Friday, June 29, 2007

The Internets Are a Magic Tool

I always wanted to live in Springfield. Go make yourself 2-D here.

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Bad Day at Black Robes

That sneaky Supreme Court: I was convinced they would overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) first, but instead they went for Brown v. Board of Education (1954)! How novel of them. How enterprising. How soon does the next plane leave for Canada.

Then again, BushCo overturned the Barons v. King John (1215), so nothing should surprise me.


Our Pictures Today Are Supplied by the Goodyear Blimp

For Dog Blog Friday: Sometimes you just have to stare and stare at them.


Friday Random Ten

Wilco "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (Again)" Summer Teeth
Guided by Voices "Wondering Poet Boy" Vampire on Titus/Propeller
Victoria Williams "Lift Him Up" Swing the Statue
Penguin Cafe Orchestra "Air A Danser" When in Rome...
Guided by Voices "Ex-Supermodel" Alien Lanes
Glenn Gould "Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Variatio 30 Quodibet, A 1 Clav." A State of Wonder - Compete Goldberg Variations
Kelly Joe Phelps "That's Alright" Roll Away the Stone
The Byrds "One Hundred Years from Now" Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology
Bill Nelson "Gnosis" Chance Encounters in the Garden Of Lights: The Book of Inward Conversation
Nina Simone "See-Line Woman" Verve Unmixed


Sebadoh "Colorblind" The Sebadoh

We have this joke that it's not really random until Guided by Voices plays, so this week fulfills iTunes prophecy twice over. Not one fave song this week. Oh well.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Got Some Clients in the Food Industry
It's Not the Money It's the Recipes

Or Wednesday Where the Heck Was It Blogging

My loyal reader, perhaps you have noticed that of late I've tried to do some food or drink entry every Wednesday, as that's the day the LA and NY Times both run their food sections, so I wanted to join in on the fattening up of the week's hump. That tradition will end now, however, for I have a paying gig for my food stuff, and if I'm going to sell the cow, I'm not giving my milk away for free. As of today I'm Food Editor over at the Santa Barbara Independent, which means a page of food news a week and a full-length feature mostly every week.

You can go read the first of those now, about Chef Michael Hutchings and his participation in this Saturday's Santa Barbara Wine Festival.

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Ga-Ga Gadsden, Have You Any Purchase

Friday is the 153rd anniversary of the Gadsden Purchase, but if he was so busy buying things you'd think he might have forked-over the $250 for a vowel in that tongue-tripping d-s-d combo. Actually, James Gadsden was a politico the current White House could love--he oversaw the purchase of parts of current day Arizona and New Mexico so a transcontinental railroad he just happened to be one of the partners in could be built there. The 29,000+ square miles came with the price tag of $10 million (later day wall not included), but in true bordertown bargain manner the US Congress only agreed on $7 million. When the money finally arrived in Mexico City $1 million, according to Wikipedia, "were found to be lost." Who says BushCo doesn't learn from history? You'd think this is where they developed the plan to ship reconstruction funds to Iraq. Nonetheless, without this purchase we wouldn't have: 1) the land where Tucson and Yuma are today, 2) the phrase "it's hot, but it's a dry heat," 3) the Chihuahua Desert (stop and make a mental image of that right now), 4) the monster of a Gila River (motto: you can't step into the same poison once), and 5) a question to torment 6th grade history students.

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Truth or Confluences

It's important to re-use and re-cycle. Therefore here's something I put together in 2000 (hint: that means there's not a single film made after 2000 on this list). This completes an exercise called My Favorite Films, Once upon a Time.

The joys of docs are you realize not that truth is stranger than fiction but that most truth is fiction. So I don't want to hear quibbles about how these folks bend reality--it's bent already.
As with the foreign film list, this isn't put in a preferential order. And it's a list in progress, too.

Sherman's March (McElwee, 86)
Thin Blue Line (Morris, 88)
Shoah (Lanzmann, 85)
Stop Making Sense (Demme, 84)
Night and Fog (Resnais, 55)
Crumb (Zwigoff, 96)
Zapruder film (Zapruder, 63)
Day after Trinity (Else, 80)
Roger and Me (Moore, 89)
The Times of Harvey Milk (Epstein, 84)
Tokyo-Ga (Wenders, 85)
Lightning over Braddock: A Rustbowl Fantasy (Buba, 89)
Rock Hudson's Home Movies (Rappaport, 92)
Don't Look Back (Pennebaker, 66)
Streetwise (Bell, 85)
High School (Wiseman, 68)
Hearts and Minds (Davis, 75)
Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (Morris, 88)
Manufacturing Consent (Achbar and Wintonick, 92)
The Last Waltz (Scorsese, 78)
Let's Get Lost (Weber, 89)
Olympiad (Riefenstahl, 38)
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done (Thomas, 88)
Titicut Follies (Wiseman, 67)
Land of Silence and Darkness (Herzog, 71)
Forest of Bliss (Gardner, 86)
Comic Book Confidential (Mann, 89)
The Mystery of Picasso (Clouzot, 56)
Swimming to Cambodia (Demme, 84)
Jazz on a Summer's Day (Stern, 59)
The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle (Temple, 80)
A Great Day in Harlem (Bach, 94)


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Shh, My List is Starting

Figured I might as well keep digging my hole of self-referentiality deeper and climb on in. With a movie projector. Here's the favorite foreign films (that means British and Canadian, too--since when Tancredo's president they'll have to get the films over the wall) list I put together in 1999. (Note, unsubtle readers--that means they're aren't any films since 1999.)

I couldn't keep quiet on this subject, now, could I? So, here is a randomly ordered, completely personal, decidedly arbitrary list. Trying to compile it shocked me, once again--there's so much I haven't seen. And then there's so much I just don't get, like Bresson and Dreyer, and my soul, I realize, is poorer for it.

But there are things I left off intentionally, even if others love them; for just three quickies which sure don't feel quick when I watch them, there's Blow-Up, Repulsion, and Cinema Paradiso. And My Life as a Dog. And anything with Gerard Depardieu (although 1900 is campy fun, especially when Donald Sutherland is about killing things). Stop me before I pan again.

  • Smiles of a Summer Night (Bergman, 55)
  • Dead of Night (Dearden, Cavalcanti, Hamer, Crichton, 45)
  • Jules and Jim (Truffaut, 61)
  • Wings of Desire (Wenders, 87)
  • Ikiru (Kurosawa, 52)
  • all the Quay Bros. shorts--especially Street of Crocodiles (Brothers Quay, 84+)
  • The Earrings of Madame de... (Ophuls, 53)
  • The Rules of the Game (Renoir, 39)
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz (Fassbinder, 80)
  • L'Atalante (Vigo, 34)
  • Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci, 72)
  • Shoot the Piano Player (Truffaut, 60)
  • Stalker (Tarkovsky, 79)
  • The Sweet Hereafter (Egoyan, 97)
  • The 39 Steps (Hitchcock, 35)
  • Masculin/Feminin (Godard, 66)
  • Breaking the Waves (von Trier, 96)
  • Drowning by Numbers (Greenaway, 87)
  • The Ladykillers (Mackendrick, 55)
  • Irma Vep (Assayas, 97)
  • Pandora's Box (Pabst, 29)
  • Simon of the Desert (Bunuel, 65)
  • Metropolis (Lang, 27)
  • Grand Illusion (Renoir, 37)
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Herzog, 72)
  • The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 54)
  • The Duellists (Scott, 78)
  • Tokyo Story (Ozu, 53)
  • Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (Tanner, 76)
  • Amarcord (Fellini, 73)
  • Cries and Whispers (Bergman, 72)
  • A Day in the Country (Renoir, 36)
  • Un Coeur en Hiver (Sautet, 92)
  • Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 66)
  • Menilmontant (Kirsanov, 24)
  • Ulysses' Gaze (Angelopoulos, 95)
  • The Ballad of Narayama (Imamura, 84)
  • Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, 74)
  • Nosferatu (Murnau, 22)
  • The Company of Wolves (Jordan, 84)
  • Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau, 45)
  • The Road Warrior (Miller, 82)
  • Great Expectations (Lean, 46)
  • Potemkin (Eisenstein, 25)
  • Red (Kieslowski, 94)
  • Los Olvidados (Bunuel, 50)
  • Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, 53)
  • Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Tati, 53)
  • High Hopes (Leigh, 88)
  • The Nasty Girl (M. Verhoeven, 90)
  • M (Lang, 31)
  • Diva (Beinex, 81)
  • Pierrot le Fou (Godard, 65)
  • The Conformist (Bertolucci, 70)
  • The Story of Qiu Ju (Yimou, 92)
  • Henry V (Olivier, 45)
  • Bedazzled (Donen, 67)
  • Stroszek (Herzog, 77)
  • The Bicycle Thief (De Sica, 48)
  • The Man Who Would Be King (Huston, 75)
  • Tampopo (Itami, 86)
  • Children of Paradise (Carne, 44)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 66)
  • Boudu Saved from Drowning (Renoir, 32)
  • The Smallest Show on Earth (Dearden, 57)
  • Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman, 73)
  • Europa, Europa (Holland, 91)
  • Providence (Resnais, 77)
  • Carnival in Flanders (Feyder, 35)
  • The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock, 38)
  • Miss Julie (Sjoberg, 51)
  • Seven Beauties (Wertmuller, 75)
  • Les Visiteurs du Soir (Carne, 42)
  • Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 61)
  • The Servant (Losey, 63)
  • Miracle in Milan (De Sica, 51)
  • La Belle Noiseuse (Rivette, 91)
  • Night of the Shooting Stars (Taviani Bros, 82)
  • Smash Palace (Donaldson, 81)
  • L'Age D'or (Bunuel, 30)
  • 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould (Girard, 93)

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Monday, June 25, 2007

100 Best Things to Do in the Dark

The AFI is at it again, so I must be too. I put together a list to respond to their first dismal attempt at the top 100 American films back in 1998, and although they've made some improvements (like recognizing comedy as the true American genre, followed closely by horror, therefore horror comedies are the true American product--see, Raimi, Sam), so I thought I'd go and revise my old list, which I never posted on my blog. (It was on my website in the days before blogging was cool. Or even done.)

Therefore I post this list, knowing lists are silly, but this is my version, so it's my silly. There's a whole different list for international films and docs, because each are foreign in their own ways. And as I said last time I apologize to all films not-yet-seen or forgotten. I do not apologize if your favorites aren’t here, though--go make your own list.

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 58)
2. Touch of Evil (Welles, 58)
3. Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 55)
4. The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 41)
5. Citizen Kane (Welles, 41)
6. The Band Wagon (Minnelli, 53)
7. The Awful Truth (McCarey, 37)
8. Rear Window (Hitchcock, 54)
9. Chinatown (Polanski, 74)
10. Once Upon a Time in America (Leone, 84)
11. All About Eve (Mankiewicz, 50)
12. Manhattan (Allen, 79)
13. Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, 51)
14. The Lady Eve (Sturges, 41)
15. Sherlock, Jr. (Keaton, 24)
16. Days of Heaven (Malick, 78)
17. Duck Soup (McCarey, 33)
18. Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 67)
19. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 86)
20. Casablanca (Curtiz, 42)
21. Nashville (Altman, 76)
22. Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 43)
23. The Godfather, Part II (Coppola, 74)
24. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, 71)
25. Laura (Preminger, 44)
26. Top Hat (Sandrich, 35)
27. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz & Keighley, 38)
28. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, 38)
29. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 64)
30. Singin’ in the Rain (Donen & Kelly, 52)
31. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 48)
32. Easy Living (Leisen, 37)
33. To Sleep with Anger (Burnett, 90)
34. Annie Hall (Allen, 77)
35. In a Lonely Place (Ray, 50)
36. The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 69)
37. Melvin and Howard (Demme, 80)
38. Miracle at Morgan’s Creek (Sturges, 44)
39. It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra, 46)
40. North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 59)
41. The Big Sleep (Hawks, 46)
42. Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 57)
43. The Stunt Man (Rush, 80)
44. The Third Man (Reed, 49)
45. Simple Men (Hartley, 92)
46. Notorious (Hitchcock, 46)
47. Broken Blossoms (Griffith, 19)
48. It Happened One Night (Capra, 34)
49. Long Day’s Journey into Night (Lumet, 62)
50. The Searchers (Ford, 56)
51. Written on the Wind (Sirk, 56)
52. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch, 32)
53. A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan, 51)
54. Sunrise (Murnau, 28)
55. The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, 35)
56. Adam’s Rib (Cukor, 49)
57. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 42)
58. The General (Keaton, 27)
59. Meet Me in St. Louis (Minnelli, 44)
60. Network (Lumet, 76)
61. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 59)
62. Sullivan’s Travels (Sturges, 41)
63. Red River (Hawks, 48)
64. Lolita (Kubrick, 62)
65. A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 05)
66. The Women (Cukor, 39)
67. Double Indemnity (Wilder, 44)
68. Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 57)
69. The Godfather (Coppola, 72)
70. Trust (Hartley, 91)
71. Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 55)
72. Woman in the Window (Lang, 44)
73. Stranger than Paradise (Jarmusch, 84)
74. Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, 39)
75. The King of Comedy (Scorsese, 83)
76. Zelig (Allen, 83)
77. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 48)
78. The Crimson Pirate (Siodmak, 52)
79. Something Wild (Demme, 86)
80. Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 60)
81. The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 62)
82. Stagecoach (Ford, 39)
83. My Man Godfrey (LaCava, 36)
84. Johnny Guitar (Ray, 54)
85. A Face in the Crowd (Kazan, 57)
86. Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant, 89)
87. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 71)
88. The Gold Rush (Chaplin, 25)
89. The Naked Spur (Mann, 53)
90. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols, 66)
91. Pennies from Heaven (Ross, 81)
92. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 77)
93. Bigger than Life (Ray, 56)
94. Diner (Levinson, 82)
95. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 76)
96. The Evil Dead II (Raimi, 87)
97. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 94)
98. Nightmare Alley (Goulding, 47)
99. Dead Man (Jarmusch, 97)
100. Repo Man (Cox, 84)

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The Cheneypus

So I hear there was a sighting of our whatever we're supposed to call him now this weekend.

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Give Me Paint, Lots of Paint under Neon Skies

Originally uploaded by nbrier

OK, guys, next time we put the fence up with the graffiti artists on the outside.

Monday random Flickr-blogging explained.


The Random Flickr-Blogging Has Been Drinking

Originally uploaded by gogogorilla

Why, yes, I do own every Tom Waits album--why do you ask?


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Solstice Parade, Santa Barbara 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

This % Might Be Better than My Survival Rate of Bush-Cheney


Well, that certainly puts a damper on my weekend.

(Hat tip Amy, who has a better chance of survival, so I can only assume she said she'd shoot me in the head if I was a zombie....)


Friday Random Ten

Neko Case "Stinging Velvet" Blacklisted
The Damned "New Rose" D.I.Y.: Anarchy in the UK - UK Punk I (1976-77)
Kevin Salem "Lighthouse Keeper" Soma City
Pavement "Soiled Little Filly" Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.'s Desert Origins
Alex Chilton "The Happy Song" 1970
Peter Gabriel "San Jacinto" Security
The New Pornographers "Jackie" Mass Romantic
Battlefield Band "The Dear Green Place" On the Rise
The Mekons "Prince of Darkness" New York
Waco Brothers "The Lie" New Deal


Fountains of Wayne "I Know You Well" Out-of-State Plates

Nothing to be too embarrassed about this week, although surprisingly probably my favorite cut of the lot is the Kevin Salem (there's some great guitar-pop on that disc). An I never thought of it, but that Gabriel cut and The Mekons cut are more alike than you'd think. And I know that FOW cut is mushy, but it's so damn catchy, those follow the leader chorus harmonies.


Beach Blanket Bergman

For Dog Blog Friday: Knowing the personalities of these two, it should be no surprise Mookie thinks this pose is a homage to Persona while Nigel thinks it's one to Interiors.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dedman Balking

Bill Dedman over at MSNBC has a report up that's going to get misused as proof the media is a huge leftwing tool, so it's time to consider the problems with his article that says: identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

There are three assumptions one would have to make to connect this evidence to a claim of leftwing media bias.

1) This assumes journalists aren't professionals.

If you drop off your car at the mechanic and have a political bumper sticker on your car, do you have to worry the shop will prefer a different candidate and sabotage your auto? If you don the cap of your favorite baseball team and order that lunch to go, do you have to worry a fan of another team will spit in your soda? If you wear a yarmulke to your universty class taught by a Baptist, do you think you'll get a lower grade?

No. So why is it we believe journalists, whose very job it is to tell the truth, will slant things to their liking? Actually, my guess is if someone knows their beliefs to the point that they're willing to back them up with a donation, then they know them enough to be sure they don't color what they write. In fact, you could argue that trying so hard not to appear liberal has made the press even more aggressive towards Democrats--see Cookie Roberts' indignation when the American public didn't seem as interested as she did in impeaching Clinton--and defensive for Republicans--see Richard Cohen's lame rant about how Scooter Libby got railroaded.

It's possible that some rightwingers simply cannot see beyond their own, reductive us v. them world view about everything. Anyone not us is them and can't be trusted in any way. This leads to everything from sexism to homophobia to xenophobia. And it also leads to hatred of those from the land of the news media, who, like any terrorist, or person who doesn't agree with you, simply can't be trusted. Indeed, consider how quickly the right likes to throw about the treason tag and you'll see exactly what I mean. It's also possible that rightwingers can't but imagine they would slant things their way if there were more of them in journalism (for proof, see Fox News), so therefore lefties must do the same.

(And I know there are people out there who want to hurt us, yes. But for some reason that doesn't make me assume everyone out there wants to hurts us. And that even goes for everyone who is Muslim.)

2) This assumes the number's are significant.

As Dedman admits--in paragraph 14--"The pattern of donations, with nearly nine out of 10 giving to Democratic candidates and causes, appears to confirm a leftward tilt in newsrooms — at least among the donors, who are a tiny fraction of the roughly 100,000 staffers in newsrooms across the nation."

To make clear, that's among the 144 donors, who are a tiny fraction of 100,000 staffers. That's not even 1% of the journalists giving to liberal causes. I'm pretty sure 1% of something is an insignificant amount.

3) This assumes that newsroom staffers drive coverage decisions.

Eric Alterman is all over this one, partially saying:

Dedman's story is misleading because its primary assumption is that journalists determine the content of the news. I think it would be a lot more useful for him to report on, say, the political contributions of the General Electric Co. that owns NBC and MSNBC, which, I would argue, is a great deal more influential than any journalist's particular feeling. Ditto the Walt Disney Company, Viacom, and of course Fox. (Rupert Murdoch has admitted, publicly, that he deployed Fox, et al, in support of Bush's war in Iraq.)

But Alterman also misses that Dedman's list of donors includes paper librarians, graphic artists, copy editors--all sorts of people who really really run news organizations.

Ultimately, however, the rightwing just has to give up on this argument. For let's say the right is right, and the media is a cabal of leftwingers funded by George Soros and doing all it can to promote feminism, homosexuality, gun control, wealth redistribution, etc. If that's true, how has it been that the Republicans, until the 2006 election, for 6 years had complete control of all three branches of government? If the answer is, "well, the people are smart enough to see around the media and make the correct choices and vote Republican," then why does it bother the rightwing that the media is saturated by lefties? They're ineffectual anyway.

Instead, it's the usual rightwing move that parallels calling folks like the Clintons extreme liberals. Then those of us actually hoping for something progressive get blanded out national campaigns by Kerry and Gore completely characterized by runs to the center, which is really center right. What the rightwing manages to do is narrow what's considered proper in politics, and validate their own truly extreme faction as something actually within the parameters of normal. They might be cynical bastards, but they sure know how to work the system.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ear of the Pig

INOTBB has to offer up a huge thanks to Ahab from IIRTZ for his musical care package of 9 CDs (see there is music I don't own) including Sparklehorse, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Lee Hazlewood, Johnny Dowd, Damien Jurado, and a Richard Buckner I didn't have. The internets are a very very kind place.

And while I'm thanking people for music I have to say thanks to Cattie for the mixed CD that introduced me to what the cool 17-year-olds are listening to. Once again, there's so much I don't know. Have a great time in Norway, Cattie!

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Where the Tumbleweeds Blow Through the Web

Look out Terry Semel, my guess is Travis Armstrong will have you in his sights next. Checking out Yahoo News, I discovered they have a local news feed in Beta. If you go to the Santa Barbara page, you get headlines from all the following news sources:

SLO Tribune
Santa Maria Times
New Times Weekly
Lompoc Record
Adobe Press
LA Times
LA Daily News

Gee, who is missing from this list? You can even go to the custom page and "drag to the right and disable" (that's generally a two for one action in my opinion, if you get my drift) a source, but the source has to be listed in the first place.

I guess when you have no news staff, and even when you did you couldn't bother to provide any of your content for free on the web so people could read it, and when you threaten to sue anyone who quotes too much from your paper, and when you act like even the obituaries you run are your sole possession, you aren't going to be treated the best by a major search engine. Still, it's gotta sting a little bit, if anything bothers those in charge at the N-P anymore.


Bush Makes Annoucement in a Small Room

The AP reports:

Vetoing a stem cell bill for the second time, President Bush on Wednesday sought to placate those who disagree with him by signing an executive order urging scientists toward what he termed "ethically responsible" research in the field.

Bush went on to say, "If scientists want to do research that truly matters to this country, they can figure out a way to teach me what the words 'ethical' and 'responsible' mean."

Announcing his veto to a roomful of supporters, Bush said, "If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line."

"I figure there's got to be some moral line I won't cross, and I'm choosing this one. American taxpayers don't mind being compeled to support the deliberate destructions of humans, but embryos, they're so cute they might as well be babies. And we'd never kill babies with US funds."


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wednesday It's the Real Ale Blogging

A Visit with 60 Cask Conditioned Friends in Carlsbad

There’s lager and there’s ale. There’s ale and then there’s real ale. Those differences are worth having a festival about. Luckily that’s exactly what Pizza Port in Carlsbad does, and why if you live in Santa Barbara you have to drive 200 miles to north San Diego County – the current malty mecca of California craft-brewing with stars like Stone, Port, Alpine, AleSmith, and Green Flash – to taste more than 60 different beers from eight states and seven countries. And then burp in gratitude.

It really only takes 4 things to make beer – water, hops, malt, yeast. Of course it’s what kinds of those things you use, and how much, and matters of heat and time that make beer a science experiment with a really tasty payoff (you hope). Very simply put: Ales are top-fermented (where the yeast sits) at higher temperatures; lagers are bottom fermented at lower. A “real ale,” which might just sound like a marketing term, is actually something specific – an ale that’s unfiltered (there will still be floaty yeasties in it, often making it cloudy, or making its last mouthfuls a bit muddy) and naturally carbonated, therefore not as fizzy as a keg beer. That Duff you’re used to drinking at Moe’s comes out of the tap thanks to added carbon dioxide; real ale is served on cask, via hand pump, generally at room temperature. It’s an entirely different beer drinking experience. Plus the servers really have to pull to pour your tastes, and not just the 99 pound blond, but also the big burly guys, too.

For the purposes of journalism I tasted 19 beers on June 2 (plus some sips from my Amy’s glass, too) and can report real ale is real good. Not all of it, for we still have to deal with that awkward divide between craft ale and brew pub ale, which is something about inspiration versus commercialism and a lot about taste. Plus there’s the danger of hopping out – hops, the bittering, and for those with a taste for beer, bettering agent – is a key ingredient in an India Pale Ale (IPA), and given this festival largely featured double IPAs, well, you can see what tangy road we’re headed down. Speaking of down, double IPAs tend to be even higher in alcohol (8-10%), so sipping and dumping is recommended, especially when someone on his way out of the festival hands you a slew of drink tickets.

While you scan the all-ages crowd skewed about 60/40 male/female (beer is still Y chromosome associated it seems), reading t-shirts for Staggering Moose Ale, or the one that suggests “hold my beer while I kiss your girlfriend,” or the other that says “work is the curse of the drinking class,” you get to taste (and even with a crowd it’s easy to get to the hand pumps) ale after unusual ale. Some are brilliant, like Stone’s smoked porter with vanilla beans. It’s porter on the way to stout, dark and full, yet pitch perfect, with the vanilla kicking in as a warming after taste. Indeed, as we enjoyed it (so much my mother-in-law and designated driver ended up buying the full set of eight entry tickets for $25 to have this one drink) next to us a woman says, “Do you like it? I made it.” Laura Ulrich, one of Stone’s four brewers under a head and lead brewer, unassumingly admits, “There’s lots of cutting up vanilla beans.” Turns out she puts 10 in each cask. The rich, balanced taste is worth the work.

Others aren’t showing as well this Saturday. Four Peaks Brewing in Scottsdale, Ariz. has a Hop Knot IPA that tastes like something sour crawled into the cask and died. (And their beer on site is usually quite good.) Gordon Biersch’s Roggenbier, a rye ale, makes me make such a face that when I offer some to Amy she says, “After you just looked like that?” While a cask beer’s temperature is warmer than keg beer, this tastes almost cooked.

But the majority of beers makes us very happy, and therefore sad we have to pour out to taste more and remain standing. Highlights include Alpine’s Pure Hoppiness, sort of the model of double IPAs, hoppy, but exquisitely in balance; Pizza Port’s Stunna Shade Stout, a “foreign-style stout” on its way to Russian imperial stout yumminess; Rogue’s Brewer, an American strong ale (indeed – 7.9%) with luscious malts up front and a smack of hops to get your attention at the end; and, Harvieston Brewery’s Old Engine Oil Special Reserve, one of the 20 beers served in bottles, still real ales as they are bottle-fermented (capped into glass with living, working yeast), and where else would you drink a beer like this toasty malted one? Plus the people serving the bottled beers are in a garage a bit lower than the cement patio drinkers stand on, so it seems you’re being served by dwarves – after a lot of strong real ale it’s a Hunter S. Thompson moment.

And it’s not a hallucination – Santa Barbara’s own Hollister Brewing has its Hip Hop Double IPA available, full of hop punch and one of the loveliest noses of the day – that bright flower smell good IPAs have. It’s very easy to drink for something 8.6% alcohol. Upon returning to santa Barbara I called Hollister’s brewmaster Eric Rose who says he’s friends with the three organizers and that he always attends Port’s three seasonal beerfests. And while the Camino Real Marketplace location doesn’t yet have cask conditioned ale, Rose says, “It’s just a matter of us getting caught up. We’ll have them on permanently.” Great news for local hopheads.


Boy, Sgt. Cabin, Iraq Is One Hell's Bucket

News from the inbox:

First, someone's got to tell the DCCC they need to sample mail emails before they ship them out. Since Yahoo lists "From" and "Subject" right next to each other, right now a line in my box says "Speaker Nancy Pelosi Unconscionable."

Second, the email scams are hitting new lows. Today I got one from "Sgt. B. Cabin" (you only get to the A Cabin once you're no longer a NCO), who seems to prove that our soldiers are not only under great strain, but also relatively illiterate:

My name is SGT.B.CABIN, I am an American soldier, serving in the military Second Marine Division in Iraq, Please bear with me, it will be good you understands the sensitivities of the situation we are facing here in Iraq.

As you know, we are being attacked by insurgents everyday by car bombs. We managed to move funds belonging to Saddam Hussein during a raid in Tikrit his home town. The total amount is US$ 11 Million Dollars in cash, all in 100 dollar bills. We have concluded to move this money out of Iraq to any part of Europe for investment.

We pleaded you help us receive the bag containing the fund from security diplomatic company upon arrival. We have arrange on using Diplomatic Security Courier Company to evacuate this fund to you as soon as you merit our basic requirements.

I promise, Seargeant, I understands more than you might know, so don't pleaded.

I'm not sure, though, if it's sadder that you think I think my country's soldiers are thieves or you think I think it's ok to steal money from the country we illegally occupy.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Frankly, Everyone, I Do Blog a Damn

I'm not sure I get this, but here goes my cutting edge rep (I had one, didn't I?)...

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

And to think I believed I was fully unsuited for children.


I Felt Thomething Tharp in My Thigh

Originally uploaded by AVI NATAN

Although the company wanted to break down barriers and hire all types of people, it turns out zombies don't make great modern dancers.

Monday random Flickr-blogging explained.


The Latest Buzz in the Opera World

Originally uploaded by Rimpski

Vincent "Musty" Domesticus practices his scales, hoping to land the lead in the upcoming Howard Shore-David Cronenberg-David Henry Hwang opus.


Big Swinging

Originally uploaded by yomamali

Found on p. 42 of the executive desk toy section of the Sky Mall catalog on Air Giant.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Re-Joyce-ing throughout the Land

Meant to do this yesterday but I had such a crazy Bloomsday I forgot. Turns out June 16 is the anniversary of putting the counter on INOTBB and that means in one year of counting, 74,578 people stopped by (I almost said came here, but given certain surfers don't find the nude pictures of Monica Belluci, my guess is I'd be a liar). Even if you subtract the 4 visits a day by me, that's still a lot of folks.


Or, in the spirit of Bloomsday, and yes I said yes I will Yes.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Illegal Use of Paws

For Dog Blog Friday: Look closely and you'll see Nigel has a vestigial paw growing out of his shoulder.


Friday Random Ten

Stephen Malkmus "Vague Space" Stephen Malkmus
Elvis Costello "I've Been Wrong Before" Kojak Variety
Built to Spill "Car" There's Nothing Wrong with Love
R.E.M. "Fall on Me" Life's Rich Pageant
BeauSoleil "Zydeco Gris-Gris" Big Ol' Box of New Orleans
Calexico "Smash" Garden Ruin
Brian Eno "Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd)" Before and After Science
Little Walter "Hate to See You Go" His Best
Doc Watson & David Grisman "What Is a Home without Love?" Doc & Dawg
Belle & Sebastian "I Fought in a War" Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant

William Orbit "Best Friend, Paranoia" Plus from Us

So much for last week's good run. Lots of great artists but only one super cut--Built to Spill's "Car." Go look at the mixed tape from 1999 I posted yesterday instead.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Giant Schlepps

I'm sad to say it took me till today to call and cancel the News-Press Direct (to your recycling bin?), mostly because I like getting the Lazy Acres flyer stuffed into it every other week, not just to know what's on sale-ish (hey, this is Lazy Acres) but also to read one of the best writers in town Bob Wesley, whose wine notes always crack me up. But finally I just couldn't take it anymore, especially after reading on Craig Smith's Blog that Travis Armstrong called up the Goleta Chamber of Commerce for dropping their subscription and told them, "I will ruin you." (What, is he going to take them on a drunken car ride?)

So I try to call at 6:30 am, but the N-P number just rings--there isn't even a phone message saying what their hours are. Guess that's too professional. I call again after 7, a woman answers simply, "Hello," no, "Good morning, this is the News-Press," but can you blame her--I'd be embarrassed about where I worked too. I say I would like to discontinue receiving the News-Press Direct. She says, "I'll transfer you to that department," and I wonder if they have a whole department accepting cancellations. They must be busy, as I get a voice mail. I left my message asking for them to stop sending the rag to my address. No one calls me back to confirm. We'll see what happens.

In other news, the about to be announced UCSB Arts & Lectures season has a Jazz Series, as usual, and it's sponsored by the News-Press. I guess old habits die hard--where else does one advertise and hope to get deals for cheaper advertising?--but it's still disappointing. Did A&L even talk to the Sound for sponsorships? If they did and the Sound said no, why doesn't the Sound really want to be a player in this town? (The Indy, as usual, is all over the brochure.) I assume I might get some comments to help explain....

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Tony Tagger Says, "That's Eight!"

Ben Varkentine, fellow random Flickr-blogging conspirator, has tagged me with a meme (lesson: don't leave comments on other people's blogs). As with most, there are rules:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (You’re not the boss of me!)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So that means it's time for 8 Fun Facts about George:

1) When in high school, one of the 20 or so times I saw Rocky Horror I went with two priests and my sister (no not a sister, although my eighth grade teacher in a Catholic school was named Mrs. Nunn).

2) I have been in a car with all of the following people: David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Andrei Codrescu. We started our own NPR station. (OK, it was actually 3 different rides.)

3) I never got any sort of blood test until I was almost 40 and not surprisingly I'm squeamish as hell.

4) In high school I completed two marathons and now can barely run around the block.

5) When growing up in the 1970s, a bunch of us in our neighborhood used to get together and make-up/play-act our own disaster films in our basements.

6) Following on that, I actually read Paul Gallico's novel The Poseidon Adventure before I saw the movie--and it was the first PG movie I ever saw. I think the book was dirtier. I don't know what my parents were thinking.

7) Many years later I got to drive around a 90+ year-old Ronald Neame, director of that 1972 film, for some appearances here in Santa Barbara.

8) Although no one has mistaken me for a celeb in many years, in the past I have been called both Hugh Grant and John Kennedy Jr, which I guess means someday I'll die in a plane crash while getting a blowjob from a hooker.

Top that, those I tag: Smitty, Drew, Patrick (if he finishes his Peak Oil opus and can deal with frivolous matters on the edge of the apocalypse), James, Amy, Ahab, Kusala, and Tessitura.


We'll See If Islet Your Peninsula Near Me, Oh Cay?

In definitive proof that the Civil War was anything but (as if the war part didn't give you a hint), this Friday is the 245th anniversary of General JEB Stuart reconnoitering Gen. George B. McClellan's rear positions on the Virginia Peninsula. As you probably know, reconnoitering rear positions on a peninsula remained against the law in many states until 2003 (when "reconnoiterers" the country round cheered on Lawrence v. Texas), let alone in the 19th century when they couldn't even bother to have television, microwaves, or Paris Hilton. It was a simpler time, when people enjoyed the theater (ok, bad taste--so shoot me). Of course, JEB Stuart would later on intercept a Hooker in the Virginia Wilderness, so he was always up for the racy stuff even when his main objective should have been killing people he was formerly countrymen with. Some people are so easily distracted. Of course the best part about Stuart's "ride around McClellan" was the enduring joke, "When he rides around the McClellan he rides around the McClellan," which Lincoln turned into the "Where's the beef?" of the 1864 presidential election.


I Remember Mama Cassette

As I've written before, I still do the mixed tape thing and still love listening to them because I'm a self-involved you know what like that. So since I've been enjoying this blast from 1999 past in the car the last few days (I don't drive that much), I thought I'd post it here, especially because it has one of my mostest favoritest titles I've ever come up with....

Lazy as a River, Veronica as a Lake

side A

Pavement "Major Leagues"
Luna "Sweet Child o' Mine"
Mekons "Now We Have the Bomb"
Jack Logan "Melancholy Girl"
Magnetic Fields "All My Little Words"
Howe Gelb "Propulsion"
Wilco "Via Chicago"
Brian Eno "Dead Finks Don't Talk"
Imperial Teen "Crucible"
Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo "Embarrassed Teen Accidentally Uses Valuable Rare Postage Stamp"
PJ Harvey "Angelene"
Ana Egge "Fairest of Them All"

side B

Built to Spill "Time Trap"
Buzzcocks "Walking Distance"
Guided by Voices "Surgical Focus"
Cadallaca "Winter Storm '98"
Liz Phair "Perfect World"
Freedy Johnston "While I Wait for You"
Steve Earle "My Old Friend the Blues"
Pretenders & Emmylou Harris "She"
Julie Miller "A Kiss on the Lips"
Paul Westerberg "Lookin' Out Forever"
Pixies "Gigantic"
Los Lobos "Oh Yeah"

It sets a mood, moves through phases of soft to loud, includes some of my favorite cuts of all-time (by Magnetic Fields, Wilco, Pixies), includes cuts I forget about but then am very happy to hear again (by Pavement, Jack Logan, Liz Phair), includes one surprisingly good cover (not much G 'n' R in my collection). And then there's that title, did I mention the title?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wednesday Working on It Blogging

Since the LA Times even made the big trek up the 101 to sample Santa Barbara's new brews, it's only fair I report on our latest visit to Hollister Brewing. When I last reported on Hollister it was the first week they opened, and since then I've enjoyed their beer at the Real Ale Festival in Carlsbad, taken a growler of their Hip Hop Double IPA to a fine dinner of homemade Chinese food (thanks Randy!), and on Monday night Amy and I had dinner at the brewpub. My original write-up called them promising but had quibbles. Oddly enough, almost all those quibbles have dribbled away, as if they were reading and responding directly to my blog. That uncertain help was now polite, quick, and funny--she even apologized for not coming to our table quickly enough when we had barely sat for 3 minutes. The fries were a completely different style; no longer potato wedges but actually thick fries, some still with skin, but all with outside crunch and inside munch. A huge improvement, for a brewpub with mediocre fries is like a sentence of mine without a pun. (Wait, that one just didn't....)

Amy had a steak sandwich that was on the Philly cheese steak model for taste (good grilled peppers and onions) but with chunkier beef. I had one of the pizzas, a fennel sausage that said it had oregano on it on the menu probably because it really had oregano--it's good to taste ingredients when they're supposed to be there. It's sort of an old-fashioned style pizza, very thin, crackly crisp crust with enough topping but nothing whopping. Tasty and perfect beer food.

The good news is the beers just seem to get better, and not just after having a few. Amy had whatever they're calling their IPA now and it nailed the style, while I tried the fancifully named The J, an amber that features toasted hemp seeds. I'm not sure why I needed a second pizza, but I did. Seriously, the beer's rich roast was immensely satisfying and well balanced by hops. And then for my second I went to the ever-impressive guest list, passing up on beers from Port and Bear Republic to go with a Green Flash IPA that tasted so fresh they must have brewed it on the truck on the way up from San Diego.

If the place keeps improving like this, Amy and I might have to think about moving to Goleta.

Naw, it can't get that good.

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Stink, Stank, Stunk

Here's how bad it's been during the Mets recent 2 win, 9 loss slide--they're on TV, since they're playing the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles, and they stink so bad (a homer, the third in 3 pitches, given up to a pitcher who has only had one hit in his career!?) that instead of watching them, I'm watching Kathy Griffin and the D-List. If only the Mets wer as good as the D-List of late.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nothing Comic about It

Did you see Blondie today?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'd never noticed before how much Dagwood looks like Travis Armstrong and Mr. Dithers looks like Wendy McCaw.


A Post for Sister Suzie, Brother Jon, Martin Luther, Phil and Don

As the country debates what to do about immigration, there's this fascinating study from the Public Policy Institute of California:

California’s labor market has changed dramatically over the past two decades because of rising demand for highly educated workers. Although economic projections for California indicate a continuation of this trend, projections of educational attainment for the future population strongly suggest a mismatch between the level of skills the population is likely to possess and the level of skills that will be needed to meet economic projections.


To bridge the gap between supply and demand through migration, those with high skills would need to come from other countries. Hence, meeting the demand would require an intensification of current trends: Between 2000 and 2005, for the first time, immigrants to California with a college degree exceeded the number of immigrants who were not high school graduates. Large increases in the number of college graduates in other countries indicate that this trend could continue to intensify but the number of highly educated immigrants to California would still need to more than double to meet projected needs. U.S. immigration law would need to change fairly dramatically, and it seems unlikely that this will happen in the near future. Moreover, increasing global demand for highly skilled labor, including increasing demand in origin countries, makes it even less likely that California could successfully and sufficiently compete for large numbers of highly skilled labor from other countries.

We conclude that it is extremely unlikely that the projected need for highly skilled workers will be met mainly through the increased migration of college-educated workers.

Very interesting--if we don't import college graduates, California's economy is headed for the crapper. Gives the arguments a different spin, that's for sure.

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Monday, June 11, 2007



A recent report by the Congressional Research Service helps to put the executive pay issue into a real-world context. CEOs make, on average, 179 times as much as rank and file workers, double the 90-to-1 ratio in 1994, according to the agency’s calculations.

Options grants and stock awards helped boost CEO pay as much as six-fold during the 1990s economic expansion, according to compensation consultant Donald Delves. Then the stock market bubble burst in 2000 — but CEO pay hasn’t come down since.

By contrast, median household income edged up only 8.6 percent from 1990 to 2005, according to U.S. Census data.

If the minimum wage had risen at the same pace as CEO pay since 1990, it would be worth $22.61 today, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. Instead, the federal minimum wage will increase to $5.85 an hour on July 24, the first increase in a decade.

And to think all it took to get that measly increase in the minimum wage was to put it in on the backs of the soldiers who will die in Iraq thanks to Bush's war as that's all the Dems "won" in the last tangle over war funding.

It's time to discuss a maximum wage law, methinks. And then don't say no one will strive and innovate, for I want the max wage to be a ratio, not a set figure. A CEO can't make more than oh, 75 times what his average worker makes. The more that worker makes, the more the CEO can make. Now go figure out your company's salary scale.

You can't tell me Yahoo's Terry Semel needs $70 mil a year--what in the world do you do with that? If we can boo Alex Rodriguez for making $25 mil a year just because he doesn't homer in every at-bat, what should we do for Semel and his fellow over-compensated CEOs?


Perhaps We Won the War and Just Missed It

Think about this sentence for a minute, spoken by Tony Snow on Face the Nation yesterday (it's part of this TPM clip):

As far as how or when or where you achieve a benchmark that's impossible for anybody to say.

Now, for years I've thought BushCo doesn't use enough foresight, but given quotes like that and all the talk about Iraq being the new Korea (since the Vietnam analogy isn't their favorite, although no one's saying who gets to be Iraq's Kim Jong-Il), it seems the White House is thinking a good seven generations into the future on something.

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I'm with the Bland

Originally uploaded by manuela.aleunam

Blur does its infamous cover of "Not Fade Away."

Monday random Flickr-blogging explained.


I'm Not Wedded to This Caption

Originally uploaded by dogseat

No one knew quite what to make of the Mickey Rooney graffiti gang.


Ralph Bakshi on Line Two

Originally uploaded by 熱いです (AT)

And somewhere an Amazon-loving Pinocchio was learning the real meaning of being made of wood.


Old Bucky'll Be Back Before You Can Say Blast Off

Originally uploaded by AluminumStudios

As most men would assume, Jesus rays shine bright on the Institute of Viagra Studies.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Random Ten

Manu Chao "Infinita Tristeza" Proxima Estacion: Esparanza
Neil Young "Like a Hurricane" Decade
John Cale "Leaving It Up to You" Fragments of a Rainy Season
Talking Heads "Swamp" Stop Making Sense
Pere Ubu "Montana" Ray Gun Suitcase
Robbie Fulks "Godfrey" The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides
Booker T. & the MG's "Groovin'" The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
Passengers "Beach Sequence" Original Soundtracks 1
Dr. John with the Band "Such a Night" The Last Waltz
Dump "Hoe, Joe" I Can Hear Music

Elvis Costello & the Attractions "Tears Before Bedtime" Imperial Bedroom

Well, well. At last a random ten (+1) that truly represents. Not much new, but beyond that this showcases my two "classical" modes, the Young/Band pole and the Eno/Velvets pole. Plus one of my favorite Elvis cuts from my favorite Elvis album. Plus a creepy cut from the best least known children's album of all-time (but I don't have children, so judge for yourselves). Plus Hoboken at its most obscure; not only is Dump James McNew's solo band moniker (you know him as Yo La Tengo's bassist), Dump is also the only answer to the question, "Who has recorded a song named after a person George went to grad school with?"


I Been Writing for the Long Time Now

This is my 1500 post since I opened INOTBB in September of 2004.

So, I'm going to be mighty self-indulgent and put up an old essay (circa 1990?), back when I was still both trying to be a poet and a teacher. Now I blog and work in marketing.

We all get old.

Hope someone has the time and patience to get through this. There's sex and alcohol and rock and roll in it, at least.


Doctors keep at words, trying to frame the thrill of the body. Anton Chekhov, for example, found the mercy to tend to prisoners on Sakhalin, an island jail so forlorn it’s floated off Siberia, even. Yet Chekhov could also turn around to leave one of his characters, the hapless cabby Iona Potapov, with only a nag to share the sorrow of his son’s death, even on Christmas Eve. Such a paradox isn’t as much a mystery as a necessity--Chekhov had to match the heartbreaks outside with those within. There's no telling what gets the better of what with our seeing.

For our language doesn't come from our eyes. Even a word like “better,” can simply mean “the same,” as in a patient’s claim, “I feel better,” when she is back to normal. Better might just be ourselves.

That’s what William Carlos Williams, another doctor wielding words, learned. In “Asphodel” he begs his wife’s forgiveness for his infidelities, claiming he was at the mercy of beauty, silver-white flowers. But then even his poem is one more lover, one more grace. Williams is forgiven only if his wife had it in her, the kindness of blue skies one almost wishes a cloud would freckle. But almost is a word and a day.

These days I imagine myself a writer, which even as an act, let alone profession, is almost untrue. I planned to be a doctor, as perhaps every child does, maybe thinking, and then I can tend my parents past death. That’s both grandiose and dime store Freud enough to be true, since truth so often disappoints us, just as anticipation has so many syllables. I gave up my medical dreams because blood has only one syllable, and pours that fast. In high school biology, when we lanced our middle fingers to test our blood types, I felt my consciousness nearly seep out, I felt the tight tremors that meant my head didn’t feel in my head. It’s the closest I’ve come to passing out, ever. I still don’t know my blood type.

Surely this couldn’t be my only reason to abandon medicine as a career, for we all know our own blood is more cherished than others’--when another bleeds, a clinical grimness is as handy as a Band-aid. Still it wasn’t others I was worried about: I feared their ills could sap my own strength, their miseries weigh too heavily on my own slight sense of happiness. Like the main character in Joseph Heller’s Something Happened, I worried talking with a lisper would leave me lisping, walking with a limper would leave me gimpy. A doctor could heal, I knew that, but I didn’t like the percentages.

I didn’t like my parents getting divorced, either, which coincided with my career turn--I wanted to become a lawyer. To be honest, I never noticed the possible causality before this writing, the chance I hoped to heal with legal sutures. The shift from medicine to law, then, was merely like a teen changing crushes--it wasn’t as much medicine failed as law seduced. I had written what I call my “eighth grade thesis”--graded by both English and History teachers--on Clarence Darrow, twenty-five mom-typed pages of paraphrased prattle, yet found a hero, and earned two A’s. Clearly the heavens signaled Darrow and I were meant for each other.

If my parents only knew my mind had been seized by a condemner of prisons, a liberal so pure of vision he saw through the gold cross glitter of the simple-minded populist William Jennings Bryan, if they knew my mind started to see all the traps in that banner of a word tradition. . .who knows, they might have hung together to save my meant-to-be-Republican soul. But I didn’t turn pinko to shame--or save--my parents, didn’t grasp politics was nothing to grasp, mere foul water, until years later. I just thought law would be a way to help the labor poor in Pullman, save the misguided if murderous souls of Leopold and Loeb, let science and John T. Scopes have their rational say. I was into law for more than my or my family’s redemption, and now, even having got beyond Darrow as Ubermensch and me as Ubermensch Jr., having got beyond law as a way to sane (I was young), I can’t ask my parents to confirm what I think I remember is true, that in ‘68 my dad was a George Wallace supporter. It’s more important to look for reasons to love.

Writing so long without that word is like watching the page hopelessly hold its breath. Love, well, I have struggled with it like a lover. It’s one occupation we’re all doomed to dabble in; even the religious take Christ as their bride or groom. Lover--it’s tough to wear the label without a deflating grin or some shenanigans to free us from all the word can mean. Like those
early moments before passion makes time meaningless, or at the least, mean less, and you adopt your worst Cesar Romero Latin lover accent, and leer so maniacally, your eyebrows flip over your eyes like griddle cakes. It’s not that you want to be a Lothario, it’s that you don’t want to be a fool, stripped down to your undies, probably after some mock bump and grind. It’s a danger to ever be that eager.

Not that I’m ever that eager to write. Writing really came from a desire for acceptance: I stopped wanting to be a lawyer because a famous person said nice things about me. But I get ahead of my story. Or my story gets ahead of me, but then it’s always ahead of me. I began to write, I’m not sure when, and then there’s that issue of what writing counts as writing. Does that fourth grade poem that began

Up at the crack of dawn,
To catch the six o’clock boat.
The dew is on the lawn,
grab for my coat,

count? Does any of it count? And count tends to mean money, let’s face it.

As for the writing I’ve done for bucks, I pass that off as hack work, since we all know about journalists, and doesn’t every writer somehow think writing is beyond the moneyed world, such a pure and noble thing, as we sit with the angels at our ears? Still, even James Wright wrote, “I croon my tears at fifty cents per line,” and if his writing doesn’t count, then literature is three card monte in which the dealer always palms the queen. It’s got to be more than sleight of hand, no?

It’s got to be more, yes. Open up the dictionary and you will find the word sleight/slight awaits in four different guises. It’s so easy to muck about for meanings. How quickly we’re willing to move from skill to a trick, unwilling to grant anybody else some due. That’s power, after all, and we might be a democracy simply because we hate to think anybody else has more than we do, which, of course, many bodies do, which, of course, is why our brand o’ democracy itself is a slight of hand, as it were, and now we’ve slid right along, past frail and slender to the pejorative. That’s probably one trait we all share, rich or poor, sleight or slight--we’re more than willing to think the worst of each other. To keep you from thinking the worst of me, let me explain.

Scalpel in hand, I’m mining my life, seeing with borrowed eyes. Life is a series of re-visions and re-memberings--we see again the parts we bring together, to life. I have no idea how I found Clarence Darrow, no idea when I figured my parents were coming apart. But I can write towards any moment, and if the moment’s not there, write the moment itself. That might be why I can’t give up longhand, even in this computer age--palming a pen, sleight of hand, the full, noble phrase, seems possible. I can suspend a disbelief in myself, but it’s an unwilling, willful suspension. And if you keep reading, that’s two of us who believe.

But here I risk turning every author Tinkerbell, coming to life at a reader’s clap. Here I risk turning my thoughts inside out to show there’s nothing up my sleeve, which can only disappoint everyone. That’s why I must return to the story--what will I be when I grow up? Like my friend who asks, “Who are you?” and not “How are you?” to say hello; there are questions we answer every day. And that test’s an essay exam.

So I went to college, not the one I wanted, but the right one after all. Still full of Darrow and dreams, I decided to be pre-law, but with a twist: To separate myself from the poli-sci pack, I opted to be a writing major. That’s where everything went wrong and right. Unlike Frost and his two roads diverging, I never realized I came to the Y. I just went down a different road before I knew it, lost and found.

Remember, no one writes just for him or herself. I never have: It’s always been about the act itself as much as anything. And I mean act in all its glory. As a college freshman I preferred writing outdoors, on the library steps, mid a quad where I could be seen at it. I would even run off there beery-eyed to lament the long blonde hair of some girl named Nina; if I couldn’t love her publicly, I could write about it and be seen, the un-mellow-drama of being seventeen, if writing drama and seventeen in the same sentence isn’t redundant.

Years after the Nina episode, Gerald Stern wrote a poem that ends, “For she was the muse. You never fuck the muse.” Maybe he knew Nina. Years before the Nina episode, Jack Kerouac wrote, “The prettiest girls in the world come from Des Moines, Iowa,” and sure enough, Nina was an Iowan, each long vowel the ache of her I couldn’t have. Sure enough, I was reading On the Road that freshman year, and when I got to that line, knew I could stop reading--the book was too true. There is such a thing. Maybe I sensed I would spend my time hoping to write such a true truth, one that could make a book half-finished and all complete.

Even if I sensed nothing, in real life I managed to talk to Nina once, in a moment so John Hughesian I’m ashamed of it. It’s lunch, not even dinner, and the cafeteria creates strange tablefellows. I’m petrified of women, still am, amazed I have ever talked to one of them, have ever got to the point where I’ve placed my lips on a collarbone’s curve, to the point where I’ve played connect the freckles with my tongue. So I stammer, and we talk about, what else, our majors. I say, “Writing Seminars.” She laughs.

I guess I have to thank Nina for being one reason I write, and no, it’s not just a revenge fantasy, a hope one day that a wire service photo of me and my Pulitzer sits across her lap as she lounges in bed one late Sunday morning, dopey with sleep half-shaken and the past half-remembered, her husband away on business. I’m not that full of delusion, really. But it’s a thought.

And any thoughts, well, that’s what this is about, antecedent ambiguous completely intentionally. What antecedent isn’t? When one friend wanted to call her poetry thesis This, I thought it genius. The powers that be talked her out of it.

But when the powers that be talked to me, I listened. The powers that be talked me into writing, full-time. You know how it is when you decide to do something because people say you can do it--you figure they must know, they’re older. Now a teacher myself, and mainly because another famous, older poet/teacher, at a reception after a reading, one of those moments when suddenly it’s just you and a star--kind of like the you and a woman panic, go ahead, just try to impress casually--this poet said, “Well, if you’re going to be a writer, of course you’ll have to teach,” so I do, and wonder what I’m doing to those younger, those students so hopeful I almost want to yell at them, some with some talent, others who couldn’t write a metaphor if I spotted them the “like the ________.” But, even those unfortunates, who find the world literal, sensible, even they might have something, and then I steer them away, at least hoping they can see I know almost as little as they do. That’s why teaching has to be seat of the pants--if you look surprised by what you say, people might realize they can think too, they can trip upon the rake of truth, which will, like slapstick, smack them silly. Planning things too much means you have to mean them.

So although I had been writing, whether it counted or not, for years, I became a writer because of a party, a reception after a reading. It was my first lesson that the writing world partially exists to throw parties, at which one tosses off mots one hopes are bons, while standing in close quarters in a smoky room drinking beer cruddy enough to be afforded by writers. It turns out real writers have this skill in their genes; one famous writer’s ten-year-old son, after sitting though a mock-pornographic reading that began, “Pooh took his thumb out of my asshole. . . ,” looked up from his coloring to opine, “The girl has wit.” At the party, the party where I became a writer, this not-even-a-teen requested the Velvet Underground.

My undergrad friends and I couldn’t get over we were at a bash with people who published books. We hung in a corner, drinking zealously, fighting pointing. My roommate and I, who were mirror-image friends--he Manhattan, me Jersey ‘burbs, he laidback, me grade-crazy, he jazz, me rock, he Yankees, me Mets, he going on forty, it seemed (he started smoking, and Luckies at that, to be like Sinatra), me emotionally barely the seventeen I was, had one love in common--Hunter S. Thompson. We watercolored “Bad Craziness” in red over the door leading out of our dorm room, and what’s more, our room was stocked with Wild Turkey, our hero’s drink of choice. We had a bottle of it with us at the party, and when a famous fiction writer grabbed it to pour a shot, I sensed something was right, that bourbon ran through writer’s veins. I felt at one with something bigger, In On It, at last.

None of us talked to the famous, of course.

The next day, my writing teacher, a graduate assistant who co-threw the party and penned the pornographic Pooh story (and who I had a quiet hots for, of course--that place where promised lands make like a Venn Diagram), pulled me aside, shaking me somewhat from my hung-over glaze. I had come in third place in a school-wide poetry contest a month earlier, and celebrated the award reading by losing my virginity that same weekend, which is one reason I keep writing about that great event beyond all proportion--I felt I wrote my way out of virginity, that the pen was as mighty as the penis. But what my teacher had to tell me was something more, something beyond, yes I’m writing this, sex.

“You know professor X was at the party?”


“He had me point you out. He said you were a very talented young writer.”

That’s all it was, that’s all it took, but I became that very talented writer. Whether I was talented or not didn’t matter, as it does so much, so little. Somebody said yes, a beautiful word, Chekhov’s snow that quiets a Moscow street, Williams’ thousand topics in the apple blossom. Oh to doctor things, to be handy with the right advice. To know true truths, even at a distance. Say the distance from the pen to the mind. The distance from me to you. What will we be when we grow up? And is up itself a lie? Rilke perhaps knew when he wrote, “And we, who always think of happiness rising, would feel the emotion that almost startles us when a happy thing falls.” Things fall into place, and I found myself someone I could be.

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Mookie Does a Nigel Impression

For Dog Blog Friday: It must be nice to be so joyous.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Short and the Short of It

This Friday we celebrate the birthday of Eddie Gaedel who has now been dead 10 years more than he lived, but then he always got the short end of the stick. Gaedel, for those of you not familiar with the Venn (should that be Veeck?) diagram where obscure baseball and obscure midget trivia meet, got to pinch hit in a major league game in 1951. Not surprisingly for a man who could limbo under one of our greyhounds without bending, Gaedel took a four pitch walk, then was removed for a pinch runner as there was a sign in the St. Louis Browns' stadium that said, "You must be this high to run these bases." Therefore, his career was cut, uh, short. (Sorry, might as well have Randy Newman playing in the background here.) Gaedel retired with a 1.000 on base percentage, thereby making him one of Baseball Prospectus's favorite players.

Needless to say, this was pretty much the high point of the little guy's life. Baseball impresario Bill Veeck brought him back a couple other times for gags--indeed, Gaedel led a special vertically-challenged squad of vendors in 1961 who were hired so they wouldn't block peoples' views while they ordered their foot-longs--but Gaedel quit when he realized that if a family of four bought the weiners, he was shorter than their sausages put together. He just didn't cut the mustard as a vendor, the poor little peanut.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wednesday Remembered Meals Blogging

Chris Dufresne's wistful article in today's LA Times on David Smith's labor of love Retrosheet, the free website with almost 100,000 baseball boxscores, made me wish for a personal similar project Retromenu. Somehow, someone would have chronicled all the meals I've ever consumed, and there they'd be, catalogued and web-perusable. Talk about your oral histories. (But if you do talk about them, don't do it with your mouth full.)

For I'd really like to have the stats, and not just the myth, of one of the restaurants of my youth my family used to go, a place called La Boheme somewhere in north Jersey. I've tried to Google it and it doesn't seem to exist anymore, but of course this is at least 35 (38?!) years ago, a time when my parents were still together and I was probably 6 or so and in some silly suit with a bowtie or something. (My life definitely got better once I started dressing myself.)

While I wasn't in charge of my sartorial choices, my parents let me choose what to eat pretty early. La Boheme was Italian as could be--these days Tony Soprano would hang there--and the entree of choice would always be veal birds. I was too young to wonder why calves were trying to pass as birds, and nobody gave a crap in those days what possible torture their food went through to appear on a plate. OK, nobody in middle class New Jersey. I didn't come from hippie stock, let me assure you. But the "birds" were veal cutlets rolled and stuffed and one of the first things I associated delicious with. Plus lots of French fries. There's even a joke in my family that the probably very continental waiters at La Boheme--no doubt impressed by the very polite and proper boy (totally afraid if he acted wrong his parents would kill him) who asked for lots of fries--therefore decided to bring him a whole heaping dinner plate. Which the kid, at least in family legend, devoured, probably mostly because he didn't want to seem rude.

OK, so I slipped into third person there, as if my body was taken over by Rickey Henderson trying to steal the Larousse Gastronomique and not second base. But the truth is, who knows what the truth is. It's a completely different person writing about that boy, even if he grew into me. Still it strikes me how much food was at the heart of my concerns even so young, how I sensed a meal was cultural capital and personal exchange, how I knew there was so much to hunger for.

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Galileo Not So Magnifico features a post examining the results of the latest polling by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research:

Now, does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?

Here we go. Now what follows is real social science data folks. No joking around:

Earth around sun 73.6%
Sun around earth 18.3%
Don’t Know 8.0%
Refused 0.1%

So I guess we now know that Bush's support will never drop below 26.3%.

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Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Daught...err...Wife

Talking Points Memo pointed me in the bloated direction of Rush Limbaugh today, and it's worth examining Rush's words to see exactly how creepy at least one part of the right is. Here's what Limbaugh said to one of his callers while discussing Fred Thompson's wife, who happens to be 20 years younger than the maybe presidential candidate:

I was going to do the story yesterday, didn't get to it, but they're ripping Fred Thompson because he's not a good-looking guy. "He's 65 years old, what's he doing with this good-looking 40-year-old babe? There's something not right about this." Look, liberals, they're envious as hell of our women, folks. Everybody knows this. It's one of the best kept secrets going on in politics.

Now, where to begin. First there's the easy Freudian part of it, that Thompson needs to be with a wife who could be his daughter since it would be too much for a rightwing guy to have a wife who was his equal, but we'll ignore that part.

Then there's the "our women" phrase. Doesn't that mean the only people who count, who Rush sees as his audience, are men who possess (our is possesive after all) women? (We can assume he's not talking to lesbians.) That the political discourse is for guys only, and that women are just baubles for us to be envious over? It further reduces women so their only value is as eye candy.

Of course it's impossible to listen to Limbaugh on matters of love and sex without feeling a need to shower immediately. He is, after all, the guy busted with 29 100mg pills of Viagra coming back from the Dominican Republic with a group of male friends. In case you didn't know, the Dominican Republic, according to reports:

is explicitly marketed as a 'single man's, holiday destination by many German tour operators, who even sometimes describe it as 'the new Thailand'.

It is impossible to say what percentage of the total tourist population are sex tourists but they are certainly in a majority in Boca Chica (a resort which has little else to offer) and constitute a large portion of visitors to Sosua and Puerta Plata.

What's more, if Rush is so approving of his fellow rightwingers having younger partners, this news probably did not go unnoticed by him prior to his Viaga-fueled vacation to the Dominican Republic:

UNICEF notes that a total of 25,455 minors are employed as prostitutes, and that of that total, 14,508 (57%) practice prostitution in the areas in which they had gone to school.

Perhaps we need Wendy McCaw to write a series of scathing editorials about Rush Limbaugh.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Stinker to Never to Dance

NPR reports:

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for obstruction of justice and perjury in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operation officer's identity.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he thought the evidence against Libby was overwhelming. Walton said he will decide next week if Libby will remain free during the appeal.

Before the sentence was read, Libby mentioned his career in public service and asked the judge for leniency. "It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life," he said.

What's more, Libby went on to say, "I was fielding the questions cleanly from Patrick Fitzgerald until someone yelled, "Ha!' behind me and then I started making up lies. I can't be sure but I think it might have been Howard know how he is with the yelling. I tried to turn and see without drawing too much attention since that Fitzgerald clearly has attentive powers stronger than a Kenneth Starr, but for a fleeting moment I thought I saw Teamsters organizer Marty Keegan staring at me. Call me paranoid, but that's my story and I'm, sticking to it."

At that point Libby walked off temporarily a free man since it's a good half-a-year before the traditional Bush family Christmas pardoning of co-conspirators. Meanwhile Some reporters claimed Dick Cheney lurked off in the bushes, nodding to himself, whispering, "Good boy, Scooter, good boy."

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Let's Call the Whole Thing Splat

Originally uploaded by chuanliu

Looks like I've got everything I need to attend Tuesday's Republican presidential debate except for a plane ticket to New Hampshire.

Monday random Flickr-blogging explained.


Shine Some Lumiere on This, Brother

Originally posted by lastarial.

Back in the 1890s, "Train Arriving at a Blog" sent the first viewers of random Flicker-blogging screaming for the exits of the internets.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Necessary Roughness

I come not to bury Fred Thompson; I come to analyze the press about him. In particular I’m fascinated by a story in yesterday’s Washington Post as it seems emblematic of the ways all our presidential candidates get written about anymore. The headline should make it clear “Thompson Bid Would Stir Up GOP Race.” For the press isn’t liberal, it isn’t conservative—it’s a business. And that means it needs conflict to make stories, and the better the conflict the better the story might sell. You might say the political press is in the stirring up business.

This article begins: “Fred D. Thompson will offer himself as a down-home antidote to Washington politics in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, running a campaign out of Nashville while promising leadership on a conservative agenda that will appeal to his party’s base, advisers said yesterday.”

Seems innocuous enough, but it sure does take a longtime for that “advisers said” to roll around; maybe that easy-going manner is part of being down-home. Which advisers say this? Why can’t they get named? Doesn’t matter to Post writers Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz, not that I mean to suggest they are different than most political writers—it’s just this current example of how things work is so egregious. What if just as all the country music from Nashville isn’t real country, all the politicians driving around in their red pick-ups in Nashville aren’t quite real? What is it that Thompson’s done for a living since being a senator again?

It’s great Thompson wants to be thought of “as a down-home antidote to Washington politics,” but shouldn’t a real reporter then say whether this image is true? The Post article runs 800+ words, but not once does it mention the word lobbyist. But that’s exactly what Thompson was from 1975 to 1992, helping pass legislation deregulating the savings and loan industry and representing small folk like Westinghouse and GE.

Of course, actually looking at his record isn’t important to journalists. That he can give them exciting moments to write about is. For here’s what the Post says, “Thompson's entry will have an immediate impact on the battle for the GOP nomination, adding a fourth candidate to the field's top tier.” Ah, impact! Glorious battle! Makes a reporter’s laptop lick its lips (well, you know what I mean).

The good news is the press can still keep Thompson on a short leash. For this article also warns, “‘If you're an instant front-runner, you can't afford a subpar performance coming out of the gate,’ said one GOP strategist, who spoke freely about the campaign on the condition of anonymity [blogger’s note: and kindly said exactly what the reporters wanted to say].” The press can make you, and they can break you, faster than a scream rising out of the Iowa night—right Howard?

We do get this attempt at setting up some trouble:

Although Thompson's candidacy could hurt McCain's campaign, McCain's advisers say they do not plan any major adjustments.

"I don't think that it fundamentally changes the strategy of our campaign, which is to put forward John McCain as a candidate ready to lead from Day One," said Terry Nelson, McCain's campaign manager.

Think about the assumption here—if a new person decides to run for president, you need to change the ways and means you’re running for president, since it’s all about the campaign. Things like ideals, beliefs, values, policies you might propose, that’s all fine and dandy just as long as it can help you win the contest. We’re all too cynical for that “wanting to do what’s best for the country” bullcrap.

And that’s exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in.

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Gonna Fly Now

The AP reports:

The state Senate voted 16-8 Thursday against a mandatory seat belt law for adults. New Hampshire is the only state without such a law.

In other news, the New Hampshire state Senate voted 24-0 to change the state's motto to "Sit Free and Die." A rider to the bill also funded a new program to change the motto on all the state's license plates. Karen Krania, President of the Brain Injury Resource Agency in Manchester, said, "It's wonderful that our new influx of patients will be sure to have a project, making those new plates."


Friday Random Ten

Lonnie Mack "Strike Like Lightning" The Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection
Thelonious Monster "The Oasis Song" California Clam Chowder
Jane Siberry "An Angel Stepped Down (And Slowly Looked Around)" When I Was a Boy
Kronos Quartet, Luanne Warner "Lara: Se me hizo facil" Nuevo
S.F. Seals "How Did You Know?" Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows
Galaxie 500 "Here She Comes Now" This Is Our Music
The Hives "Die, All Right!" Veni Vidi Vicious
Tito Puente "New Arrival" Calle 54
Pere Ubu "49 Guitars & One Girl" Datapanik in the Year Zero: 1978-1979
Wake Ooloo "Monday Morning" What About It

The Klezmer Conservatory Band "Mayn Yiddishe Meydele" Dancing in the Aisles

Oy, what a mix. I have to admit I'm a total "single" whore, and usually on any given album (can we still call them that?) I hone in on the 2-4 cuts I like the most and then the rest of the disc fades away. That is, until the random on the iPod brings them back. I can recommend almost all of the CDs above, but I'm not sure the cuts picked would ever sell any of these discs. It does have to be about as diverse a random ten as I've posted, though.


Satchel Paige Has Some Words for Nigel

For Dog Blog Friday: Memorial Day has come and gone, and that means it's beach season!


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