Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Catching Up

First up, thanks to Mike Hendrix (of Cold Fury fame) and his fellow lunatics in the Belmont Playboys for a hella-good time at Atlanta's Star Bar Bubbapalooza festival Saturday night. Great guy, great band, all-around good time. You haff my gwatitude.

The Blogfaddah doesn't write that many posts longer than a sentence or two (and that's to his credit, brevity being a cardinal virtue of blogging in my book), but when he does, it's what we used to call an E.F. Hutton moment. Today is such a day, so, er, go read the whole thing.

When even the Washington Post asserts that a Leftie administration is acting like a bully and favoring a major campaign contributor, the chances are very good that they're right.

Finally, from the Great White North, it's Bob & Doug & Cthulhu.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What He Said

While Ed Driscoll is entirely right regarding Andrew Sullivan's latest, commenter "Apostic" at Ed's blog really nailed it:

Andrew Sullivan: This speech, to my mind, was a conservative one by a conservative president….

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

All The News That's Fit To Censor

You may recall CNN reporter Susan Roesgen's unhinged rant at a Tea Party protester from last month. Then again, you may have trouble recalling it, since CNN, the "Network Of Record," complained to YouTube about Roesgen's embarassing performance being posted online, and had a clip of what was obviously news--just news that the Cable News Network didn't want you to watch--pulled.

To its credit (even if it did take over a month, plus bloggers and lawyers pointing out that CNN does not have the power to censor a legitimate news story), YouTube finally told CNN to stuff it, and re-posted the video today:

Major kudos to Founding Bloggers, who posted Roesgen's idiocy in the first place, for fighting back and getting You Tube to back down. As for my hometown "news" network, I defer to a protester at Atlanta's Tea Party:

H/T: The Blogfaddah.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Devil Didn't Make Them Do It

Barack Obama tried today to square the circle of living up to his campaign promises of Leftoid appeasement versus actually having the responsibility to protect the country against terrorism. It's telling that Obama seems genuinely surprised when actual Americans aren't so crazy about the idea of 240 fanatics being brought to the US, to say nothing of giving them the benefit of a court system they hold in contempt, and an endless parade of ACLU lawyers to plead their cases--all on the taxpayer's dime.

There is a great deal to criticize in Obama's typically pretentious and windy speech today, but one line in particular caught my eye. Among all the moral preening and conspicuous self-righteousness embodied by Obama and his Big Media fan club comes, this much-repeated (but never quantified) trope has assumed the stature of Holy Writ:

[I]nstead of serving as a tool to counter-terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.

Let's think about that for a second. The President of the United States is charging that a prison deemed by his own Attorney General to be a professional and humane facility "creates terrorists"... among people who riot and kill over teddy bears and cartoons.

I hate to break this to you, Barry, but as far as those guys are concerned, it doesn't matter what you do with the two hundred-odd murderers and thugs who are safely under guard in Cuba. The nutbags among your pop's latter-day co-religionists are going to hate you, and me, and everyone we know just as much as they do today if you personally unlock the gates and hand each and every inmate a gold-plated apology, a free ticket back to where they came from, and the reins to their very own pony.

Obama is indulging in the old "the devil made them do it" argument, which serves to infantilize murderers while providing a balm to the self-esteem of Western Lefties: Lenin was only a tyrant because the US supported the other side in the Russian Civil War. Stalin wouldn't have been a butcher to his own people if he weren't "threatened" by the West. Pol Pot only massacred a million innocents because Nixon bombed Cambodia. And on and on and on. There aren't any actual bad guys out there in the world--just victims of American foreign policy who lash out in frustrated rage.

As Ronald Reagan once observed of a similarly-specious bit of Soviet propaganda, "There is a non-Soviet word for that kind of talk. It's an extremely useful, time-tested original American word, one with deep roots in our rich agricultural and farming tradition."

Unless Obama is considerably dumber than I think he is, he's well aware that the existance of the prison at Guantanamo is far more of a concern to people who care about what the Guardian or Le Monde write about them than it is to any would-be jihadi. What's unfortunate is that the opinions of the nutty Left and the European media appear to mean a lot more to Obama than the oath he swore back in January.

Recommended Reading

From the WSJ:

Remember how President Obama blamed Chrysler's bankruptcy filing last month on "a small group of speculators" who turned down Treasury's $2 billion final offer for their $6.9 billion in debt? Well, it turns out that hedge funds and other short sellers weren't the only secured creditors who got a raw deal from Uncle Sam.

Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock revealed this week that his state's police and teacher pension funds have lost millions of dollars in the Chrysler "restructuring." Indiana's State Police Fund and Major Moves Construction Fund, which finances roads and bridges, together lost more than $1 million. And the Teacher's Retirement Fund "suffered, at a minimum, a loss of $4.6 million due to the action of the Federal government," reports Mr. Mourdock.

Far from being speculators, these funds represent retired public employees, including cops and teachers. The funds paid a premium to buy "secured" status, only to discover that they were politically outranked by the United Auto Workers in the White House hierarchy.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Airbrushing In Sacramento

Here's another one for the "and they wonder why nobody buys the paper any more" file: this morning, in the aftermath of yesterday's California initiative votes, the Sacramento Bee published a churlish you-stupid-voters editorial. A representative sample:

Good morning, California voters. Do you feel better, now that you've gotten that out of your system?

You wanted to show the state's politicians just how mad you are at them. And you did. Boy, did you ever.

Proposition 1A with its taxes and its spending limit? Too much of one and not enough of the other, you said (or was it the other way around), and voted it down. Never mind that the taxes go into efffect anyway. You showed 'em.

The unsigned column was treated exactly as well as it deserved--which means it was mocked from coast to coast, and in multiple pages of reader comments, was almost universally panned.

So what did the brave editorialists at the Bee do?

They pulled the column. Airbrushed it entirely off the SacBee website, replacing it with a mirror image blaming the Governator and legislature. Hilariously, the new editorial contains the following lines:

Don't blame voters, no matter how much you may want to. Accept their verdict with good grace.

No mention of the previous, citizen-hectoring column remains--other than readers razzing the Bee in still more pages of comments. *

See for yourself: the original column was grabbed and reprinted at The Corner; here's the replacement version.

Seriously, guys: this is 2009, not 1984. You can't get away with stuff like this. The internet does not have a memory hole. You can't cover up your own stupidity, so at least be adult enough to admit to it.

* Well after the fact, Bee editorial page editor David Holwerk added a less-than-credible explaination, asserting the original column--which was posted for roughly 12 hours--was actually "a draft prepared for internal discussion among members of The Bee's editorial board." Pathetic.

Joe Klein: Bigot

The following quote, from Time Magazine propagandist Joe Klein, has to be seen to be believed. I had to re-read it at least three times to reassure myself the guy had said something so gobstoppingly stupid. In a Politico profile of columnist Charles Krauthammer, Klein actually says:

"There's something tragic about him, too," Klein said, referring to Krauthammer's confinement to a wheelchair, the result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school. "His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he's writing about."

Klein, whose bitter personal animus towards anyone who dares disagree with his pretentious Liberal "journalist" sensibilities is the singular feature of his writing, long ago gave up any pretense towards being a reasonable observer, even for an opinion columnist, but this is way beyond the pale.

Seriously, Time: why does this clown still have a job?

See also: Tim Maguire, John Podhoretz and Peter Wehner.

Credit Where It's Due

When the GOP held its internal election for national chairman, I thought Michael Steele was the best guy running, and I was pleased when Steele was selected. I'd heard him speak a few times in the past, and had been impressed. Like a lot of others, I was considerably less impressed with the way Steele handled himself over the next few months, but I have to give credit where it's due today: this speech by Steele last night is very good stuff. If Steele can stick to this script, and if his party can hew to the principles he enumerates, they're going to be able to get up off the mat and contend again.

Of course, those are two monumentally big "ifs," but at least it's a start.

H/T: Jim Geraghty.

Morning Update

It didn't start with Rathergate: A great story here from Quin Hillyer about how he and his old boss (former Congressman Bob Livingston) took on 60 Minutes and won. The final exchange between Livingston and Mike Wallace--who was forced by CBS to apologize on-air for sliming Livingston--is priceless.

Greg Gutfield
boils down yesterday's ridiculous Obama/car company press conference to its logical conclusion: pricey, unsafe mini-cars foisted on a market that doesn't want them, which will inevitably result in punitive taxes levied on allegedly free citizens who won't pay up.

Here's a remarkably silly piece from the LA Times' Michael Finnegan, who blames California's fiscal crisis on the state's initiative process and tax-adverse voters. You can search Finnegan's column over and over again for references to the government employees unions or their handmaidens in the Democratic Party that controls California's gerrymandered legislature, to no avail.

Oh, and term limits are also somehow to blame. But of course.

Another interesting note: You can search and search on the LA Times' site today for the actual numbers by which the tax-hiking ballot initiatives were defeated, and unless you're very persistent, you'll do so in vain. The numbers aren't in this lead story, they aren't on the front page (just a set of pie charts), and you won't find them on the "Election Central" page. You have to dig all the way down to this "live results" page to learn that the initiatives--all endorsed by the LA Times, of course--were defeated by two-to-one margins.

A comment on Megan McArdle's blog supplies us with considerably more accurate analysis than you're liable to find in the LA Times in the forseeable future:

[T]he non-idiots are getting tired of bailing the idiots out. It's not a question of "being neighborly," it's a question of "stop asking me to finance the lifestyles of the lazy and stupid."

Finally, Tom Golisano chronicles his part of the tax-refugee exodus from New York. As Golisano notes, like in California, the New York politicians and unions have one simple solution to every issue: raise taxes. After all, it's not their money.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hsu Fits

From the NY Daily News:

Democratic fund-raiser Norman Hsu was convicted of campaign law violations Tuesday after a trial that featured a voicemail from Hillary Clinton praising his tireless efforts to raise cash for her.

A Manhattan Federal Court jury convicted Hsu, 58, of reimbursing friends hundreds of thousands of dollars for contributing to his favorite Dems, including Clinton.

Say It Ain't So, Miss Ann

Ann's Snack Bar in Atlanta, home of the best burger in the world, will be closing soon:

Ann Price, known to her customers and the world at large as “Miss Ann,” told Buzz on Monday that she’s ready to sell after 37 years of hand-shaping patties for hungry customers.

“You got a buyer?” she shot into the phone.

Miss Ann won’t be locking the doors just yet. She plans to talk with a real estate agent in a couple weeks, and doesn’t yet know the price, but wants it on the market at the end of the month. It’s not clear if the restaurant will remain open once it’s out of Miss Ann’s hands.

An old college buddy and I went to Ann's this last Saturday. Normally if you get there by 11:15 or so, you'll make it into the first seating (Ann only allows nine people at a time at the lunch counter), but there were already nearly a dozen waiting on the patio at 11 o'clock. As it turned out, having to wait for the second round was a bonus for us; Ann had run out of tomatoes, and we gladly volunteered to run over to Kroger and replenish her supplies. The burgers were, as always, awesome, and contrary to her "Soup Nazi" reputation, Ann wouldn't let us pay for anything.

Whether the Snack Bar reopens or not--and I would imagine it will, the formidable Ms. Price having built up a sold-gold brand over the past four decades--it won't be Ann's without Ann.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Say Hello To My Little Friend

This is Maggie, a 6-month-old bullmastiff we adopted over the weekend:

She is an absolute sweetheart, and based on our lunch out yesterday, firmly affixed as the center of attention in any given room.

Many, many, many thanks to our new friends at the American Bullmastiff Association, whose rescue group frankly overwhelmed us with kindness over the last couple of weeks. The next time you're looking for a dog, do yourself a favor and click on their Rescue link.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Couln't Happen To A Nicer Species

I absolutely love this story:

The tool is the tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants in Texas originated. Researchers have learned that there are as many as 23 phorid species along with pathogens that attack fire ants to keep their population and movements under control.

So far, four phorid species have been introduced in Texas .

The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain, and the ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombie-like behavior.

"At some point, the ant gets up and starts wandering," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at UT.

The maggot eventually migrates into the ant's head, but Plowes said he "wouldn't use the word 'control' to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly. This wandering stage goes on for about two weeks."

About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs.

Awesome. Take it from a Southerner: There simply is no better place for a Zombie Apocalypse than the Fire Ant Community.

H/T: Slashdot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dogs Rule

Jonah Goldberg, who kindly linked to my post about saying goodbye to our dog last week, has a great column today refuting the "he doesn't love you, you just taste salty" theory of canine behavior:

Look, few would dispute that dogs are complicated creatures with internal lives that fall far short of humanlike consciousness or self-awareness. And anyone who’s spent more than five minutes with dogs knows their priorities and our own differ dramatically. That’s part of the magic of doggy goodness. Dogs don’t care whether you’re rich or famous or popular. They care about you. Or, in the case of my dog, Cosmo (a shelter dog), he cares about me and about maintaining an orderly and secure perimeter on our block, as free of mail carriers, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, cheetahs, and wildebeests as possible. His biggest successes have been with the cheetahs and wildebeests — so far.

Read the whole thing, and after that, check out this entirely wonderful column from November, 2001, about the World Trade Center rescue dogs, also by Jonah.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Required Reading

Robert Samuelson absolutely eviscerates Obama's "crack down on corporate tax cheats" speech in today's WaPo. Here's the closer, but go read the whole thing:

Including state taxes, America's top corporate tax rate exceeds 39 percent; among wealthy nations, only Japan's is higher (slightly). However, the effective U.S. tax rate is reduced by preferences -- mostly domestic, not foreign -- that also make the system complex and expensive. As Hufbauer suggests, Obama would have been better advised to cut the top rate and pay for it by simultaneously ending many preferences. That would lower compliance costs and involve fewer distortions. But this sort of proposal would have been harder to sell. Obama sacrificed substance for grandstanding.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Breaking News From 1981

Via Ed Driscoll:

This just in from Howard Kurtz on Twitter:

Joe Klein on Time’s Endangered Repubs cover: Time stopped being fair & balanced yrs ago, he tells me. It’s about the “voices” of its journos.

In more just-as-timely news, communism doesn't work and disco sucks.

Strange New Worlds

So, to answer about a dozen emails, yes, I've seen the new "Star Trek." And I thought it was okay.

Yeah, that's right--okay. I was entertained, but I wasn't blown away. I agree with Steve that the writers took some welcome chances in shaking up this now-familiar universe, but they also cranked out a lot of very goofy storytelling along the way. Fortunately for them (and for us), they are saved by the fundamental charm of the characters they inherited, and by the vast, open-ended potential for new stories contained within the deceptively simple framework of Captain, First Officer, Doctor, and Ship bequeathed by the generation of TV- and moviemakers who came before them.

In terms of plot, this "Star Trek" is a mess. It's basically a rewrite of the original "Star Wars" with a standard-issue "Trek" villain-bent-on-cosmic-revenge subplot shoehorned on via a rather silly time-travel MacGuffin. The individual sequences are almost uniformly impressive and enjoyable, but the story as a whole doesn't bear up to scrutiny.

This is not a gigantic surprise. New Trek director J.J. Abrams is the guy responsible for the TV series Alias and Lost, and let's face it: for all his many gifts, coherent plotting is not his strong suit.

This is not to say that "Star Trek," version 2009, is a bad movie. It's not. It's not a great movie, either, but if you think of it in terms of another well-worn trope of fantasy fiction, the origin story... it works.

There are reasons why there hasn't been a compelling "Star Trek" movie or TV show in a long time. Gene Roddenberry's antiseptic future where nobody disagreed was incredibly binding on writers (how can you have conflict when all your characters get along, all the time?), and there are only so many times you can tell Roddenberry's basic stories, over and over again. And then there's the much-discussed "canon" issue, about which I'm sorry to say I disagree with Jonah. Up until this weekend, Star Trek was absolutely creaking under the weight of 40 years of TV series and movies and God only knows how many spin-off stories in other media, and Abrams deserves credit for finding a way to jettison all that accumulated baggage in an entertaining fashion. For those who prefer Roddenberry's spic-and-span universe, hey, it's still there, on dozens of DVDs. You can go back any time you like; speaking for myself, I thought it was entirely worn out at least a decade ago.

Even if you think the story of this movie is threadbare and hokey--and it's both--the film as a whole does work, thanks to things Abrams is very good at: characterization and action.

Almost everyone here is well-written, and while we get a lot of laughs out of familiar lines used in new situations, the screenwriters didn't go completely overboard in hitting the familiar catch-phrases and such. Young Kirk and Spock are just exquisitely well crafted; the new McCoy deserved more to do, but what he does get is done well. The four secondary characters all get nice moments as well, with Uhura finally becoming an actual person with something more to do (and say) than, "Captain, I'm frightened."

And this thing moves. It's action from start pretty well through to the finish. With the exception of about fifteen sagging minutes at roughly the middle of the movie, "Star Trek" has enough propulsion to lift a Saturn V. The special effects look great (even if space in this new galaxy does appear to be on the cluttered side), but great-looking visuals are the standard these days.

The cast is outstanding. Every member of the core crew manages to gracefully (or awkwardly, as called for by their particular character) inhabit their roles without stooping to outright imitation. Extra credit is also due to Bruce Greenwood, who plays Kirk's predecessor and mentor with understated gravity. As many reviewers have noted, the only missed notes come from the bizarre casting of Wynona Rider, in a mercifully-brief stint as Spock's mother, and... Leonard Nimoy as "our" Spock.

As fond as I am of Nimoy's usual performances in his signature role, I have to agree with other viewers who thought the movie ground to a halt whenever Nimoy was on the screen. What should have been a career-capping send-off is instead a badly-written, exposition-heavy bore. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I sincerely hope this is the last time we see him wearing a pair of pointed ears.

The design is well-done. I loved seeing the engine room looking like it belonged on an actual ship, instead of like a sterilized medical laboratory. The exterior of the redesigned Enterprise is pleasingly-retro, with the engines themselves looking like something out of an old E.C. space opera comic. I definitely agree with the decision to not recreate the cheap primary-colors sets from the 1960's, and I don't miss the cheesy 80's earth-tones of the "Next Generation" bridge. The new interiors look futuristic to a 21st Century eye, while for the most part still being familiar enough for us to understand what's going on. Some of Abrams' choices weren't so good: I did not need to see two hours of constant lens flares, for instance, but for the most part, this is as well-crafted a visual experience as you're liable to find these days.

I think this movie will not be remembered so much for itself (even though it's as good a slam-bang action movie as we have any business expecting these days), but rather for the new foundation it lays. Abrams' more-than-a-little-goofy plot serves one great purpose: to set loose a young, rough-and-tumble crew to go have new adventures. He's given Star Trek a new lease on life by going back to its fundamental roots: tough, smart guys (and gals) out on the frontier exploring strange new worlds.

I've seen a couple of fanboy-ish reviews expressing glee over the possibility of this new Enterprise running into, say, the Doomsday Device, or a certain genetically-engineered superman with a thing for rich, Corinthian leather. I really hope Abrams (and more importantly, Paramount Pictures) doesn't choose that path. When you've just given yourself a sparking new beginning, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to go and retell the same old stories again.

So, J.J., on the off-chance you're listening: nice work, but like your new movie's hero, you can do better. You've got a whole galaxy to go play with now. Make the most of it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Chicago Way

From (of all places) the LA Times:

The Obama administration is threatening to rescind billions of dollars in federal stimulus money if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers do not restore wage cuts to unionized home healthcare workers approved in February as part of the budget.

Schwarzenegger's office was advised this week by federal health officials that the wage reduction, which will save California $74 million, violates provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Failure to revoke the scheduled wage cut before it takes effect July 1 could cost California $6.8 billion in stimulus money, according to state officials.

This is The Chicago Way, now transplanted to the White House: politicians taking money from unions, and using the raw power of the state to protect their cash flow. GM and Chrysler, and all the thuggish tactics being used to prop up the UAW at the expense of all other parties, were just the beginning.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Return Of A Boy Named Hsu

Remember Norman Hsu? He was the Democratic Party fundraiser who was embroiled in a web of illegal contributions, sketchy investment schemes, and bad puns a couple of years back. From Reuters:

Norman Hsu, who was sentenced to three years in prison by a California state judge in January 2008, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to charges of mail fraud and wire fraud in running a Ponzi scheme of up to $60 million.

"I knew what I was doing was illegal," Hsu, 58, said in the hearing in Manhattan federal court. In addition to the California sentence, he faces at least 30 years in prison.

U.S. prosecutors said that from 2000 through August 2007, Hsu convinced investors to put up to $60 million into the scheme, in which early investors are paid with the money of new clients. After making payments, he profited by at least $20 million, according to prosecutors.

Even with these multiple convictions, the other Hsu hasn't dropped quite yet:

He still faces trial on Monday in New York for violating federal campaign laws for making political campaign contributions in other people's names.

One wonders how zealously the Obama Justice Department will pur-Hsu these charges... and then one realizes, "What better way to be ab-Hsu-lutely certain Hillary won't bolt and make a primary challenge if things go badly for the Dems in 2010?"

Hsu-long, Norman.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Required Reading

Michael Barone:

Think carefully about what’s happening here. The White House, presumably car czar Steven Rattner and deputy Ron Bloom, is seeking to transfer the property of one group of people to another group that is politically favored. In the process, it is setting aside basic property rights in favor of rewarding the United Auto Workers for the support the union has given the Democratic Party. The only possible limit on the White House’s power is the bankruptcy judge, who might not go along.

Michigan politicians of both parties joined Obama in denouncing the holdout bondholders. They point to the sad plight of UAW retirees not getting full payment of the health care benefits the union negotiated with Chrysler. But the plight of the beneficiaries of the pension funds represented by the bondholders is sad too. Ordinarily you would expect these claims to be weighed and determined by the rule of law. But not apparently in this administration.

Obama’s attitude toward the rule of law is apparent in the words he used to describe what he is looking for in a nominee to replace Justice David Souter. He wants “someone who understands justice is not just about some abstract legal theory,” he said, but someone who has “empathy.” In other words, judges should decide cases so that the right people win, not according to the rule of law.

Read the whole thing.

AWOL at the AJC

The Blogfaddah linked to this remarkable story about an Atlanta college student who single-handedly saved nine of his friends from at the very least a brutal home invasion, and very possibly from rape and mass murder on Monday:

Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.

“They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,’” said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.

Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough,” said Bailey.

That’s when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.

The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.

“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window,” said Bailey.

Quite a story, isn't it? The criminal shot by the student was found dead outside the apartment complex, leaving the world no poorer. You'd think this kind of heroic action would warrant front-page coverage in the city's main newspaper.

And you'd be wrong. The story linked above is courtesy of TV station WSB. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, managed only a tiny, ungrammatical blurb on Sunday, and hasn't mentioned the story since. They have, however, still somehow found the column-inches to note how the French "excel at leisure" and a suburban city's IT manager is still fired after downloading over 24,000 porn images (the guy was fired nearly 6 months ago).

And they wonder why nobody buys the paper any more.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Bob

Our culture--and I suspect most others--is rich with dog stories, and for good reason. Our species and theirs have been intertwined since long before written language, since before even the spoken word. All dog stories, though, have one thing in common. From Where The Red Fern Grows to Ole Yeller to Marley And Me to Rescuing Sprite, in the end, all dog stories are sad.

This is a dog story.

The night I picked up my now-wife for our first date, she cracked open her front door to tell me she'd be right there, but she had to take her dog out first, and went back inside to get him. Standing on the doorstep, I did the mental arithmetic: "Single girl, apartment. It'll be a poodle."

Then out bounded Bob, who was decidedly not a poodle. He was a black mostly-Lab, stubby legged and long-haired. Bob was a pound dog, saved first by the shelter employees who named him (and if you ever met him, you'd know it fit: he just was a Bob) and couldn't bring themselves to euthanize him. They kept him around for weeks longer than the usual policy because they knew he'd make a great pet.

When Beth found him at the Atlanta Humane Society, she'd gone in looking for "a brown hound," in her words. She'd promised her then-landlord that her new dog would weigh no more than 30 pounds. When she found Bob in his kennel, aquiver with excitement over meeting a new person, she said, "Roll over!", and he did. She chose him on the spot, despite his rarely weighing less than 50 pounds on his lightest day.

Bob never rolled over on command again for the rest of his life. He was not a show dog or a highly-trained canine genius, but he did have a great sense of timing.

All Labrador Retrievers are inherently nuts. Bob was Lab-plus. Bob was definitely a Lab--he loved everybody, instantly, and the biggest danger he held to a burglar was being licked to death. He was a goofball who loved to dash around with his tail wagging at 90 miles an hour, and for most of his life his idea of heaven was being in the same room with more than one person and a heavy chew toy. When he was particularly happy--say, when the dog food bin was opened--he'd run around in tight circles. When we got up to take our dinner plates to the kitchen after a meal, he'd circle around at least half a dozen times.

But Bob was also weird. He was a Lab who wouldn't swim (he'd just lie down in the shallows, or better yet, a puddle), and who hated to get his paws wet after a rainfall. He once chased Alaskan bears across our television screen, then looked expectantly up the stairwell (after all, those bears just walked past the window--they must be coming inside!). When our vet examined Bob for the first time, he pronounced the dog "perfectly normal." I told him I wanted a second opinion.

A couple of years ago, Bob went counter-surfing and ate a half-pound of coffee grounds. Have you ever seen a 14-year-old Lab with 24 hours of coffee jitters? Take my word for it, it's quite a sight.

Bob lived a long, weird, mostly happy life. He was about two when Beth adopted him, and eleven when we got married and he became my step-dog. He was youthful for most of that life; when I took him over to Alabama for a family visit, my aunt (who is to dog people what Jay Leno is to car collectors) asked how old he was, maybe four? Bob was actually twelve at the time.

My oldest nephew, who was only two himself and barely able to talk when he met Bob, took to him immediately, dubbing him "The Bob." At Christmas, Collier would be outside our door at the crack of dawn, calling, "Boooob!" over and over in his little voice. We were on vacation when we called Collier last year to congratulate him on finishing kindergarten. He immediately asked where Bob was. When I cracked the old family joke about Bob being in "puppy jail" (shorthand for boarding at the vet), Collier and his little brother both started crying. It took a while to convince them that Bob wasn't really in jail.

I don't know how I'm going to tell the little guy that he won't be able to play with Bob again.

Bob lived to be well over sixteen, an extraordinarily old age for any dog, and particularly so for a larger breed. He reached fifteen before his age began to show; it was roughly a year ago when he just collapsed while eating his breakfast. X-rays showed that Bob suffered from the bane of so many breeds, hip dysplasia. Put simply, his hind leg bones just didn't fit properly in their sockets, and years of romping had worn down the joints. Every step hurt, and eventually even standing up was a chore.

Canine painkillers brought him close to normal for many months, but by the end of last summer, he was tumbling down again, and by fall we had to carry him up and down the stairs. Bob went deaf, and started to lumber around aimlessly in the middle of the night. His housetraining went south around Christmas. We adapted, and got to be very practiced with the carpet steamer Beth providentially bought several years back.

Bob's personality changed along with his infirmities. While we were dating, I told Beth that I'd never seen a dog as relentlessly happy as Bob, and I meant it, but in the last years of his life, he stopped being happy, and that might have been the cruelest loss of all. Two years ago, I couldn't have imagined Bob biting anybody, least of all Beth or me, but he became snappy, and drew blood from both of us. We had to warn visitors to watch their hands, and couldn't leave him around children any more.

We lost a little bit of Bob every day, until finally all that was left was a very old, tired, beaten-down hound who had to be held up to eat and to do his other business. He could only walk a few steps before collapsing, and couldn't keep his feet at all on a smooth surface. He was rarely comfortable, and panted incessantly, regardless of the temperature. It must have been his way of expressing the constant pain from arthritis. In his last months his paws started dragging over the wrong way when he stumbled around, leading his vet to believe he had either a brain or spinal tumor. We went from fearing that we'd come home and find him dead to quietly hoping for it.

Today we stopped waiting. Bob was too obviously miserable for us to hang on to him any longer, even in the moments when he was able to rest, and his old sweet nature reasserted itself. We took him to the vet for the last time, and we held him, and we cried, and we went home without him.

We'll have other dogs, and if I know my wife, it'll be sooner rather than later, but there'll never be another Bob.

I take one thing back, though. I do know what I'll tell my nephews: Bob's gone to where the good dogs go.