Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here she is...Mr and/or Miss America.

Turning water into child’s play.

[[This is a truly inspiring article related to a piece I saw last night on PBS’ Frontline]]

In rural villages across South Africa, some 5 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. To get a sense of the severity of the water scarcity there, you have to go back to the early 1800s when Europeans and others started colonizing the country.

When these settlers arrived, they brought with them nonnative seeds and plants with the idea that they would be able to re-create the thick forests and vegetation of their homeland.

Two hundred years on, the pines and eucalyptus trees, along with 161 other invasive plants introduced to the country, are soaking up billions of gallons of water that used to flow into mountain streams and support wetlands and other precious arteries in this largely arid country. Add to that the needs of South Africa’s growing population and you have a situation in which the competition for water has become fierce.

Which brings us in a roundabout way (no pun intended) to this week's Rough Cut—reporter Amy Costello’s surprisingly upbeat tale about a canny entrepreneur who decided to tackle South Africa’s water woes in his own novel and enterprising way.

Trevor Field, a retired advertising executive, had done well in life and wanted to give back to his community. He noticed that in many rural villages around the eastern Cape, the burden of collecting water fell mainly to the women and girls of the household. Each morning, he'd see them set off to the nearest borehole to collect water. They used leaky and often contaminated hand-pumps to collect the water, then they carried it back through the bush in buckets weighing 40 pounds. It was exhausting and time-consuming work.

“The amount of time these women are burning up collecting water, they could be at home looking after their kids, teaching their kids, being loving mothers,” Field tells Costello. He knew there had to be a better solution.

Field then teamed up with an inventor and came up with the “play pump”—a children's merry-go-round that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time the children start to spin. Soup to nuts, the whole operation takes a few hours to install and costs around $7,000. Field’s idea proved so inventive, so cost-efficient and so much fun for the kids that World Bank recognized it as one of the best new grassroots ideas.

In true ad-man style, Field's next idea was to use the play pump’s water towers as makeshift billboards, selling ad space to help pay for the upkeep. He reserves a spot for the national loveLife campaign, which helps educate children about HIV and AIDS. “We've got to get the message through to them before they become sexually active,” he says. “It seems to be working.”

In the film, Costello and producer/photographer Cassandra Herrman drive out to a small village where the taps have been dry for a week. There, a crew sets to work installing a play pump near a children’s play area, boring 40 meters down until they hit the fresh water table below. As soon as the last colorful piece of the puzzle is in place, dozens of children show up to play—much to Field’s delight—pumping cool, clean water to the surface as they spin.

The indefatigable entrepreneur wants to build thousands of these pumps to help water-stressed communities across South Africa, then expand to other African countries. He says, “It would make a major difference to the children, and that's where our passion lies.”

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pan’s Labyrinth.

Wow. Not for the meek. Unfortunately, this film has moments of such incredible beauty, but is probably unwatchable by people sensitive to graphic violence. We’re talking about pre-Franco Spanish fascists here, and one of the main characters is one of the baddest of a bad bunch. One of the most total bastards ever portrayed on film, I think.

Briefly...little girl’s mother marries the fascist, is pregnant with his child. She and her beautiful, amazing little girl go to live with him in a house that has been commandeered from people who, unbeknownst to the fascists, are suporters of the popular resistance. Mother isn’t doing so well with the pregnancy, little girl escapes into fantasy—or does she?

The fantasy parts are SO well done. The power of the little girl’s belief in the possible. The faun (Pan is “Fauno” is Spanish) creature is brilliant. Amazing. Guillermo del Toro is the man.

The mix of the very real non-moviefied banality-of-evil violence...ordinary cruelty, and the incredible fantastic otherworld of the labyrinth and the Underworld is immaculate.

If you can stomach a little well-placed (but extreme) violence in service of the story, don’t miss this on the screen. I heard a college-age girl say—“I kind of liked it, but I could have done without the violence.” Fascists is as Fascists does, baby girl...

An unslakable kind of curiosity.

[[I nice thing to have said of you in the end. From Writer’s Almanac a few weeks ago. I like this word unslakable—it’s one of those ones you see so rarely that even spelt correctly it looks wrong. Where does one go to see a “neo Nazi punk synthesizer band” these days?]]

It’s the birthday of essayist and cultural critic Susan Sontag, born in New York City (1933). She was an intellectual even as a child, buying the Partisan Review and reading Trilling, Rosenberg, and Arendt. She graduated from high school at age 15 and became a serial academic. She took classes at Berkeley, then earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago after only two years of classes. She earned two master’s degrees from Harvard, studied at Oxford and the University of Paris, and then, in 1959, moved with her son to New York City. During the course of her studies she had married, had a child with, and divorced Philip Rieff, who had been one of her professors at the University of Chicago.

Susan Sontag said that she preferred to think of herself as a novelist. Her first novel, The Benefactor, was published in 1963. Her most popular, The Volcano Lover, came out in 2002. But it is her essays that made her famous.

In her early essays, Sontag wrote criticism of art and culture. Other critical essays of the early ’60s were dry and academic—hers were not. Her essay “Notes on Camp” was first published in the Partisan Review in 1964. The essay had a huge impact on the New York intellectual world, and Susan Sontag became a sort of spokesperson for the American avant-garde.

Susan Sontag’s son, David Rieff, said his mother had “an unslakable kind of curiosity, of interest in the world. She is someone who can go to an opera, meet someone at two in the morning to go to the Ritz and listen to some neo-Nazi punk synthesizer band and then get up the next morning to see two Crimean dissidents.”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fishtailing out of control.

Things we like—Yo La Tengo.

One of the best cheeky-monkey album titles ever goes to the Hoboken 3-some’s recent “I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.”

Hard to believe these kids have been mixing up melodic beauty, git-tar noise and Prince’s hot chicken for over 20 years now. Aided and abetted for quite a few of them by the keen producer/engineer skills of Hoboken-to-Nashville transplant, the lovely Roger Moutenot.

One of my classic memorable Nashville shows was these guys at the Belcourt with Lambchop a few years back.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Does anybody miss the Cold War?

The bravery of immigrants.

I was listening to Writer’s Almanac the other day and heard a piece about a Chinese writer, Anchee Min. Not familiar with her work, but here from her story:

She is the author of a memoir about growing up in communist China called Red Azalea (1994). The book was banned in China, but after its success here, she was invited back to her homeland to make some public appearances.

Min writes in English, even though she didn't speak it until she was 27 years old. She learned English when she came to the United States by watching Sesame Street and Oprah on television.

I’m always amazed at this kind of story. (Also that she was able to write a novel about communist China using phrases like “You go girl!” and “It’s not easy being green.”) But seriously folks, most Americans don’t learn english well enough to write a novel after 16 years of school here.

I had the privelege recently of tutoring a lovely Mexican woman named Rosa in english at the Cohn Adult Learning Center. At first she lacked the confidence to answer her cell phone when I called about our meetings—deferring to her young daughter, who spoke great english—the fear of not being understood...something we don’t often think about, i guess. At least people understand our words, if not our meanings.

After months, she began to confidently answer her phone and discuss things with me. A small good thing. I was very proud for her.

After meeting so many people in New York over the years who had positions of influence in their own countries and were driving cabs here. Doctors, physicists, professors. To think that they would give that up to come to a country where they would become invisible non-people, with most citizens not making even a token effort at helping or understanding. Amazing.

Most immigrants just want a better life, want to wave the flag with the rest of us as a matter of pride, not as a threat to all who aren’t “like us”—which is what it seems to have become. Wave the flag, wave the bible, put a ribbon on your giant SUV, mostly to deflect from addressing any real concerns. Blame immigrants for “taking our jobs” ways to feel less helpless...Most uneducated americans, without many opportunities, would consider it beneath their dignity to be a maid, or a convenience-store clerk, or a strawberry picker...

There have to be laws about immigration and many other things, but it would serve us well to remember that we were all once from immigrants hoping for better lives in a strange country. If we all of us had the determination and bravery of the average immigrant, this country would be a far better place.

Well, I see it’s time for me to kick away my soapbox,
and get back to work.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Things we like—All-Music Guide

For the music geek, or the barely curious. HOURS can be spent following band histories, chains of influence, who wrote what, who played what, etc., about nearly any type of music. Looking for something today, and noticed they have a new “Album of the Day” feature—today’s being one of my all-time faves Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners. A great place to start for the jazz-curious, a must for anybody who likes Monk. I have nearly everything the man ever recorded, so I happen to think it’s ALL essential, but that’s me. God bless Monk’s rare and beautiful soul...

Oh, and there’s another of my personal favorites—
AMG artist I.D. P 219497. (OK it’s me).
Not a truly comprehensive list of the records I’ve worked on, but a start.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jello-mold pillbox hat.

And the vice-president smirked on.

[[Some highlights of joshua Holland’s recap of the SOTU address]]

His proposal to increase mileage standards and reduce gas consumption by 20 percent over the next ten years—the Fox News commentators said, “one might wonder if such a thing is even possible”—is certainly a good idea. But this is an administration that is joined at the hip with Big Oil. Bush has opposed raising fuel efficiency standards for his entire political career, most recently last February; does anyone believe that such a proposal won't go the way of his War on Steroids in Baseball or his plan to land a man on Mars—those ghosts of SOTUs past?

It was clear that he wanted to focus on domestic issues; just weeks after proposing an escalation of troops in Iraq that two-thirds of Americans oppose, he all but shouted, “for the love of God, can we please change the subject!” By my rough reckoning, he spent about eight minutes on the “War on Terror” and another six on Iraq, dodging between the two in his usual way.

He said, “We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.” While the Taliban are busy building schools in Afghanistan, he was right about al Qaeda; we drove them out of Afghanistan so they could set up a new safe haven in Pakistan.

The highlight of the evening’s discourse was when Bush said, “Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies.” And there was Dick Cheney, smirking over the president’s shoulder and disproving the claim even as he uttered it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Things we like—Cat Stevens

Damn near perfect record. Reminds me of a particularly good time in life at Syracuse in the mid 80s. Also of something I like just as well—Hal Ashby’s Harold & Maude—one of the great small films of all time. Where Do the Children Play?, On the Road to Find Out, Tea for the Tillerman and Miles from Nowhere on the film’s soundtrack.

If you’ve never seen this film, what are you sittin’ there for. Go on. Seriously. Go get it, put it on the Netflix. I’ll wait.

Ladies and gentlemen...the beetles.

Beat around the bush.

In honor of the State of the Union address,
from “Spanish phrase of the day.”

Don’t beat around the bush (or “the Bush”—see: “stay out the Bushes!”)
En Español—No te andes por las ramas.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hola, chiquita. (you may say this isn’t a banana, but it is...)

Voluptuous discards.

[[“What’s in My Journal” by William Stafford, from Crossing Unmarked Snow. © University of Michigan Press. From Writer’s Almanac. Reprinted without permission. Considering how ill-respected poetry is in the eyes of the common man, what broke-ass poet in his right mind would sue someone who was a fan of his work, unless it was being sold for profit? This reminded me of collage.]]

What’s in My Journal

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can't find them. Someone's terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Science promises.

Sir Dark Invader vs. the Fanglord.

[[Bought this off of Langford at a TAG Art Gallery opening where he and Paul Burch did some music—not knowing what to expect. Turned out to be one of those records that didn’t come off steady play for weeks. Tried recommending it to people for a while and was told it seemed damn near impossible to find. Seems available actual or digital in quite a few spots now. Google it.]]

“Jon Langford met Richard Buckner in the security booth at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA where they had been chained together for their own protection. Mouths taped shut with duct tape, they communicated via primitive Morse code messages tapped out on each other’s foreheads with fish bones. The ordeal was brief but formative, and after countless power breakfasts and costume parties from Edmonton to Austin, from Brooklyn to the Bay Area, they fell exhausted into a photobooth and saw how fantastic they looked together in neat black and white rectangles and smelling faintly of eggs. They decided to spend a year in Sally Timms’ apartment making this album for release on Buried Treasure Records.”—Captain J. Langford of the H.M.S. Mekon

Friday, January 19, 2007

Everything’s coming up roses.

Edgar Allan Poe—today’s little birthday boy.

[[My favorite poem of Poe’s—b. 1809 in Boston]]

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;—
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud by night
Chilling my Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me:—
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of a cloud, chilling
And killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:—

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the side of the sea.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Control top (from the panties-make-nice-hats series).

Things we used to like...but REALLY don’t anymore—klever spammers.

I remember when these spam guys started sending out email with funny, long, apparently randomly generated subject lines to bust through spam blockers. I even started to collect the better ones in a list.

Got one today that said “on girl try cover it’s same the black on money”—from my good friend “chasity benavides.”

It was funny the first few thousand times. But who would regularly open these? And what’s more who would POSSIBLY respond positively to the plugs for diet pills, erection pills, whatever—from a stranger, and on top of that, a stranger CLEARLY trying to pull something over on you.

Me not know.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coffee, tea or me.

Find originals.

“The more intelligence one has, the more people one finds original. Commonplace people see no difference between men.”—Blaise Pascal

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I am not a crook.

[[Interesting piece on Richard Nixon on Writer’s Almanac last week. Turns out he had an incredibly sad childhood. Two brothers who died, one of meningitis the other from T.B. Having the benefit of hindsight on the Trickster’s career—an interesting snippet from the piece follows.]]

The Watergate investigations eventually forced Nixon to resign in 1974. At his last meeting with his Cabinet in 1974, Nixon burst into tears. He told them, “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

Eyes have it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin.

[[So much of what King fought is still with us. And i suspect he was killed for fighting something bigger and darker than racism. But still this day we remember him with love and hope.]]

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification”—one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Starck and starry-eyed.

Things we like—Michael Apted’s “Up” Series

[[My exposure to these actually didn’t start til seeing the 35 installment in the early 90s at my local art-house theater, and I bought the 42 one on the then fairly newfangled DVD. Am currently started back at the beginning on Netflix. Review of the recently released on DVD series from]]

The premise behind the Up series is deceptively simple: take a cross-section of children at age 7, ask them about their hopes for the future, and then return every seven years to mark their progress. However, the results of these experiments, launched in 1963 by Britain's Granada Television, are anything but mundane, and their revelations about society, maturation, and the human condition were compiled into six extraordinary films, packaged together for the first time in this five-disc set. We meet the 14 children whose lives we will follow for the next 36 years in Seven Up, a episode of the television series The World in Action and directed by Paul Almond. What becomes evident almost immediately is that class and background will have an indelible effect on the kids for the rest of their lives; the upper-class boys and girls seem confident to the point of boorishness, while the middle- and working-class children seem resigned to a life of hard work or inevitable failure due to their backgrounds. Fascinated by the footage, Almond's assistant, Michael Apted (later the director of The World Is Not Enough, among others, and president of the Directors' Guild), proposed to revisit the subjects every seven years, and in 1970, 7 Plus Seven was released, followed by 21 Up in '77, 28 Up in '84, 35 Up in '91, and the most recent entry, 42 Up, in '99 (Apted plans to continue the project). And the changes that occur to the original 14 (some of whom drop out of the project) are among the most fascinating and often tragic ever recorded on film. Success, failure, marriage and childbirth, poverty, illness--almost every possible element of the human experience passes before Apted's camera. And while each of the children's stories is riveting, the viewer will undoubtedly be gripped by that of Neil, a shy boy who endures incredible hardships. A one-of-a-kind series and sociological experiment, The Up Series is required viewing for not only documentary fans but any viewer with a curiosity about and concern for their fellow humans. The DVD set includes commentary by Apted on 42 Up.Paul Gaita

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The wizard of Moz. (Do you have a vacancy—for a backscrubber?)

Altered vision, Pt. 2

Went down and helped with hanging the Altered Vision show at the Nashville Public Library today. Very pleased with the way everything came together.

The graphics (by me!) are stellar, simple, clean. Starring my sweet girl’s giant eyeball (not that her eyeball is ACTUALLY’s just big on the graphic stuff).

Was satisfying to see the first of the collages to be framed and exhibited legit-like. Gave the ones for the TAG collage show in March to my friend Todd to be framed. Very exciting.

Get by the liberry and check it out, Nashvillians.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Meter made.

Nicotine on the mainline.

[[From the News of the Totally Ridiculous Dept.]]

Apparently there’s a new nicotine-laced evaporating gel product (sounds like the hand-sanitizer stuff) called Nicogel. That you can rub into your hands, for those times when you just can’t smoke, but want to absorb a hit of nicotine straight through your skin!

“...can be used when smoking is inconvenient, such as work, on an airplane, in a theater, or these days almost any public place.”

I can see this creating a new generation of abusers like the French absinthe drinker. People out of their minds on nicotine, rolling in the gutter, smearing this gel all over themselves, snorting it, whatever.


Things we like—Maira Kalman.

She of the “M” in Tibor Kalman et al’s “M&Co.” (I always liked Tibor a lot too, miss him). All of the great New Yorker covers, the children’s books etc. And on top of that illustrating Strunk’s Elements of Style.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beauty, the crown of woman.

Ah, Lily Munster... People who died (cont.).

OH, HERMAN!—Noticed today that the lovely Yvonne DeCarlo had died at 84. Was in lots of films and TV, and was more beautiful underneath that ghoulish makeup, but I’ll always remember her from “The Munsters.” I loved that show.

MR. SOPHIA LOREN—Carlo Ponti, an Italian-born film producer who bankrolled more than 150 movies, including “La Strada” and “Doctor Zhivago,” and who was perhaps the most envied man in the world as the husband and mentor of actress Sophia Loren, died of a lung ailment Jan. 9 at a hospital in Geneva.

SCOOBY-DOO!—Iwao Takamoto, the animator who created Scooby-Doo and directed the cartoon classic “Charlotte’s Web,” died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81 and had a heart attack.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Listen to the mockingbird.

[[So this is what those mockingbirds have been so busily saying all these years. From Writer’s Almanac last week—“Thus Spake the Mockingbird” by Barbara Hamby, from Babel. © University of Pittsburgh Press.]]

The mockingbird says, Hallelujah, coreopsis, I make the day
bright, I wake the night-blooming jasmine. I am
the duodecimo of desperate love, the hocus-pocus passion
flower of delirious retribution. You never saw such a bird,
such a triage of blood and feathers, tongues and bone. O the world
is a sad address, bitterness melting the tongues of babies,
breasts full of accidental milk, but I can teach the flowers to grow,
take their tight buds, unfurl them like flags in the morning heat,
fat banners of scent, flat platters of riot on the emerald scene.
I am the green god of pine trees, conducting the music
of rustling needle through a harp of wind. I am the heart of men,
the wild bird that drives their sex, forges their engines,
jimmies their shattered locks in the dark flare where midnight slinks.
I am the careless minx in the skirts of women, the bright moon
caressing their hair, the sharp words pouring from their beautiful mouths
in board rooms, on bar stools, in big city laundrettes. I am
Lester Young's sidewinding sax, sending that Pony Express
message out west in the Marconi tube hidden in every torso
tied tight in the corset of do and don't, high and low, yes and no. I am
the radio, first god of the twentieth century, broadcasting
the news, the blues, the death counts, the mothers wailing
when everyone's gone home. I am sweeping
through the Eustachian tube of the great plains, transmitting
through every ear of corn, shimmying down the spine
of every Bible-thumping banker and bureaucrat, relaying the anointed
word of the shimmering world. Every dirty foot that walks
the broken streets moves on my wings. I speak from the golden
screens. Hear the roar of my discord murdering the trees,
screaming its furious rag. The fuselage of my revival-tent brag. Open
your windows, slip on your castanets. I am the flamenco
in the heel of desire. I am the dancer. I am the choir. Hear my wild
throat crowd the exploding sky. O I can make a noise.

Designs for the face.

No nappin’.

In two separate stories today, reasons not to nap
on any form of public transit.

An L.A. man woke from a “catnap” on a city bus to find his prosthetic leg missing. To be fair, he had removed it before dozing off...practically daring pranksters to do their worst.

Moral: Never take your leg off on a bus...

A Toronto man was napping on an American Airlines flight, returning from a camping trip in Costa Rica, when a scorpion crawled out of his backpack and stung him.

Moral: Shake out your freakin’ backpack when you’ve been camping in the tropics, you dummy!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Meat is murder.

So I’ve had some little mice getting into some birdseed in my basement. I don’t hate mice. Like us, they’re just little mammals trying to get along and care for theur families.

I found two of the little tiny buggers stuck in a spider trap—one of those gooey trays that catches brown recluses etc. They were both about dead and I had to drown them in a bucket. Have been amazed the few times I’ve had to carry out this grisly task, how such a tiny squeek of air could sustain a life.

It’s easy to say “Oh, they’re destructive, and they carry diseases...” How much more does that apply to us, the humane, the mouse drowners.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Things we like—Jim Flora (Don’t cut yourself)

[[One of my all-time heroes. One of the first—and last—really brave album designers. Stuck out like a big ole sore thumb. We’re so visually saturated, it’s rare if not impossible any more to look at anything and not be reminded of something else. Flora was that incomparable thing. Both books from Fantagraphics well worth having.]]

[[Text from a NY Times article on Flora and Irwin Chusid’s book The Mischeivous Art of Jim Flora—more for the punchline than the art-world comparisons]]

Flora’s designs are magically simple distillations of Cubism, Surrealism and cartoon madness, with playful figures and instruments floating in planes of color. From the smiling Beatnik kitties on “Mambo for Cats” (RCA, 1955) to the five-armed, four-legged Cubist Gene Krupa bashing away with his mouth open on a Columbia cover from 1947, each figure seems to be on a childlike tear.

Yet despite their apparent innocence, the images also have a jagged, volatile energy.

“You can cut your finger,” Mr. Chusid said, “touching a Flora illustration.”

Sharkey’s night.


Today shares two genius birthday boys who could hardly be of more different sorts.

Elvis Presley and Stephen Hawking...
The King of “Race Music” and the Prince of the Black Hole.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Writer’s cramp.

Altered vision.

[[A word about a show that I’m participating in at
the Nashville Public Library.]]

Find out more about Prevent Blindness Tennessee at

Altered Vision: Artists Look Beyond Sight Loss
Nashville Public Library January 15 – March 15, 2007

By the year 2020, more than 43 million Americans will suffer from cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration. Wearing glasses simulating those conditions, 14 artists stepped into their studios or behind their cameras and created art. The resulting works offer us a rare glimpse into the world of sight loss and reflect the frustration, accommodation, and compassion these artists felt during their experiences of “looking through someone else’s eyes.”

Please join us for the Opening Reception
Saturday, January 27, 2007 • 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Nashville Public Library
615 Church Street • Nashville, Tennessee
(615) 862-5753 · 1-800-342-3262

The Altered Vision Art Exhibit is appropriate for all ages.
Free vision screenings for children and adults will be available
during the opening reception.

Things we like—Ella & Pops.

Just watched a really nice Ella documentary from the PBS American Masters series “Ella Fitgerald: Something to Live For”—it’s available on Netflix.

Had a little footage from this album’s sessions.

Got me thinking about Woody Allen’s “why is life worth living...” monologue in Manhattan—which includes Pops’ Potato Head Blues—something really nice about Ella and Pops being older and self-assured. And the cover photo is one of the best ever. Not particularly flattering, but particularly real, in a way that’s rarely glimpsed on album covers.

I’ve always thought they looked like a sweet older couple on this cover, checked, and Louis was only in his mid-fifties at the time of this recording and Ella couldn't have been over forty (!)

For the interested, some musts in addition to this record:

• Louis Armstrong—The Complete Hot Fives & Hot Sevens (the Rosetta stone) which Columbia re-issued in the ultimate boxed set in 2002.

Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington—The Complete Sessions (a.k.a. “The Summit”) re-issued around 2000, with an additional disc of studio outtakes and jabber.

• Ella Fitgerald—Any of the “Sings the...Songbook” (most notably Gershwin, Cole Porter, Ellington, Rodgers & Hart) on Verve.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Cat bodies, Pt. 2.

Man sues over loss of frozen cat bodies.

[[From today's Tennessean—what has this guy been doing the last three years? Building a “case”? What a country...]]

114 carcasses were to populate cemetery, suit says

By CLAY CAREY Staff Writer

A Murfreesboro man charged with animal cruelty after more than 100 frozen bodies of cats were found in freezers in his home is suing authorities who seized them.

The lawsuit was filed exactly three years after authorities confiscated 114 frozen bodies of cats and kittens from William Terry Davis’ home in an upscale golf course community in Murfreesboro.

The animals’ bodies were stored in grocery bags, paper towels and boxes, stacked up inside several freezers. Live animals—five snakes
and one dog, a white German shepherd named Snowy—were also
taken from the home.

A few days later, authorities took more animals from Davis’ second home in Christiana. During that raid, the suit says, animal control officers confiscated 39 cats at the Christiana home. Because of poor health, 31 were later euthanized.

In his lawsuit, filed last week, Davis, 74, says he suffered “emotional pain and suffering” because of the confiscation and eventual
destruction of the frozen bodies, which he said he was planning
to bury in a pet cemetery he was preparing on his farm, as well as
the loss of his living pets.

The suit says that one of the kittens in the freezer was “so large at birth that (Davis) intended to submit it to the Guinness Book of Records.”

He is seeking more than $1.5 million in damages.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Things we like—Get Fuzzy.

A weight-challenged, good-hearted Canadian dog. A mean-spirited bastard of a Siamese cat. The funny, (almost) infinitely patient human dork who lives with them both—and loves them in spite of themselves.

[[Narrative from Wikipedia—how could you not love a strip like this?]]

Bucky owns a plastic bear named “Smacky,” obtained by his refusing to exchange toys with Satchel at a McDoodles restaurant even though each had the toy the other wanted (Satchel ended up with a plastic T-Rex, which he named “Smiley”). It is one of the few objects Bucky seems to care for. In one storyline, Fungo Squiggly demanded possession of Smacky to guarantee the safe return of Bucky's autobiography, which the ferret had stolen. Bucky tried to trick Fungo by giving him a “fake” Smacky, and Fungo in turn gave Bucky The Collected Works of Ira Gershwin instead of the manuscript. As Christmas gifts, Bucky received two other bears which he named “Cracker” (because “he's white”) and “Punk,” but they do not appear often.

Phoney baloney.

Things we like—microentrepreneurs.

[[Text from the PBS website. It’s fascinating to realise how little some people need to get ahead, nice to find ways to help]]

Small Fortunes is a one-hour documentary describing the impact that microcredit is having throughout the world through the stories of eleven microentrepreneurs.

Millions of the world’s poorest—mostly women—who are unable to provide the necessary collateral to secure a traditional loan are turning to microcredit institutions for help. These institutions give “micro” loans, often for less than $100, to those for whom the entrepreneurial spirit is still in its purest, most basic form. Whether it’s through milking a buffalo, selling tortillas, or weaving cloth, most borrowers are able to pay back their loans—and have enough profits to reinvest in their businesses, their homes, and their children.

Produced by award-winning filmmakers Sterling Van Wagenen and
Matt Whitaker, Small Fortunes explores the issues of poverty and microcredit as it features interviews with numerous recipients of small loans in locales ranging from India to the Philippines to New York City. The documentary tells the stories of how short-term loans of even
a few dollars have resulted in dramatic changes in lifestyles for
families who otherwise would have no means of lifting themselves
out of their poverty.

Small Fortunes was produced by KBYU-TV, who also created
a related site,

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Yoooooou light up my life.

for the boots. xo.

Suddenly righteous republicans.

[[Real-life political humor from Dana Milbank in the Wash. Post today]]

Thirty-one-year-old Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is not a large man, standing perhaps 5 feet 3 inches tall in thick soles. But he packed a whole lot of chutzpah when he walked into the House TV gallery yesterday to demand that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years.

“The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert,” declared McHenry, with 10 Republican colleagues arrayed around him. “We’re submitting this minority bill of rights, which will ensure that all sides are protected, that fairness and openness is in fact granted by the new majority.”

Omitted from McHenry’s plea for fairness was the fact that the GOP had ignored Pelosi’s 2004 request—while routinely engaging in the procedural maneuvers that her plan would have corrected. Was the gentleman from North Carolina asking Democrats to do as he says, not as he did?

“Look, I'm a junior member,” young McHenry protested. “I’m not beholden to what former congresses did.”

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times asked McHenry if his complaint might come across as whining.

“I'm not whining,” he whined.

The top.

[[Cole Porter-licious!]]

You’re the pearl
That the divers fetch up.
Milton Berle
And tomato ketchup.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Frodo lives.

[[And that punk Harry Potter can kiss my ass... This from Writer’s Almanac today]]

It’s the birthday of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien, born in South Africa (1892). He was a professor of philology, the study of the derivation of languages, at Oxford. He was fluent in classical Greek and Latin, Old Norse, Old English, medieval Welsh and Anglo-Saxon, and an ancient form of German called Gothic, among other ancient European languages. He was so interested in the structure of language that he decided to invent an entire language of his own. He even invented a new alphabet to write in that language, and when he began writing Lord of the Rings, he gave that new language to the Elves, calling it “High Elvish.” He later said, “I wrote Lord of the Rings to provide a world for the language...I should have preferred to write the entire book in Elvish.”

Many critics now consider Lord of the Rings to be one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written. But after the 12 years it took to write, Tolkien wasn't sure anyone would want to read The Lord of the Rings. He wrote, “My work has escaped from my control. I have produced a monster...a complex, rather bitter and rather terrifying romance.”

The book was moderately successful when the first volume came out in 1954, but it didn’t become a huge best-seller until the 1960s when American college students fell in love with it.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Das Fliegenkabinett

Yo, Adrienne!

[[From a recent Slate Explainer podcast ( called “Do boxers drink raw eggs?”—apparently the aging Rocky Balboa does it again in the new installment “Rocky 19”]]

They’re not supposed to. Boxing trainers praise the egg as an excellent source of muscle-building protein, and admit that drinking a protein shake made with raw eggs is a lot more convenient than making an omelet at the gym. But few trainers believe that raw eggs are more nutritious than the cooked variety, and fewer still would run the risk of losing their protégé to a case of Salmonella enteridis. The egg-borne bacterium can cause chills, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and dehydration, all negatives before a big fight. Even if the eggs were germ-free, drinking the whites might not be a good idea: Raw, as opposed to cooked, egg whites contain a substance called avidin, which prevents the body from absorbing biotin, an important vitamin. (You’d have to ingest 26 raw egg whites a day for a month to develop a biotin deficiency.)

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy new year!