Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'm a Naismith Sayer

December 1 is the 115 anniversary of the invention of the game of basketball. The date would have been a week earlier, but some of the original game's players held out for better sneaker contracts. As many people know, James Naismith is the Father of Basketball, but being both a Canadian and born long ago before things like the National Enquirer, he never revealed who the Mother of Basketball was (and your brain twister for the day is, if giving birth to a human is like passing a basketball through a straw, what's giving birth to a basketball like?). Naismith created the game so his students could do something indoors for gym; until inventing basketball he had them do 10 push-ups and then hit the showers, which left far too much time for wet-towel-snapping, although the Springfield, MA soprano boys choir won many an award. Naismith adapted a game called duck-on-a-rock, which involved real rocks and no ducks, and very few children willing to play defense, the wimps. He originally used peach baskets as goals, and if the current players think the new ball is slippery they should try using one coated in mashed peach. Another little known fact is originally dribbling wasn't allowed, since that term was already trademarked by Friendly's Ice Cream, another Springfield, MA creation. Oh, that's the Fribble. I guess I'll have to pass on that joke until something better shakes out.

Playing 50 Questions

Shakespeare's Sister memed, and it was good. So I had to mess it up some:

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
Still me, huh.

2. How much cash do you have on you?
$33 and change.

3. What’s a word that rhymes with “DOOR?”

4. Favorite planet?
Well, I've only been on one, so it's hard to judge.

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
Geez, they are all calls I made. I have no friends (sob).

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
As with planets, I only have one (the ring tone's not Holst).

7. What shirt are you wearing?
Should I take it off now?
Seriously, a North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout t-shirt under a cashmere sweater--it's soft...

8. Do you “label” yourself?
Yes, as someone who doesn't label people.

9. Name the brand of the shoes you’re currently wearing?

10. Bright or Dark Room?
I only use a digital camera now, so I'd have to say bright.

11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
Shakes Sis is the mighty queen of the internets!

12. What does your watch look like?
Like it's almost time for lunch.

13. What were you doing at midnight last night?

14. What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
I don't IM. (I'm so 20th century, I know.)

15. Where is your nearest 7-11?
3 blocks away.

16. What's a word that you say a lot?

17. Who told you he/she loved you last?
Amy, of course.

18. Last furry thing you touched?
Mookie or Nigel, of course.

19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days?
Is Advil a drug?

20. How many rolls of film do you need developed?
None. See anwer #10.

21. Favorite age you have been so far?
44. I like to look ahead.

22. Your worst enemy?
That damn Pogo comic strip.

23. What is your current desktop picture?
Mookie and Nigel, of course.

24. What was the last thing you said to someone?
Good morning.

25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?
It's easier to invest the money.

26. Do you like someone?
I like everyone. Except for you over in the back....

27. The last song you listened to?
I won't count the Lite radio leaking over from my cube-mate at work and therefore get to say "Holy War" by Matthew Sweet.

28. What time of day were you born?
I think sometime between 1 and 2 in the afternoon, while my mom was in that post-lunch despond.

29. What’s your favorite number?
That slow, sad one we used to play at the lounge in Poughkeepsie.

30. Where did you live in 1987?
Iowa City, IA. In an old house that Berkeley Breathed supposedly lived in when he lived in Iowa City, which would explain the penguin molt.

31. Are you jealous of anyone?
Pretty much everyone, particularly when I get done reading the brilliant sentence he/she just wrote (most recently that's Francine Prose, whose A Changed Man is terrific, like all her stuff).

32. Is anyone jealous of you?
No one, except for
you over in the back....

33. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
Home, and then at the off-site breakfast meeting to kick off the new year.

34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
Kick, but in a loving way.

35. Do you consider yourself kind?
Of blue, yes.

36. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be?
Where would it hurt the least?

37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?
I want to say the language of love, but I'd settle for Spanish.

38. Would you move for the person you loved?
The person I love moves me every day.

39. Are you touchy feely?
Get away from me with that question.

40. What’s your life motto?
If it fits in a motto, you aren't doing it correctly.

41. Name three things that you have on you at all times?
Dog hair, my wedding ring, and the ability to be totally, inappropriately silly.

42. What’s your favourite town/city?
Funky Town.

43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
The toll on that danged private toll road in Orange County.

44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
Long time now. I blog.

45. Can you change the oil on a car?
Only if it's either that or get a tattoo.

46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
Married, kids, Philadelphia.

47. How far back do you know about your ancestry?
Not enough.

48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
Sport coat and tie (well, and all the other necessary clothes, too). For work.

49. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
Not too much--I know there is pain, but pain is not aching.

50. Have you been burned by love?
Only by an old flame.

This Ad's Left Wanting

The ever-resourceful Craig Smith has turned up something I can't let pass without a comment--the News-Press is advertising for a reporter to cover the City Hall beat. (As an aside--how early does Craig get up and blog? and he breaks news, too, while I'm happy trolling through stuff to find places to insert snark. No wonder he gets a feature in Coastal Woman--see page 47 of this PDF.)

Here's the ad from

The Santa Barbara News-Press is looking for a reporter who is fearless when it comes to covering city hall, someone ready to turn up the heat and watch 'em squirm. Don't bother responding unless you're ready to dig in, dig up and dig around this town's ivory tower. An investigative bent would be nice, and you better be ready to produce: The last person to hold this position could turn out five bylined stories a week. If hard work and a front page begging for unbiased, hard-hitting journalism - the way it's meant to be - suits you, send a resume and three clips to

Somehow the ad leaves out other important qualifications: Must look good in black and white, and we don't mean print, we mean B&W film; we're thinking Rosalind Russell in that jaunty striped hat. Or, if you're a man, you can wear a fedora with a slip of paper that says "Press" jammed in the hatband.

Seriously, what the ad leaves out you learn really quickly if you look at other ads on this job site. Do you need experience? No. Do you need a degree? No. But atttitude, we want lots of attitude. Because that's what journalism is about.

Is a journalist's job to make people "squirm"? I would assume a truly objective reporter doesn't walk into a City Hall beat thinking, "All politicians are crooks. I can't want to expose them all." Approaching a story without prejudice and letting the facts speak for themselves would be more like objectivity.

Of course the ad also doesn't mention anything about the writer having any writerly skills--all you have to have for this job is moxie and a desire to be on the front page. You have to love the line: "The last person to hold this position could turn out five bylined stories a week." Wouldn't any sane candidate wonder: "What happened to that last person? If he or she worked so hard, why did you get rid of such productivity? Or did the reporter choose to leave? Oh, and will I be asked to write some un-bylined stories, too? What are those for? Is it OK if I turn out 5 stories a week but they're crap (I hear the N-P has a fondness for stories about fires that are only fire drills)?"

Good luck, News-Press, finding someone "fearless" enough to face down the fire-breathing Marty Blum Monster. At least the new hire won't have to kill off objectivity at the paper, as you've managed to cold-cock that sucker all on your own.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Suburban Outfitters

BusinessWeek has decided it's time for its own list to match up with Time's both over-obvious and still often wrong All-TIME 100 Albums (I couldn't even bother to start arguing with its problems) and The Atlantic's 100 Most Influential Americans (which calls Ronald Reagan the architect of the end of the Cold War--nuff said).

Nope, BusinessWeek's business is business, so they only have time for a Top 25, and here it's "The 25 Best Affordable Suburbs in the U.S." The exciting news is Livingston, NJ, as a suburb of Newark, makes the list. I grew up in a town right next to Livingston, its suburb, if you will. So I feel truly honored to be an East Hanover-ian, knowing I lived so close to one of the "suburbs [that] may not have the greatest schools in the country, or the lowest crime rates, but most of them do better than average in these categories." OK, Lake Wobegone it ain't.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to try to figure out why being a suburb of Newark is a good thing. I always felt we were a suburb of New York. Rumor has it New York was indifferent, but that's the big city for you.

In the not big city department, somehow Coralville, Iowa makes the BusinessWeek list as a suburb of Iowa City. To be a "sub-urb," don't you need an "urb"? The population of Iowa City is 62,887. The highlight of the town is a really good bookstore and wondrous thunderstorms that sometimes are a bit more than that. I guess I shouldn't be too particular given BW thought the best way to capture the joie de vivre that is Newark with a highway sign for the airport and an outbound plane.

Time to Hail a Scab

Travis Armstrong's favorite folks to quote when he wants to whomp on the Teamsters (for as Wendy the Libertarian says, "There's no 'I' in Teamsters"), the National Right to Work Foundation, has been looking at my blog. Why is this striking to me, if I can use the word striking about an organization whose sole purpose is to bring an end to employee unions? Well, I went to their website, figuring I owed them a visit for their counter, and found out they are located in Mt. Vernon, VA. Of course that's so they are close to lobbying ground zero in DC, but it seems interesting they are based near George Washington's fabled homestead, which couldn't have run without slaves. The more things change, the more the workers remain chained.

Oh, and there's this...was the internets surfer from the National Right to Work Foundation coming to INOTBB to read one of my pro-union rants? Nope. His (I assume) search parameters were "chloe, sevigny, spit, swallow." Maybe he's hoping for a job at the National Right to Jerk Foundation.

Waste Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

NPR's Morning Edition ran a segment today that began:

Twelve states and a coalition of environmental groups sued the Bush administration in 2003 for refusing to issue regulations limiting carbon emissions from cars and power plants. On Wednesday, the case reaches the Supreme Court, where justices will hear the arguments on both sides.

Of all people, it's Ted Olsen who is representing the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in an effort to turn Thank You For Smoking into a documentary. Nina Totentberg used Olsen as the spokesperson for carbon dioxide and it took him no time (just like the globe) to warm to the task, claiming:

"We're talking about carbon dioxide. It's necessary for life. A pollutant is something that fouls the air, a contaminant. No EPA administrator in history has ever considered carbon dioxide a pollutant."

What was implied by Olsen, of course, is that humans breathe out carbon dioxide, so how bad can it be? That might be because Olsen has been forcing us to swallow his shit for years and he figures that's good for us, too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Everybody Must Get Estonia

The AP reports:

President Bush says the United States should have a simpler tax system. Apparently he has found one he likes — Estonia's. In a brief stop in the Baltic nation on Tuesday, Bush managed to tout Estonia's flat income tax three times.


"I appreciate the fact that you got a flat tax, you got a tax system that's transparent and simple," he said.

Well, he certainly knows of simple things. In addition to Estonia not having paid $345 billion to turn Iraq into a slaughterhouse (oh, excuse me, Saddam killed people too, so it's ok what we've done), here are a few other figures to consider:

Estonia GDP 2004 = $19.23 billion (world rank #109)
USA GDP 2004 = $11.75 trillion (world rank #1)

Estonia average income = $8124/year
USA average income = $36,264/year

Estonia population = 1.3 million
USA population = 300 million

That makes us almost the same country! (I really never want to see Bush's score on the analogies part of the SAT. Darn good thing he was a legacy or the closest Bush ever would have got to Yale was eating pizza at Pepe's.)

Let Them Fete Newt

Elsewhere wise folks like Tom Hilton take apart Newt Gingrich's ridiculous myopic (emphasis on the my) "victory or death" column. But here I'd like to point out Gingrich is ever aware of his context, for as the Manchester Union Leader reports:

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

Where did Gingrich give this message? At the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which fetes people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech. How exactly we identify terrorists and separate them from, oh, 150 groups and individuals in more than 20 states who thought they were part of peace organizations, the Newt-ster doesn't say. But he does also say this:

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade."

Guess he didn't hear about New Orleans, and refuses to believe the terrorists might come disguised as crappy levees.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Be Nice, or Else

Turns out all sorts of turkeys got trotted out on Thanksgiving--it seems the News-Press ran one of Dr. (of Physiology) Laura's columns (no link, as the N-P considers itself above the internets). Now, while Craig Smith deftly dealt with her inability to let Sara Miller McCune's comment at the Lifetime Acheivement Awards pass without a scold (she does stay true to character, Ms. Schlessinger does), INOTBB figures it needs to point out the end of civility did not begin with blogging.

In her column, Dr. (of Physiology) Laura--a woman who has called homosexuals "deviant" and "disordered," among other sweet things, and she gets to do it with a radio megaphone--calls for kindness and civility. She writes:

What has caused this horrendous decline in common decency toward one another? Oh my gosh, let me count the ways! From blogs to radio talk to television talk to columnists to public school/university political correctness to the Balkanization of communities based on cultural ethnicity, sexual orientation and politics . . . most people are just so mean.

OK, so she does know enough to count herself--radio talk and columnists--twice. But what in the world is political correctness on the list for? Even if you think it's a horrible over-reaction, doesn't political correctness make us stop calling each other bad names? Isn't the usual complaint about political correctness is that it make us deny our true natures (ask Michael Richards about that one)? She then goes on to say:

Instead of debating, some folks largely live to character assassinate and censor. Instead of negotiating, some folks largely live to search and destroy.

Here, she's described her employer Wendy McCaw perfectly. Fire folks and release private employment files to publicly defame them. Don't allow letters to the editor from people who disagree with the paper. Don't take ads from people who disagree with the paper. Don't list TV stations that run programs unfavorable to the paper. Sue and sue again--former employees, other newspapers. And as for not negotiating, how much time have Wendy and her minions spent at the table with the lawfully elected union for her newsroom employees? Not as much time as they've spent putting the words "mafia" and "Teamster" in the same sentence.

But Schlessinger has more:

Instead of rational argument, some folks largely live to call others vulgar names, gossip and humiliate. Instead of gracious acceptance of olive branches, some folks largely live to insulate themselves in their own hate, while accusing others, who simply have a different opinion, for the chasm between them.

You're right, and I apologize for insinuating you're a turkey, Dr. (of Physiology) Laura. I hereby apologize to all turkeys, who I didn't mean to impugn with the ill-chosen comparision. After all, not even a turkey would get to your bullet point at the end of the column (a good half of which is filled up with long quotes from letters to her saying how correct she is about everything):

Required Reading: UCLA student health center psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Grossman has written a must-read book about the central cause of the increased incidents of psychological and emotional problems of college/university students, including suicides. The book is Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student (Penguin, 2006).

While the book seems to be the usual diatribe about our kids today--we tell them sex is ok, we let them have abortions, they all then get depressed and want to kill themselves--it's the way Schlessinger presents the book that fascinates. She cheats a bit here, as the book is officially authored by "Dr. Anonymous," for it seems Grossman was worried about how her work would be received by others in her profession. Where did Grossman reveal she was the author? On Dr. (of Physiology) Laura's radio show! How convenient! The other bit of a cheat is the book, while published by Penguin, bears the Penguin imprint Sentinel HC. That makes this book from the same house that has released classics like The UN Exposed: How the United Nations Sabotages America's Security and Fails the World and The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse than You Thought. My guess is due out in 2007 from Sentinel is the book Bat-Shit Crazy: How There's Some Rightwing Nut-job Out There to Buy Your Breathlessly Told Paranoid Fantasy.

The Day the Commercial Died

The older I get the more I become a sport monogamist, so Thanksgiving is always a bit hard on the system. Not only is there a lot of football, there's a lot I can't even begin to get excited about, all apologies to Kansas and Missouri (I think one of the teams won). I'm so out of it this year I had to ask if Philip Rivers was having a good year for the Chargers.

That means I'm equally taken by surprise by football tv ads, which seem to be either for beer, Viagra, or trucks, an unholy trinity of masculinity. I'll ignore the first two items on the y-chromosome wish list to focus on the Chevy ad that drove me crazy this weekend. It seems some marketing genius thought using "American Pie" as the music for a Chevy ad--heck, it mentions Chevy already--was a good idea. But to do that, first, they can only include the chorus, or else someone would have to get up halfway through the commercial and flip it over so we could see the rest.* Second, they have to leave out half the chorus's lyrics. We get to hear: "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie, Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry," then instrumental until we can hear again, "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie, Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry."

Now, either Chevy thinks we're all too-hopped up on beer and Viagra to focus/remember, but the missing lines we might end up singing anyway in our karaoked culture are:
And them good ol' boys were drinking whisky and rye singing
This'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die
Good ol' boys are fine and, uh, good, for a bit of football, although having them drink whisky and rye might not be the best idea if they're about to climb behind the wheel of their S-10. (Why McLean has them drinking both whisky and rye is a different conundrum, but I'll just scotch that question for now.) But we sure as hell can't market things by telling the customer: Buy our product and DIE! Today!

Then again, that makes haggling over financing a whole lot easier.

*For those of you born post-vinyl, the Don McLean 45 single of "American Pie" was on both sides of the disc, it was so long. I think the label had a warning--if playing this song lasts longer than 4 hours, consult a DJ.

You Say I'm Cute
You Don't Know How Much that Hurts

Originally posted by a light.

Of all the indignities, first on display in the zoo, now stuck on some guy's blog, too.

Random Flickr-blogging explained.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday Random Ten

The Januaries "Love Has Flown"
Manu Chao "La Primavera"
Elvis Costello "Playboy to a Man"
Trilok Gurtu "Inner Voice"
Brian Eno "Francisco"
The Band w/ Joni Mitchell "Furry Sings the Blues"
Guided by Voices "Man Called Aerodynamics"
Shawn Colvin "Tenderness on the Block"
Emmylou Harris "Deeper Well"
The 6ths w/ Mitch Easter "Pillow Fight"

Carolina Tar Heels "Got the Farm Land Blues"

Certainly random, especially closing with a cut from the Harry Smith opus as a bonus. Sorry about the couple of days off, but that monster book-food review entry left me sort of blogged out.

In the meantime, thanks, everybody, for reading, commenting, coming by.

Hello Mookie, Hello Kitty

For Dog Blog Friday: Happy Ninth Birthday, Mookie!

(picture by Madeleine Sorapure)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Be Ready to Give Him a Big Hug If He Gets an Owie

So when Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry signed Alfonso Soriano to a 50-year, $9 trillion contract the other day, reported that he said:

Those of us who know him and have watched him play, he's got a great body and takes tremendous care of himself. Look at how our game has changed. There are a lot of guys 40 years old who are still playing. He's lean -- he's like a greyhound. He's some kind of athlete. That's a very young body for his age. Who knows if he'll be as productive at 38 as he is at 31?

Here's hoping Hendry knows baseball better than greyhounds--we have a stack of veterinarian bill receipts we can wave under his nose to show him how "healthy" greyhounds can be.

Here's Hoping for Her Sake They're Not Cumulative

The AP reports:

Kan. woman, 95, prepares for final exams

and all I can think is, what an insensitive headline.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Eat to the Beat of the Bounce

Maybe you don’t do this, but I do—-open an old document as a way to fling Word open. Of course that gives me a chance to read myself, a kind of mirror-glimpsing that isn’t always flattering (how long has my prose been this fat?). But somehow it seemed more than fitting that as I prepared to write this entry, I found this paragraph from back in the days when I wrote a book column:

Finally, to end on a Larry King-ian note, pitchers and catchers have reported, Spring Training has sprung, and the only baseball book you need is Baseball Prospectus 2001 (Brassey’s), full of stats, sure, but also lines like this one about the just-retired Will Clark: “I’ll take ‘Rednecks Who Can Flat Out Hit’ for $200, Alex.” Now that I’m in Jeopardy!, I’ll see you next time, if my nose isn’t in a book.

For now it’s time for me to prove that my limitations are the sincerest from of flattery, and they’ll go a long way to show how terrific Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy! is. It’s a book by Bob Harris, who you might know from his blog or his posts at This Modern World. It’s of course about Jeopardy!--Harris is not only a five-day champ (remember when that meant something?) and a recurring Tournament of Champions figure--but also about JEOPARDY, as in, what do I do with my life and how do I be very very nice to the people I meet, even when they get sick and die? Harris’ book gets to tell almost too many tales, so it leaves you with more plot lines than losing contestants end up with Mrs. Butterworth bottles, but I get ahead of myself, in a way Harris does, too, sometimes, only to pull you right back into another moment that leaves you laughing or crying. You won’t look away.

Of course part of my admiration of the book is that it’s exactly what I wish I could pull off, a work that makes everything seem connected, coincidental, neat as a perfectly blended whisky or a Dickens’ plot or that oh-so-cute constellation of freckles on your lover’s cheek. Even its index (of course a book about connections has an index) is full of skewed views: for instance, you can zoom right into Howards End either as “re-imagined as thirty-foot buttocks” or as an “actual end of a real guy named Howard.” Yes, Harris worked in stand-up comedy for years.

It’s also fascinating that Harris finally feels he has to see the actual sites that were merely clues or responses during his games. I have to admire someone who can travel the wilds of the world to see blue fairy penguins barf, among other things, when it’s enough for Amy and me to drive the 2 hours up to Paso Robles and take a food and wine tour on the patio at Tablas Creek Vineyard. That’s what we managed a couple Sundays ago, and therefore enjoyed September in Tuscany, October in Spain, and November in Burgundy and the French Alps in about three lip-smackingly delicious hours.

After all, just as mortadella isn’t just bologna, food is never just food. Proust knew that with his madeleines, so now we always think of madeleines and memory. The one time I had the good fortune to be in Tuscany it was August, not September, and much of the rest of Italy was on vacation somewhere else, so much so that places like Florence’s Vivoli, acclaimed as gelato heaven (if that’s not redundant), were shuttered up tight--we couldn’t even tell where they were supposed to be. But last Sunday in Paso was clearly where we were supposed to be, enjoying perfect salumi beautiful on the tongue both in taste and speech--sopressata, coppa, bresaola. The later--vividly air-cured, flavor-condensed slices of beef--even explains why someone attempted beef jerky, and why jerky should be considered even more of an abomination. As for sopressata, at least the one made by Armandino Batali (yes, Mario’s dad), it redefines the glories of pork fat, a salami in which you can feel each glorious fat cell pop as if your mouth were full of bubble-pak. And with this we had perfectly grilled artichokes and fresh mozzarella and pecorino stagionato and three wines, each wonderfully odd--a Grenache Blanc, a Counoise (it’s not just for blending anymore), and a Mourvedre.

This was just round 1.

In many ways I approach food in the way that Bob Harris crammed knowledge studying for Jeopardy! I might not have notebooks, but I have books, like Max McCalman’s Cheese: A Connoisseurs Guide, and I love reading up, learning things like “Monte Enebro’s creator, Señor Baez, is considered a Spanish cheese hero, and his creation is considered one of the nation’s premier alimentary artifacts.” Not only does “alimentary artifacts” sound like a Jeopardy! category, but Monte Enebro is Spain at its best, at least in Paso Robles a few week’s ago, a chalky-creamy goat cheese with a tart rind, one of those taste yin-yangs that sings its own duet of deliciousness.

That cheese was the star in its Spanish constellation, including marinated olives and marcona almonds redolent of rich olive oil and sparked with cinnamon and cumin, Serrano reserve ham, about which I had no reservations, preserved sweet red peppers and caper berries, manchego artequeso (not sure what artequeso means, but I’d translate it as “saves the cheese from its Trader Joe’s over-familiarity”). This round also features the first spot-on wine-food pairing (not that the Rosé or Cotes de Tablas are anything to spit-bucket), as Tablas Creek offers its Vermentino, a grape from Corsica that is steely dry for a white and marries perfectly with boquerones, an anchovy even J. Geils would love (now that’s trivial pursuit for you).

Of course, Prisoner of Trebikstan will help you with that pursuit, as it’s partially a how-to, not just for Jeopardy-hopefuls, but also for anyone wanting to remember anything. Harris comes up with clever ways to remind you of that “m” on mnemonic, often in giggly-dirty ways, but off-color jokes are the easiest to remember. (Quick, whose end did we kid about in the paragraphs above? See?) But Harris’s book refuses to admit anything is trivial—-just wait and see what trouble forgetting nonsense gets him into. For Harris writes early in the book, “I hope you’ll be willing to free associate and think silly things and zigzag off the path sometimes while we’re at it. [ed. note: how could I not like this book?] After all, daydreaming and making ourselves laugh with silly ideas is how we figure out which memories we want in the first place.”

Or you could just eat yourself silly, as we did at Tablas Creek. Round 3 of food actually worked as three rounds itself, much more than the previous mix and match. This time each dish had its corresponding wine. Each dish also climbed a ladder of luxe and lusciousness, a culinary can you top this. We started at ground level with the humble potato, although these were heirloom and fresh dug so the starches hadn’t seemed to settle—-their near-fruitiness made one realize why the French call potatoes pomme de terre (apple of the land). Of course, you melt raclette cheese over the land itself it might taste yummy, especially with just enough mustard for spice and cornichons tasty as they are cute. This course went brilliantly with the Tablas Creek Bergeron, their early-harvested Rousanne, so a bit less deep, a bit more tangily citrusy than what they make from a later harvest. Indeed, some of the wine went into the recipe (a sneaky way to pair wines and food, btw).

Next up was a confit of duck rillettes. More or less duck hash, this was like cooking duck lovely, than shredding it with forks. If you know about the more traditional pork rillettes, this lacks the fat preparation, or at least the fat presentation—-it appears to be just duck in its little bowl. You eat it with cherry preserves and say thank you. It pairs well with Esprit de Beaucastel, the Tablas Creek red blend that is so much like a Chateauneuf du Papes that it shares the name of one of that French region’s best houses (the one that co-founded Tablas Creek with the Haas family in California).

But the afternoon ended with a perfection that was enough to quiet any animal rights qualms. Chef Jeffrey Scott is evidently famed for his moulard duck foie gras “au torchon,” which truly was a coup (beware of sneaky French film allusion—-this is still a Bob Harris review, too, and I’d be remiss to leave you without trails to track). I’ve never had a flavor melt in my mouth like this, and Amy and I were in, and ate much in, Provence last year. That’s one of foie gras’s great attractions: how can anything this flavor-full change states in one’s mouth, seconds from substance to essence? There’s no fruity preparation here (although the foie gras is made with some cognac, so that’s lingering, too), just toasted brioche and truffle scented fleur de sel. And the perfect wine, short of a Chateau Y’Quem (it wasn’t that good a day or I’d be dead), the Tablas Creek white vin de paille (wine of straw) that’s unctuous gorgeousness while surprisingly low in alcohol for its heft of palate.

All of this comes together on a patio in Paso Robles. The seasons of Europe, the foods of Italy, Spain, and France. Me, a guy born in Paterson, NJ, I’m there somehow after Maryland and Iowa and Pennsylvania. Amy, a woman born in Poughkeepsie, NY, she’s there somehow after Colorado and North Carolina and living behind the Orange Curtain before it was a hip TV show. Knowing the answer is a question we best ask together, we have decided to stare jeopardy down as a couple. It seems not just everything that rises must converge, but everything rising or not must converge: stories, and true stories, and more reviews of books and food. Harris describes, in somewhat reverential tones, the Forest Bounce, a Jeopardy! tactic invented by legendary player Chuck Forest. Forest refused to run a category in the usual straight column, instead bouncing from clue to clue across the board. But as Harris’ book proves, the straight line is a myth, so we might as well jump. Who knows what awaits, what answer we might never have asked, what food we might never have tasted, what love we might never have savored?

The Suri with the Fringe on Top?

originally posted by kolami2001

The sad second runner up in the "I Get to Play Baby Suri" contest.

Monday Random Flickr Blogging explained.

Right in Steppe

originally posted by sali85

And who could forget the cover of the Grushenko Family Singers' first album: You Spell 'Tsar,' I Spell 'Czar,' Let's Call the Whole Thing Revolution.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thank You, Jon

Jon Stewart played Santa Barbara Saturday night, as if he were just some stand-up and the UCSB Events Center were just some comedy club. Of course neither of these is true--it was hard heading in (especially at $90 a ticket, and there were more expensive seats than that) to imagine Stewart could do 75 minutes without any video tape to riff from, just as it was hard to imagine he could fill a 4,000 seat auditorium with his solo presence.

Well, it's not like being wrong about WMDs, but I was very wrong about Stewart. It was more or less a feel sore from laughing kind of evening, even in a basketball arena, and I didn't feel the need to watch the video screen broadcast of him much, even. Atlhough folks--especially students--in the cheaper seats probably felt differently, I figured I couldn't gripe about my seat location too much, as we were sitting directly behind Jeff Bridges. Turns out the Dude finds Stewart hilarious.

After his introductory jokes about UCSB, making fun of the school's mascot--the Gauchos--especially after finding out a Gaucho is an Argentinean cowboy (clearly superior to the Brazilian cowboy, he quipped), he moved right into his Daily Show bread and butter, politics. Indeed, he set up his basic position for the evening--80% of America is moderate, and unfortunately we are governed by the other 20%. (This approach would also serve his religion v. science routine later on.) Although he did get to his "heh-heh" Bush impersonation, and jokes about Rumsfeld and Cheney ("The man hasn't been right once in six years. Then he shot an old man in the face. Would you still have your job if you did that?"), he also did an extended segment on gay marriage, truly puzzled why it bugs (no, not buggers) folks so much. He joked about how Leviticus tosses about abominations like ums and uhs, stressing it calls shellfish an abomination, too. Then he said, "How come you never see one of those anti-gay protesters with a sign, 'Death to Fags...and Scallops'?" Later, in just one of the off-color moments he wondered, "What can bother them so much about gays? Does someone hear the distant sound of one man's balls slapping into another man's ass--wap, wap, wap, wap--and then say, 'Hey, I'm trying to work here?'"

As with the Daily Show, as good as the material was much of it was put over by his delivery. Stewart still seems like an eveyman, just handsome enough but not too handsome, just young enough but not too, just smart enough, but no pedant. He pauses, times, stresses, frets, speeds, whatever is necessary to get more mileage out of a line. While even he belittles his acting career in films like Death to Smoochy, Half Baked and Mixed Nuts, he has learned to play Jon Stewart after all these years. So in addition to the brilliant timing, he's also poised himself as the middle's voice, which turns out to seem radical only because we've had 12 years of the middle ever moving rightward. As much as I'd like to claim him for us progressives, he really isn't.

After the political material, he traveled some very traditional--if traditionally funny--material, from pot to condoms ("I know they say if we teach kids about condoms, it will make them want to have sex, but beer is ok. I don't know, I never heard someone had too many condoms and woke up in bed someone."). Live he also plays up the Jewish comedian thing much more than on his show, but still attacked any sort of religious extremism. Although he warned us not to call yarmulkes Jew beanies, he also didn't understand the sense that wearing something on your head made you holier. Indeed, he put one of his water bottles on his head and said, "See, now I pay tribute to god and offer him a refreshing drink." This material worked, particularly as he was always ready to run meta-commentary on it (the largest difference between Stewart and Colbert--even when Colbert's schtick doesn't work, he never breaks character; Stewart is always ready to joke about the guy on stage, even if he's the guy). After some Jewish jokes he turned to the Pope and when one joke didn't get quite as many laughs he said, "Oh, I see, Jewish joke funny, the Pope not so much."

For a semi-encore, as he left the stage to a thunderous standing O, he came back and told us one last story about New York, and his life living in an apartment 10 blocks form the World Trade Center, hoping to come back to some normalcy after 9/11. He said Mayor Guiliani (and he said the name as if he bit into a lemon, so he might not be a progressive, but he hasn't lost all sense) had said, "Keep acting like things are ok, and eventually they will be." Stewart found this hard to believe but tried. And then, three weeks after the horrible event he left his apartment building "and a homeless man was masturbating right on my doorstep. He didn't even stop, just looked me in the eye and kept going. And right then I knew we were going to be alright."

That does sort of sum up much of the world right now--people out pleasuring only themselves, and we can't just get in their way. But if we tell our stories about it, it gives us some kind of oppositionary strength, especially when our laughter rises. That's the Daily Show we all get to be stars of.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another Bug Up Wendy's Butt

The American Journalism Review, it seems, is part of the international cabal to abuse Wendy McCaw. Go read the whole fascinating story at the AJR website.

But, of course, I can't resist a few highlights and comments:

More than half of the 50-member News-Press newsroom has resigned or been dismissed since then. Those remaining, including replacements, have affiliated with the Teamsters union, working in a climate of fear and paranoia ripped from the pages of Kafka's The Trial, "like you've passed into another dimension," says one.

Running with the Kafka theme, it's sort of like the News-Press awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find itself tranformed in its bed into a gigantic insect. And remember poor Gregor Samsa's fate.

Then there's Agnes Huff, Piled-Higher-and-Deeper, fending off the AJR's requests for an interview from McCaw, or anyone, from the paper:

In response to my initial efforts to speak with News-Press executives, Huff told me in an e-mail, "News-Press management and staff are unable to grant any interview requests at this time." I continued leaving messages for managers, prompting Huff to e-mail me again: "I advised you that no one from the News-Press will be available to provide you with any interviews. It would really be appreciated it [sic] if you could..not continue to call and e-mail News-Press employees when you have been clearly advised of the paper's position."

Now, it might seem mean that AJR reporter Susan Paterno doesn't just fix Huff's grammar and leave out the sic, but the sic is telling. It seems most likely that Huff tried to edit from the first person of "I would really appreciate it" to the passive, non-responsive "It would really be appreciated" but ended up somewhere in-between.

And isn't that a metaphor for this whole News-Press mess. Wendy/Arthur/Travis accuse everyone else of doing what they themselves do--pretend they're passive while secretly being the voice that must dominate both their news and editorial coverage. Pity Huff couldn't cover up well enough for them.

Friday Random Ten

New Pornographers "Breakin' the Law"
Sleater-Kinney "02"
Cornershop "It's the Indian Tobacco My Friend"
Ani DiFranco "Heartbreak Even"
Pine Valley Cosmonauts "Texas Playboy Rag"
Pogues "Medley: The Recruiting Sargeant/The Rocky Road to Dublin/Galway Races"
Velvet Underground "Who Loves the Sun"
Nasa "Insha-Allah"
Pere Ubu "Down by the River II"
Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode"

Youssou N'Dour "No More"

Quick aside: when I worked for an arts presenter, N'dour canceled out twice on us, for excusable geo-political reasons, but still it was a royal pain. Hence we gave him the nickname Youssou NoTour.

The Slightly Askance Greyhound Dance

For Dog Blog Friday: There is a reason we often call him Nigel Nuts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

SDSB C'est Fini

After ten years as one of the few festivals of contemporary dance in the United States, SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara (SDSB) has decided to end its run as a festival. This is bitter news for anyone who values dance, or the arts, or fun, or culture growing in places outside of major cities and universities. Sure, I worked as the festival's publicist for the past few seasons, so am not an unbiased source, but still, you couldn't say enough about the jobs Dianne Vapnek and Laurie Burnaby did, putting on a three-week party every July that kept the town on its toes.

It will be missed.

In a letter to board members and SDSB supporters, Executive Director Vapnek, Artistic Director Burnaby, and President of the Board Megan Matthieson wrote: “A retrospective of past seasons provides so many memorable moments, so many achievements, so many challenges surmounted. Those of us with the festival want to thank everyone in the dance community and in Santa Barbara for their ongoing and enthusiastic support. We enjoyed a wonderful sense of community and developed fulfilling relationships with the dancers and choreographers who performed here. We believe we fulfilled our mission in creating new audiences for dance and in providing space and time for artists to create new work.”

The Guy's Got Rockies in His Head

The second most ridiculous thing I've read in awhile (non-Bush-related division):

[The Rockies] have looked at the free- agent market, but mainly in search of bargains with upside potential, such as center fielder Darin Erstad, who, after battling injuries, could be the Frank Thomas of this offseason.
(Tracy Ringolsby, Rocky Mountain News)

Erstad, lifetime:
.286/.341/.416, 114 homers, 625 RBI, 818 runs, EQA .270 (for you Baseball Prosepectus geeks out there)

Thomas lifetime:
.305/.424/.566, 487 homers, 1579 RBI, 1404 runs, EQA .342

And the first most ridiculous thing I've read in awhile (non-Bush-related division):

Tracy Ringolsby is the 2005 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and was inducted into the writers wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 30.

Keep Your Pennisula Out of My Gulf

November 17, a day that is rich in cheapshot top soil yet lacking in comedic bedrock, so you know what that means: it's bullet point time!
  • It's the 89th anniversary of Rodin's death. Now if I could only think of a joke about that....
  • In 1866 the opera "Mignon" debuted in Paris, but the critics fileted it.
  • It was 137 years ago that we first heard the refrain, "I got a camel, her name is Sal, 15 miles on the Suez Canal." Oddly enough it's also the day the Panama Canal opened in 1913, which means if you're standing on an isthmus tomorrow, it's a lock you might get floated away.
  • I don't care what day it is, I just like saying isthmus. Almost as much as I like saying it's the feast day of St. Anianus. The French one, not the Alexandrian one--yep there are 2 Anianuses. (Aniani?) And until I looked it up, I figured the only Annie Anus was the one who starred in the first 6 films of the Terrific Tailpipes video series.
  • Keeping with the filmic theme, it's been 38 years since the infamous Heidi Game, when the dastardly Oakland Raiders, who have long been known to do anything to win, cleverly kept handing the ball off to Jennifer Edwards in full Heidi-regalia (she was the first person to ever have braids out from under her helmet, once again proving how much of hip-hop culture comes from Switzerland). The New York Jets, being the gentlemen they were, refused to tackle a little girl. Next thing you know, the Raiders won 43-32. Note that the following season Jet Joe Namath wore pantyhose and screamed, "I'm a girlie! I'm a girlie!" to no avail.

Charleston Eschews Non-Married Nudes

Maybe it's all those years playing bottom to North Carolina, or maybe it's from being home to Bob Jones University (that goes by the acronym BJU, while denying anyone BJs), but South Carolina has got it bad--turns out it's a crime to fornicate there. Sure, that might have been a way to slow down good old Sperm Thurmond back in the day, but the law is still on the books: unmarried men and women can't have sex.

The AP reports, "The flames of passion cost a former firefighter $200 after he and his then-girlfriend had sex in upscale house that was still under construction. Former Hanahan firefighter Paul Joseph Sloan, 25, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single charge of unlawful entry into an enclosed place."

My question is how can the law be so sure Sloan only entered the enclosed place once? Of course, the crime is just a misdemeanor--having sex with a married woman is a missusdemeanor, after all.

The Chair with Stool for Brains

Reuters reports:

The U.S. Senate's most vocal global warming skeptic, James Inhofe, on Thursday dismissed a U.N. meeting on climate change as "a brainwashing session."

The good news for Senator Inhofe, of course, is he doesn't have a brain, so isn't in danger of falling for the global warming ruse.

The good news for the rest of us is Oklahoma's shining star will no longer chair the Environment and Public Works Committee of the Senate as of January. Instead, Barbara Boxer will be chair, which no doubt leaves Inhofe's boxers in a knot.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Candle Crack, Candle Break
Correct the Travis's Mistake

Dear Travis Armstrong has decided its time to teach Santa Barbara a course in civility, and to do so he has to go on attack (perhaps that's remain on attack, but why quibble). In today's editorial in the News-Press (you know the drill about how there's no point in linking as you have to pay to read his oh-so-valuable words), he asserts that the folks who picketed the News-Press Lifetime Achievement Awards gala this weekend are: 1) dupes of the out-of-town Teamsters, 2) "resorting to the tactics of the lowest common denominator."

First, many of the protesters were former News-Press employees who turned to the union because their ex-workplace was so horrible. So Wendy and Travis really brought the Teamsters on themselves. But since when is a candlelight vigil a tactic of the lowest common denominator? People use that method to protest wars. They used it when thousands marched in San Francisco to lament the death of Harvey Milk. Yep, Travis, all those folks are the scum of the earth.

Then there's this passage: "One union organizer even attempted to gain entrance to the private event held on private property. A local attorney reportedly also came to the hotel. It's a sad day when any local attorneys on their own try to interject themselves into matters of a privately owned business to seek attention and free advertising."

Now, anyone who reads Craig Smith's Blog--and at this point he probably has a higher readership than the News-Press--knows these sentences refer to labor lawyer Ira Gottlieb (he's not an organizer, but to Travis, all unionists look alike) and Smith himself. Smith decided to do some old-fashioned reporting and check out the scene of the fundraiser, but it seems Travis thinks no one is allowed on the grounds of the Biltmore. After all, when Travis objects to Smith messing with a privately owned business, my guess is it's not the Biltmore he is concerned about, but the News-Press, which Travis, Wendy, and the Nipper all see as theirs, sort of forgetting that a community has a huge stake in its local paper.

The willful obfuscation of a line like, "Why people would choose to picket an event honoring philanthropy and volunteerism is, to most people, beyond comprehension," is stunning. People weren't protesting the event, they were protesting Wendy McCaw. If she ever bothered to meet with any of the public, people wouldn't have to try to figure out where and when there is a chance to make clear their great displeasure in what she's done to our newspaper. But there I go pretending that the town has any say--I know money is 99/100 of ownership, and that the cock-eyed libertarianism Wendy espouses really means she can buy more liberty than any of us. Crucial to that kind of liberty is to ignore anyone else's desires completely, whether they want to walk on the beach she can't even see from her cliffside mansion or they want a local newspaper that isn't a national joke.

Their attitude to News-Press web content completely matches their attitude to everything--community be damned, so stay off the hotel grounds of our swank fundraisers and keep off the cyber-lawn.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm Crazy for You Pink Thing

It's a darn good thing that John Bolton isn't a music critic or he'd no doubt suggest that if Pink Martini lost 10 floors it wouldn't make a bit of difference. The 13-musician group, which appeared last night at UCSB Campbell Hall, offers up a United Nations of musicks, just in this 2-hour show singing songs in Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian, and oh, yeah, English. In many ways it's lounge music for not-lounging, not with 4 percussionists percussing and bandleader Thomas Lauderdale reminding us that the piano is a percussion instrument, too. His hands do happy little leaps across the keys, as if they are moved to dance to the delightful music they make. If you want your music to be fun, be sure to order up a Pink Martini.

I would also be remiss not to discuss chanteuse China Forbes, the group's riveting frontwoman. Josef Woodard in the News-Press (no link because the News-Press doesn't believe anyone should read them for free, not realizing no one wants to read them because of Wendy) called her "fetching" the other day, which is apt, but also makes me wonder how a word often associated with dogs got tangled up meaning captivating, too. Forbes' facility singing in numerous languages is all the more impressive that she can do so without sounding like Berlitz tapes; this is swellingly romantic music, thanks to two violinists and a harpist, of all things, and it's easy to attach a whole lot of romance to Forbes. That said, it is hard to imagine her not being called by the guy named Eugene in one number that is the closest the band gets to novelty, despite always being novel. Of course they're perched on the edge of camp, but the musicianship is so good, and they seem so serious, if serious about the fun, that they never let any condescension slip into the act. They even pulled off an opening take on that warhorse the "Bolero," which has to fight both memories of Bo Derek and, in Santa Barbara, recollections of the Brian Brooks Moving Company closing a recent SUMMERDANCE piece with eight hands sinuously signing the song past its familiarity.

Of course, despite on one hand being "mere" froth, Pink Martini packs a sly political message too. Not just a testament to the joys of cultural leap-frogging, it suggests there isn’t world music as much as music, period. Love is love in Arabic or English, which is a lesson more than a few people could stand to learn. And what better to be able to stand to learn something and have no choice but to sway your hips a bit, too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fire All the Journalists You Want--Wendy Will Hire More!

As you know if you're a Santa Barbarian, the News-Press had its gala Lifetime Achievement Awards Dinner this past Saturday, one of those tony events at which the rich gather to congratulate some of the other rich for giving some of their money away. This particular year the event was a bit more fraught with tension, as there was a protest outside, Wendy McCaw was inside actually at a public event, and one of the awardees, Sara Miller McCune, actually ballsily announced she hoped to own the paper by next year.

But, despite all the hoo-haw, what most sticks in INOTBB's craw is this news from Craig Smith about the evening:

And since when is it necessary to have "entertainment" at this event? I'm referring to the surprise appearance of Jay Leno who did a monologue. My guess is that it must have cost between $75,000 and $100,000 to get him to show up. I love Jay, but it would have been nice for McCaw to take that money and contribute it to the charities which are supposed to be the beneficiaries of this dinner. $75,000 just happens to approximate the total that was raised for the News-Press Holiday Fund last year. I've asked around and this kind of entertainment is unprecedented at the Lifetime Achievement Awards. My theory is that its Wendy's way of "rewarding" those who showed up in spite of the controversy and "punishing" those who stayed away because of it.

Now, I'm not upset because I agree with the old Brian Eno line that Jay Leno must be the least funny person in all of America (that's Bruce Tinsley). And it's not even the money issue, as I'm sure that Wendy, in her effort to do good, is forking in the $100G for Leno herself (she'll have her acountants, who no doubt have Ph.D.s and don't live in Santa Barbara, write it off as a business expense).

It's that Leno's the perfect emblem for all that's Wendy. First, money can buy anything. Second, when in doubt, bring in the hired guns--after all, Leno does 100 of these corporate gigs a year, and only discriminates against those who can't pay. Third, it's always fun to suck up to celebrity. Fourth, according to a CNN/Fortune article, "Warren Littlefield, former president of NBC Entertainment, recalls, 'When we first renewed Jay's deal, one of his negotiating points was less vacation. That was a first for me.'" Now that's just the guy a union-busting bad boss has to love. Maybe Leno even offered Wendy some labor negotiation tips.

Finally, there's this humdinger of a passage in that CNN/Fortune article that sums up Leno's work ethic:

"This sounds silly," he says, "but my attitude is, sooner or later, the other guy is going to have to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get laid, or take a vacation, and that's when I catch him. That's always worked for me." Once, when he was home working on the next day's monologue, he flipped on the TV and saw a rival talk show host at a Lakers game. "Gotcha," he thought. "I'm working. You're playing. What are you doing? This is a school night."

So that's what life's about, huh? Disgusting, but a perfect match for someone like McCaw, who seems non-plussed she's not only done a huge disservice to 32 (or is it more now?) ex-employees, but also to the whole of Santa Barbara, which lost its daily newspaper. Meanwhile she gets to snuggle up to Leno-lite Nipper, who after Sara Miller McCune made her comment about wanting to buy the paper quipped, "Sold! No just kidding, we're having too much fun." That's either the bitter truth or the truth that bites.

One for the Birds

There's a photo, and here's a story, you don't see every day:

Extra anus kills four-legged chick

Forzie the four-legged chicken will cluck no more.

The Te Uku-bred Barnevelder chick - hatched at Marlene Dickey's property at the start of last month - has died. But it wasn't the extra legs that led to its death, more likely an extra anus, Mrs Dickey believes. "He developed two bottoms and I think he got glugged up," she said.

While she was surprised by Forzie's death - he weighed a "good pound of butter" and was gaining feathers slowly - it was not totally unexpected, she said.
And it was fun while it lasted. "He was a bit of a laugh." Looking ungainly on its extra legs but twice as cute, the bird was an exception to the rule that chickens with defects are not normally born alive.

He was found dead on Friday and is now in the Dickeys' freezer waiting to be stuffed.
After he's been to the taxidermist, the family plan to donate the bird to Auckland Museum.

But this does prove why I will never turn this into a group blog or even share duties--two assholes can kill anything.

(a tip of the beak to Doc Searls)

You're Great, Dane

Originally uploaded by ELLE eldritch.

Mere days after Rick Santorum loses his Senate seat, all hell breaks lose.

Monday Radom Flickr Blogging explained.

Da's All Folks

Originally uploaded by our silly family.

It's amazing how cute I am given I have only half a dad.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thought of You as My Mountain Top
Thought of You as My Peak

I came upon the sad, sad news that Ellen Willis just died while reading Berube's blog Friday, but have been trying to avoid blogging about it for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that I just want to pretend it didn't happen, and her essays will keep appearing, especially now that there's a tiny bit of hope we might pull back from Bushian darkness and we need folks as wise as Willis to help us begin to see the light. There's also this: I penned a tribute to her back in May, and what I said then still seems right to me, although now it makes me depressed there won't be more essays that begin with sentences like, "Las Vegas is more like Hollywood than Hollywood, because the money is changing hands right out front."

Feminism, writing, the human race is all the poorer with her passing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Random Ten

Ryuichi Sakamoto "You Do Me"
Richard Buckner "A Shift"
Yo La Tengo "A Shy Dog"
Talking Heads "With Our Love"
Peter Gabriel "I Have the Touch"
Randy Newman and Orchestra "Make Up Your Mind"
Peter Gabriel "Steam"
Sonny Sharrock and Nicky Skopelitis "Who Are You"
Merle Haggard (w/ Toby Keith) "She Ain't Hooked on Me No More"
Penguin Cafe Orchestra "Nothing Really Blue"

Lou Reed "Metal Machine Music" (excerpt)

Which makes me think of Lester Bangs and his review of Reed's MMM, part of which goes like this:

Why do people go tot see movies like Jaws, The Exorcist, or Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS? So they can get beaten over the head with baseball bats, have their nerves wrenched while electrodes are being stapled to their spines, and be generally brutalized at least once every fifteen minutes or so (the time between the face falling out of the bottom of the sunk boat and the guy's bit-off leg hitting the bottom of the ocean). This is what, today, is commonly understood as entertainment, as fun, as art even! So they've got a lot of nerve landing on Lou for MMM. At least here there's no fifteen minutes of bullshit padding between brutalizations. Anybody who got off on The Exorcist should like this record. It's certainly far more moral a product.

(from "The Greatest Album Ever Made," originally published in Creem in 1976 but re-published in the indispensible Bangs' collection Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung)

Gee, I wonder how Bangs would feel about films like Saw and Hostel?

Long Dog Calling

For Dog Blog Friday: Even Mookie and Nigel decided to do their part on Tuesday, working the phones for MoveOn. After all, as greyhounds, moving on is what they're all about.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Soccer to Me, Light Foot

The legend lives on from the bloggers on down
Of the big veep they call Zany Cheney
The veep, it is said, never gives up his dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

Well, it's the 31st anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and at first I thought it would be fun to write a parody version of the Gordon Lightfoot chestnut, "The Wreck of the Republican Party," but do you know the song's so long that it takes longer to sing it than it took for the 729 foot ship to sink in the first place? I'll leave that heavy lifting to an aspiring Weird Al.

It's also the 29th anniversary of the day the first Major Indoor Soccer League was organized. Before the organization, there were a lot of forfeits and too many games when the score was 142-0. Deciding it was best to have two teams show up at the same place and same time to play a game, the MISL was born. After all, Americans, who obviously still haven't quite taken to the game, needed to be moved inside, where there were fewer distractions to keep them from the game ("look, there's a ladybug on my t-shirt, Clem!").

Norway, Jose!

The AP reports:

The United Nations ranked Norway as the best country to live in for a sixth consecutive year Thursday, prompting the country's aid minister to tell Norwegians to stop whining about wanting more.

True, the BCS has Norway ranked behind Louisville, at least until tonight's clash with Rutgers....Seriously, you may ask, what makes a country close to the Arctic Circle the best place to live?

Oil-rich Norway, with its generous welfare state, topped the U.N. Development Program's human development index, based on such criteria as life expectancy, education and income. Iceland was No. 2, followed by Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Japan and the United States.

We're number 8! We're number 8! Of course, who wants to believe a list compiled by the UN anyway? They're just ranking us so low so they can complete the take-over, which will be even easier now that the appeasement-minded Democrats rule both the House and Senate (go Jim Webb!). I mean, will the Dems surrender to the UN or Bin Laden first?

It could be worse for the U.S., for the story concludes:

The report was unable to rank 17 countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, because there was insufficient data.

Yeah, you keep trying to track life expectancy and then people go and die on you. Makes stat-keeping mighty hard.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Mehlman Wrongs Once

I'm not sure why everyone else has passed on this one, but wtf was up with Ken Mehlman last night when he got all excited on Wolf Blitzer (now, now) and insisted that we hadn't heard the last of Michael Steele's senatorial challenge in Maryland, no matter what was predicted?

It turns out Maryland doesn't count its absentee ballots until Thursday. That means Steele only has to make up 164K votes. I didn't realize there were that many absentee voters in Maryland, let alone all of them Republicans. I mean, it's a teensy state--even if you left it to go to Delaware or something, you should be able to get back in time to vote.

As for Mehlman, he was just probably sad that his big attempt to make people think a politician's skin color is enough to get him votes failed. If it's any consolation, that didn't seem to work well for Ford and the Dems in Tennessee, either.

A Big Pat on the Cyber-Back

Howard Dean:

That’s a growing influence on politics in general. There is also a conservative blogosphere, not only the liberal blogosphere, of course.

The netroots community can be very proud. They’re playing a bigger role.

Without the blogs, Jerry McInerny and Carole Shay (NH-1), would not have won. Entirely grassroots effort, without support form the Party, including us.

A big deal.

Here’s an even bigger deal. As you know, robocalls, flyers, low-ball election techniques. We knew about that instantly because of the blogs. We are not sure (Repubs) did it more than in the past, but we knew about it faster. Updates every 10 minutes from people who called 1-888-DEM-VOTE. (or whatever). We were able to get lawyers to polling places immediately.

The instantaneousness of the blogs, of people who read the blogs, who get that information to us, is a huge improvement over 2004.

Well, you're welcome, Howard. Love to do it again.

(hat tip to Firedoglake)

He Who Laughs Wednesday Morning Laughs Loudest

I had the strangest dream last was election day and things kept happening the way I wanted them to. Menendez in New Jersey. Casey in Pennsy (and I was so sad that Rick Santorum didn't have his dead fetus on the dias with him when he conceded). Dems picking up House seats all across the country, even knocking off Richard Pombo here in CA. Then Joltin' Joe Lieberman lumbered into my dream and I woke up.

OK, you can't have everything, but as a stop on the way to everything, it feels pretty good this morning. Rove isn't a genius. The worries about poorly fuctioning voting machines is on the elephant's foot this time.

And at our house we had 20 dedicated folks show up with their cell phones and place over 1200 calls into Arizona 5 thanks to MoveOn. That district was represented by J.D. Hayworth, who TBogg refers to as America's Stupidest Congressman. But not for long, as we were a part of having him go down to defeat! Congratulations Harry Mitchell. Please make your devoted if non-voting fans in Santa Barbara proud. It certainly won't take much to beat Hayworth's abysmal voting record.

And as an aside, I'd swear when I snuck out of the house to grab some dinner around 6 pm that gas prices had already begun to inch up. You know the Dems will get blamed for that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More Phone in the New World

I'm too nervous to be witty, wise, or even wise-ass. I want today to matter. No voter shennanigans, no more robocalls, no Diebold-disasters.

And then I want the Dems to kick elephant ass.

Only working a half day, as Amy and I are hosting a MoveOn calling party from 2 pm till the last caller can't take it anymore, which is 9 pm Pacific (the polls stay open late in Oregon, evidently).

If you can do it, go to a MoveOn party yourself, wherever you are. Or just use their fantastic lists and software to call from your own home.

Yes, making political phone calls is unpleasant. But 2 more years of all Republican rule is much more miserable.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Poll Fault Insurance

So Hussein gets his verdict, so coincidentally timed to be in the news right before our elections. But it's worse than that, for as the Los Angeles Times reported today (no link, but I'm copying from the print paper at my elbow):

For many in Iraq, Hussein has ceased to be the mesmerizing patriarch who once towered over their nightmares and lives. Many interviewed Sunday and in recent months said they had laid him to rest long ago, more worried about the interecine violence racking the country.

So who was this trial for after all? Who was all of Iraq for?

And when you go vote tomorrow, because of course you vote, remember that the people currently in power in your country will do anything for politics. 2,800 American soldiers, 600,000 Iraqis. If those deaths mean keeping power, everything is ok to them.

You have to help stop them.

Snap Me in Your Breach I Want To Be Your Bullet

Two things you need to know, if you don't.

First, all 4 military newspapers today call for the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

The papers are the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times. They are published by the Military Times Media Group, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc. President Bush said this week that he wanted Rumsfeld to serve out the next two years.

"We say that Rumsfeld must be replaced,” Alex Neill, the managing editor of the Army Times, told The Virginian-Pilot Friday night. “Given the state of affairs with Iraq and the military right now, we think it’s a good time for new leadership there.”

The editorial was based on a decision of the publications’ editorial board, Neill told the paper.

Second, no matter what blather BushCo offers, Iraq isn't getting better. Check out this interview with NPR's Anne Garrels and the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid that ran Friday on Morning Edition. Listen to the tone of poor Anne Garrels' voice--that's a voice that has seen too much and seems pretty hopeless, no?

Buddy, Got a Light?

Originally uploaded by twisesq.

Finally photographic evidence to prove that no matter what he claimed, the sun does not shine out of Jimbo's ass.

Is She Drinking a Can of Tennis Balls?

Originally uploaded by craig.dt.

Despite the saucy accusatory finger, Stella was quite wrong when she taunted people claiming the women's cummerbund would be the next fashion rage.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Trouble and Desire

Usually I poke around at IMDB for things to make fun of but sometimes the news pokes back. Today one of IMDB's headlines read Adrienne Shelly dead.

What might be saddest of all is most of you are probably shrugging "Shelly who?" (Note even the DVD cover art above spells her name wrong.) But for those of us who felt independent film meant something back around 1990, this is a terrible loss. For Shelly was the enigmatically impish muse for Hal Hartley's first films, back when he seemed like something revolutionary, and each new film seemed more both straightforward and unconventionally terrific than anything else on the screen. I'm not the first person to point out how much Hartley was a corrective to John Hughes, making adolescence--which he wisely knew for men could linger into the early thirties--something as mundane and magical as it truly is. The cleanness of Hartley's suburbia could swallow you whole, all those cool planes of primary colors. And his steady stable of actors were always a bit too handsome/beautiful but stripped of glamor, mere ordinary gods, for as much as his films mirror reality, they are always films. They toy with that artifice, no more so than with the blatant symbolism of the hand grenade that threatens to blow Trust and its characters to bits.

Similarly his dialog, pitched somewhere between noir and melodrama, has to ring fast and deadpan. It's tough to pull off, but no one did it better than Shelly, giving just the right intonation to exchanges like:

Maria (played by Shelly): He's dangerous but sincere.
Nurse Paine: Sincerely dangerous.
Maria Coughlin: No, he's dangerous because he's sincere.

as the words flop about like fish on the deck of the good ship Meaning. In both Unbelievable Truth and Trust her characters grow, well, it might not be "up" as Hartley isn't so sure mature is a goal. But they deepen, and anyone who mistakenly thinks Shelly is just big hair and big lips underestimates her petite power at their own risk (just ask her dad in Trust, in one of the most outlandish openings in non-horror cinema, that is if what families do to each other isn't often rich with intimate barbarity).

Of course, beyond how sad it is to see someone still so young--just 40--dead, there's the purely selfish part of it. Shelly tended to play younger than her real age, which is younger than my age, and in my celluloid-clouded head she and the Hartley films play a rich part. So if she's gone, part of me is, too, some bit of youth, some bit of dreaming, some life when I saw many more films than I do now and remembered lines I loved that I now have to Google for to get right which isn't right at all.

Friday Random Ten

Well this was a weird list--one of my favortie cuts by a pretty obscure band followed by all kinds of arcana. And for the second week in a row Steve Earle imposes himself as the bonus cut. BTW, if you don't know the Deadstring Brothers but like Exile on Main Street era Stones and the Band and Drive By Truckers, you'll like them.

Freakwater "Out of this World"
Jill Sobule "Smoke Dreams"
The Raveonettes "That Great Love Sound"
David Byrne "Tiny Apocalypse"
Deadstring Brothers "Til' the Bleeding Stops"
A.C. Newman "Come Crash"
Joe Henry "Mean Flower"
Guided by Voices "Paper Girl"
T Bone Burnett "Driving Wheel"
J Church "UFOs Will Crash"
Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band "Texas Eagle"

May the Life Force Be with You

For Dog Blog Friday: This is a photo from back on his birthday, but it pretty much captures how the joy is back in Nigel's step as much as the pink pig is in his mouth.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Resume with a Bang and a Boom

Friday is the 53rd birthday of Dennis Miller, and to honor him I will write this blog entry without making a single joke that is actually funny.

But unseriously folks, Miller has become to comedy what fellow birthday celebrater Roseanne Barr is to national anthem singing, or what yet another fellow anniversarian is to acting--Dolph "The Beatin' from Sweden" Lundgren. And I haven't even got around to comparing him to that stunning Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, also born November 3 (as bad as Cool Tank Duke was, he did carry his home state, which is more than Al Gore can say). Don't worry that Nov. 3 is a purely talentless day to drop from your mom's womb (or be untimely ripped), as it's also Ken Berry's birthday, and without him "F-Troop" would have just been the Larry Storch show.

Luckily, the day is also notable as the 75th anniversary of the manufacture of the 1st commercially produced synthetic rubber. Before 1931 it took little old ants with high hopes to move rubber tree plants, and many thought ant slavery was cruel, not to mention generally ineffective as trying to whip an ant is nearly impossible. (Real slavery was just so much easier given humans are big enough to beat without mashing them into oblivion. As a yet more askew aside, the day is also Adam Ant's birthday, who knows of slavery after being managed by Malcolm McLaren.) You do have to admit it's best that the backseat was invented before synthetically produced rubber. You might also want to admit looking at the roster of those born on this day that there's not enough synthetic rubber to go around.

More Mice than Tummy

These images provided by the National Institutes of Health shows 15-month-old mice, top, from left, on a standard diet, a high calorie diet, and high calorie diet plus the wine extract resveratrol. Bottom photo, from left, on a high calorie diet, a standard diet, and high calories diet plus the wine extract resveratrol. (AP Photo/National Institutes of Health, Doug Hansen)

I have to raise my glass in a toast to this news from the AP:

Obese mice on a high-fat diet got the benefits of being thin — living healthier, longer lives — without the pain of dieting when they consumed huge doses of red wine extract, according to a landmark new study.

It's far too early to know if this would work in people, scientists said. But several were excited by the findings, calling it promising and even "spectacular."

The study by the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging shows that heavy doses of the red wine ingredient, resveratrol, lowers the rate of diabetes, liver problems and other fat-related ill effects in obese mice.

All the benefits of being thin without the annoyingly difficult being thin part! And all you have to do is drink red wine. Where can I sign up for that pilot study? (Or perhaps I'm a scientist working quietly on my own and I don't even know it.)

I guess I also better be sure to stay off really sticky paper and avoid cheese on spring-loaded serving platters, too.

Reed It and Weep

Heading into last night's Lou Reed show right here in Santa Barbara, instead of having a Reed or Velvet's tune in my head, I just kept running that Pixies' lyrics, "'I want to be a singer like Lou Reed,' 'I like Lou Reed,' she says, sticking her tongue in my ear." Perverse, I know, but what better thing to be to prepare myself for Lou, the man who sang about how heroin was his life and his wife the very same year the Beatles got by with a little help from their friends, the man who would deign to play a brittly-sweet version of "Femme Fatale" at this very show, only to hold off singing the title words until the very very last run through the chorus, the man who got the line "she never lost her head even when she was giving head" onto the radio in what is the only song of his ever really to be played on the radio in a 40 year career.

Sure enough, the show was perverse, too. Reed's touring with longtime band-mate Fernando Saunders and Rob Wasserman, thereby kicking out the drums for a double bass approach that suits many of his songs quite well (even ones he never played--would have loved to hear "Doing the Things that They Want To" or "Perfect Day" or "Kill Your Sons" with one bassist sawing and one plucking, but that's just a way to say Reed has too many good songs and most of them create rock art, and I flip the words very intentionally). They opened with a noise-strumental that functioned as sound-check, which was a good thing since Wasserman's bass originally was mixed so as to move the audience's viscera. Then they set the tone for the evening with an odd lope through "What's Good" and while Wasserman and Saunders pushed the song with its nifty lifting little bass hook, Reed seemed indifferent to the guitar riff, toying with it and the lyrics, too. The tension kind of worked, as the song itself is all about oxymorons like "life's like Sanskrit read to a pony" and "what good is seeing eye chocolate." Reed's great theme all along has been thanatos v. eros, and how much we can love death and kill love. It's not accidental that his Robert Wilson collaboration, which he played a bunch of songs from, is The Raven.

So the show was far from perfect, but nobody looks to Reed for that (you want perfect go fall asleep to Celine Dion or somebody). He played two cuts from Songs for Drella, the terrific work he and John Calle created for their mentor Warhol, and instead of blasting through "Forever Changed," which would have really rocked with the double-bass-bottom, he did the talksong with wind effects "The Dream," which Cale does on the CD, as if to reclaim that cut and prove he is and was and will always be the genius (while reveling in the lines about how Andy thinks he's a jerk--despite his immense talent, Lou's one of those assholes who likes to walk around saying, "Yep, I'm an asshole"). I mean, when the show opened and he got a partial standing O just for coming out on stage he did this little hands palmed-out at his sides Jesus blessing like we could all lick his stigmata or something. Then after "The Dream" he revamped "Faces and Names," one of those songs that makes it seem as if his favorite lyric-writing trick is to repeat phrases till they turn noise.

But then there was a you-got-your-money's worth "Sword of Damocles," too. The synth riff from the recorded version got turned into a bowed bass part, and Reed was even generous enough to let Saunders play one amazing solo on some bassthingy he had on a stand. It was so hot that Saunders just tossed his bow mid-run, as it cramped the free flow of the picking. This song also features some classic Reed lines like, "There are things we can't know/maybe there's something over there/Some other world we don't know about/I know you hate that mystic shit," which is good for a goof, bad for scansion, and very much like something he might have actually said to a dying friend. Even when he's full of it, that's who he truly is.

When "Damocles" started I thought it was "Street Hassle," but then they did close the full set with that epic of the demimonde. Why not, when you've got a mini-string section? Even after decades of rap music, the lyrics still kind of shock ("when someone turns that blue it's a universal truth and you know that bitch will never fuck again"), and the music was pretty relentless--neither bassman ever relieved the "do-dum-do-dum-dum" with the "bum-boo-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum" rising part on the recorded version--so it was sort of "Street Hassle" on its way to "Sister Ray," but that's Lou for you. He giveth, and he taketh away. Someone from the crowd at one point yelled "We love you, Lou," and he replied, "I love you,'s been a long time, I guess you could call this a relationship." that might sound heartwarming, but he did write and sing "Street Hassle," so there's no rest in a relationship with Reed. Then again, here's a guy who you know is always thinking--cause he says it in almost every song--that we're all gonna die anyway.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mahdi about You

I take back my earlier comment about Iraqis not managing to pull off a true U.S.-style democracy. From yesterday's Washington Post:

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades [stop, think about how many years is "decades"--continue] longer than Casey's assessment.

Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.

"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."

Now that's U.S.-style, at least, Bush U.S. style--where it's best to donate money to Katrina victims that has to go to buy your son's poorly designed educational software.

BTW, what does is say about Bush DNA that in a clever contest Neil doesn't finish last?

All the Sports that's Written by Twit

So you think you get something better in a sports section of a paper if you're reading the New York Times? Well, think again. Today Ben Shpigel writes:

The Phillies are set at second base with Utley, so they would be interested in Soriano as a corner outfielder and only, perhaps, if they can free up some salary by persuading Pat Burrell to waive his no-trade clause.

The underperforming Burrell, who is owed $27 million over the next two seasons, has not succeeded in protecting Howard, and Soriano may be the best option to fulfill that responsibility.

Poor Ryan Howard. With Pat the Bat in the line-up behind him, he managed to hit only .313/.425/.659 with 58 homers and 149 RBI. I mean, if teams didn't pitch around him to get to Burrell, he would have had 257 ribbies.

Bill James refuted the "protection in the line-up" issue way back when Bob Horner was playing. Don't sportswriters read?
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