Wednesday, March 30, 2005

30 March 2005

Brain Party!
Gary Farber at Amygdala is such a good writer (and from all evidence, some mensch, too) that I'd gladly subscribe to him, if he had subscribers. Instead, the wonderful Alameida at Unfogged is throwing a fundraiser for him, and you should accept the invitation. There's even party swag! Go-go-go!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Feb-'92 - Having reached the south summit, we surveyed the landscape beneath us..." Posted by Hello


My Kind of Town
Ezra has a post about feeling at home, and not, that is stimulating a nice thread of comments (to which I have contributed). I'll never shake my Portland youth, but I was not happy there - Chicago made me happy, and I fit, so it will always be golden. I yearn to get back to LA and to my extended, chosen, family, but I could be a happy camper, at best, in any new city, no matter how wonderful. Up to your 30's, everything is open to you, and any city will welcome your (ahem) penetration. After that moment, options narrow. See Neal Pollack on incipient geezer-ism.
So, you make your choices of venue - not always wisely, but they are made - and the place may welcome you, if it was a traditional port of entry. Before the Patriot Act, of course; now I'm not so sure.
One commenter at Ezra is living in Paris now. It is, to me, the city of cities, with many friends, and I am comfortable there, but I'd turn into a pet as an expat, and I might as well change my name to Gershom. Deracination can be real.
I post excerpts from The Wind in the Willows from time to time, perhaps, in part, because I know that behind all of Ratty's settled confidence, the tale of the Sailor Rat moves him to consider giving it all up. It's one of the two odd chapters in that book (the other being the Panic attack), that go way over kids' heads and sensibilities. Just shows how even as dedicated a city boy as I am can be shown his provincialism. Works all ways.

"It's Daddy, Pumpkin..." Posted by Hello

29 March 2005

Up from Underland
Via August J. Pollak, news from the creators that Venture Bros. [that's a link to a good fan site] will indeed have a second season - like, 1Q 2006, so catch up with Season 1 in the meantime. Bombard [adult swim] with demands for heavier rotation.
After the antics of this absurd last week, a week that could leave you speechless with trepidation and disgust, my heart is lifted.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

26 March 2005

As SZ reports, now it's bounties. Worse than even I expected last Monday. Self-referential was not exactly what I wanted from that post - it took so little imagination to see it coming - but I wish I had been simply paranoid, and wrong. The principals in this fucking case will - I pray - escape the immediate wrath of the whackos. The wrath, now federally legitimized, is not going to disappear, and it will search for some new target, in some new "G-d-blessed" case - as Dear Leader called this one the other day. The beaters are out in the field, and if they don't get blood today, they'll get it tomorrrow, or the next day, and they will never be satisfied.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Civilised Picnic, with Ominous Assessments... Posted by Hello

25 March 2005

The Lay of the Land
`But isn't it a bit dull at times?' the Mole ventured to ask. `Just you and the river, and no one else to pass a word with?'

`No one else to -- well, I mustn't be hard on you,' said the Rat with forbearance. `You're new to it, and of course you don't know. The bank is so crowded nowadays that many people are moving away altogether: O no, it isn't what it used to be, at all. Otters, kingfishers, dabchicks, moorhens, all of them about all day long and always wanting you to do something -- as if a fellow had no business of his own to attend to!'

`What lies over there?' asked the Mole, waving a paw towards a background of woodland that darkly framed the water-meadows on one side of the river.

`That? O, that's just the Wild Wood,' said the Rat shortly. `We don't go there very much, we river-bankers.'

`Aren't they -- aren't they very nice people in there?' said the Mole, a trifle nervously.

`W-e-ll,' replied the Rat, `let me see. The squirrels are all right. And the rabbits -- some of 'em, but rabbits are a mixed lot. And then there's Badger, of course. He lives right in the heart of it; wouldn't live anywhere else, either, if you paid him to do it. Dear old Badger! Nobody interferes with him. They'd better not,' he added significantly.

`Why, who should interfere with him?' asked the Mole.

`Well, of course -- there -- are others,' explained the Rat in a hesitating sort of way.

`Weasels -- and stoats -- and foxes -- and so on. They're all right in a way -- I'm very good friends with them -- pass the time of day when we meet, and all that -- but they break out sometimes, there's no denying it, and then -- well, you can't really trust them, and that's the fact.'

The Mole knew well that it is quite against animal-etiquette to dwell on possible trouble ahead, or even to allude to it; so he dropped the subject.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Feel the Wrath of The Monarch! Posted by Hello

24 March 2005

The Mandelbrot Map
What I love about The Poor Man's wrap-up today is, especially, that fractal map of events, large and small, that are yet always the same to some eyes; that poor butterfly whose wings flap into a hurricane on the other side of the world must Hate America, and Freedom, and Life, and the Preznit's testimony to his taste in cheesesteak.
Probably a Monarch....

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hubris -> Agon -> Nemesis

Tragic Progress
I have never seen Dahlia Lithwick as incensed as today. Have any of these jerks in Congress ever taken an LSAT? What the fuck do they (or the constituencies to whom they pander) think laws mean?
While I have nothing more than suspicion to support my fears, in this or a similar case there is going to be some whacko emerge who will take it to the next level - go after another judge or advocate or jury or whatever - and it may take that atrocity to persuade the country that these sops to the insane Right have gone too far. What else can brake them? This is incitement, IMO, and we had better be ready to hold responsible those legislators who stood behind it.

21 March 2005

His Shortness - 1924-2005
Without Bobby Short, I doubt I'd know a tenth of the words and tunes of classic American popular songs I do - the period in which they were written, per Alec Wilder, was before my time. I doubt I would have read Alec Wilder, for that matter. And it was almost a fluke that I picked out that Cole Porter collection and acquired the taste for it so quickly - on first hearing, it was kind of a shock. The musicality was obvious; the manner, the intimacy, the gaiety were different. Pleasure, charm and wit are much devalued - they can rekindle your spirits when something more massive or serious (and perhaps more moving) is just too much.

I saw Bobby Short just once, in Chicago, in the cavernous Auditorium, and he made the place feel like a living room - he even killed the mike to test the famous acoustics on Ivor Novello's "And Her Mother Came Too" (one of the songs Jeremy Northam did so beautifully in Gosford Park, playing the composer). Not a word or a gracenote was lost. I'd heard many recordings already, and none of them quite caught the ring in the older voice - it was subtle and lovely and it reached out to you. He really seemed there to have fun, and you were included.

That's what's wrong with Woody Allen's sticking him into movies like Hannah and Her Sisters - there he becomes a test of taste; if you don't respond to him, there's something wrong with you. Utter bullshit. I trotted back from a few years' absence from my family with some Bobby Short in my bags, something I wanted to share with them, and they thought I was nuts - if they didn't connect with the style, that was fine (I had already had my moment). I had also already had a romantic evening in which an early recording of his of The Carioca figured prominantly - there was some bourbon, too, but saloons are made for hooch, even if they are only a bedroom, right? - and that I will always remember. For that night alone, I thank Bobby.

O yeah - there are some things he did that I think are perfect - try "Not a Care in the World" from the Vernon Duke set on the second Town Hall concert with Mabel Mercer. You can taste it! The pleasure the servants in Gosford enjoyed on the stairs for a few moments, smoking and relaxing and being embraced by a song - Mr. Short could do that. Small can indeed be beautiful.

Cabaret in the Sky Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 19, 2005

19 March 2005

For My Sister, Nefertiri.....
Valet Chariot Parking - 85 shekels....
Love ya, Babe!

The Dogs of War
This blog wasn't up when the excerpts from James C. Dobson's The Strong-Willed Child: Birth Through Adolescence were being drawn out last December. (You can get it at amazon now for, like, 9 cents, used and new! The customer reviews are insightful.). Posting about our dachshund, however, reminded me of this post from Digby. And then Eugene Volokh pops up with a defense of the satisfactions of torture and executions for the edification and entertainment of the mob (or the masses or the volk - I get lost there...), from which he seems now to withdraw. It's difficult to say what Volokh is defending, with all the caveats and defenses, but I don't think he's in favor of beating doggies - just, under certain circumstances, men and women and children if we think they are bad. I don't know what new class of bad people these villains constitute, but they must be worse than any Commies or Nazis we have ever seen in nearly a century, or we wouldn't even think about subjecting them to common 16th or 17th century executions - public celebrations of retribution, revenge, and moral catharsis. The feel-good ceremony of the day, exclusively on FOX. And bring the kiddies.

Where the fuck did this notion come from? [I have a good idea, but I'm leaving the field open until the next post.]

Thursday, March 17, 2005

17 March 2005

The Love of Low Dogs
TBogg has a splendid memorial to his first Bassett today, which moved me to post an almost-picture of our dachshund, below. Don't have any real ones of Noodles, but this comes awfully close. This household would be seriously diminished without him - he's friend, therapy dog, and an essential buffer between caregiver and patient. He has an uncanny ability to know who's most stressed on a given day, and distributes his services accordingly. I am amazed at his aplomb - not one of the yippy ones, and a perfect host to guest dogs - but his appetite for company (and being on top of any events) is insatiable.
Nearly all of his tricks are useful ones (he learned how to use carefully placed boxes as stairs to a bed in minutes), but he has his Dog of Mystery side. Used to break into an unused sitting room and battle the throw pillows from time to time - never saw him do it, just picked up the evidence and put them back in place. Not a mark on them, either. He saves fury for his toys, which he caches in 2 or 3 corners around the house. I gave up on squeaky toys that resembled animals of any kind, as he'd bite off the ears (and most of the head) within 24 hours and goodbye squeak. An unguarded paper towel is in danger, too.
I'm going to miss him when I move on, and I'll post a real portrait as soon as that's possible. He's worthy of the honor.

Noodley's Stand-In Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

16 March 2005

Alameida at Unfogged describes an Oyster Roast, and so returns us to civilization and its simple pleasures. Ratty and Mole would not a problem with this, and if you have any taste-memory at all, it is bliss to read.
There's a lot going on out there today. Counting to 10 here....

Meanwhile, back at the Ritz....
Sarah Lyall reports in Slate on the British Press Awards; my favourite line, "The mood became increasingly feral." - and that's only halfway through.....

The Riverbank
He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver--glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

As he sat on the grass and looked across the river, a dark hole in the bank opposite, just above the water's edge, caught his eye, and dreamily he fell to considering what a nice snug dwelling-place it would make for an animal with few wants and fond of a bijo riverside residence, above flood level and remote from noise and dust. As he gazed, something bright and small seemed to twinkle down in the heart of it, vanished, then twinkled once more like a tiny star. But it could hardly be a star in such an unlikely situation; and it was too glittering and small for a glow-worm. Then, as he looked, it winked at him, and so declared itself to be an eye; and a small face began gradually to grow up round it, like a frame round a picture.

A brown little face, with whiskers.

A grave round face, with the same twinkle in its eye that had first attracted his notice.

Small neat ears and thick silky hair.

It was the Water Rat!

Then the two animals stood and regarded each other cautiously.`

Hullo, Mole!' said the Water Rat.

`Hullo, Rat!' said the Mole.

`Would you like to come over?' enquired the Rat presently.

`Oh, its all very well to TALK,' said the Mole, rather pettishly, he being new to a river and riverside life and its ways.

The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole's whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet fully understand its uses.

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. `Lean on that!' he said. `Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

`This has been a wonderful day!' said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. `Do you know, I`ve never been in a boat before in all my life.

'`What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed: `Never been in a--you never--well I--what have you been doing, then?'

`Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

`Nice? It's the ONLY thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: `messing--about--in--boats; messing----'

Boats - the Glory.... Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 13, 2005

13 March 2005

The Critic's Art
I continue to fail to understand why the work of talented critics seems to taste like medicine to readers (and too many editors) when it can be as tonic as David Thomson's review of a new bio of Christopher Isherwood in the 3/21 TNR (and, damn, it's subscription only on-line!). It's a positive take on the book, but it's so sustained by what Thomson himself brings to the feast - his own knowledge of Isherwood's work and life, his own insights into movies and the photographic record and how we read them, and a good deal more - that even if you have no prior investment in the subject, it looks so luscious, smells so good, you want to run out and buy it and have a taste yourself.
A piece like this isn't flackery, and it isn't snark; it throws off flares of its own, and - to my mind - it's generous to the reader, throwing lifelines to a host of related subjects. The synthesis is, itself, exciting. Googling can't reproduce that kind of critical sensibility. I am still pissed at Salon for dumping Charles Taylor, because he has similar reach (and you can reality check me here by going to his stuff in their archives). Writers like Thomson and Taylor bring back the savor, and make you realize that every flavor isn't articifial.

Sometimes you need a shot of the hard stuff (it's been one of those weekends around here), and with a nudge from Norbizness, and a link from The Agitator, I got to hear Cartman deliver The Joke ("Just wait, Kyle.") - [7/30 - that link does not work anymore - f&%k!]. The notion of variations on this one in a 90-minute doc is pretty overwhelming - I hope they stock stretchers at the theaters to carry out the wounded.
[And I don't know where it went, but Wolcott [Correction: it was Frank Rich - my bad! Apologies to VF for suspicions...} had a recent post on this subject that seems to have disappeared - sticky fingers at VF?]

Friday, March 11, 2005

11 March 2005

"What is this? Tang?"
PZ has a cool post on secretions - the kind of thing you might encounter in a handful of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans - but he doesn't talk about taste.
I confess to collecting quotes from Venture Bros., for just this sort of occasion - watch for them. There may be prizes!

Is There an Echo in Here?
Seems to be catching up with Kevin Drum, too....he's feeling as I did last Tuesday.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Blood - from this.... Posted by Hello

9 March 2005

The Vig
The Bankruptcy Bill - Digby (the heading is his) here, and Majikthise has wonderful pictures (Doré certainly suits the age). I take this one personally, not because I've filed for bankruptcy, but because I've escaped doing so, narrowly. I was sick a few years ago, could be treated as an outpatient, but I lost work and there were certainly late fees and penalties on what debt I had. I've managed to pay down a couple of those accounts since, even with the sub-market money I make on this gig - what remains still accounts for more than 30% of my income. With this bill, I have zero hope that I'll gain any advantage in interest rates on any debt I retire, and the prospects of any gap whatsoever in employment, or the consequences of another illness or accident, are dire.
And watch out for checking on your credit reports, kids - every inquiry takes points off your score, your own as well as any associated with applications for new credit. I'm in no shape to assume any more credit lines than I already have, and I tear up new card offers fucking daily, some with interest rates that even an idiot would find insane.
See illustration, above.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

8 March 2005

Hollywood Aunts [Dept. of Amplification]
In last Saturday's post on St. Louis (and, by extension, my Missouri relatives), I seem to have demoted by great-great aunt, and my Dad corrects me:

"A quiet correction: You now list, in your
Blog, your great great aunt (Stella Watts) as a [s]eamstress in Hollywood
in the twenties, early thirties. She was MUCH more important than
{t}hat. In that period, Stella Watts was a [f]itter and designer for the
"Holly" Stars. She, also, was a very successful designer for private
couturier contracts. She did {it} for years among the people
who could afford the practice. Yes, she knew Crawford, Lombard, Loy,
Harlow, etc.[,] but her work credits were deeper than

Seamstress? Not quite!"

And a welcome correction it is; I wonder if I'd ever found out if I wasn't publishing this stuff?

Aunt Stell was, however, legendary in the family for her strength of character, adventure, and good sense - I heard about those often. I can recall meeting her only once, when I was very small, on a trip to LA. Her house I remember as shadowed and green, but she was luminous, in the manner of very old ladies whose vitality of spirit shines even brighter as their bodies wither. More than the white hair, you know. For that impression alone, I am grateful.

I could see the debris flow of issues gathering over the weekend, and stood as if mesmerized by the oncoming disasters - Bankruptcy Bill, Bolton to the UN, &c. By now, some have already hit, so more on them later this evening. God, this is going to be a long year!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

5 March 2005

In Like an Idiot
Update: couldn't even keep the month straight on this post in the original - it's now corrected.

Coupla Slices
Digby reminds us that Orcinus needs some yummy herring - now how hard is that? Quarter of a pizza, at most....and you get award-winning essays!

Compass Rose
Michael Bérubé has a marvellous post on a recent visit to St. Louis. It's been years since I was there for a Thanksgiving weekend (down from Chicago), but it sounds like the same combination of wonder and dismay, and his commenters appear to back that up.
My crew was visiting a friend who had just started teaching at Wash U, but we were given a thorough tour, certainly enough to recognize that here was the meeting of North and South, East and West. You could see it in the architecture, smell and taste it in the public market, despair where the center had not held. I thought that Chicago might have retained something of that earlier character if it hadn't burned (my own neighborhoods - Hyde Park and Woodlawn, were suburbs in 1892, more than 20 years later, so they don't count). But MB notes that St. Louis was already more established, and richer, when the Water Tower was young and licked by flames. Has there been a comparative history of the two cities' development? I'd sure like to see one.
A branch of my own family comes from within the orbit of St. Louis - it just didn't hold them. My great-great aunt ran off to Chicago, and then to Hollywood, where she was a seamstress at MGM (to Crawford, among others, I am told). My grandmother shipped out to Idaho. What happened after that World's Fair? The chateaux, the castles, the Tudor manses are still there, facing the old Fairgrounds park - amazing follies, and tributes to aspiration and wealth, but the engine that made them left, too.
These places nourish us as a nation - MB shows us some stars - shouldn't we pay more attention to our losses, and regret them more?

Friday, March 04, 2005

4 March 2005

Got maximum time out today (without which I might have gone nuts), but coming back to home and work is still stressful. Home and work are identical here. The disarray that accumulates in only 10 hours can be astonishing A family that takes servants for granted is a family of slobs on their own watch.
Good I showed up in Town, though - if I'd missed another week, friends were going to send out e-mail alarms I'm looking forward to getting a cell in the next few months - going to need it - but it will make that kind of fretting unnecessary, too.

Have to catch up on some excellent posts I saw today, so check back in the morning.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Les Girls

Pandagon Breeds!
And we thought they were an endangered species! Jesse is going to be hard-pressed (sorry, dude...) to match the brilliance of the guest crew. Goddesses of wit and science!

3 March 2005

The Paramount
My sympathies - obvious from the post below - apart, I was thrilled to see on the C-SPAN feed scans of the great hall that used to be the Paramount, the favorite movie palace of my youth. It was the biggest theater in town (I think - the Orpheum must have been close; it had a gargantuan balcony). The Paramount combined a mirror-and-marble foyer, at least 3 floors of dim, overstuffed lounges, grand and obscure paintings in huge gilded frames, and the adult stink of smoke and perfume in every fiber of horsehair and velvet. The hall itself was deep and dark and huge, all indirect lighting and an illusion ceiling, encrusted and lumenescent. Gigantic pendant lamps hung from it, to the side, unlit monsters (what if they dropped on you?). It was fucking great.

I'm glad it hasn't been torn down, like the Orpheum, or the Fox, but all that luxe has been dumped and the mystery replaced by a coat of nougat - hard, beige, unforgiving. I would likely have grown up to find it worn and dowdy and in need of fumigation, but I miss it.

Find Me a Primitive Man
Reviewing the Dean/Perle debate in Portland two weeks ago, so far still available on C-SPAN stream, I find the blow-by-blow (and even that comical interruption from the saboteur in the audience, which pretty much everyone seemed to have found amusing) less interesting than the rhetorical strategies of the principals. Perle is as unctuous and repellent as always (he recalls Mailer's description of Nixon as "oil on a scallion"), and it matters not at all that he admits that the facts on the ground in Iraq aren't what he had hoped for or predicted - there is always another threat, here tailored to his Pacific Northwest audience, of North Korean nukes pointed at their heads. Terrorists, still, must always have state support, and therefore states in which there are terrorists are supported by those states and those states are our enemies and need to be taken out, taught a lesson, kicked in the teeth, none of which actions Democrats, since my days with Scoop Jackson, may he RIP, have had the balls to back. All very smooth and compelling, until you recognize that it's built on pure assertion, and mendacity
Dean, in his introductory statement, lacks that practiced smoothness, but he punches back. Dems have not neglected defense in any ideological way, and Bush policy, on manifold levels, has weakened US influence - militarily, economically, politically, morally - but we are where we are. It is
"[f}oolish for those of us who opposed the war to somehow spitefully hope that things go wrong" in Iraq, in response to the recent elections. There are wobbles and corrections, but Dean hammers his best points, and he shines in the subsequent Q&A. Dean is not an orator, he's a battler, and he does best when he has an opponent - the combat keeps his responses crisp, and against an oily bastard like Perle he can punch through the practiced song.

Perle just cannot give up his fear-mongering in these settings - not only is that missle pointed at your head, but your Democratic (thanks god he doesn't use "Democrat") Party reps have helped to target it. While he will admit miscalculations in the Iraq War, he still expects Bush to be honored in some future Iraq, in which everyone will have come to their senses. Would the world desired to be members of the Rational Club on whose board Richard Perle sits.

Therefore, I say:

Find me a primitive man,
Built on a primitive plan.
Someone with vigor and vim.
I don't mean a kind that belongs to a club,
But the kind that has a club that belongs to him.

And that's The Doctor....

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Meatwad - Pure Protean Posted by Hello