: Yah, that's from some Republican news station. They talkin' 'bout this health care, it's temporary security but givin' up our freedom from invasive gummint.

Jim: Seems to me like they should be talkin' about that there tapping our phones without gettin' a court order - or holding US citizens without charges or trial. Seems to me like THAT's a lot more worser.

Bob: When did they do all that?

Billy: Where you been? It's called the Patriot Act. George Bush. Yer right. THAT's some dang invasion of givin' up our essential liberty.

Joe: Direct contradiction to the Bill of Rights. Obama's carried it forward too, even though he promised to stop that Shi'ite.

Jim: Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. Where'd I hear that one?

Bob: Vodka commercial?

Billy: Don't be an eejit. But what gets me is that we let this all slide, we let the government steal our ability to defend ourselves in court, our right to keep our library records private, our right to keep government from listening in on our phone calls, we gave ALL that up, just so al-quayda won'b bomb us no more, but we don't want them to make sure that no more bombers get on the plane.

Joe: You mean them scanners what can tell the size of yer johnson?

Jim: Heh - that'd have to be a really BIG scanner!

Bob: Heh, heh! Good'un.

Billy: That's exac'ly what I'm talkin' 'bout. I swear, we get all our panties in a wad over the scanners, and yet we give up the big ones.

Joe: That's because we're visual. If we don't see it, we let gummint take it away. The scanners is something tangible.

Jim: You mean we're a visual based society?

Bob: Nah, he's saying we Americans are stupid.

Billy: Dang right. We're ignorant of our own rights, but we're shootin' our mouths off about it all the time.

Joe: Sometimes when I really think about what we're doing to ourselves in this county, it gets me so mad it just makes my stomach hurt!


"Bob Mould, right when he quit Husker Du, this is what he came out with. I always thought that he had been storing up these gems, but they show what the acoustic guitar can do, when it's layered over eighteen times, making his Wall of Sound.
"That's what I always liked about this guy, on both Husker Du, his own stuff, and with Sugar - he always has what sounds like a hundred guitar parts on every song, but it's always coherent, like some rich tapestry. I always consider it as he doesn't make one album, he makes five albums and then puts them to one disc, so you're listening to all five at the same time.
"And," Verble continues, "what I'm really proud about displaying this little beautiful album cover is that it's also great art, not just a great acoustic album, but a fantastic piece of art in and of itself. Reminds me of the work by Nick Bantok - the guy who did the Griffen and Sabine books, or the I Spy books.
"Regardless, beautiful, it is. Simply beautiful."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Overheard at the Counter: Letters to Juliet

John Steppenwolf said, "The wife and I really really enjoyed Letters to Juliet. The kids loved it too, well, not my son, who thought it was 'simpery' and went to his room to practice his zombie-killin'"

"A very noble passtime," Verble interjected.

"But my daughter loved it. That surprised me, I thought she wouldn't love anything that didn't have vampires in it, but it was nice, finally, to watch a movie that didn't have teenagers licking each other's nether regions or psycho killers dismembering said teenagers immediately afterwards, so much that you don't really know exactly WHAT is in those gobs of liquid flying at the screen . . ."

"Omigod, fer gosshakes stop it already!" said the Barista.

"Oops, sorry," said Steppenwolf. "Forgot where I was there for a minute. But seriously, this is a sweet sweet movie, something about Italy just inspires these kind of love stories . . ."

"Yeah, now I remember," said Niall Carter, "That's the one where this girl goes on a pre-wedding honeymoon with her restauranteur/fiancee and she starts answering letters that lonelyhearts women stuff into a brick wall . . . "

"and she answers the one from fifty years before, and it brings the woman back to Italy to find her Romeo, yeah, that's it."

"That's a beautiful one," said Niall.

"It sure is."

"Man, I think I'd love to be able to go back and find my true love after fifty years," mused the Barista.

Verble looked at her, "Sorry, young lady, you've got to be at least 65 before you can even think about doing that. That means you've got about 45 years to go!"

"42," the Barista corrected him, "but thanks for the compliment."

"Of course, my young lady, but of course."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Photo left on the counter

"Looks beautiful," someone says.
"Where d'ya think it is?" says someone else.
"I dunno, there's no writing on the back."
"Europe, maybe? Like Sweden or somewhere?"
"Definitely Europe. Maybe even Iceland."
"Is Iceland in Europe?"
"I think it kinda semi-sorta is, could be."

Overheard at Table 2

"I always said we should have more women in government but power-hungry Republican b!t@#e$ isn't really what I had in mind."

"Hold on, hold on! I'm tweeting that right now!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Overheard at Booth 4

and so Edmiston was telling Rachel, "it's a rip in time, essentially, at least that's what our research is leading us to understand. There essentially are no ghosts, in the sense of souls trapped in a certain location and just there to scare the daylights out of the living, no . . ."

". . .and nothing for anyone to say, 'you need to move on, go! go into the light!'?"

"right, nothing like that. But I love that show, by the way."

"I know what you love about the show."

"well, anyway, we know there's a soul, and we know the soul leaves the body when the body stops. Sometimes it even leaves the body before. Especially if you're an attorney, but that's another story . . . "

"ooh, I hope nobody's recording this! You could get sued!"

"anyway," Edminston continued, "really what we think of as ghosts are really nothing more than a ripple in time. Same as when you drop a stone into a pool of water, the ripples are reflected throughout the entire pool. We think that's what we think of as ghosts. Something traumatic happened at a specific place at a specific time, and we think that perhaps the psychic energy was so strong, so intense, that it actually caused a rip in time, so that incident, if you will, is replayed throughout time. These are not ghosts in the sense that they have any intelligence, will, memory, consciousness, no - they're simply reflections, ripples, of some tragic event."

"so," Rachel said, "you're kind of saying that they're like just a reflection of the thing that happened, rather than the person themselves."

"right, the person is gone. The soul is gone, it's moved on, Heaven, Hell, wherever, but there was something about the incident that caused such an intense amount of energy from the person that experienced it, that a reflection of them, however faint, remains - and can be felt and experienced."

"well, what about the spirits from 'beyond' when someone goes to a fortune teller or whatever?"

"oh, man, that's a totally different thing altogether, we know those aren't ghosts. Those aren't even souls, those are demons pretending to be your long lost loved ones. We shoot those goons back to Hell pretty much on a daily basis. No, we're talking about haunted houses, pure and simple here. We're talking about psychic energy that has the power to touch people all across time . . . .

"and let me tell you," Edminston continued, "what really makes me stop and think, about all this, about these conclusions we're coming to - what really makes me sit up late at night is to think, 'how strong did God make our souls that they can actually TEAR A HOLE IN TIME' ? Think about it - that's defying the laws of physics. And if we're right, and we have that power - it just blows the mind."

"well, the Bible does say He breathed into us, right? Made in His image, and all that. That's gotta mean something."

"yes, it does. That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of."

"so what do you need from me?" Rachel asked.

"we need you to scout a new location. One for testing. A haunted house."

"there are millions out there, why don't you just open the phone book?"

"no. I'm talking about one that no one's ever been to before, one that no one ever talks about. Nothing that's ever been documented. We think you can find it."

"thanks for the faith . . . well, let me do some checking and get back with you."

"okay, then."

"okay. Thanks for the cappucino."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Overwritten at Table 1

from 364


It’s ridiculous, the way they
fall at their feet, all smile and malarkey,
smuggling post-its, darkly,
across the simian wasteland of
the campus green,

these wastroids of the neargone age,
their minds, once upon a time, would have
been opened,
by ideas, ideas that crept in and
unlocked the door,

no more
quoth the raven atop my chamber door,

these ideas that exist not forevermore are
locked away inside the paper, inside the
paper, which is held together between
two blocks of board, cardboard mostly
(95% recycled, in some select cases)
and these ideas
will not yet again see the light of

until the electric companies are overthrown
and all the batteries die,
and we are relegated back
to the
Age of Enlightenment,

tossed aside, into the ditches of
the Renaissance, back into
the monastaries of ancient Gaul
and sister Hibernia,

where the scrolls were written,
and we learn, we finally learn,

we learn

to read again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Overheard at Booth 2

Thomas was saying, "and then I read in the paper today about some conservative talk radio host in Florida who said that she wasn't going to take a spot in the new governor's cabinet, or something, because there had been some flak about some comments she'd made on her show. Turns out she was talking to some teaparty activists one time and said something like 'if ballots don't work, bullets will' - then some of the crazies called in a threatening email to the local schools, like, taking up the call2arms, y'know?"

And Jenni said, "all I know's this's frikkin' nuts, y'know, it's like, I dunno, other countries always have revolutions to, like, overthrow the plutocracy, and we like, y'know, wanna spill blood in the streets to keep ours!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Overheard at Table 3: A Connecticut Facebook Ranter in King Verble's Court

Luego says, "Dang right I think they should have fired her - I mean, nobody's got the right to go on and slag the company they're working for."

Hasta says, "Heck yeah, they do - that's what we've got First Amendment protection for!"

Manana breaks in, "Actually, what I read is that they were gonna fire her anyways, for being generally rude and giving bad customer service."

Luego says, "See - that's just right. Her going on Facebook is just spreading more crud around - and what's bad for the company is bad for business - and don't we want business to be able to grow."

Hasta, "But business can't break into people's private lives"

Verble, bringing more lattes for the table, says gently, "Manana had a good point about the customer service issue - and does anybody know what she worked as?"

Hasta says, "No - what is she?"

Verble says, "She's an EMT . . . now, is a paramedic really someone you want giving poor customer service?"

Nobody responds for a moment, and Verble continues, "And remember, the law states that you can say whatever you want to about wages and about working conditions - which by the way, are rights found for you and you and you about a hundred years ago by the sweat and blood of your great-grandparents - but beyond that, the First Amendment was only set up by the founders to protect political speech. They wanted to make sure that we live in a society where the government can never lock you away or kill you for speaking out against it."

Manana says, "Really? Man, how do you know all this?"

Verble says, "Oh, it's a little thing called reading."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Overheard at the Counter: Because the Lawyer Said So

I take a drink of my dark roast and I tell to the people around me, "I couldn't beleive my ears what I heard today on NPR!

"Bush, our former President, honestly stated that his position is that waterboarding is not torture, and I quote 'because the lawyer said it was'

"Can you believe that? I couldn't! I looked at the radio and said 'WTF?! Play that again' . . . I mean, what a wishy-washy wriggle out of it approach. Because the lawyer - that's the lamest excuse for torture EVER! It's weak, and it shows a weak, foolish man - hiding behind money, like he has most of his life.

"I don't understand why people aren't screaming from the rooftops - because the lawyer said it was is simply a euphamism for 'because I could get away with it.' Because basically the lawyers were not making a decision as to whether it was morally right or justifiable, and lawyers certainly can't have any knowledge as to the effectiveness of the technique, no - they simply can tell you if you can get away with it or not . . . and that's all this man is - someone who wants to get away with it. I tell you, that man screwed this country for eight years, wrecked it beyond all recognition, but I swear to you, even if he hadn't, just for that statement alone people who voted for him should hang down their sorry heads.

"You know, I could even - even slightly - give him some modicum of respect if he held to the belief that it actually caused some good, saved lives, said something like 'man I'm sorry we had to do it' or EVEN if he just said 'As President you gotta make tough calls and that was a tough call and I made it.' I would disagree, but at least I would give him the benefit of the doubt that he actually believed his own bullship . . .

"But to hide behind the lawyers! Come on! This is a moral decision, and I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that everybody pretty much knows that lawyers are certainly the LAST people to make moral judgements about anything!

"It's times like this that I thank GOD for the twenty-second amendment!"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crosby Stills and Nash

Although everybody always talks about Deja Vu, this one is really the seminal album by this group (with much apologies to Neil) not only for being a great acoustic album but a great album overall.

Stephen Stills has always been underestimated as a guitarist, an acoustic guitarist especially, and this album is really the culmination of his efforts - you can hear that just in "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Overheard at Table 2

"What I can't believe is how we're so drowning ourselves in hyperbole: they SWEPT the House, it was a TIDAL WAVE, the Dems were SMASHED, CRUSHED, RIPPED TO SHREDS . . . "

"Heh, heh, those crazy nutblogs . . ."

"Heck no, that's from mainstream news! It's a little embarassing, thinking that we're so craving the high, that we make this stit up . . . a 'landslide' or a 'rout' would have meant the Republicans winning EVERY race. But they didn't win every single race - they won a LOT, sure, but . . . "

"- the thing that scares me is that lady in Nevada - who refused to answer any questions - she told one reporter 'I'll answer all those questions when I'm senator' - what scares me is that she actually got 45% of the vote! A nutjob like that should have had only something like the usual five psychos who wander drunk into the polling booth, but she actually gave him a run for his money. A whack-job who ran only on the Tea Party ticket - who got 45%? What kind of people are we voting for anyway?"

"Apparently nobody. We're not voting for anybody any more. We're all just voting against people - even people who aren't running for office."

"So tell me, at the end of the day - who's fault is that? The people running for office or the people voting?"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story

Verble points to another of his prized possessions,

a framed cover of this album from



Ah, I can't remember, but man, where would we be without acoustic rock like this? It doesn't get any better . . . sure, "Maggie May" might be a little overdone, but the title track just blows it all away, I've never heard a more ripping opening to an album - that track just throws you right into the whole mix.

And every track on this album is great. The acoustics are clunky, boxy, raw, and just complete rock and roll. Even down to these little fake galliard pieces in between songs. Utterly fantastic. This album needs to be listened to again and again. The only one that comes close is Gasoline Alley, but this one edges it out by a hair.

Always made me a little sad, though, to watch the man go downhill. He had other albums that showed the same promise, but they got a little less and less with each one he put out.

and by the time he got to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" - ugh! It was all over . . .

but we'll always have Every Picture Tells a Story!

The Cafe, the Day After: various voices

. . . now he's gonna have to work with the other party.

wait, did we all forget? He HAS been trying to work with the other party! He's the guy who ran two years ago on a ticket of working across the aisle!

. . . didn't do it very well, then did he?

All I know is we gotta get rid of that health care bill.

One, it's already law, and two, why?

Why what?

Why do we "have to get rid of it"?

I dunno. It's big government, I guess.

You don't even know what's in it.

Nobody knows.

Then how do we know we don't like it.

Because Obama was for it!

All in all, it's really business as usual. More money, more power grabbing. They're all crooks.

That's why we had the Tea Party.

Whatever! The Tea Party just wants to be crooks like the rest of 'em.

Looking back over this decade I realized that the Wrong side spent eight years ruining the country, by overspending in two useless wars, and then they bailed out these HUGE megabanks, and they were swept out of power. Then, two years later, because the Left side hadn't been able to correct what took the Wrong side EIGHT YEARS to screw up, we sweep them out of power WITH THE SAME GUYS WHO SCREWED US UP TO BEGIN WITH!!! now HOW




That's not stupid. That's just realizing that there's nothing else. Just these two. It's like if all you ever had were the Rams and the Saints, what's a Packer fan to do?

I think it was a victory for the Democrats.

How can you say that? They got spanked!

No they didn't! That wasn't a spanking. Look at each of those results - each one was 51% to 49%. 52% - 48% and so on. When you put together that the Republicans outspent the Democrats 7 to 1 - that's $7 Republican for every single dollar on the Dems, then you realize that it wasn't a fair fight at all. If the Republicans have to outspend in such ungodly amounts, just to pull off these half-n-half victories, then you know who is truly the weaker.

I don't understand how you can call them weaker when they won.

Yeah, you and about 250 million other Americans. But don't worry, someday, God willing, you will.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Free Coffee

Everybody who comes in tonight with an I VOTED sticker gets a free coffee. The Zen and Tao Acoustic Cafe supports the voting process and the support of democracy. We believe that you not only get the government that you vote for, but you suffer the government you allow to happen when you do not exercise your rights.

So, in the words of John Canada from next door at SHR, who quotes some wise old soul from the anals of American history . . .


But whatever you do, just get out and VOTE!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Overheard at the Counter: How to Train Your Dragon

John Steppenwolf says, "Last night we saw How to Train Your Dragon."

"Ah, so that's what the kids're calling it these days!" says Niall Carter.

"Don't be a sicko," says Verble. "It's a beautiful movie."

"I was really surprised," says Steppenwolf, "because I wasn't expecting much of anything, I thought 'Oh yeah, here'll be another kinda cool kid flick', but this turned out to be MOST excellent!"

"So, you're recommending it then?" asks Niall.

"I'm not just recommending it, I'm gonna give it out as Christmas presents!"

"Then I can wait another month, right?" Niall says.

"Well," Verble says, "that all depends on whether you're on his Christmas list."

Niall looks over at his friend, who takes a sip of his cappucino and says, "I've got a list, my friend . . . and I'm checking it twice."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Overheard at Booth 4

Proposal: Of course elections are a battle between the forces of good and evil - why do you think they always have it on the first Tuesday in November? Right after Halloween, when demons try to crawl out Hell to fight the saints on the next morning, which is All Saints' Day?

Response: I thought they did it because everyone is still loaded up on candy and making plans for Thanksgiving, so that they could get us to vote while we're on a sugar high and otherwise disengaged.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Found on a parchment on Table 5

John Steppenwolf picks it up and says, "Looks a little Byzantine to me."
"I like it," says Niall Carter. "Looks like it might make a good henna."
"You can be slightly weird at times."
"Not for me, dude! I meant my wife!"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Overheard at Table 1

"You know, it freak'incredible that the Republicans could have allowed this money grab for eight years, ballooning this bubble with the banks ripping us off of OUR money, and then when the tsunami came rushing in all our jobs just got swept out with the crashing waves - and then the same guys who allowed this to happen than reFUSE to pay a few pennies out to the same unemployed masses that they, by their own actions, creATEd! SHEEZ on a double stick! Talk about kicking people when they're down!"

"What I hate is that all the people are out of work because these businesses, the first thing they do to keep their CEO and CFOs in jets is to lay off their workforce. Then the Republicans turn around and call them lazy. It's like running a guy down with your car and then screaming at him for wanting to go to the hospital."

"It's insane. They're insane. We're all insane!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Overheard at Table 3: The Human Centipede

and there's this movie, called the human centipede, and i swear it's so stupid, if i tell people about it, they'll probably wanna go see it, just because i told em not to

what's it about

it's about just that, the human centipede, there's this guy and he takes three people and he
well he
well he kinda
sews em together

sews em together?

yeah, and all the time I'm thinkin this girl's mother must be real proud of her, when she got a call from her daughter saying hey mom, i'm gonna be in this movie, and the mom said prob'ly that's great honey, what kind of movie, well mom it's a movie where my head gets sewn into another girl's butt!

Overread at Table 5: These Days

a journal, with "364" scratched on the cover and at the top of every page, lying open to this entry, simply titled


These days are not for lovers, these
days are not for passion, romance, flowers, scented
poetry, rhyme, a soft glance a touch a look,
nothing like that any more, no,
nothing like that for these days:
these days are for listening to radio talk shows
in the mornings, hearing the torrent of
women, confessing to their affairs, "I'm a nurse, I
make good money, I've cheated on my husband
so many times in our five years of marriage I
just can't count them all,"Why don't you leave him
then?"Why would I wanna do that? I mean I love him
and all that, he just doesn't give me

what these other men give me."

These days, these days are not for sanity,
no longer any easy discourse, no longer any
passionate speeches in public houses about honor
and fraternity and justice and peace, and
representation and noble change, forward advancement
in government and thought and public morale, no
these are the days for vitriol, a christian pastor
from Dallas calling for violent revolution
if the tea party doesn't win back Congress next week,

no, these days are long past intelligence,
long past knowledge or wisdom or rational thought:
these days are for vitriol and black poison words
and blood and
the pestilence of ignorance
that eats against our
collective soul

like a cancer.

And this night, my wife tells me
not to worry about these days:
These days must pass
for what must/will happen
to pass,
these days are part of the will
of the must of
what must
/being, and
will have been, and then


And then she goes to brush her teeth,
get herself ready for bed,

ready for me to tuck her in.

This night.

Good night.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Overheard at Booth 1

James Targoyl: Am I the only guy in America who thinks NPR was well within their rights to fire Juan Williams?

Lydia Schusterman: Yes.

James Targoyl: Am I wrong for thinking that since they work for the public they want to be fair and impartial?

Tully Cargill: Yes.

James Targoyl: But, am I way off base in thinking that they should have the ability to determien who they want representing them?

Harold Tillerman: Yes.

James Targoyl: But why, why am I so wrong?

Lydia Schusterman: Because only strident egomaniacal hatemongering right wing selfish vitriolic bags of sheer evil have the right to decide what happens in American media. And anybody who tries to be neutral is just feeding the liberal agenda. Down with fairness and decency! Down with just commentary! Down with decent neutrality! Up with the vitriol!

More hate! More hate! More hate!

James: Wow. You guys are a tough crowd!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Overheard at Booth 3: at or around 13

there is a girl, a young girl, about thirteen, she is sitting at the booth waiting for her mom to come back with the steaming mocha lattes, and the girl is thinking about petting her cat, Trisket, and how she can't really pet her cat because she's out of Zyrtec and her dad hasn't bought any new Zyrtec from CVS on his way home from work last night like he said he would, and he said he would give her five dollars for cleaning out the back toyshed, but he hasn't given her the five dollars yet and she has a party to go to at Caitlin's house this Saturday and she hopes that her mom will let her go, but she knows she won't if she finds out that she just flunked her math test, but it's blended fractions and fractions are hard, especially when you make them into algebra with the x and the y and all that and

there is the girl's mother, sitting down in the booth with a mocha latte for each of them, and she asks her daughter, you look very concentrative - what've you been thinking?

and the girl says, nothing really, and she shrugs a little and takes a sip of her drink.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

At the Counter

Niall says, "Verble, I urge you to read this,"
and Verble replies,
"Anybody who uses the imperative 'urge'
certainly gets my acquiescence!"
"Even if it seems contrary to
how you feel about
non-violence and Christian thought?" asks Niall.
"Hey," says Verble,
"you used the word 'urge'
you didn't say
'gotta believe it!'"

"OK, then, I got the link right here on my iPad . . ."

Left at Booth 1

This paper was left at booth one. Apparently it is an assignment for an economics class. You have found this paper left on the booth seat as you slide in with your cappucino and croissant. So, you decide to read it while you wait for your laptop to boot up.

Econ 2304

Assignment #3: Heritage Foundation rankings of two countries for potential investment

My company will manufacture “net refractors,” which is a thin “webbing” that will cross the lenses still in place in many unused lighthouses across both coasts of the United States and Canada. My “net refractors” will transform each of these unused lenses into very powerful transmitting devices that will connect with all satellite systems and all communications around the world. Being almost invisible, they will also not detract from the natural beauty of the lenses, and they will need no maintenance, requiring only minimal additional personnel in the lighthouses. Plus, when in place, each of these lighthouses is guaranteed even further protection from possible dismantling, for, along with their historical value, they are now again generating income.

Since I’ve already determined that conditions in Houston (where I live) will be cost-prohibitive to start such a factory, I am looking outside the States, and because of my family and professional ties, have settled on either Ireland or El Salvador as a location to build my factory. Let us also assume that other factors are equal, such as the cost of transportation of the product from either place to the States will be equal.

OK, let’s see what the Heritage Foundation ranking has to say about my possible choices, going over each factor:

#1. Business Freedom
The world average to start a business is 35 days. In Ireland I might be able to start it in about 13 days, and in El Salvador, around 17 or 18 days. From what I’ve read, if I have to file bankruptcy, it’s a relatively straightforward deal in Ireland, although in El Salvador, bankruptcy is lengthy but not costly. To me, that means if I do go under, I’d be spending a lot more time in El Salvador than if I was in Ireland. Personally, that just depends on what type of beach/ocean I prefer: sandy/warm or rocky/crisp.

#2. Trade Freedom
As part of the European Union, Ireland’s tariff rate is set by European policies and had a weighted average of 1.3 percent in 2008 (El Salvador’s weighted average was 3.1); however, while both of them score in the 80th percentile range (87 and 83 % respectively), from what I understand of the description, Ireland has more mercurial and difficult laws regarding trade, a few obscure restrictions on imports of certain goods and services.

El Salvador appears a little more straightforward and open with their restrictive and somewhat restrictive trade practices, particularly on their sanitary and phytosanitary barriers. I have to admit, I had to look up “phytosanitary” – which refers to the regulations surrounding the import of plants and other agricultural goods. Since I’m not in the agricultural business, I wouldn’t think that would sway my decision; however, what this means is that there may be certain non-tariff restrictions on whatever materials I might need to bring into the country as part of my overhead.

#3. Fiscal Freedom
I’ve always been aware of the high income tax rate of Ireland – I mean, I used to live there, and so I have a slight taste for understanding how 20% of the people could be on the dole at any given time! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the corporate tax rate caps out at about 12.5 % - compared to 25% in El Salvador, which is still about average in the world. Ireland has a lot higher percentage of tax rate as part of GDP, but to be honest, I rather expected that, in the Socialist bent that is what we so dearly love (and hate!) about Europe.

#4. Government Spending
The Heritage Foundation tanks Ireland with a 61% rating for government spending – but remember what I said about Socialism? To me, that was to be expected, and personally I take it more as an irritant rather than a prohibitive factor. But that’s probably just me not thinking like a Capitalist! In Ireland, government spending is 35.7% of GDP. The population is aging and Ireland just had their bubble burst – and the slowdown in economic activity is creating a greater fiscal deficit. It may not be much comfort to know that the little known philosopher, Giuseppe Salinghetti, once wrote that “Ireland is a country where the people know how to make personal wealth out of public poverty.”

El Salvador, on the other hand, is low in government expenditures. Some of those liberal types would be quick to point out that this is typical of Latin American countries and is evidence that the plutocrats who actually run those countries care nothing for their people, but those liberals just love to spoil the fun, don’t they? There IS a lot of privatization in the country, but there are a few monopolies in transportation, banking, and electricity distribution. I’ll have to keep that in mind when determining how much I want to pay to move goods around the country and how to keep the utilities going in my factory. Looks to me like it’s a choice between the Irish government or a few rich elite in El Salvador.

#5. Monetary Freedom
Both are in the 70’s of the Heritage Foundation ranking, with Ireland a bit higher, possibly due to the lower inflation in Ireland. Ireland has definitely benefited from being a member of the Euro Zone, which does attempt to assist its member in controlling inflation through subsidies. Also, back to what I mentioned about Socialism – Ireland also influences prices through state-owned enterprises.

El Salvador, during the 1990’s, tried to ward off inflation by dumping their currency (the colon) for the American dollar. This helped for a time, but inflation has still risen recently, more than in Ireland, averaging 6.3 percent between 2006 and 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation. The government controls the price of public transport, electricity, and sets prices for distribution services. All in all, it seems these countries are roughly equal in monetary freedom, the deciding factor being the inflation rate, which to me, seems like could easily be swayed by future economic events.

#6. Investment Freedom
95% for Ireland compared to 75% for Ireland – that’s quite a wide disparity. Let’s find out why:
Apparently anybody can own land, whether you’re Irish or not. That was actually a surprise to me, because I had always thought that the Irish had a strong tie to the land and land ownership, given that their own land had been stolen from them for 600 years under British rule. Perhaps that left them with a national conscience that understands the impermanence of land ownership. Whatever the reason, the regulations are apparently easy to understand, and land owners get equal treatment, both foreign and domestic alike. Perhaps I haven’t accounted for the stereotypical good nature of the Irish character. Or maybe I need to think more like a businessman than a romantic. Oh well.

In El Salvador, it seemed similar in that foreign and domestic investors are given equal treatment under the law. If I start with fewer than 10 employees in my net-refractor factory, the government wants a plan from me detailing how I plan to increase employment. However, I’m thinking I can employ at least 100, and I don’t know if even that size will face extra regulations.

On the other hand, I know that regulatory agencies are understaffed and inexperienced. I may be able to use that to my advantage (but don’t tell anybody you heard that from me!) The HF admits “bureaucratic procedures are relatively streamlined, although commercial law enforcement remains inefficient and inconsistent.”

But here’s the kicker: “El Salvador’s 1983 constitution allows the government to expropriate private property for reasons of public utility or social interest, and indemnification can take place either before or after the fact. No single domestic or foreign entity can own more than 245 hectares of land. Rural lands may not be acquired by foreigners from countries where Salvadorans do not enjoy the same right.”

Hm. That’s food for thought. Imminent domain? In a country the size of Massachussetts? restricting how much land I can buy? Just because I’m American? No wonder they only got a 75%!

#7. Financial Freedom
Ireland 80%/El Salvador 70% Ireland had a heck of a time with recent banking failure, and the government has practically privatized the largest bank (AIB), while El Salvador, on the other hand, has a banking system that is very well capitalized and hasn’t suffered great fluctuations in the housing market. I guess there is something to be said for being a small country tucked away inside a volcanic ring. In Ireland, the government is still injecting capital into the banking system, and the latest reports I’ve heard (independent of the Heritage Foundation) still lump Ireland in with other struggling EU countries, such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

I wondered why, then, the HF gave Ireland a full ten point lead over El Salvador, especially since it was speaking highly of its “robust growth” – then it caught me: “Non-bank financial institutions are limited by the lack of personal savings and low disposable income.” Basically, the people are still much poorer there than in Ireland. Basically, we’re talking a risk factor here, I believe – with the belief that powerhouses like Germany won’t let a fellow member fail, but El Salvador really has no safety net, after all.

#8. Property Rights
Here’s the kicker: Ireland gets 90% and El Salvador comes in at a 50% in Property Rights. This might be a deal-breaker: in Ireland, it seems, intellectual property is well-protected by an efficient and fair legal system – accessible to foreign investors (I refer to the previous question about the land!)

El Salvador, on the other hand, has a legal system that appears to be a little cumbersome and slow, which makes me concerned that somebody might rip off my idea and start a factory on the other side of the Rio Lempa where I plan to build my factory! Basically, the gist is that the judges can be bought, which I hate to say, has been often factored as a cost of doing business in Central America. Private parties can buy the judges, and even if I might be able to get a ruling in my favor, enforcing a ruling might be another matter indeed. That makes me think long and hard about investing there, especially in a new venture, with my brand new product.

#9. Freedom from Corruption
As an extension of #8, El Salvador tanks this category with only 39% score. Corruption is apparently rampant, whereas it’s apparently minimal in Ireland. Of course, El Salvador has laws against bribery, but everyone knows that these are paper tigers at best. Ireland, on the other hand, not only investigates corruption, but has “ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and is a member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery and the Group of States Against Corruption.”

Again, I think we really have to look into cultural development to try to understand the reasons: Ireland faced centuries of being robbed of their land, their language, their names, and their identity by an invading power (England), and so it may be a natural course of democratic development for the collective country to desire a freedom from corrupting powers – especially given that such pillaging of the country could have only taken place by complicit Irish working in collusion with the English landowners.

El Salvador, like other Latin American countries, was basically founded by a cadre of wealthy invading Spaniards who only wanted to make money, and those who settled forced the native population into slave labor, and those who weren’t absorbed were killed off, to the end that any governmental structure was built on military and monetary power, with the ingrained political consciousness that to rule means to take all that you can and the people can move aside or get run over.

But then, those are just speculations as to why – what I have to deal with is, do I want to place my business in a place where I might have to be paying off officials just to keep the lights running, the trucks delivering, and the inspectors looking the other way?
The answer, hopefully, lies in

#10. Labor Freedom
Quoted verbatim from the Heritage Foundation:

Ireland: Labor regulations are flexible. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is low, and dismissing an employee is relatively easy. Restrictions on work hours are flexible.

El Salvador: Relatively flexible labor regulations enhance employment opportunities and productivity growth. Restrictions on work hours are not rigid. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is low, but dismissing an employee is difficult.

Hm. So, in Ireland, if a guy comes in five minutes late and all drunk, I can fire him – after all, dismissing an employee is easy. And I can apparently make them work overtime, hopefully without having to pay them. It’s even better in El Salvador, because the lax labor laws mean I can get out of them all I can get. I mean, I already know for a fact that I can pay a Salvadoran in the capital $2.00/hour, when I’d have to pay the same worker here $8.00/hour – that’s why I’m going out of the country in the first place, right? So maybe I can’t fire a Salvadoran as easily as I can in Ireland, but boy, I can work them to death and there won’t be anybody there to stop me! My goodness, it’s wonderful to be a Capitalist, isn’t it?

Flexible labor regulations = productivity growth. Isn’t it wonderful to live in a world where people can publish such callous disregard for their fellow human beings with such impunity! Heritage Foundation . . . thank you for being so honest so that any thinking person can know exactly what you are!

As for me, I’ve made my decision: I’m going to build my factory in El Salvador. No, not so I can pillage the people, but because I live in Houston and my wife is from El Salvador, which means we have a reason to fly down there almost every week! (and with the money we make, we can go vacation in Ireland!) Plus, El Salvador has great economic potential. If they could just get rid of their gang problem, that would be a great start, but the people are known to be hard workers, and perhaps I can give them wages somewhat slightly above the nominal rate, and perhaps get some skilled hands from the workforce.

But mainly, all in all, it’s because my wife likes to see her family and her home country often, and you know what they say, “When the wife is happy, everybody’s happy!”

And that’s just good economics!

Thank you everybody, good night!