Inhuman Swill : Page 184
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Yesterday, as you may know, we had a veritable blizzard here. The storm dumped 25 inches of snow in Queens, most of it in our back yard.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) it was a federal holiday, so neither Laura nor I had to work. However we did go into the city, despite Mayor Bloomberg telling us not to. We left the house at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

Laura had originally intended to go to a Pilates class, but she had called the studio and it was closed. So she planned to spend the afternoon bumming around with her friend Shana. I had been planning on Indian food and a movie with my friends Bob and Ken for several days, and in fact had purchased tickets for us days earlier. I carried my laptop slung over my shoulder in its handy nylon carrying-case, intending to camp out in an East Village Starbucks and work on a story until time to meet Bob and Ken at Baluchi's at 6:30.

We had nearly two feet in our backyard by this time. Laura and I had each taken a turn shoveling the front steps and walk earlier that day (she, heroically, went first), and getting to the N/W station was quite a hike. Going over the snowdrifts at each corner, I felt like Edmund Hillary. As we schussed along, we made fun of the people trying to dig their cars out of the snowbanks. I guess they were eager to play demolition derby with the snowplows.

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The place where I work, on WNBC

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BenefitsCheckUp was featuring on the local news last night, and will be again tonight. Here's an accompanying web story:

I just wish my boss would stop telling people we were on NBC. Sort of, but not exactly.

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You know who you are. You're the ones who care that Michael Blumlein and Carter Scholz will be reading together at the Housing Works Used Book Café, 126 Crosby Street, NY NY, on Monday, February 24th at 7:00 pm.

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My brother Tim's Utah National Guard unit has been called up for active duty. Later this week they go to Fort Lewis, Washington, and soon thereafter they will apparently be dispatched to the Middle East. He will be on active duty for one year. He is 27 years old, with a wife and 4 kids.

I'm trying hard not to think about this too hard.

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From the Dismemberment Plan web site:


After a few months off, and taking time to think about it, we've decided to break up the band.

There will not be a next album by the Dismemberment Plan. Travis will be going into the studio in April with some songs of his own, and probably a handful, or maybe all, of the songs we worked on as a band to record a solo album. No word yet to which label will release his record. Of course, the remix record is still on—we have 9 or 10 keepers, and are hoping to get another one or two before putting it to press. The remix record will be on DeSoto. And we talked about possibly releasing songs that we've worked on that won't be on Travis' record. For now, all options are open.

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The World's Most Anticipated Book Is Over One Third Longer Than Previous Book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

NEW YORK, NEW YORK: LONDON, ENGLAND: January 15, 2003--Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling, the fifth in the bestselling series has been scheduled for release on Saturday, June 21, 2003 in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, it was announced today by Scholastic and Bloomsbury publishers. The companies also announced that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is over a third longer than J.K. Rowling's extraordinary previous book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

In making the joint announcement, Barbara Marcus, President of Scholastic Children's Books in the United States, and Nigel Newton, Chief Executive of Bloomsbury Publishing in Britain said: "We are thrilled to announce the publication date. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is absolutely superb and will delight all J.K. Rowling's fans. She has written a brilliant and utterly compelling new adventure, which begins with the words:

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mutton chops

By the way, the surprise Christmas adventure was to Disney World in Florida. A good time was had by all!

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Two hours to departure.

My errand to rent a truck and pick up Laura's Christmas present is complete. I've returned to discover the coolest Christmas card ever, sent no doubt by our friend Angus who works for KISS. Yes, the rock band. It's a card that says "Merry KISSMAS," and inside are the signatures of Paul, Gene, Peter, and Ace.

Okay, the signatures are printed directly on the card, but it's still pretty damn cool.

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The sick adventurer

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We leave today on our secret adventure, so I likely won't be back here until Christmas. Yes, Laura's taking me on a Christmas adventure somewhere, I know not where. She made all the travel arrangements, packed my bags and everything. The car takes us to the airport at 3:30. I guess I'll learn our destination when we get there.

Unfortunately, owing to not having been able to find my knit cap yesterday morning and walking all over in the cold wind, I have awakened this morning with sore throat, stuffy nose, and watery eyes. Nothing puts a dent in an adventure like an adventurer with a cold. Curses!

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Our big brothers Nick and Norm

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I saw a pair of new commercials from the Office of National Drug Control Policy during 24 last night. Anyone else see them?

Watch "Ploy" first, then watch "Okay." This is the most blatant example of doublespeak I've ever seen in television commercials. The message of these commercials is basically "It's true because we said it's true." It almost doesn't matter to me whether or not drug money actually does fund terrorism. What terrifies me is the technique the government is using to make its point.

This is what the government thinks of us, that we should believe what they say because they say it. Subtler forms of this have been going on in America since its founding, of course, but this is the first time I've been literally chilled by an example of it on my television screen. I had the feeling last night that I was watching a line being crossed. I had the feeling I was looking Big Brother in the eye, or vice versa.

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William Shunn