Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
What cancer? The doctor now says maybe it's not cancer at all. Maybe it's just pneumonia.
I'm not there but if the goddamned doctor asked me I would say you should probably be careful about what you tell her given her semi-rational state, but you should certainly not tell my mother-in-law she has something until you are goddamned sure she goddamned has it.
Now, she doesn't want to take her medicine for all her other ailments. Goddamn. Sometime there is so much truth in bad language it would be immoral not to use it.
If I were an advisor to Republican officeholders, I’d lay in a stock of those astronaut diapers because as representatives of that Grand Old Party move about the country there seems to be a world of pain and misunderstanding lying in wait for them in public restrooms.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
He settles on:
The record so far as I can tell is held by “The Godfather,” with four: Pacino, Brando, Duvall and Keaton.
There are several co-holders of second place at three: “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” (Tracy, Hepburn, Poitier), “Glen Garry Glen Ross” (Lemmon, Pacino, Spacey), “Steel Magnolias,” which holds the record for most Best Actress cast members (MacLaine, Fields, Roberts), and the improbable “Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” (Wayne, Stewart, Marvin).
My answer to his question was so brilliant it must strut upon a larger stage. (No disrespect, Brother Wieder. No brag, just fact.)
Monday, August 27, 2007
It’s James Lileks, the columnist from Minnesota who lost his job and was "demoted." I think his current job is an all-day blog.
In the Olden Times it felt sufficient to write something for the paper once a week. The advent of the Internets changed that: once a day was now the norm. Blogging changed that: several times a day isnow the norm. Now it’s all that plus a little movie. It’s an accelerated version of the same impulse I’ve felt since I started my journals, 34 years ago: fix the day in amber, and you’ve justified your tenure on the right side of the dirt. That used to be a general principle; now it’s my bloody job description.
No complaints. Don’t take it that way. Just saying.
Then again: a year to write a noir novel – ahhhh, what a prospect.
Anyway: off to upload the next vidcast. I love these things. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity. Think of it: I can’t imagine doing something like this for, say, a TV station, because you’d ever have the Consultants hovering over, or at least the threat of Consultants. Ten years ago I was in the newspaper, on radio, and on TV; I stepped away from two by choice, one by circumstances – and now I have my site, my podcast, my videos, with 100% creative control. Which either makes me a totally modern 21st century globally-connected media operative, or the equivalent of a guy who puts his Xeroxed ‘zine in the racks at the newspaper stand when the clerk isn’t looking.
As warned, this will be a weak week for Bleats, since I’m steeped in Fair Duty. Never done something quite like this. Every day. Every day. I’m one-third of the way through.
At least I don’t wake up in the morning wondering what I’ll write about today. Or, for that matter, what I’ll film today. In addition to the daily entries, I’ve been doing a three-minute vidcast. It’s good practice. They take about 35 minutes to do now, which seems too long – but there’s copying the files from the camera, importing into the program, editing, doing the titles in Photoshop, then making a couple passes at a passable voice-over. Then export, then upload. The latest is up by now. It has sheep!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
See, the fun here is that this is an obscure reference you have to be a certain age to get. My students wouldn't get it. I have enough sense not to ask them to. On the other hand, I don't watch American Idol or Survivor or listen to any of the music that has proved popular over the last 35 years. So I suppose all of us could just concentrate on the material.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is running a contest to select a bumper sticker for '08. I think it's more fund raiser than contest, but the choices they offer are lame. But they also allow us to suggest our own. I'm working on it.
It's Time for the Donkey to Kick Ass. (Little corner cartoon of donkey kicking an elephant's bottom, said elephant soaring into the empyrean.)
Too crude, probably.
On my walk home from downtown this morning after driving Eydie in, as I passed Lake Merritt I saw 20 egrets in close proximity on the shore while 20 pelicans swam in the water a few yards away.
You had to be there. I wish I still was.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Nothing spectacular except that the book I made for her [a voluminous record of mother's life and times told in picture and story] -- which she has seemingly ignored unless someone comes, gets it, sits next to her and points out things -- when we aren't around she brings it to the dining room and shows to people at her table. Go figure. They all agree that the new anti-depressant doesn't seem to be working but will give it another couple of weeks. Also added that there are some that absolutely nothing works for and I told them that we were aware of that but to keep trying. Said that mother, more than any other patient, gets more one on one as they all love her and pop in ever so often to say hello, etc. Vikki showed me that chart of the events she has attended since she was admitted and she has done something almost every day with only a couple of times where she did nothing. Vikki said that she has been to ALL the Thursday cookouts (burger, etc.) which are held outside and that she eats good. Her newest weight is 110. They all seem to think that she is some, although not a lot, better about crying. Seems as if she saves it all for me. ha! Also say she has started reading again and is carrying her Bible everywhere. Once again, Katrina said that she wished she had a camcorder to tape patients when family was not around and that they behave quite differently. Nice to know that she isn't down all the time.
Yes, it is nice to know.
That value is:
* a face
* a voice
* a mode, and perhaps a mood, of communicating.
The point is not polish. Polish takes time, and I wish to spend time on the basic skills of newsjudging, newsgathering and newswriting, which seem to recede farther and farther into the distance in this age of convergence. Yet I still think a modest level of skill in audio and video is useful, the value perhaps in inverse proportion to its modesty, at least in a first or second print course.
I am, of course, open to discussion. Didn't I name our new cat Cat 2.0?
(Actually, no. Clever name, though. Feel free.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
But Sunday mother was what she usually is, my sister said. That is, she mentioned that she wanted to die but only occasionally. It was a theme, but there was variation. The new idea that I had not heard before but my sister has heard many times is the suggestion that if anyone (fill in: me, my older sis) really loved her (fill in: willing to sacrifice marriage and mental health) these nameless people would get her out of the Baptist Healthcare Center and take her home because my mom would really be not that much trouble, hardly any really, you can take her word for it.
And we say ... a variety of things. Fill in: You didn't raise any uber-masochists, mother. And I dare say you would be just as sad living with us. But the bottom line is the best we can do for you -- the most we choose to do for you -- is make sure you are very well treated here. You are broke, but the way you gave the money away to our younger sister (long story; don't think I'll tell it) means you do not qualify for Medicare so you are here on our nickel.
More later. Much much more, endless amounts of more.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
At any rate, I asked her and she said no. But she did ask where we met. Right after I was born, I told her. She nodded politely, the way you might if the question had come up during a conversation at a cocktail party. She did not say: "I *thought* you looked vaguely familiar," at which point the speaker gazes over your shoulder into the distance, ready to move on to someone more interesting, more memorable.
But her behavior the last two days has been far above the usual standard, my sister says. Perhaps, my presence has registered on some level. Doesn't matter. She may not know who I am. I know who I am.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Maybe she should have said, "Rain check."
Mother didn't recognize me. I don't think she did. She clammed up after her initial observations:
* I'm so frightened
* I don't know what to do
* I'm going to kill myself by jumping out the window
* I'm going to use a knife to kill myself.
Thus, her silence was not entirely unwelcome, even though my sister said her silence was a first, so perhaps she did recognize me, and the recognition was not entirely happy. More tomorrow. I'm assuming this is the last time I'll see her alive. but you never know. The mind fails, and the pulse beats on.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The laughs in the audience seemed mostly from those adults, bass and contralto, not the thin tenors or shrieking sopranos of the tykes. But as I laughed I worried: What is the point, the subtext, of a fantasy suggesting rats can cook, and desperately want to? Where does reality impinge? How to tease out the allegorical implications? Here's an odd thing to say about so beautifully a conceived fantasy world: I’m seeing it and not believing it. Other popular cartoon features are unambiguously anchored in reality. Shrek and his donkey pal come direct from kid life on any schoolyard. I hardly needed to squint. Baby Dumbo flapped his ears and soared, and that dream is so common that, in fact, we actually dream it.
But a rat cooking haute cuisine and not only cooking but embraced and celebrated for that ability? I found myself filled with apprehension, even dread, as if the cartoon were some kind of gritty noir. I was afraid for the rat, thinking the filmmaker might suddenly realize that the fabric of plausibility was shredded, that only tragedy could redeem it and that it was time for the a King Kong ending:
‘T was fois gras killed the beast.
And I’m thinking this even though I’d read the reviews and knew, of course, it must have a happy ending, and not just for the children. People should pay me to go to their movies, so ferociously do I take my suspension of disbelief and carry it far afield. It's a cartoon, and I had trouble accepting the happy ending.
Speaking of which, last week I sampled another fantasy, the new TNT series Saving Grace, with Holly Hunter as a drinking, swearing, fornicating Oklahoma City detective who is on the road to hell, or so the story insists, when a tobacco-spitting redneck angel materializes to get her straightened out. You have already read that the angel chews tobacco, a habit praised in tones that suggest that is not only novel but also daring, possibly trend-setting.
Nah, it's just cute.
If the angel at first seems as country as a Baptist revival, he’s pure bland Universalist at bottom, since he makes clear he succours the nearly doomed the whole world over, fronting for each and every religion that has a god on its books. And I think he works the Buddhists, too, though I could be wrong.
I resisted this premise. I love Holly Hunter, pinched little down-home voice and all. Seeing her drink, swear and fornicate -- there is splendor in her onscreen fornication and a nice amount of skin -- draws me like a low moth to a dirty flame. But, aha, the point is she’s sad for all the jolly booze and sex. That’s why we are supposed to be glad she gets her angel. She needs an intervention.
(I think in Canada everyone has an angel as part of their National Health Service, though sometimes you have to wait for a month or two. That's a joke.)
We learn she was molested by a priest. She was indirectly the cause of her sister getting blown up in the
Not sure what he is intent on. What intrigues me in this series other than the irresistible Ms. Hunter is what we will discover to be the necessary specifics of her redemption, just what she is going to have to give up to make her, god and the angel (not in that order perhaps but in what order I’m not sure) happy. Will she have to give up drinking? Cursing? Being rude to people? Fornicating?? Or perhaps just adultery since she’s sleeping with her cop partner, who is married?
So, two things draw me in. The most important is that Holly Hunter is a sexy mess, a 49-year-old sexy mess, which is congenial to imagine. I’m going to cut any show in which she appears a lot of slack. Second thing is that the premise is intriguing for someone from my religious background and has come to doubt. God really is in the details. Just why is she going to hell? Is it what she does or that she does it to excess? Or that it brings her no joy? It got God interested in her. So what are God’s rules?
I have read several reviews. One reviewer said maybe you can regard the angel as an illusion, created by her as a way out of the mess of her life. Well, that doesn’t seem to be true, given internal evidence to the contrary: The angel has angel DNA! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. But, skeptic that I am, in spite of that I do not need, nor do I want, to interpret away the essence of the show, to refuse to accept the angel as real in the show's particular universe. One of the pleasures of fantasy is that sometimes its pleasures are deepest when it asserts what we cannot possibly believe, but the appeal of which we understand even as we understand the dangers of the illusion. We have faith in the fiction, as it were. We trust and obey.
Except. Except. Why would you want to imagine a rat cooking for you even if you do see it wash its little paws?
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Oh, also it was a nice diversion: Those shirts don't iron themselves.
Results? Based on what I saw on the telly, I really couldn't characterize the Giants crowd. It was just another noisy sporting event. Personally, I felt somewhat deflated. Bonds took some shortcuts during the last ten years, but he certainly got places no one has ever gotten, which enormously successful cheat I could either grudgingly admire or sullenly resent.
I felt neither. Just ... nothing much, two parts uh, okay and one part huh? So to sum up, the striking of homer 756 and its aftermath wasn't as good as the Soprano's finale, and you know how I felt about that.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
I thought this might cheer him up. Now he says he's shopping for a towel and a cross.
Sounds like he's joining a health club in Transylvania.
"That's rain," E. said.
"That's vertically inclined fog," I said.
A's aren't going anywhere this year. A's are going to Fremont sometime around 2010.
I say call them the Alta San Jose A's and to hell with it. But we will stick with them till they go, the way a caregiver stays with a crazy relative in the attic, partly for love and partly for the entertainment value.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
These are the same plays that you *see* more than once, done by amateurs, done by professionals, done on the movie screen by what often seems a mixture of amateurs and professionals. And what happens is that these observed performances acquire a dual nature: the particular performance of the play, to be judged on its own; but also as part of a tapestry of memory encompassing each and every exposure to the play, read or seen. And this means that some strange new interpretation or beautiful new insight irradiates a production, even if it is otherwise a clunker, in a way that would not be true if one had not seen/read the play so many times before and had not -- we blush to admit -- become somewhat bored with its wonders, somewhat blase.
Thus with the 1999 movie version of Midsummer Night's Dream we stayed up late last night watching. I had read it was a curiosity and chose it from the Comcast On Demand menu just to taste its opening as Eydie groomed her cuticles. But it kept us watching -- which is perhaps no great feat on a Friday night.
But still. What new pleasure sticks in the mind this morning? Kevin Kline as Bottom, as foolish a Bottom as you might like but also a poignant Bottom, intermittently aware of the fact some think him a fool (though his loyal but dim-witted friends do not think him a fool, which reminds us of the value of loyal but dim-witted friends and how we should not despise the role if it is sometimes ours). He has a sweetness. He has an inner life. He has a shrewish wife who has apparently way way gotten over him.
Though his bewitched aspect is that of an ass, he is apparently hung like a horse. This was certainly an intimation-by-glance I had not seen in any previous performance or imagined in any earlier reading.
So it liked us well, as WS might have said, and it reminded us of seeing Mark Rylance, artistic director of the new Globe theater, play Bottom at that very theater, carrying a copy of the play to prompt himself, since he had stepped into the role that very day because of illness among the cast. Any excuse to recollect that happy evening is welcome.
Friday, August 03, 2007
When Life Gives You Chicken Feathers, It's Time for Delicious Chicken Salad (Eyes Closed. Now, Use Your Imagination.)
Well, you can take a look if you wish. Let's be fair. I didn't look so good.
I have a set of guidelines for doing these little videos: one take; no script; use the one-shot or dump it. Why I set these limits I'm not sure. Perhaps, it's the notion of sprezzatura, the desire to give the sense that I am a mere amateur dashing something off. Of course, the idea underlying sprezzatura is that the mere amateur is doing the thing done as well as or better than the pro. So this little video somewhat undershot the definition.
Thus, caught between the desire to not have wasted my time and my own arbitrary set of rules, I had a bit of a problem, given a certain, uh, imprecision of mood manifested in the video. The solution? Add ironic subtitles to suggest that the defects of presentation -- the rather disturbing unsteadiness -- were intentional.
(But no: I wasn't drunk.)
Of course, I could have done a dozen retakes in the amount of time I spent adding the subtitles. But words are my game. It's okay to lavish time on words. When it comes to words, I'm no amateur.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Mourning Bill Walsh?
Brother Patrick Daugherty (Friend of the Blog) has a great story about faking his way into a press credential with a Fairbanks (Alaska) newspaper, doing a hangout marathon near 49ers headquarters and bluffing his way into an interview with Walsh as Walsh was chauffeured to a tennis date.
This was 25 years ago, the early days of modem transmission of stories. With the help of Richard Anderson (Friend of the Blog) Pat got the story to his editor in Fairbanks. But the editor didn't believe Pat's unlikely tale of how he got the story and did not print it.
I don't think we need to put a moral on this tale.,
I remember standing on Broadway in North Oakland staring toward downtown where my wife worked on the top floor of a rickety flatiron, walking back and forth, not really letting myself think. I remember when the bus stopped and my wife got off.
Sometimes it's a pain not believing in God. I am of a generous and also a practical disposition. It's nice when there's someone to thank. Maybe you'll get even better service next time.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
First, let's talk about the Cal Shakespeare performance of Shaw's "Man and Superman" we saw on Sunday. It was terrific -- strongly acted and fast paced, both qualities you need if you are going to include the "Don Juan in Hell" episode, which can drag any performance to a grinding halt if it's not done with speed and acting skill.
I'm no Shavian scholar, but I'm guessing M&S is a representative play. It has a hero who spouts provocative aphorisms about the class struggle and the sexual struggle, all of which provocation is watered down by the fact the hero is feckless, the heroine beautiful and sexually aggressive (there's a hope that still beats in every man's heart, and is sometimes true), and it all ends with a proper marriage.
The Don Juan in Hell interlude is a different beast, ending with the man -- conveniently bodiless -- leaving hell and choosing heaven, leaving the woman behind. In the interlude Shaw has fun undercutting conventional notions of hell, of sin, of how much cant there is in talk of beauty and romantic love, but there's a lot of nonsense about the evolutionary lifeforce that in some ways is tolerable to listen to only if you consider it part of a dream by a man who is about to be run down and scooped up by a beautiful woman. Outside of the context of the play, it really is nonsense.
Years ago I taught M&S to college sophomores, and I took it quite seriously. They were conservative North Carolina kids, and I thought their values were close enough to Victorian/Edwardian that underneath the political jokes -- the insights of which the play celebrates through intrinsic wit and undercuts through plot -- some points were made about politics and feminism that might tilt some attitudes in the direction I wanted them tilted.
Did they and should I? That's a longer essay than I feel like writing this morning. Maybe it flattered me to think I could move my students. Maybe at some point it flattered Edwardian audiences to think that they "got" what Shaw was driving at, which I think was let's have less hypocrisy and some Fabian socialism -- whatever that was? -- but all in good time and jokes first, revolution after tea.
I may be wrong about those Edwardian audiences. I read somewhere that the play was considered scandalous and was not performed immediately, so perhaps I should not condescend to it. Perhaps it was precisely as bold as it could afford to be.
But back to the Kos reference. Here are some of Tanner's Shavian maxims.
THE GOLDEN RULE:
Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.
The savage bows down to idols of wood and stone: the civilized man to idols of flesh and blood.
Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.
Activity is the only road to knowledge.
Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as
his father called it divine revelation.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.
Assassination on the scaffold is the worst form of assassination, because there it is invested with the approval of society.
It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind.
Property, said Proudhon, is theft. This is the only perfect truism that has been uttered on the subject.
Masters and servants are both tyrannical; but the masters are the more dependent of the two.
VIRTUES AND VICES
No specific virtue or vice in a man implies the existence of any other specific virtue or vice in him, however closely the imagination may associate them.
Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it.
Self-denial is not a virtue: it is only the effect of prudence on rascality.
Obedience simulates subordination as fear of the police simulates honesty.
The love of fairplay is a spectator’s virtue, not a principal’s.
BEAUTY AND HAPPINESS, ART AND RICHES
He who desires a lifetime of happiness with a beautiful woman desires to enjoy the taste of wine by keeping his mouth always full of it.
The most intolerable pain is produced by prolonging the keenest pleasure.
The man with toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty stricken man makes the
same mistake about the rich man.
In his efforts to escape from ugliness and unhappiness the rich man intensifies both. Every new yard of West End creates a new acre of East End.
THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN
A gentleman of our days is one who has money enough to do what every fool would do if he could afford it: that is, consume without producing.
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
The man who listens to Reason is lost: Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.
Decency is Indecency’s Conspiracy of Silence.
Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience. If we could learn from mere experience, the stones of London would be wiser than its wisest men.
The right to live is abused whenever it is not constantly challenged.
WOMEN IN THE HOME
Home is the girl’s prison and the woman’s workhouse.
Civilization is a disease produced by the practice of building societies with rotten material. Those who admire modern civilization usually identify it with the steam engine and the electric telegraph.
THE SOCIAL QUESTION
Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty: what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.
Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get. Where there is no ventilation fresh air is declared unwholesome. Where there is no religion hypocrisy becomes good taste. Where there is no knowledge ignorance calls itself science.
Those who understand evil pardon it: those who resent it destroy it.
Acquired notions of propriety are stronger than natural instincts. It is easier to recruit for monasteries and convents than to induce an Arab woman to uncover her mouth in public, or a British officer to walk through Bond Street in a golfing cap on an afternoon in May.
The Chinese tame fowls by clipping their wings, and women by deforming their feet. A petticoat round the ankles serves equally well.
Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.
If you begin by sacrificing yourself to those you love, you will end by hating those to whom you have sacrificed yourself.
And back to me: The problem with saying something in a very clever way is that a listener may suspect you are saying it only because it is clever, paradoxical, a way of getting attention, about as sincere as dying your hair pink. And thinking so, as I watched the play, I decided that Jack Tanner was essentially a blogger, of the jokey kind, to solid argument as the canape is to the good roast beef. Such writers assume you'll pass by his/her blog the way you pass by a lively conversation at a cocktail party: a few will stop but most will take ten seconds worth and keep moving. A blogger of this kind makes his point on the fly and hopes the listener will be prodded to consider the implications of the exaggeration, that the tickle will turn into a thought.
Thus: Kos and Superkos is not apt. The Daily Kos is a serious website. The next Shavian witticism I find in it will be the first. The posts at DK are long and tend toward the dead serious, pretty angry (but not crazed in the amount and kind of the abuse it contains, the case the idiot O'Reilly has recently tried to make). The Kossacks are not into quick hits. Daily Kos is something you have to settle down for, not like Atrios who is short and nasty in his links.
And maybe that's what a good Shavian witticism is, a link to deeper thoughts and more detailed consideration. There's a competition for attention going on in the world. When it comes to "issues," a really good joke -- a paradox, a joke so droll you want to commit it to memory for the effect if not the message -- is one way to grab some part of that attention.
Yes, once Jack Tanner is settled down and married to Ann Whitfield, he will definitely blog.