Why Colonel Sartoris?

Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Too Much Football to Handle

Pretty unbelievable games yesterday.  First, Oklahoma didn't exactly whip the buckskins off the Mountaineers like I thought they would.  Second, OREGON LOST?!  AND BAYLOR BEAT FREAKING KANSAS STATE?????  Two years ago, Baylor couldn't beat their own practice squad, but now here they are knocking off the no. 1 team in the country.  So many questions: I haven't broken down the OU tape yet, the new BCS standings haven't come out yet, and there are so many questions to be answered about where these teams are headed, viz., whether Baylor will now play the role of spoiler similar to what Tech had done in the last decade in the Big XII.

Wow.  What a Saturday.

I would like to sign off by reiterating my contention that friends don't schedule friends for parties during big games, but not everyone popped out of the womb blessed with Solomonic wisdom.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bird in Hand: Pappy Van Winkle 15-year

And of all these things, the Albino whale was the symbol.  Would ye then wonder at the fiery hunt?

Pappy van Winkle whiskey is the white whale for nigh all whiskey connoisseurs.  Like any other commodity, supply and demand determine availability (and price).  And in a vicious cycle, like any luxury good, demand is exacerbated by the scarce supply.  Van Winkle releases between 6 and 7 thousand cases of whiskey every year.  That sounds like a great many, until you compare it to, say, Maker's 46--Maker's Mark's new product line--which releases 25,000 cases per year.  Note that that is four times as many cases per year.  Moreover, for whatever reason, this does not have the cult following that Van Winkle does.  So between the extreme cult following that it has obtained and the absurdly low production numbers (much appreciated for its quality control), it's a mighty tough bird to flush up.

And I have obtained a bottle.  It has yet to be opened.  

But I am excited about it, for I have sampled this whiskey before.  I have never tasted any so smooth yet full of character.  It's remarkably balanced.  Allegedly, its mashbill is very similar to Maker's Mark, deriving its sweetness from its high wheat content, and its heft and mellowness from its unhurried, slow stroll through 15 seasons of Kentucky's snow and sun.  Once you taste it, its devotees suddenly appear sane and rational.  "Of course their unrelenting fervor," you reason to yourself, "makes perfect sense."

And Thursday, I drove in the gray while after whiskey's white whale and brought it in.  Look for an update once the bottle is opened.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I love anachronisms.  I intentionally try to use them whenever possible.  And of all the anachronisms I use, I like none better than geographical anachronisms.  And while many, many exist, for whatever reason, I have not found a satisfactory list on the Internet.  So I will write my own.  Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.  (This will be updated)

Turkey = Anatolia
Mumbai, India = Bombay
Myanmar = Burma
Thailand = Siam
Israel = Palestine
Sudan = THE Sudan
Istanbul = Constantinople (or Byzantium!)
Beijing = Peking
Vietnam = Indochina
Hawai'i = Sandwich Islands
Southeastern Mediterranean = The Levant
Chennai, India = Madras
Zimbabwe = Rhodesia
Ethiopia = Abyssinia
Benin (apparently in Africa) = Dahomey
Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran (Tigris-Euphrates watershed) = Mesopotamia

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue

I am not a music critic.  But I am a musician and a music lover, and when you love something, you want to talk about it.  And because I just listened to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, and loved it, I want to talk about it.

I don't know much about jazz, but I know that it's complex.  It usually doesn't follow the normal rythmic or melodic rules that pop, folk, and classical (actually, pretty much all music, I guess) do.  And there's probably no deeper exploration of a musician and an instrument's capabilities than jazz.  Jazz, in fact, prides itself on its complexity and demand for artistic proficiency.  But jazz's complexity frequently makes it somewhat less accessible and understandable, at least for me, and I find that jazz's most celebrated aspect may be its biggest hurdle to its own popularity.  So when I listen to a jazz album, I frequently come away saying that I appreciated it, but  didn't really enjoy it.

Kind of Blue, however, is completely different for me.  While it does not necessarily trace a clearer melody than many other jazz albums from the 1950s, I am overcome by the beauty of Miles Davis' trumpet, Coltrane's sax, and Bill Evans' piano.  I mean, those are basically the greats of 50s/60s jazz right there, and their synergy is really something special.  Listening to the album, you feel energized and lulled, alone and surrounded, warm and cool, and a thousand other opposite emotions all at once.  It's pretty crazy, but the music itself carries all of those emotions at once.  Art is supposed to be moving, to be emotionally charged, and Davis' composition is brimming with a huge range of emotion, many of which are felt simultaneously.  And beyond the initial reaction to the music's aesthetic, I want to listen to it over and over.  I want to examine it, to analyze it, to break it down and examine its architecture.  It is that good.

Now, here's where my admitted non-critic status comes in: I do not know enough knowledge about jazz and the theory behind it to dissect the music being played, and so I can't justify its greatness academically at any great length; I can only react to it based largely on my own tastes.  But here's what I do know: the album was innovative for its use of modes, rather than chord progression, as the basis of his composition.  The use of modes, rather than an increasingly complex riffs on a fixed chord progression, allowed Davis to improvise in ways that he heretofore had not done.  In short, in this album and his 1958 Milestones, he threw out the old blueprint of his jazz and began anew.  As Davis explained to his band prior to recording this, "There will be fewer chords, but infinitely more possibilities."  Kind of Blue explores them in an enlivening, soothing, beautiful way.  Get it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Throw Barack Down the Well

Working on getting my recording up; it's very, very tough.

In my country there is problem
And that problem's GDP
It grows very very slow,
And will get worse with QE3

In my country there is problem
And that problem is Barack
He promised hope and change
But that hasn't done a lot.

CHORUS:  Throw Barack down the well
                    who promised us some hope
                    But a slogan's not a plan
                    And he doesn't have my vote.

In my country's an election
And Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney
Actually have a plan to cut spending
and boost the economy.


Brand, Spanking New

Man, I am so excited to get these broken in, but they still look awesome in their pristine condition.  I always think that brand new dress shoes--with their unblemished, sheer, polished soles, and immaculately flush, square and true heels, and polished, uncreased, smooth leather (which in this case is dark brown, not black)--are so cool right out of the box.  That smell, the pride in getting something you have wanted for a while (and of course being able to justify it), and the knowledge that they're dead perfect for me always is crowned by getting a good, thorough look at the shoes in their fresh, tabula rasa state.  I just thought it'd be cool to post some pics and document it.  Just out of sheer fun.  I love the soles of the shoe: hand-sewn moccasin construction, paper-white stitching, the Alden crest stamped true and crisp as it was at the factory, and the lightest, most uniform tan you could ask for, unblemished by the years of sidewalks and rain to come.  And I think I love them because the crisp, still-varnished sole speaks loudly to the years of enjoyment I will have in breaking them in, making them mine, and just liking to wear them.

Alden is the greatest shoemaker on the planet, in my mind, but in all minds the greatest shoemaker in America.  No one can do classics like they can, and nothing is more classic or versatile than the bit loafer. (*Actually, Alden's leisure hand-sewn moccasin, model 986 (otherwise known as "penny loafers") is maybe more classic.  In my opinion, though, the bit loafer, particularly a dark one like this, beats it in versatility.  [PS--blogger.com should allow footnotes; this parenthetical looks rather awkward, admittedly . . . ])  I'm glad I got them, and I look forward to wearing them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Scheduling Mishap

I foolishly scheduled a date for tomorrow.  Why is that a bad?  Because tomorrow is the Cowboys' regular season opener.  Against the hated New York Football Giants.

I actually thought about re-scheduling.  But I did not.  That's called maturity.  And suaveness.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Passive-Aggressive Conversations I Wish I Had: The Tow-Truck Dispatcher/AAA

[Setting: my office-building.  Outside, 8:30pm.  Of course, a storm--a torrential storm--has started to envelop us.  I am looking at a huge flatbed truck pulled up out front, and the driver is apologizing for being dispatched out here to a parking garage with a maximum clearance of 6 feet, 6 inches.  (NOTE: In real life, the guy couldn't have been nicer, and it wasn't his fault.)  I walk back inside the building, take the elevator back upstairs to my office, and call Triple A back.]

Mabes:  Yes, hi.  I just spoke with someone there recently about dispatching a technician and perhaps a tow truck my way . . .

AAA phone jockey:  Sir, are you in a safe place?

Mabes:  Yes, yes.  I'm fine.  Anyway, we just spoke . . .

AAA:     Sir, can I please have your member number?

Mabes:   Uh, yes.  It's ________________.

AAA:      Okay, thank you, sir.  And I see you just called us and a tow truck is on its way to you.

Mabes:    That's right.  It . . .

AAA:      Has the two truck not arrived?

Mabes:    I appreciate your thoroughness.  No, it's here.  I think that I might have mentioned it this last time, but I think I was fairly specific that I was at my office building, and that I was underground in a parking garage.

AAA:    Hold on, please; let me pull up your notes . . .

Mabes:   Well, it's okay now, but I said that because the ceilings are very low, and . . .

AAA:     Oh, yes!  We did put that down.

Mabes:    Well, I'm sure I should have been clearer, maybe, but I believe I mentioned a flat-bed and how that may not work?

AAA:     Well, we did not put that down, but we sure did note that you were in a low, underground parking deck.

Mabes:   Oh.  Okay.  Well, there's a very large flat-bed tow-truck outside right then.  And I mentioned specifically an electrical problem, right?

AAA:     Yes, it appears that you did!

Mabes:   Okay, well, because . . . you sent a flat-bed tow truck, but I don't think you sent a technician.  I mean, I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that you were sending one.

AAA:    Uh, let me check . . .

Mabes:   Oh, you don't worry about it.  The two-truck driver has already called his dispatcher and is requesting just a pickup truck with jumper cables, so that's okay.  I just wanted to double-check that I did in fact specify that the ceiling was very low, that a flat-bed might not work, and that I was possibly having electrical system problems?

AAA:  Yes, sir, actually . . .

Mabes:   Okay, thanks.  I just wanted to double-check!  I will call you if I need any further help.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Big Oil: Meet Bain Capital

Big Oil, meet Bain Capital.  Just when you thought you had the won the war on the middle class and the environment, this upstart private equity firm unseats you from your self-proclaimed pedastal of Machiavellian backroom fatcat machinations.

Big Oil, is this amateur hour?!  Bain Capital is serious about wrecking the middle class and forcing people out of work.  You guys, though--what with your high-paying blue-collar jobs and quest for energy independence--are frankly giving a tad too much more than you take these days.

And the public has noticed.  Come on . . . if you're serious about being the arch-villain of the socio-political landscape, you need to step it up a little.  Ties between the White House, Halliburton, and the House of Saud?!  Puh-LEASE.   That is SO 2002. 

This is a full decade later, Big Oil.  We've advanced.  We're a post-Great-Recession society, and we've read Michael Lewis.  And, frankly, fracking is just too understandable and passe to really arouse any public interest.  We've got Main Street vs. Wall Street on our minds, not Main Street vs. Permian Basin divide.

But I've got some steps you can take:

1) Find some old tax returns from 2000-2008 that list Dick Cheney as some sort of director or manager.
2) Announce that you'll maybe close or consolidate a refinery, preferably one in a small town.  Better yet--sell it to China. (Even Bain didn't think of that!)
3) Maybe have find some way to drill a dry well, but still turn a profit.  I'm sure it can be done.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Recommendation: Moonrise Kingdom

A pre-teen love story?  Coming-of-age story?  A comedy?  An indie film? With a blockbuster cast?  And the title?!  What?

Coming into the movie, having read its synopsis, seen its previews, and being even casually aware of Wes Anderson and his cinematic predilections, the movie would seemingly raise too many questions to justify purchasing a ticket, much less making it a safe bet (at least when you're a very, very cheap man).  Maybe these considerations weren't present for most, but they sure were for me.  I love Wes Anderson, and the movie got a lot of buzz, but it was so . . . odd.

And the movie remained odd throughout.  In a delightful, captivating, offbeat, quirky way; sort of a "Pied Beauty" of cinema, at least in the sense of its idiosyncracies of its dialogue, characters, and plot.  It was not "pied" in editing or screenplay: the movie flowed seamlessly from start to finish.  Wes Anderson is the best out there at integrating character-narrated letters, flashbacks of live action, and cutaways or voice-overs of narrators (a la Alec Baldwin in The Royal Tenenbaums) altogether to produce a visually and emotionally enthralling diorama of color, humor, sympathy, and nostalgia.

The emotional range of the movie is stunning.  Anderson's ability to evoke sympathy or scorn for a character is unmatched, and he paints with his audience's full palette of feelings.  And he does not limit his expansive palette to feelings: the movie is also a visual feast of color, landscape, and costume.  Bill Murray's madras is perfect, as are Bruce Willis's skinny, short ties and Frances McDormand's sundresses.  Even the patina on Edward Norton's pocketknife is perfect.  All of the characters comfortably inhabit their own space and play their parts in a groundedly realistic fashion--even in the midst of the film's fantastic plot.

The Maine (best guess) coast.  Indian Summer, both in the natural calendar, and in the characters' childhood.  It's an extremely touching story told with a lighthearted, genuine realism.

Bottom line: if you don't like it, you either had no childhood or have never been outdoors.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Opening: Ceremony, Silliness, and Superciliousness

I must confess that I have no idea what to make of the Opening.  My gut reaction was that I did not like the last half, and I'm still trying to digest why I didn't like it, what about it I did not like, and how the multitudinous patchwork of Britannica was selected and deployed.  And, frankly, I am at a loss but will try to make sense of it all.

First, all of those questions are really re-phrasings of the same theme.  My anglophilia makes this all the greater perplexing; I should have loved the British-ness of the ceremony.  And, I think, I have arrived at my answer: it as not what I would call "British."  Hence I loved the first half, culminating with the Queen's arrival, and disliked the last half.

I liked the sense of progress, place, and pride that obviously framed the first half of the British narrative.  They did two things: captured the idyllic countryside of an Edwardian Downton Abbey and Georgian England and also her dynamic surge into an industrial giant, whose newfound capacity for industry coupled with its ingrained sense or order and devotion to duty allowed a small island nation to rule much of the world for a century.  I liked that England.  Notably absent, of course, was any hint at its colonial rule (which allowed Canada, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Hong Kong, etc. to become the stable democracies they are today) or its coolheaded courage/"stiff upper lip" (Dunkirk, the Blitz, the Spanish Armada, Omdurman, etc.).

It focused on hard exports that the country produced (iron, coal) and the "soft" ones, notably children's literature (J.K. Rowling, J.M. Barrie) and music.  I have no quibble with that.  But the National Hospital Services bit (nightmares, etc.) totally threw me.  And Boyle's second half, what with its social media and love-story plot was completely lost on me.  I have no idea how that story is quintessentially "English."  It's perhaps human, but it does not really celebrate British identity, nor did it give a unique twist (British or otherwise) on a common trope.

Tragically, the ceremony did not celebrate England's greatest virtue: tradition.  It hinted at tradition (the Chelsea veterans), but it was largely uncelebrated.  In my mind, that is what England has above all other countries.  England's tradition (a la Tevye's ode in Fiddler on the Roof) is what binds its people together and engenders its triumphs.  It is embodied in the monarchy and its trappings, indeed, the entire social order, but it is useful because of two reasons: (1) it allows people to have both a personal and national identity; and (2) it allows people to understand their roles in society.  It is a stabilizing, cohesive force that has goaded England far beyond the capacity it might otherwise have had.

Yet while I regret that the Ceremony did not sufficiently extol and reflect the glorious tradition that the country operates on, the Ceremony showcased a quintessentially English trait: understatement.  Understatement?  With fireworks, and a parachuting James Bond and a 100-foot-tall Voldemort?  Indeed.  While the spectacle registered on a grand scale, England did not take it upon itself to portray whatever grave virtues she thinks it possesses.  England doesn't beat you over the head--at least intentionally--with its notion of how things are done.  It is understated about it.  Even the Queen's address did not rely on fanfare or bravado.  She simply stated that the games were now opened.  Instead, England focused on the little things that enliven the and lift the human spirit.  And while I think the focus on social media, love story, children's nightmares all got out of hand and reflected maybe trying too hard not to be stodgy, it was somewhat refreshing to see such a tradition-bound people so creatively share the pride they have in their small island.

Even if I liked it only about 50%.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reminder: You DID Sign Up for This . . .

"And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business"

This is one of those times when I think back to Hyman Roth's line in Godfather II.  Because right now, I need to say to myself "This is the business profession I have chosen."

So this morning, I woke up after working until midnight, went to Chick-Fil-A for a coffee, and went up to the SMU Law Library.  Which was closed.  So I sat in my car, drank some coffee, and promptly walked through the doors at 8:30am, when it opened.  Then, I spend the next couple of hours reading Anderson on the Uniform Commercial Code.  It was 10:45 when I came up for air.  I figured I'd walk across the street back to Chick-Fil-A, get a refill (that's fine, right?  It's only when you re-use the styrofoam cup the next day that you get in trouble, I think . . .).  So I did that, and then--because I was in 2-hour parking--I moved my car up into the next parking spot to avoid getting a ticket.  "Pretty clever," I thought to myself.  More on this later.

So I keep reading Anderson, and when I come up for air again, it's 1:35pm.  Egad.  Still no breakfast/lunch.  But I figure I'm close, so what the heck.  I finish my research in Anderson: altogether, I made it through about three volumes in their near-entirety, and two in sections.  And then I figure I might as well examine Hawkland's UCC, which is right there.  As I'm researching, I'm marking down every page with relevant information that I'll want to copy later.  And then I cart those seven volumes downstairs to the copier, where I spend about an hour and fifteen minutes copying.  That was fun.

Remember that parking ticket that I artfully avoided?  Well, the meter-maid had apparently come back with a vengeance, and nabbed me somewhere between 10:50am and 4:30 pm, when I emerged from the library.

My stomach is on a rampage, so--research complete (for now)--I head across to Goff's to get a bite.  I outline on my legal pad as I eat.  I go to get my car inspected (because I had a ticket for expired inspection) and, as I wait, continue to outline on my legal pad.

I make it back to the office at 5:45, and here I am.  Writing my memorandum on why we might or might not be able to sue.

Cue Hyman Roth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mayberry, RIP

Andy Griffith died today.  I heard the news in the elevator returning from lunch.  I thought my co-worker was putting me on when he said "Andy Griffith died."  I was sort of stunned; I didn't believe him.  But he was right.

In my mind, this is the analogy.  Ravens at the Tower of London : England :: Andy Griffith : America.

NO one--and no show--typified America like The Andy Griffith Show did.  I challenge any reader to find a single television show that more coherently or comprehensively represents American thought, culture, philosophy, or sensibility than AGS.  Every "food group" of person we meet is encountered in the show: not only are they portrayed to a tee--they exhibit exactly those qualities (both tragic and comedic) that we expect--but they also are encountered almost as often as we'd encounter them in real life.  Otis the town drunk, Floyd the barber, Gomer Pyle the gas station attendant, Goober Pyle . . . it's too good.  They all play those traits exactly that we find everyday.

And that is why the show was America.  It wasn't a kid's show, it wasn't a comedy, it wasn't a drama, it wasn't a satire.  It was life.  Varnished somewhat, but life.  In America.

I--as a child born when it was being re-run in 1982--love it because of its humor, realism, and its downright Americana.  And, of course, I love its morals.  It doesn't beat its viewer over the head with preaching.  It espouses common sense.  You watch it, and you think that Andy spouts wisdom.  Who wouldn't believe that?  "OF COURSE, that's the right outcome!  I'm glad it turned out that way," you say when the plot resolves itself.  And you should.  Because no better show was better at capturing human nature than AGS.

And I thank you, Andy Griffith, for portraying that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wait--is this Univision?

I just heard a commercial for the Ford Escape entirely in Spanish (with English subtitles) as I was watching WFAA Channel 8 here in Dallas.  Wait.  Did I . . . how did . . . well, I'm sure it was just a programming error.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hey, East Coast Media--this is NOT Miami's to lose

First comments after the game: "The Heat really put themselves in position to win after the first half . . . ."

First shots after the game: a camera following Lebron into the locker room.  For quite a while.  Before interviewing Durant, or commenting on Westbrook's stout performance.  No, no.  The media (specifically, ESPN) has set its wheels in the suppositional rut that this championship belongs to Miami, and no performance can force the talking heads to take another course.

It was a seven-point lead at half, and there's no doubt that Miami could have won that game.  But there is another half of basketball left to play, and it was definitely not Miami's game at that point.

The more compelling storyline--were I a writer/anchor and then could/should take sidess--is the small-market vs. large-market team, youth vs. experience, David vs. Goliath angle.  But I guess that the superstardom has blinded the media elites from seeing other stories, from seeing it a different way, from looking at this with objectivity.

So go Thunder.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Passive Aggressive Conversations I Wish I Had: The Weight Room

This begins a new series called "Passive Aggressive Conversations I Wish I Had."  I'd like to note, at the outset, that staying at the office until 10:30 and catching the Rangers score of TEN TO NOTHING on the home influenced this decision in all likelihood.  But I really do think this has staying power, so we'll see where it goes.

[Setting: the Park Cities YMCA.  It's a semi-busy Saturday morning.  A few randars are in the house, but the usual suspects are present: 60% middle aged, half men, half women, the rest a smattering of middle school to high school guys and girls, and a few yuppie types.  The cardio machines are being used, as are the dadgum weights.

Entrat Mabes, walking toward the bench press.  A middle aged man wearing an odd, flesh-constricting Lulu-Lemon "shirt" that be worn in no other physical activity except weight lifting is just standing by the bench press in front of it, leaning on one of the rails.  The bench is adjusted for an incline press, although the actual incline press station has stood unused for the full half-hour that I've been on the treadmill.]

Mabes:  Excuse me . . . do you mind if I work in here?

Moron:  . . . . [He stands in silence, intently watching NCAA Women's Softball on Fox Sports Southwest.]

Mabes:  Pardon me, sir, but, uh, do you mind if I get a set in real quick?

Moron:  Uh . . .

Mabes:  . . . I'll just be real quick . . .

Moron:  Yeah, I'm done; I was just kind of watching TV as I cool down, though . . .

Mabes:  Oh, I--uh . . . I'm sorry.  I wasn't sure that you were done because the weights were still on it, and you were sitting here, but I just couldn't tell if . . .

Moron:  Oh no, all through.

Mabes:  [taking off the clamps and plates so that he can put what he needs on there]  So I can go ahead and take the weights off and put the bench back down now that you're through?

Moron: Sure. [Moron stretches, lazily gets up; he moves over three feet, and slowly, clearly judging the interloper as he puts on the iron, get set, gets the bar up, and gets on with his set.]

Exeunt omnes.

Friday, May 18, 2012


My friend organized a lecture by author/commentator Eric Metaxas at All Saint's Church in Dallas.  First, I had not really heard about Metaxas apart from his Bonhoffer biography.  I was totally unaware until about two days prior to the lecture of his immense groundswell of popularity that had gained momentum in the last year or two.  His speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, his involvement in a very well-received film (and his authoring the book inspiring it!), more or less creating the Veggie Tales series: all of these things speak to an incredibly adept, multifarious intellect.  The man can think.

And I enjoyed his speech immensely.  He spoke on a topic that is unfortunately applies all to well to my life: rote religion in contrast to an animating, genuine faith.  It's a great topic, and one that everyone needs to hear.  While I admit that this message would convict me, I would also hazard that it should convict many others in the Church.  Metaxas did a good job delivering this truth.

In spite of my enjoying his speech, I don't know how much I buy into his schtick.  More on this later.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Midnight Bluebooking

So, uh . . . yeah . . . I was under the impression this ended after law school . . .


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas Presents: Day 3

3 days the Newbies have been out of the box, and--oh, a stain.  Somehow some chili got on there.  Weird.