Saturday, February 28, 2009

Feasting with Panthers

A reservoir glass filled with a naturally colo...Image via Wikipedia

Just home from the fantasy baseball banquet. Were I a trendy type of bloke, I would twitter the result. But "trendy bloke" is not a category I occupy. Let me just say this. When the delicious dessert came out -- thank you, Brad -- I keep shouting,"Liqueur! Liqueur!" at which point host Peter Moore brought out some St. Georges absinthe.

I had ... a taste. It's not the way one is supposed to drink absinthe, since I believe there is a rather elaborate ritual, involving filtering into water and sugar cubes. But there's something to be said for sampling the raw material, which really is a liquid licorice stick. Yet it was all elegant and de riguer, if I'm not abusing my French idioms.

Pretty damn interesting to have someone roll out a bottle of absinthe, some good stuff made on Alameda Island, which is of interest only to locals.

The lady E. was talking recently about some personality index that asked you if you would prefer loyal friends or interesting friends. I said, of course, loyal, but E. didn't think so. She said that you really can't count on loyalty, as friendship decays. But, she said, "interesting" is something else. "Interesting" endures in a way loyalty cannot. I conceded her the point. That's why I love my baseball league. I've lived my whole life yearning to be next to people worth writing about even if I lack the talent to do them justice.

Oh you wonderful eccentrics, you mute inglorious Miltons,
Walt Whitman would have enjoyed you, and I mean that in the nicest way possible,

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Postscript: Peter posts the menu.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday February 28, 2009

Leftover Chicken Sandwiches

League Banquet
BCL, Mike, Russ, Kevin, Paul, Brad, Matt, Bob
Redwood Hills Farm Goat Cheese in many forms also stuffed in Peppadew Peppers and in Medjool Dates w/ Kumquat Zest
Short Ribs
Pappardelle w/ Parsley & Olive Oil
Brad's Pistachio Cake

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Bob Wieder: Still Funny After All These Years

A portrait of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynold...Image via Wikipedia

Tonight is the glorious annual banquet in celebration of yet another year of existence for the Patrick Finley Memorial Fantasy Baseball League, which I once stood astride like a living god but around whose higher echelons I now skulk like a beaten dog.

At last when I say that I am a modest man, I can also add that I have much to be modest about. (Thank you, Samuel Johnson.)

It's a wonderful time. It's quite a feast because we have it at the home of Peter Moore, Cook of Cooks, who lays out as good as grub as you are gonna git, my deft alliteration limning the seamless excellence of the food experience first to last. Also, Peter works for a wine importer, so the stuff he brings out of his cellar -- which, to be honest, is actually at knee level -- is ummmm-ummmm good, as an oenophile might say.

League members are exchanging emails about who might bring what, though mostly no one brings nothing because what Peter already has is so good. A good guest might bring a bottle of wine -- and now we round the last turn into this post's straightaway -- but as I wrote to Peter and the league I would never dare do that because:

The best bottle of wine in our house, except for the bottles that Peter himself has brought into our house, Peter wouldn't use to give his dog an enema.

To which Bob replied:

Damn. And I just laid out $6.99 for a 2006 bottle of Pupflush chenin blanc.

Well no joke. The 2006's are particularly fine.

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Put That on the Blog E. Says

Seek Patience Before BrainsImage by The Rocketeer via Flickr

We are talking about the resentments on the part of some (not all) of the rich and the very well to do when asked to pay what I consider their fair share of taxes.

I do not have the time or patience at this moment to tease out my definition of "fair share." But you can imagine my arguments. This is no fresh path through the woods. You know the way.

In any event, E. and I are talking about our *impatience* with those folk who don't want to do their share. Hey, some of these new taxes will hit us, and aren't we lucky?

So we're talking, and I say:

"Some people confuse their worth with their Worth."

It's not exactly Oscar Wilde but it's not Bush the Lesser either.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Pissed: Day Four

I got my first Cool Greeting out of the way today: a quick walk-by, a clipped expulsion of surname only.

There's an etiquette to being pissed, or perhaps I should say a range of options. Oh, you want it out there. Having it out there avoids the need for clarifying emails. There's the Look Away or the Cold Stare, but they are a little more melodramatic than I can easily manage. If you can't nail it, forgo it, I say.

Indeed, I'm stuck with the Cool Greeting because I can't manage the more substantial Cold Greeting, nor the stinging Derisive Greeting so ably practiced by Jerry Seinfeld, which was only a counterfeit after all, an actor's trick.

Heck, saying someone's last name the way Jerry said, "Newman" is an invitation to share the joke, absolutely collegial.

So it's a fine line, but I'm doing my best. Or to put it another way: still pissed.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The Fury of Athamas by John Flaxman (1755-1826).Image via Wikipedia

Some people can't hold their liquor. I can't hold my anger. Yesterday I became very very angry with ....

It doesn't matter. Not with my wife. She's the one saying: "Rage, rage, my king. In some instances, anger is simple self-respect. Turn the other cheek, but as the country preacher said, 'That third lick is yourn.'"

But this morning I've lost my head of steam. Still, one recalls Frost.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 19:  Protesters hold photo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

This is just my very personal reaction to the controversy over the chimp cartoon in the Daily News:

Barack Obama looks about as much like a chimpanzee as George Clooney looks like me. Actually, the chimp looks like my uncle Clarence, but my uncle is too dead to care.

Though suddenly all this mistaken identity makes me think of that late afternoon in college when that cute Sharon -- a kind of a kewpie doll; a kind of a Bernadette Peters -- came running up to me from behind and, having gotten my attention, stepped back in astonishment, saying, "You look just like Jack Kascur from a distance."

And so, for a very long time, I lived in the shadows, always walking away, like a retreating god.
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The Capo di Tutti Deani Makes Me an Offer I Can't Refuse

Cover of "The Godfather (Widescreen Editi...Cover via Amazon

Which is to repeat his response to my earlier post on his phrase that murmurs both threat and promise, that is, "Well, there you go."

Says the Dean:

I like the blog- but there actually IS a meaning for the phrase. The true meaning of "... well, there you go", is really,"... go figure" (as my grandmother used to say). Feel free to use this to your heart's content (or discontent) (or, perhaps, better yet, malcontent).

And I say: My Dean. Tell me who has disrespected you...

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Here's a Class Project That's Coming Along

If the Daily Kos Didn't Want Me to Steal from Him, He'd Get an Injunction

Americans named President Obama as their No. 1 hero, followed by Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King, in a new Harris poll.

Others in the top 10, in descending order, were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Teresa.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Now He Belongs to the Ages: Socks the Cat, Whose Last Years Were Spent in Exile, Dead at 20

Full marks for having a cat. Full demerits for giving him away. Cute obit.

Addendum: Sock's last job, which brought him shame.

Laughing at Our House

Yellow tulip. Taken May 2005, Cambridge MA USA...Image via Wikipedia

Because my distinguished dean so deftly employs the phrase "Well, there you go" to punctuate our conversations (because it means .... Who the hell knows what it means?) I now employ it frequently in conversations with my wife.

I have explained my own understanding of its meaning. When I employ it, she knows I mean, "You have just said something. I heard what you said. Whether or not I agree is a topic for further discussion. Indeed, it's beyond agreeing or not agreeing. All I am committing to is an acknowledgement that words have been said -- that is, sounds have been uttered -- not that I have a notion of the denotative or connotative meaning inherent in those sounds."

I believe some men say this to their wives with even greater efficiency by wordlessly rustling the newspaper behind which they hide. And, of course, wives do the same.

But as far as the using the phrase currently before the dock, I have explained to my wife how evasive it is, which gives her the option, the opening, to say, "What do you *think* of what I have just said? I would prefer something more than what is equivalent to a multi-syllabic grunt."

Most of the time she does not ask for that elaboration, though she is grateful that I have acknowledged the evasion. I have opened the petals of my soul to her. Well, you don't go crushing somebody's petals, right?

Anyway this morning she is reading from the Financial Times, describing the obit that described the career of the splendid Dutchman Willem "Pim" Kolff, who invented the dialysis machine and about every other damn thing, at the end of which account she said, "and he was dyslexic."

And I said, "Well, go you there."

Which showed I was listening. And we rustled our newspapers and lived happily ever after.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Think They Call This a Teaching Moment

Those who think I hung the moon and subdivided the stars (with some arbitrage in there somewhere) recall that my students chose Vicky Cristina Barcelona, written and directed by Mr. Woody Allen, as the movie to review in my Arts Reporting and Reviewing class. I have not begun to grade the reviews yet, so in all innocence I asked Ricky what he thought of the movie.

Well, he said, I watched it in Italian.

Ah, I said.

And then he explained in some detail why this was the only version available at the last minute from Netflix. I did not fully understand the explanation, but students have long since learned the reward for intricate, perhaps impenetrable, explanations presented to teacher (like a cat presenting a dead mouse to its patron) is the teacher's inevitable exhausted retreat from further inquiry into circumstance and contingency.

With subtitles? I said, dead game to the last.

No, he said.

But you speak Italian? I said.

No, he said.

Well, there you go, I said. That's a clever angle from which to compose a review, I said, always supportive, particularly when the conversation turns surreal, perhaps Allen-esque, though perhaps more Perlman-esque, and thus in any case blogworthy.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No, It's Not Us

The "us" is very droll, by the way. But here's the link to the search that leads (sometimes) to this blog.

Talk about disappointment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shame of the Soft Hands

It was about August 21 when I moved into my new office in remodelled Campion Hall, now named Kalmanovitz Hall after the beer lord who made the money that funded the foundation that gave the grant that gutted the building that contained the office that hosted the professor that wrote the blog that ....

Ready for an etc., little buddy?

In any event, it was about August 21.5 when I asked for more bookcases. My old office was a filthy little hole, but it had a grand view of the church and it had bookcases elbowing great swaths of desk space, which left almost no space for me.

But my goods were accommodated.

The new office had only two inadequate bookcases, so I asked for two more, not the tall ones but merely the low, for I am not piggy. The first one showed up last month, followed by the second a week later. But the second bookcase was in a box in pieces, and there it sat, useless as a Republican.

Today my resentment at its impudent uselessness was too much. I decided to put it together myself with the little screwdriver I keep about my person.

Well, I won't drag this out. As in a Greek tragedy, let us keep the carnage offstage. I put it mostly together and then it mostly fell apart, just ripping the very crap out of the hardware and fiberboard.

It's not the loss of bookcase that hurts. That loss is a mere frustration. It's the loss of face, enduring the snickers of the maintenance guys who will sort out the wreckage*because once I was a blue-collar guy, a working-class guy, a guy who spent his summers in the steel mill and the auto plant.*

And now I can't bolt together a darn bookcase. And I do mean darn. I have lost the right to use savory language.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

My Arts Reporting and Reviewing Class is Reviewing Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Woody Allen in OviedoImage by austinevan via Flickr

Which I had not seen until tonight. I was anticipating Girls Gone Wild but instead got Girls Gone to Europe, by which I mean the movie registers with me in the spirit of James "Portrait of a Lady" and Forster's "Room with A View," though in the latter it's really British Girls Gone to Italy.

But whoever said the British were really European?

This is a reductionist and retrograde approach, I'm sure, to reduce Woody Allen's film to that old chestnut, two varieties of American inhibition getting warmed up by the sun and the sun-in-the-blood of Spain and walking away sadder and perhaps wiser, secure not in who they are but in who they aren't.

But it is *a* way of looking at the film, and that's all a reviewer needs.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Zadie Smiths 'Speaking in Tongues'

FRANKFURT, GERMANY - OCTOBER 04:  British auth...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Marvelous lecture/essay by Zadie Smith in the New York Review of Books to which I was pointed by colleague Bernadette Barker-Plummer.

It's all about losing one's accent and just possibly losing one's soul, and it's about how in Smith's opinion Barack Obama has lost neither, how in fact he has in him the ability to hear -- to *hear* -- many voices. So it's not just a matter of speaking, though Smith's believes Obama's own voice is variable, if one listens closely.

As a white Southerner, I take her point in my own way. Here are two sweet excerpts, which don't begin to scratch the essay's elegant surface. The first bit is from a poem.

"I am a Hittite in love with a horse," writes Frank O'Hara.

I don't know what blood's
in me I feel like an African prince I am a girl walking downstairs
in a red pleated dress with heels I am a champion taking a fall
I am a jockey with a sprained ass-hole I am the light mist
in which a face appears
and it is another face of blonde I am a baboon eating a banana
I am a dictator looking at his wife I am a doctor eating a child
and the child's mother smiling I am a Chinaman climbing a mountain
I am a child smelling his father's underwear I am an Indian
sleeping on a scalp
and my pony is stamping in
the birches,
and I've just caught sight of the
NiƱa, the Pinta and the Santa
What land is this, so free?

Frank O'Hara's republic is of the imagination, of course. It is the only land of perfect freedom. Presidents, as a breed, tend to dismiss this land, thinking it has nothing to teach them. If this new president turns out to be different, then writers will count their blessings, but with or without a president on board, writers should always count their blessings. A line of O'Hara's reminds us of this. It's carved on his gravestone. It reads: "Grace to be born and live as variously as possible."

- snip -

It's my audacious hope that a man born and raised between opposing dogmas, between cultures, between voices, could not help but be aware of the extreme contingency of culture. I further audaciously hope that such a man will not mistake the happy accident of his own cultural sensibilities for a set of natural laws, suitable for general application. I even hope that he will find himself in agreement with George Bernard Shaw when he declared, "Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it." But that may be an audacious hope too far. We'll see if Obama's lifelong vocal flexibility will enable him to say proudly with one voice "I love my country" while saying with another voice "It is a country, like other countries." I hope so.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Al Franken, Norm Coleman and the Beautiful Internet

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 3: A voter drops off an a...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Occasionally I go to, the Minnesota community news organization that has streamed all the public moments in courtroom and hearing room, including the news conferences outside those rooms sparked by what went on inside those rooms, that have gone on during the long months of the Minnesota senate recount. A live blog is also going on simultaneously, so you can watch the events and see the words of those commenting on the events.

More often than not, a few minutes hanging around the site get me more recent and more accurate information than I get from the Minneapolis newspapers and TV stations, which the search engines point to.

For instance, those who follow the recount closely know that the three-judge panel appointed by Minnesota Supreme Court justice Carl Eller has already narrowed the universe of absentee ballots that *might* be counted to something just under 5,000, and that yesterday the court divided those disputed ballots into 19 categories and asked the two campaigns to present arguments on whether or not each of those categories should be accepted. They were not talking about individual ballots but about groups of ballots, and the intent certainly seemed to be that they did not want to check out ballots out one at a time but to accept or reject them in groups -- assuming that the ballots were correctly categorized in the first place.

But I don't know if that's in dispute. There's a point at which even one's desire to have the timeliest of news flags. In this case that timeliness, of course, does not mean that I can change the outcome but only that I will not be surprised by the outcome. (Isn't that the motive for so much of our hunger for the up-to-the minute account, the live feed, the flash poll?)

Anyway, I naturally wonder what those 19 ballot categories are, and how many of the ballots potentially in play fall into each category. Skimming the liveblog, I discover that someone has produced that very information set.

Here that marvelous data is.

ABallots Excluded, Even Though Not Marked "Rejected" By Local Election Officials32197224


BBallots Rejected For No Apparent Or Given Reason16326137


C1STICKERS: Ballots Rejected Due to Error of Government Clerk or Local Election Official8570857


C2WRONG BALLOT SENT: Ballots Rejected Due to Error of Government Clerk or Local Election Official18117


D1Ballots rejected because no application for absentee ballot could be found.19969130


D2Ballots rejected for no voter signature on envelope, even though voter signed the envelope80377


D3Ballots rejected for signature mismatch, even though the signatures were from the same voter83027803


D4Ballots rejected for no witness address even though the address was easily available42141


D5Ballots rejected for lack of complete witness address13114117


D6Ballots rejected for lack of proof of residence even though witness indicated voter provided such proof.21310203


D7Ballots rejected for lack of registration, even though they were sent "Registered Voter " envelope and was actually registered.637133504


D8Ballots rejected for lack of registration, where voter was sent "Non-Registered Voter " envelope and was actually registered.1280761204


D9Ballots rejected for lack of proper witness, even though witness was a registered MN voter.3188310


D10Ballots rejected for being late, even though there is not clear evidence ballot was late.1742172


D11Absentee ballots from military members received late.36036





The three columns are original number of ballots in each category, those counted earlier by agreement of the two camps and those still uncounted.






Hey, there are only 15 categories. Still, the point remains: Man cannot live by Google alone, nor Yahoo, either.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Night Thoughts

Oakland, California

My wife spent all day working on an accounting document, a spreadsheet, for a meeting tomorrow morning, but around 4:30 p.m. the mainframe ate it and all earlier versions of it. So now at 11:06 p.m. I am sitting in a cubicle somewhere in downtown Oakland keeping watch over my flocks by night.

That is, I'm not going to let E. spend half the night in an empty office building alone. It's better to be bored and semi-miserable here than to be bored, semi-drunk and fully anxious at home.


Today I talked with someone from a local non-profit that squeezes pennies and asks for nickels so that it can do its good work. It does do good work. I admire the idealism, the willingness to grind. We were talking about a recent fund raiser the organization held and about deciding whether to sell tickets or ask for donations and about how one goes about apportioning what few funds are available among panelists.

One has to do a kind of economic triage: Who has a real job, even if meanly paid, and doesn't need the $50 or the $75 that might mean so much to the activist who eats the bread of passionate poverty.

Do you try to keep knowledge of the existence of such modest stipends and their invidious distribution from those who are considered flush enough not to "need" them. And never did quote marks earn their irony as when they surround that equivocal "need."

But here's the insight I got from my acquaintance. Thank God for the cash bar, he said. Two 1.75 liter bottles of gin, a little tonic water and some lemons, he said -- That made a $150 profit with which the good work was manured.

So that's one night thought. Let's see what else? In Arts Reviewing we finally settled on a movie for the class to review, Mr. Woody Allen's 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona.' Since I last taught this course 20 years ago, and the media landscape has changed so drastically and my notion of what a good review is has changed so inexorably, I consider this a 'first teach' and thus I give myself a free pass. That is, I will try whatever strikes me as fun -- let me say both fun *and* useful to the kiddles; I'm not a complete intellectual sybarite.

Thus, I'm not going to prep the kids for VCB. No summary of Allen's career and its ups and downs. No heavy analysis from the several scholarly books explaining how he means, he means and means some more.

Let them come to the movie knowing only what they know. But the day after their reviews are turned in, I will hit them with three or four essays and interviews and ask them what, if anything, such essays would have contributed to their reviews. I'm curious. On the most elementary level, are they aware of his semi-pedophilia? How much will they care? But we will go deeper than that.

They are a bright class, plenty of raw brains, but I haven't teased out of them how sophisticated they are about movie history and movie theory. Having so little myself I may be the wrong man to ask the question!

One more inky musing. Today Chronicle TV critic Tim Goodman talked to the class. He's an ebullient guy. He likes himself, and I mean that as a compliment, with no snark rimming the glass like salt on a margarita. He said that he really doesn't like many movies after all his years reviewing TV. A good TV series lets character unwind, develop, unearth nuance, he said. But so many movies seem rushed and crudely stitched together in comparison with the best of episodic TV, he said. Think of The Wire. Consider The Sopranos. Regard The Shield.

I will now sit on his idea until it hatches.
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Monday, February 09, 2009

William Shakespeare's Five and Twenty Random Things Abovt Me

Bear-baiting in the 17th century.Image via Wikipedia

The rest are just as funny. Kudos to the Canadian, Mike McPhaden.

1 Sometimes I Feele so trapp’d by iambic pentameter... Does that make me a Freake?

2 I haue been Knowne to cry at Bear-baiting.

3 I am not uery ticklish. I am Not. So prithee, do not euen try. Waste. Of. Time.

4 I cannot keep Lice, and know not why.

5 Sometimes I thinke plays are all Talke, Talke Talke, and wish for a cart-chase scene. I tried one in The Merry Wives, but it looked like Shitte, so I cut it. The men playing the horses were so Pissed at me.

P.S. By the way, humorian Robert (Bob) Wieder brought this to my attention. When it comes to yuks, his palate is quite refined.
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I Like to Think Had the Anti-Prop 8 Campaign Done Some of This, the Outcome Might Have Been Different

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Friendship is Weird. Sometimes It's Also Delicious.

A tank of liquid nitrogen, used to supply a cr...Image via Wikipedia

Celebrated P.'s 57th tonight at his place at his table.

You could celebrate your birthday by pressuring folk to take you out to a fine restaurant and pressuring them into paying for you meal. But P. invites folk to his house and cooks a divine meal for them. There was a salad that was like a platoon in a WW2 movie, filled with many ingredients that in combination spell victory.

Except the ingredient from Brooklyn doesn't die.

And there was spinach wrestled to the stove and made delicious. And chicken from some special chicken farm where the chickens not only range free, they have tap classes.

A., the beloved wife, of whom it is said she can't boil liquid nitrogen -- I mean, try to *stop* it from boiling --made a lovely cake. I think it was a sponge cake. It's name was Bob. (This may be a joke. I'll look in my textbooks on the nature of humor and get back to you.)

Thus, my recommendation: A woman might not cook but you love her still. A friend? Check his spice rack.
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And There Was a Disturbance in the Force

I just emailed Pelosi urging her to fight in conference for a better stimulus bill even if it means going against the administration. More money for states. Fewer less productive tax breaks.

I then emailed the White House letting them know that I have just unleashed the Dogs of Indignant Opinion.

Or the butterflies of chaos theory, one might say.

More Oliver Memories. He's the One Cracking on McCain.

Darwin Darwin He's Our Man

Angry mob attacking Charles DarwinImage by Colin Purrington via Flickr

Big takeout in the Chron today on Darwin's birthday, filled with several fine stories by science writer David Perlman, who inspires us with his knowledge and dazzles us with his productivity at so advanced an age that most of his contemporaries are not only underground, they are well on the way to turning to coal.

Good on you, Ancient Mariner.

Anyway, I'm reading along trying to keep up, wishing I had kept up my training in science rather than turning to the soft soup of words, which require no intellectual teeth, and a formulation occurred to me that sums up my thinking -- not "believing" or "feeling" -- that the probabilities are all on the side of natural selection, et alia.

Here it is: I don't know much about science but I know absolutely nothing about God.

That's a courtesy capital, folks.

P.S. Brother Moore points me at this full-page Chron ad I had somehow overlooked.
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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Dems Get Fed Up With Republican Senators, Kick Their Ass; Or, Lord Hamlet, Prince of Bloggers

Don't we wish. This post originated in my viscera as the stimulus package stumbles forward, impeded at every lurch by Republicans whose plush lifestyles have yet to be pinched by the recession and who figure they can ride it out if it turns into a depression, even if we get a right-wing dictatorship as a result.

They have correctly concluded that the people will not rise up and impose their own version of justice, no matter how bad the economy gets and how indifferent our masters continue, as (I read) Roosevelt feared in the Thirties. So I suppose these plush Repubs calculate they are all right no matter what. Though perhaps they are just stupid and have sunk too deep into their own dreams and trances.

Anyway, originally I was thinking about how sometimes one does feel as if certain a certain politician deserves a caning, and so I Googled off to the one caning I remember, that of a senator by a congressman in the 1850s. What I had forgotten was the circumstances of that caning. An anti-slavery senator was savaged by a pro-slavery congressman -- and got off in spite of the senator being seriously injured (though, to be fair, the particular speech that prompted the attack was quite brilliantly rude to the point of cruelty, and something Harry Reid could study with profit).

And so suddenly I was not only pissed off at the present, I was pissed off at the past.

But what to do?

Edited version of photograph of American actor...Image via Wikipedia

Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear (stimulus package) murder'd
Prompted to my my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab.

Well, there you go: Lord Hamlet, Prince of Bloggers

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Insight Insight: Pencils Ready?

SupermanImage via Wikipedia

I was sitting in the tub reading a snarky movie review by Anthony Lane when I had ....

A thought.

Super heroes with secret identities engage us because we think that our drab normal everyday selves are masks behind which our greatness lies, ready to emerge at any moment. At some point. Down the line.

That's obvious. And a little sad.

But I was thinking about teaching and how that's a real Clark Kent of a job, earnest, loose fitting, unflattering even, disguising our true and noble shape, which self someday will emerge....

No, I thought. We relate to Superman and Spiderman not because of our notions of latent greatness but because our greatness already *has* emerged.

Sort of.

I mean, most of us don't have lives as integrated as a fine Swiss watch, but I think more like a fine Swiss cheese, a combination of density and vacancy. I mean cheese with holes.

Okay, enough of the mouth-watering metaphors. I mean that if one part of your life isn't going so well, you compensate by thinking about the part that is. I have a bad day in class -- I told you I was thinking about teaching -- and so I think about that part of my life which the kids don't know about, the potent part, the *transformed part*, at home, where *the garbage gets in my way, the garbage goes down.*

Out, really. But then down.

Big bags of garbage. Kind of an Incredible Hulk kind of thing.

And then I thought. That's not much of an insight. Well, we all can't be Anthony Lane, all snark and elegance.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hello Kitty, CSI. That's the Show I'm Waiting For

I Am Having Fun. Is That in the Job Description?

Just loving the teaching of my Arts Reporting and Reviewing course. Yesterday David Wiegand, the Chron's feature and reviewing czar, came and talked to the class. He was very good, both informative and entertaining and *appropriately* encouraging, suggesting that good work will find a way to the surface.

But it has to be good work, and the signage to 'Good Work. Pop. distressingly small' points uphill. He said to ask follow up questions. So this morning I did:


This is basic, but I didn't think of asking in class yesterday. I'm assuming you give your reviewers -- and feature writers, too -- a pretty specific word length. Do they usually hit it? How often do you have to send the piece back with demands for cuts? How often do you say 'the hell with it' and trim it on your own?

I'm giving my guys a minimum length but not a maximum. I'm interested in seeing if I have any of those writers who need the encouragement of writing long before I start applying the discipline of writing shorter. I want to see how much they have in the bag!! Do *you* have any writers that you give a slightly longer leash because that's the way you get the best out of them? I always wrote more than ask because I always thought I deserved more space, and some pretty butchered stories appeared as a result when the editors got tired of the game.

Michael Robertson

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Monday, February 02, 2009

As I Said to Peter: The Menu Was More Memorable Than the Game. And It Was a Good Game.

From The Secret Restaurant (with bonus dog butt)

Sunday February 1, 2009

@ Sweet Adeline

Super Bowl @ home w/ Michael & Pat
Soul Food Farm Deviled Eggs w/ Fresh Wasabi, Mayo, Salt, Wasabi Tokiko
Buffalo Turkey Wings w/ Butter, Hot Sauce Garlic Marinade & Teriyaki Bourbon Pineau De Chartres Marinade
Point Reyes Blue Cheese & Ranch Sauce
Arezmendi Pizza
Edith's Kale w/ Currants
Sweet Adeline Corn Bread

Sasha checks under the tub to make sure Kitty isn't there. (Kitty has been in my room the entire time Sasha has been here)
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Sunday, February 01, 2009

It's a Man's Life at the Super Bowl

Bowl of "Wings"Image via Wikipedia

The previous two years my particular 'band of brothers' has watched the Super Bowl at the Sportsman's Club in Pt. Molate, that hidden treasure located somewhere north of the east anchor of the Richmond Bridge.

It reminds Big Pat of Alaska, and not just in its oxymoronic quality of shabby beauty. There are some nice houseboats in the marina there. There are hulks, too, and people live in the hulks. Some of the personalities one encounters have a certain Alaskan quality. Life has dinged some of them, cracked some and squashed not a few -- but not entirely. They endure, drinking a little, hoping a little, inspecting their wounds, rejoicing the wounds are not deeper and have at least scabbed over.

It may be Alaskan but it's also Californian: There was a smashup followed by a period of drift. But now they have come to rest on a lee shore. And they are still alive, and that is something.

We had thought we might go back to the Sportsman this year, but Big Pat rubbed up against a couple of these personalities a while back, and they are tetchy sometimes. They sit on that line between respect and disrespect, and are quick to take offense. As I said, there was some rubbing up, and some offense was taken, so Big Pat was not absolutely sure his bright face would be welcome at the Sportsman's, so we will watch the game at Peter the Great's instead.

Peter's greatness is in his heart and his soul but also in his cooking, for which we might (if required) forgive deficiencies in heart and soul. (Of course, it is not required.)

There will be buffalo chicken wings. There will be wasabi deviled eggs. Nostalgie de la boue is one thing, and nostalgie de le cuisine is something else again, and better in the long run.

And yet: Here is last year's adventure.

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