Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bon anniversaire, Henri.

[[Sitting around on a sunday, having one of those what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life moments, was pleased to stumble on this from Writer’s Almanac]]

It’s the birthday of the painter Henri Matisse, born in Le Cateau, France (1869). As far as historians can tell, there was absolutely no sign in Matisse’s early life that he would go on to become an artist. He started out studying law, and though his law school was in Paris, Matisse never once attended an art museum while he was living there, not even the Louvre.

He returned home after law school to take a clerical job in a lawyer’s office, when he was struck by a case of appendicitis. He was bedridden for weeks, and a neighbor suggested that he try passing the time by painting. His mother bought him a box of paints, and he read a how-to-paint book. He later described those first experiences painting as almost like a religious conversion. He said, “For the first time in my life I felt free, quiet, and alone...carried along by a power alien to my life as a normal man.”

When Matisse recovered from his appendicitis, he enrolled in a local drawing class, and he spent hours at the Louvre, copying the techniques of the old masters. Then, in 1905, Matisse submitted a portrait of his wife called “Woman with the Hat.” Critics were shocked by Matisse’s painting, and so Matisse was surprised to learn at the end of the exhibition that his painting had sold to a couple of American expatriates known for their eccentric taste, Leo and Gertrude Stein.

Matisse became one of the most radical and influential painters of his lifetime, but he always dressed like a lawyer, wearing a suit even while he painted some of the most revolutionary paintings of the 20th century.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Judge.

Not much like my other collages—had been looking at Hannah Höch’s collages and used a picture from a show invitation by my friend Chuck Stewart of the great bassist and amateur photographer Milt Hinton.

Betye Saar, recyclist.

Inspiring piece on the L.A. assemblage/collage artist Betye Saar
from NPR yesterday.

“Saar first glimpsed real art as a child, visiting her grandmother in Watts.

Today Watts is best known as an urban black community infamous
for the 1965 riots.

In the 1930’s, it was a racially mixed place where this young black girl watched an Italian immigrant by the name of Simon Rodia as he pieced together what would become the glittering spirals of the Watts Towers.

‘He had a big car and he would see these piles of rubble and he would
go through it,’ Saar remembers. ‘And he wanted to make something monumental. And he put these steel structures up and covered them in cement and pressed shards of ceramics, of plates, I've seen corn cobs in
there, I've seen tools. It’s like, the cement is wet, what can we put in
here? I think that was the beginning of me becoming an assemblagist
or recycler.’ ”

Friday, December 29, 2006

Gang signs of ancient Egypt.

Global warmins.

Will Ferrell was always able to really nail the Commander in Chief at his most defiantly clueless. You’ve probably seen this, it was going around ages ago, but still amuses—and the truth still mystifies.

While on this tack, watch “Who Killed the Electric Car” (but only if you want to be any MORE pissed-off/mystified by the lunacy and meanness of corporate America). Call a Toyota dealer near you and ask about the plug-in hybrid. People have to want them to make it happen, and to make them affordable. Seems to me the best compromise idea going.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


These are people who died.

[[Pondering the close deaths of Gerald Ford and James Brown this morning, remembering the old “they always go in threes” thing, wondered who else we had lost recently. From Washington Post obits.]]

GERALD RUDOLPH FORD, JR— 93, who became the 38th president of the United States as a result of some of the most extraordinary events in U.S. history and sought to restore the nation's confidence in the basic institutions of government, has died.

JAMES BROWN—The high-energy Godfather of Soul who left his signature beat on funk, R&B, disco and rap and electrified generations with his riveting onstage performances, died early yesterday at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta. He was 73.

BERTRAM A. “BERT” POWERS— 84, the president of the old typographers union in New York who led his guild through a grinding 114-day strike in 1962-63 over the transition to automated typesetting, died Dec. 23.

JOSEPH BARBERA— 95, who with his partner, William Hanna, created some of the most enduring and beloved animated characters to enliven American film, television and conversation, died Dec. 18 at his home in Los Angeles.

ELIZABETH “LIZZIE” BOLDEN— Recognized as the world’s oldest person, died Dec. 11 in a Memphis nursing home where she had been living for several years. She was 116.

MARTIN NODELL— 91, the creator of Green Lantern, the comic book superhero who uses his magical ring to fight crime, died Dec. 9 at a nursing home in Muskego, Wis.

ROSIE LEE TOMPKINS— 70, whose quilts hung in museums, graced the pages of art magazines and left awestruck critics scrambling to describe them, died Dec. 1 at her home in Richmond, Calif.

JAY MCSHANN— Whose robust, blues-flavored style of jazz piano helped shape the Kansas City sound of the 1930s, died Dec 7th at St. Lukes’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. His age is a matter of some dispute, but most reliable sources say he was 90.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Born this day in history. ME!!

Spending the day recuperating from some sinus nastiness developed over the holidays—

Participating in a recent new guilty pleasure...listening to an audiobook of an Alexander McCall Smith title “Friends, Lovers, Chocolate.” From a series about a forty-something woman named Isabel Dalhousie, who lives and edits a philosophy journal in Edinburgh. These books seem targeted more at middle-aged women—BUT let it not be said that I’m not in touch with that side of myself...

Also, just watched a very dryly funny literary mock-umentary by Michael Winterbottom called “Tristram Shandy, a Cock & Bull Story” with Steve Coogan of Alan Partridge fame. As good as Chris Guest at his best.

Just looked down and realized I had started this post—totally inadvertently—at 12:27 (spooky).

Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Truth, justice and the American motorhome.

Things we like—Pandora.

[[I was telling everybody I saw about this for a while—but in case I missed you. Was corresponding with this guy Tim Westergren for a while. Seems like a great group of people, and a very cool project—but only if you like music...]]

“For almost seven years now, we have been hard at work on the Music Genome Project. It’s the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Together our team of fifty musician-analysts have been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song. It takes 20-30 minutes per song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound—melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more—close to 400 attributes! We continue this work every day to keep up with the incredible flow of great new music coming from studios, stadiums and garages around the country.

We've now created an interface to make this available to music lovers so they could use this musical ‘connective-tissue’ to discover new music based on songs or artists they already know.

Pandora™ is the doorway to this vast trove of musical information. With Pandora you can explore to your heart's content. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings—new and old, well known and completely obscure - to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you.

You can create as many “stations” as you want. And you can even
refine them. If it’s not quite right you can tell it more and it will get
better for you.

The Music Genome Project was founded by musicians and music-lovers. We believe in the value of music and have a profound respect for those who create it. We like all kinds of music, from the most obtuse bebop, to the most tripped-out drum n bass, to the simplest catchy pop tune. Our mission is to help YOU connect with the music YOU like.”

Song of the humpback space whale.

i don’t remember where i ran across this. sweet little primitive electro music and animation. just fun. should be more things like this on the web. oh...there are.

“smoker’s hustle” “song of the humpback space whale”—you get it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When there were wolves in Wales.

[[For the two of you who regularly peruse this spot...I’m signing off ’til sometime next week to spend some time with my folks. As my holiday gift, I leave you with one of my favorite bits of writing—“A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Dylan Thomas’ reading of it is truly one of my favorite things. I’ve always wanted to turn inviting people over for a listening party into a holiday tradition—maybe next year. He whose parting words supposedly were, “After 39 years, this is all I've done.” The caption for the picture I’m posting said “Thomas as a young man”—my God, dying at 39 he never had a chance to be anything BUT a young man! Maybe that’s all a matter of perspective, but I’m just sayin’...]]

go here for complete MP3s:

A favorite bit: “Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: ‘It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.’”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Segment Froid.

John Betjeman—Advent 1955

[[This from the English poet who wrote “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough...” about the town where the English show “The Office” was set, wishing for the cleansing of its smarmy industrialism. No bombs here, though—just a nice Christmas poem]]

The Advent wind begins to stir
With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver-pale.
The world seems traveling into space,
And traveling at a faster pace
Than in the leisured summer weather
When we and it sit out together,
For now we feel the world spin round
On some momentous journey bound —
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.’
And how, in fact, do we prepare
For the great day that waits us there —
The twenty-fifth day of December,
The birth of Christ? For some it means
An interchange of hunting scenes
On coloured cards. And I remember
Last year I sent out twenty yards,
Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
To people that I scarcely know —
They’d sent a card to me, and so
I had to send one back. Oh dear!
Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
Or is it, which is less surprising,
My pride gone in for advertising?
The only cards that really count
Are that extremely small amount
From real friends who keep in touch
And are not rich but love us much.
Some ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of God.
We raise the price of things in shops,
We give plain boxes fancy tops
And lines which traders cannot sell
Thus parcell’d go extremely well.
We dole out bribes we call a present
To those to whom we must be pleasant
For business reasons. Our defense is
These bribes are charged against expenses
And bring relief in Income Tax.
Enough of these unworthy cracks!
“The time draws near the birth of Christ,”
A present that cannot be priced
Given two thousand years ago.
Yet if God had not given so
He still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Leopard-skin pillbox hat.

“Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin' like that”
—R. Zimmerman


I try to do the crossword puzzle most days. Something i started with my grandma Dede as a young boy. Keeps my brain exercised (maybe exorcised?).

Most days I also do the Scrabble thing in the City Paper. Today was proud to score big with “synagog,” an arcane spelling of “synagogue”—wasn't quite as sure about “rummied,” which i thought was worth a shot as describing what happened to you when you were beat at gin rummy.

It wasn’t the preferred answer. Probably isn’t actually a word, BUT, why not? I propose its immediate adoption. John Stewart, you listenin’?

In homage to the recently defrocked defense secretary—in fifty years when this generation’s children’s-children’s-children are still paying the bill for the mayhem in Iraq, and musing about the sad senseless thousands of lives lost, maybe they can think to themselves “Man, were we ever RUMMIED!”

Somewhere akin to “used as the Sodomites” and “bamboozled.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

The surrender to classicism.

Method man.

[[Reminding me of my Methodist upbringing, the birthday of
Charles Wesley today in 1708]]

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of His grace

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Midwestern boy takes flight.

Right on, my Wright brothers.

[[From today’s Writer’s Almanac]]

On this day in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took off on the world's first airplane flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This day in 1903 began with gray skies and sharp wind. Orville said years later that he should have realized it was much too dangerous to fly in that weather. But they had already waited several days for the right flying conditions, and they wanted to get home before Christmas.

Orville went first and he got about 10 feet off the ground, and landed almost immediately. The brothers made two more attempts, and still they barely got anywhere. Then Wilbur tried again, and suddenly, he took off into the air. He flew straight into the wind for nearly a full minute, covering 852 feet. When he landed, the rudder frame was cracked, which would take months to repair, but they had made their first successful flight.

No journalists attended the event. The Wright Brothers hired an amateur photographer to take a single photograph that day, which he did while the plane was only 10 feet off the ground. When it leaked to the press, most major newspapers refused to run the story, assuming that it was a hoax. It wasn't until Wilbur flew a plane over Manhattan six years later that most people finally accepted the fact that the Wright Brothers really had invented the first airplane.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ah, Ahmet...

I brushed up against Ahmet Ertegun a few years ago at a gallery opening in New York, just so I could say “oh, sorry...hey aren't you?...” He seemed almost like he had outlasted himself, and I wanted to talk to him, maybe tweak his l’il goatee, but didn’t really have the heart to start one of those “I love your stuff, man...” kind of conversations.

Didn’t hear that he had died wednesday at 83. Apparently had been in a coma for a while after falling and hitting his head at a Rolling Stones concert. Probably the way Mick & Keef will go out too (sorry, couldn’t resist that).

Nice remembrance by Felix Contreras on NPR...

“In the music business, people with an acute ability to sense something in music that others do not are said to have great ‘ears.’ Ahmet Ertegun, who died Wednesday at 83, had some of the best ears in the business.

The son of a Turkish diplomat, Ertegun fell in love with jazz in London after seeing Duke Ellington's band in 1932. Inspired, the young Ertegun eventually staged concerts at the Turkish embassy in Washington. Black and white musicians were able to play together at the shows, something they couldn't do beyond the embassy gates.”

’Nuff said.

(Not) waiting for my man.

After years of walking into Tower Records, 26 dollars in my hand (Hey white boy, what you doin’ uptown?). I’m finally clean. I don’t really seem to care as much as i used to. Everything was down to 70% off or better last night when I went in for what (I swear) is the last time before they close the doors and bury the old girl. Only came out with these four records. Seventeen bucks.

A small thing, but seemed kind of momentous, after years of stumbling out into the dark Tower parking lot, woozy from flipping through six or eight hundred records and spending a couple hundred bucks...the thrill of ALMOST having everything Monk or Powell ever recorded...while half-heartedly trying to keep up with the latest shit the kids were listening to.

• I had read about this old cat Mudfoot Jones on Rope-a-Dope’s website a while back. A record done with some baltimore DJ guys called the Basement Boys. Listening to it now. A little monotonous—but it’s a good single note. Jones is an old session guy, who apparently got his name when “Elwood” Blues yelled at him in a session,“Hey Mudfoot! Can you turn it down some, son?”

• Rob Swift, from the X-ecutioners, one of the finest turntablists.

• James Figurine, a side-project from Jimmy Tamborello
(who was the musical side of The Postal Service, with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard).

• The Pernice Brothers—have they ever turned out a bad record?
This one proof that most artists—unless they are David Byrne or his visually-gifted ilk—should stay away from doing their own album covers—JOE! stick to writin’ the beautiful music!

Zippy cat’s-eye (and i don’t care).

Stuff I’ve held.

My friend Roger is always sending me links to the kind of crazy and beautiful things you can only stumble across easily on the web. (i.e. the earlier “50 things in a matchbox” post)

This was a gallery on Pbase, an amazing repository of amateur and professional photos of all stripes. Called “Stuff I’ve held”—it was, as you might imagine, pictures of this guy holding all manner of things.

Little animals, things from travels, LOTS of fish.

The guy, Christopher Wheeler, apparently lives in New York and has a diverse range of interests, many of which seem to coincide with my own. Signs, street stuff, little odd things that most people don’t notice. He also has an amazing gallery dedicated to illustrators, cartoonists and comic artists, which is so large I’ve barely dipped into it. Again common interests...from Tony Millionaire to George Herriman.

Funny how the web allows you to “meet” all kinds of kindred spirits that you’d never in a million years bump into in the normal course of things.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nashville loses its Human Cannonball.

Nashville loses its human cannonball
Duina Zacchini Norman, 'queen of the circus,' was 82

Staff Writer

They called her the ballerina of the air. For years, she soared above delighted crowds at the Ringling Brothers circus.

When she came down to earth, it was to settle in Nashville.

Duina Zacchini Norman, trapeze artist and human cannonball, died Wednesday, at 82.

She was the daughter of a storied circus family. Her father, Edmundo Zacchini, invented the human cannonball act and went on to perform it across three continents with his brothers and their sons.

When the boys left to enlist in World War II, he trained his daughters to be human projectiles.

[[Totally honest when I say it’s an absolute fluke that i was planning to post this collage today—it bears an uncanny resemblance to a human cannonball-type lady (freaky!!)]]

Closher to the oshean.

[[From Spanish phrase of the Day...mirroring my current desire to just stare out at the sea for a while, hoping something comes to me, burning-bush fashion]]

I want to move closer to the ocean.
En Español—“Yo quiero cambiarme cerca del mar.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

To my favorite little Egyptologist.

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

I heard a story recently that even though their family was pretty poor when he was a kid, Charles Schultz’s dad was a big lover of the “funny papers” and bought six different papers every weekend to read the comics with his son. I love stories like that. Helps explain Shultz’s gift for appreciating the small things and pulling for the hapless underdog.
God bless them li’l Peanuts...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


He saw a Lawyer killing a viper
Hard by his own stable;
And the Devil smiled, for it put him in mind
Of Cain and his brother, Abel

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Swan Dive groovy-mobile.

Archy and Mehitabel.

[[Great book from 1927, written by Don Marquis, a New York columnist, writing at the time for the New York Evening Sun. Written from the point of view of Archy, a cockroach, who in a previous life was a poet. He writes it jumping up and down on the keys of a manual typwriter, and because of his physical limitations, uses no capitals or punctuation. I picked up a 70s paperback copy at a friend’s yard sale, because it had a beautiful George Herriman cover illustration. Follows an excerpt from one of Archy’s poems.]]

i heard a
couple of fleas
talking the other
day says one come
to lunch with
me i can lead you
to a pedigreed
dog says the
other one
i do not care
what a dog s
pedigree may be
safety first
is my motto what
i want to know
is whether he
has got a
muzzle on
millionaires and
bums taste
about alike to me

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How’s my hair? Is it “me”?

Take a chance on being corny.

[[I liked this on Writer’s Almanac ( yesterday, from Jim Harrison, writer of Legends of the Fall]]

“I like grit, I like love and death, I'm tired of irony. A lot of good fiction is sentimental. The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass."

Monday, December 11, 2006

m-o-u-s-e...see ya REAL soon!

On not giving up. (Pt. 2)

[[This episode joins Paradise Lost’s author John Milton–from Writer’s Almanac sometime last week ( Don’t give up on that Latin, never know when it might come in handy!]]

It was a tumultuous time, and Milton responded by putting his poetry on hold and becoming a pamphleteer. He believed that the Commonwealth might give way to a new form of democracy, and he became an advocate for greater civil rights and religious liberty. He argued for the right to divorce, and he made one of the first comprehensive arguments for the freedom of the press.

By the time he was in his 40s, Milton had taken a job as a Latin secretary for the government, translating letters into Latin for international correspondence. He was struggling to raise his three daughters, and the eyesight that had been growing steadily worse his whole life had finally failed completely.

And things only got worse for Milton. In 1660, the Commonwealth dissolved, King Charles II was restored to the throne, and all the leaders of the Commonwealth were hanged. That summer, a warrant was issued for Milton’s arrest, but he was kept in hiding by his friends. His pamphlets were publicly burned. He was eventually pardoned, but he became a kind of outcast, and people said that God had struck him blind for his sins against the king.

He was devastated by the restoration of the monarchy, but without a job, he finally had time to devote to his poetry again. So he started writing an epic poem in English that he’d long been thinking about, centered on the biblical story of Adam and Eve and humanity’s fall from grace.

Because of his blindness, he wrote the poem by composing the verses in his head at night, and in the morning he would recite them to anyone near by that would take dictation. And when Paradise Lost appeared in print in 1667, Milton’s contemporaries were astonished. People couldn't believe that a man generally thought of as a washed-up, outcast political hack had written the greatest work of literature in a generation. Milton was 58 years old, and he’d finally become a famous poet.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My kids drew on this one. (Wait a minnit...don’t think I HAVE kids!)

The thing with feathers.

[[Little Emily Dickinson, 176 years old today!
God bless you dolling, you don’t look a day over 150!]]


"Hope" is the thing with feathers–
That perches in the soul–
And sings the tune without the words–
And never stops–at all–

And sweetest–in the Gale–is heard–
And sore must be the storm–
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm–

I've heard it in the chillest land–
And on the strangest Sea–
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb–of Me.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Crabby hermit with orange slice.

On not giving up.

[[From Writer’s Almanac yesterday, on James Thurber]]

He started submitting humor pieces to The New Yorker in 1926, when the magazine was barely a year old. He said, “My pieces came back so fast I began to believe The New Yorker must have a rejection machine.”

He was living in a basement apartment with his first wife. She thought that after 20 of his humor pieces had failed to find a publisher, he should probably give up. But one night, he set his alarm clock to go off 45 minutes after he'd fallen asleep, and he woke up in a sleepy daze and wrote the first thing that came to mind: a story about a man going round and round in a revolving door, attracting crowds and the police, and eventually setting the world record for revolving door laps. It was the first piece of his published in The New Yorker.

He published more than 30 books of short pieces. Most of his work is collected in Writings & Drawings (1996). He became famous for writing stories and drawing cartoons about a certain type of exasperated man. E. B. White said, “These ‘Thurber men’...are frustrated, fugitive beings; at times they seem vaguely striving to get out of something without being seen (a room, a situation, a state of mind), at other times they are merely perplexed and too humble, or weak, to move.”

[[Even late in life, when he became too blind to draw effectively—Thurber would make tremendous drawings that he could hazily see, in white on a black background, which would then be shrunk down and reversed to black drawings for publication. You go, Thurber!]]

Friday, December 8, 2006

East-West Relations

Ain’t lookin’ for a fight

Got an email from a friend today who had looked at my blog, expressing strong opposition to my political opinionizing. (Friendly opposition, I suppose. Not sure.)

(Hey, there are a lot of nice non-political things on here too...)

As i said in my earliest post, this is a monologue, not a dialogue. I don’t have nearly enough time or brain for it to become a dialogue. That's why I’ve chosen the “don’t allow comments” option on all my posts. I respect the opinions of all my friends, even the ones i don’t agree with—as long as it’s clear that their opinions are thoughtful ones.

Some people relish the battle aspect of online debate. The WWF smackdown—“ooh, i guess he told you!” factor. I think people are willing to be much more savage online than face to face, more so if they don’t know you and have a screen name to hide behind. like masked lucho libre wrestlers, but without the sense of humor.

There’s far too much screaming going on now. Not looking for more.

This is my little world. I rule here. I’m allowed to rant, gush, laugh, show my art, or my ass...and as long as I’m not doing anything obscene, nobody can piss on my parade or try to tell me what to do. I’m not trying to offend anybody...but I’m not trying to NOT offend anybody, if you get my double-negative drift.

I subscribed to the New Yorker for years. Although I wanted badly to always read all the articles, reviews and editorials and interject “Did you SEE that biting piece in the New Yorker!” into stimulating party gab, more often than not, I just looked at all the cartoons.

If you just want to look at my blog occasionally for the pictures, please do that. The writing is mostly a little ongoing digital vomitorium for my own mental health. It’s good for helps keep me’s cheaper than medication. If anybody enjoys any of it, well that’s gravy.

Peace to all ya’ll.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

From our WTF? department...IT’S TOUGH!

Some gems from the Bush/Blair news conference addressing the Iraq Study Group Report:

Q: Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as grave and deteriorating. You said that the increase in attacks is unsettling. That will convince many people that you're still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq and question your sincerity about changing course.

BUSH: It's bad in Iraq. That help?

Q: Why did it take others to say it before you've been willing to acknowledge it to the world?

BUSH: You know, in all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is, and I've been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is.

[[and furthermore?]]

BUSH: I talk to the families who die. I understand there's sectarian violence.

[[I understand that you understand that I understand that they understand]]

BUSH: I appreciate your question. As you can tell, I feel strongly about making sure you understand that I understand it's tough.

[[the man should never be allowed in front of a live microphone]]


Tom Chomsky

Raise a glass, for this day gave us two of the finest men in history. Tom Waits, who’s 57 today, and Noam Chomsky, who’s 78.

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”—NC

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”—NC

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”—NC (karl rove’s greatest hits—flip-flop, cut and run, “bringing democracy”, mission accompished, evildoers, war on terror, etc., etc)

“The piano has been drinking, not me.”—TW

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The baby of the FUTURE!

Aw, Louis...

[[One of my favorite things—Louis & Ella’s version of “Can’t Take That Away From Me”—written by Mr. Ira Gershwin, born this day in 1896]]

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No they can't take that away from me

The way your smile just beams
The way you sing off key
The way you haunt my dreams
No they can't take that away from me

We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
But I'll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced till three
The way you changed my life
No they can't take that away from me

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

To the moon, Alice

I heard this piece on NPR today about moon colonisation, and these scientists bemoaning how underfunded they were.

I remember Arthur C. Clarke’s visions of moon colonies. I watched the Apollo missions as a kid. Hell, my G.I. Joe had an astronaut suit...

But it got me thinking. You know we haven’t done that well with the planet we’ve GOT, what makes anybody think the moon or mars would be substantially different? I guess it’s that Utopian thing...“If only...”

I say let’s colonise the Earth successfully.


I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.

I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white
In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, December 4, 2006

Aaaah-shoe! (Bless you)

Streetcar Named Desire

One of the working titles “Blanche’s Chair On the Moon” ’til Tennessee moved to New Orleans...

“I don’t want realism. I want magic, yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them, i don’t tell truth...I tell what ought to be truth, and if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it.”
—Miss Blanche DuBois

[[Here’s to big desire (but, of course, not too extravagant)]]

For the sake of a single poem...

[[Birthday today of Rainer Maria Rilke (1895)—whose poems i loved well enough to learn German in hopes of understanding them better. Have always struggled with the idea of tranlations—everything loses some of its original sense—but Stephen Mitchell is pretty great]]

“...Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still explained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,— and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labour, and of light, pale sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.”

From The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke (1910, trans. Stephen Mitchell, 1983).

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Sick of the local news

A usful bit of Spanish from the “Spanish phrase of the day” podcast...
I am sick of the local news.
En Español—“Estoy harto de las noticias locales.”

When you serve

Saturday, December 2, 2006

What’s eating Gilbert Grape?

Watched this today after not seeing it since it came out in the early 90s. Largely because i had seen in Sven Nyquist’s recent obituary that he had shot it. Forgot that.

Johnny Depp was beautiful and young—though not fully come into his own as an actor, Juliette Lewis was wonderful in her squirrelly-i’m-really-deep-other-worldly-sexy-kook way, and freaking little Leonardo DiCaprio actually seemed to be ACTING(!). might have been just another teenybop movie, but for the brilliant subtle directing of Lasse Hallström and Sven’s photography.

Also an amazing supporting cast...including the ever-lovely Mary Steenburgen, John C. Reilly, and the ever-creepy Crispin Glover.

I must admit to wiping away a few small tears.

Worlds in Shoeboxes

[[Funny...after posting the photo of a little “world in a shoebox” not an hour earlier today—i heard a piece on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac about Nashville’s favored daughter Ann Patchett, whose birthday is today. if you haven’t read Ann, start with her lovely “Bel Canto”]]

“If i weren’t a novelist, the thing I would most like to do is build dioramas. I was one of those kids who built little worlds in shoeboxes. That’s basically what novel writing is.
You get to build every tree, every person, put them all in place and decide when the sun comes up and goes down. That I can make a living at that is astonishing.”

50 things in a matchbox

Veering off the path a little here with a strange and wonderful thing sent to me by my friend roger. Something from the eclectic website of a guy who i think he said was an English musician. This appears to be a found thing, of which he photographed the contents. Probably belonged to a (rather strange) child. Of what can be read:

1. A numbered list of the fifty things in this matchbox.
2. A piece of human toenail (donated by my dad!).
3. A tiny computer screw.
4. Six staples, still unused and stuck together.
5. Spring from a wooden peg.
6. Section of garden pebble with a hole.
7. Suicide pill.
8. Letter C from Hangman game.
9. Hoverfly corpse.
10. Grain of rice (white, short, round)

can only guess what some of the other items are.
one man’s trash another man’s treasure.


Friday, December 1, 2006

“There shouldn’t be no books in here that i can’t read”

[[this from the cover story in this week’s Nashville Scene—a small section talking about a board meeting at the Marshall County Memorial Library in Lewisburg]]

“Every month, the library board meets in a windowless, cinderblock room behind the checkout counter. When they met in September, it was most definitely not business as usual.

That’s because Robin Minor showed up. Minor, a social studies teacher at a nearby public school, was infuriated that Spanish-language books were being made available at the library. A round, doughy white man with a small brushy mustache, his hair parted severely to the right and plastered to his skull, Minor stood in pleated khakis, tugging the sagging waist of his pants upward as he addressed the small group of about a dozen library board members. Next to him hung a painting of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“There shouldn’t be any Spanish-language books in this li-bary,” Minor said. “I would like to see a policy that if somebody is going to donate a book to this li-bary, where English has been the dominant language since 1836, let’s make those books be donated in English only.”

His diatribe lasted for perhaps two minutes, punctuated by the frequent refrain, “There shouldn’t be no books in here that I can’t read.”

Eventually, the board’s president, John Rawe, spoke up. Rawe, a kindly looking older gentleman with long limbs and cowboy boots, pointed out that the Spanish-language collection was very small. He said that the library had books in many languages, including French, Japanese, Yiddish, Swahili and Russian. It is, after all, a library.”

(this went on and on, but you get the gist. another woman says she’s not going to use the library as long as hispanics are using it. is our country really taking a dive or has it always been populated largely by narrow-minded bigoted pinheads with no concept of history? i guess that’s meant to be rhetorical... same ignorant hatred, different day.

Ay mi dios...)

A Pound of Paper

Just finished a nice book called “A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict” by John Baxter. Details of his life and adventures in pursuit of collecting. Growing up in the Australian outback and Sydney, later living in London, Los Angeles and Paris. One caveat, he does tend to have that sort of (perhaps) unconscious Australian laddism “That’s not a knife...THAT’S a knife” that seems to be fairly common in the male of that species. Provided your refined 21st C. feminist sensibilities can tolerate that, it’s quite a nice book.

Props to Clive Gregson

The chance to do good collages for several of my friend Clive’s record covers was of inestimable value in taking me from that place where every time i would see collage i like (Hannah Höch esp) saying “man i really should do me some of that”–to actually doing it with no excuses or expectations. Here’s to you, old man...wherever you are.

Allen Stewart Konigsberg

Born this day in 1935. God bless little Woody Allen.
While he hasn’t produced a film that’s gotten my attention in quite a while, the good ones always hold up...esp. Stardust Memories, Manhattan, Husbands & Wives, Sleeper.

“I can’t listen to that much Wagner.
I start getting the urge to conquer Poland”