October 15, 2018

Well that's kind of harsh

In an unusually harsh critique from a public company CEO, Conforti mocked Sears for being a company hopelessly lost in another era.

Nobody should be surprised by the Sears bankruptcy "unless they own a few Zayre or E.J Korvette locations trapped in a space-time continuum where the Sansabelt clad relax on shag carpeting, illuminated by the warm glow of a lava lamp while they drink Tang and vodka and listen to The Moody Blues," Conforti said.


Meet my new screensaver:

It needed to be said


October 14, 2018

Linklater gets it

Now, let's get one of these for each of the other 49 states.

October 13, 2018

I still got it

My left toe is exceptionally austere.
A silent soldier, it holds its station
Among the forces of my toe nation,
Its bearing betrays neither pride nor fear.
Strong toe! Fair toe! Toe of might and justice!
Its attention to the required mission
Won’t flag, never suffers indecision,
Its grip has exceptional robustness.
My left toe wastes no time on conceptions:
Bluff and pragmatic in its approach,
It performs its mission beyond reproach,
And fulfils its tasks without exception.
But time, that thief, has quietly begun
To nag my bones and lead my ligaments
Into gradual deterioration.
Still my left toe holds its ground, with no sense
Of the ultimate capitulation,
My stout, gauche, podiatric last defense.

October 10, 2018

"This country is fundamentally sound."

From CNN today: "Some experts said this isn't a time to panic. "

(Others ran from the room screaming and putting on women's clothing so that they would be among the few allowed aboard the lifeboats.)


October 09, 2018

All brilliant, but particularly 1:21

October 07, 2018

There are some things Moneyball can't buy

October 06, 2018

A small serving of justice


The Iliad - In Our Time

This just in - (link)


  • The Trojan War, 2012 - (link)
  • The Bronze Age Collapse, 2016 (link)

October 04, 2018

From the one about the hat-box

Sleeping-cars are for the strange beings who love not the act of travelling. Them I should spurn even if I could not sleep a wink in an ordinary compartment. I would liefer forfeit sleep than the consciousness of travelling. But it happens that I, in an ordinary compartment, am blest both with the sleep and with the consciousness, all through the long night. To be asleep and to know that you are sleeping, and to know, too, that even as you sleep you are being borne away through darkness into distance—this, surely, is to go two better than Endymion.


Max on Whistler

I had been great enjoying Lopate's fine selection of Beerbohm's essays, The Prince of Minor Writers, but set it down half-finished a year or two ago.  Life delivered several bruising checks to my delicate ecosystem.  So, as Beerbohm's attention turned toward the situation of obscure corners of The Continent around World War I, mine turned to questions of condominium depreciation, advanced studies in adolescent emotional development, and the appraisal of unusually-shaped lots in Seldovia.

But I always come back to Beerbohm.  Every Christmas, of course, but also when traveling.  There is always a moment on a flight - from just before takeoff until we reach 10,000 feet - when we must sit very still and not enjoy ourselves.  Seats and tray tables must be in the upright position.  Computers must be turned off and stowed.  Even the mild entertainment of the demonstration of life preservers - coming yesterday immediately prior to overflying the Chihuahuan Desert - must come to an end; and  we all share this little moment of austerity.

But there is one small loophole - we are allowed to read a book, or alternatively, a small device such as a Kindle or iPad.  And on that device I have The Prince of Minor Writers.   It was open to a chapter entitled "Whistler's Writing", and who cares, I thought - Whistler was a painter and a talker, who gives a crap about his writing?

Max set me straight, explaining that Whistler is an "immortal" writer:
When I dub Whistler an immortal writer, I do but mean that so long as there are a few people interested in the subtler ramifications of English prose as an art-form, so long will there be a few constantly-recurring readers of The Gentle Art [of Making Enemies]. There are in England, at this moment, a few people to whom prose appeals as an art; but none of them, I think, has yet done justice to Whistler’s prose. None has taken it with the seriousness it deserves. I am not surprised. When a man can express himself through two media, people tend to take him lightly in his use of the medium to which he devotes the lesser time and energy, even though he use that medium not less admirably than the other, and even though they themselves care about it more than they care about the other. Perhaps this very preference in them creates a prejudice against the man who does not share it, and so makes them sceptical of his power...
[H]owever loudly I shall blow my trumpet, not many people will believe my message. For many years to come, it will be the fashion among literary critics to pooh-pooh Whistler, the writer, as an amateur. For Whistler was primarily a painter—not less than was Rossetti primarily a poet, and Disraeli a statesman. And he will not live down quicklier than they the taunt of amateurishness in his secondary art. Nevertheless, I will, for my own pleasure, blow the trumpet.
I grant you, Whistler was an amateur. But you do not dispose of a man by proving him to be an amateur. On the contrary, an amateur with real innate talent may do, must do, more exquisite work than he could if he were a professional. His very ignorance and tentativeness may be, must be, a means of especial grace. Not knowing “how to do things,” having no ready-made and ready-working apparatus, and being in constant fear of failure, he has to grope always in the recesses of his own soul for the best way to express his soul’s meaning. He has to shift for himself, and to do his very best. Consequently, his work has a more personal and fresher quality, and a more exquisite “finish,” than that of a professional, howsoever finely endowed. All of the much that we admire in Walter Pater’s prose comes of the lucky chance that he was an amateur, and never knew his business. Had Fate thrown him out of Oxford upon the world, the world would have been the richer for the prose of another John Addington Symonds, and would have forfeited Walter Pater’s prose. In other words, we should have lost a half-crown and found a shilling. Had Fate withdrawn from Whistler his vision for form and colour, leaving him only his taste for words and phrases and cadences, Whistler would have settled solidly down to the art of writing, and would have mastered it and, mastering it, have lost that especial quality which the Muse grants only to them who approach her timidly, bashfully, as suitors.

Well then. Point conceded.  But Max has barely begun.  Now he turns to Whistler the painter:
Compare him with other great modern painters. He was a child beside them. They, with sure science, solved roughly and readily problems of modelling and drawing and what not that he never dared to meddle with. It has often been said that his art was an art of evasion. But the reason of the evasion was reverence. He kept himself reverently at a distance. He knew how much he could not do, nor was he ever confident even of the things that he could do; and these things, therefore, he did superlatively well, having to grope for the means in the recesses of his soul. The particular quality of exquisiteness and freshness that gives to all his work, whether on canvas or on stone or on copper, a distinction from and above any contemporary work, and makes it dearer to our eyes and hearts, is a quality that came to him because he was an amateur, and stayed with him because he never ceased to be an amateur.
Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (ca. 1872-5)

There is an almost exact parallel between the two sides of his genius. Nothing could be more absurd than the general view of him as a masterly professional on the one side and a trifling amateur on the other. He was, certainly, a painter who wrote; but, by the slightest movement of Fate’s little finger, he might have been a writer who painted, and this essay have been written not by me from my standpoint, but by some painter, eager to suggest that Whistler’s painting was a quite serious thing.

Then Max says that thing I was saying about Shakespeare and Bronstein, but well:

Read any page of The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, and you will hear a voice in it, and see a face in it, and see gestures in it. And none of these is quite like any other known to you. It matters not that you never knew Whistler, never even set eyes on him. You see him and know him here. The voice drawls slowly, quickening to a kind of snap at the end of every sentence, and sometimes sometimes rising to a sudden screech of laughter; and, all the while, the fine fierce eyes of the talker are flashing out at you and his long nervous fingers are tracing extravagant arabesques in the air. No! you need never have seen Whistler to know what he was like. He projected through printed words the clean-cut image and clear-ringing echo of himself. He was a born writer, achieving perfection through pains which must have been infinite for that we see at first sight no trace of them at all.

Adam Gopnick appreciates, mis-appraises, and insults Max in various ways here. His piece is informative and irresponsible, presumptiously ascertaining without evidence that Max is Jewish (despite his denials), and gay-but-celibate, a fascinatingly modern, and utterly incoherent diagnosis.

So I don't sleep with all my friends?!  

Gopnick stumbles into barfight territory when he repeats the calumny that Beerbohm did nothing major.  As if Fabergé could only have fulfilled his potential if he had done a really big egg.  The hell with you Gopnick - it is all major, every last word of it.  And, had you read a bit further in "Whistler's Writing" Beerbohm would have cut you with his own pen:
An exquisite talent like Whistler’s, whether in painting or in writing, is always at its best on a small scale. On a large scale it strays and is distressed...[and] no man who can finely grasp a big theme can play exquisitely round a little one.

 The next essay is about a hat-box.

October 03, 2018

Sure, I played there...

(The Warriors are Livingston's 10th NBA team...)


What? There's a law requiring a *rational* explanation?

[The judge] said advocates for the immigrants were likely to prove that the administration had violated a federal law requiring the government to present a rational explanation for policy changes that cause hardship to individuals.


Should I not tell them I have a bombe?!

While boarding an aircraft today I was instructed, per usual, to remove my shoes, and all electronics (I'm a two bin man), and any toiletries, as well as - and this is new - any snacks.



The mind reels. There are so many questions, all of which I did not ask:
  • "I have a turkey dinner here - would that be considered a snack?"
  • "Would you say these crispy prosciutto baked brie bites with honey pears are a snack, or more of an appetizer?"
  • "Would this vial of the tears of my enemies considered a snack or a beverage?"

But even if we could clearly ascertain which comestibles are snacks, and which are Hors d'Oeuvres or Elevenses, or Removes...why exactly do they want to inspect it?

Clearly, some snacks are potentially dangerous, while others are hamless...I mean harmless.  Obviously, CHEETOS® Crunchy FLAMIN' HOT® Cheese Flavored Snacks would be considered a threat under any circumstances - probably shouldn't even take those on buses - and Doritos® Spicy Nacho Flavored Tortilla Chips ought to be classified as a munition, and probably are in Europe.

Innocent confection?  Or DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE-Y MURDER?

I did have snacks in my bag, put there by my wife.  I removed them as innocuously as possible, dreading the next question:  "Sir, did you pack these snacks yourself?"

To which I would have had to respond, "no, they were packed by my wife, who is a citizen of a foreign power with an Islamic-aligned government."

Ahmed, with these snacks we could RULE THE WORLD!

Fortunately the staff were inattentive, so I avoided detention and ruthless questioning...this time.  But the TSA's onto me.  Gotta be doubly careful from now on.  In Trump's America, your next TSA snack mistake...could be your last.

Snacks More Dangerous Than Flamin' Hot Cheetos - link

October 01, 2018

Droll or subtle? Hard to say exactly...


September 29, 2018

The Ladykillers - lessons in subtle comedy amid farce

Well, I wondered, what would be a subtle funny movie?  Long ago I saw Kind Hearts and Coronets and thought it had some subtle business amid the broad humor.  Reflecting back on it, I realized I had never made time for that other Ealing masterpiece, The Ladykillers.  Well say no more!  One trip to Blockbuster later I popped it into the old Betamax and away we went.

It's bloody brilliant.

Here is John Badham's entry in Trailers From Hell -

The sets, especially the color palette are inspired, even Hitchcock would approve.  The opening scenes, as the menacing Alec Guinness character shadows Mrs. Wilberforce, are brilliantly filmed (apparently an homage to Hitchcock's The Lodger), and Guinness' entrance is - wow:

The script is aces, too, everyone gets good bits, even Mrs. Wilberforce:
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: ...May I ask you where you studied? 
One-Round: ...Well, I didn't really study any place, Lady... I just sort of... picked it up. 
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: You know, I was so surprised when I heard what you were playing. It brought back something that, really, I'd completely forgotten all about: my 21st birthday party. You see, my father had engaged a string quintet to come in and play in the evening; and while they were playing Boccherini, someone came in and said the old queen had passed away. And everyone went home. And that was the end of my party, all that time ago, in Pangbourne. 
Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce: Well, if you'll excuse me, I'll run and make the tea. The kettle *must* be nearly on the boil. 
[She leaves] 
One-Round: Who's she talkin' about? Old queen who?

That nice actress won a BAFTA award, and holy crap that brilliant cockney thug was Peter Sellers!?

One and the same

We even get a cameo from Obi-Wan Kenobi -

If you haven't seen it, you must. If you've seen it, see it again. There's nothing in theaters right now, and it has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes because it is perfect. And in a few places it is even...somewhat...subtle.

For Terence Davies, an Ealing alum, one of the subtleties of The Ladykillers was its depiction of failed men of all kinds, in a nation that had just lost an Empire:

The Guardian:  "The greatest comedy caper" (link)


Down payment on a discussion of subtle humor

Ok, I've never been a big fan of subtle humor, but I have always thought Wendy Liebman was a singular talent:

Here she is during her comeback following a serious car accident in 2014:

She did appear on America's Got Talent, and Howard Stern did bring her back on a wildcard, so I guess she's not invisible.  And sometimes she is so smart and and subtle that I find I'm appreciating her cleverness but not laughing.

That's the problem with subtle humor - it's hard to be the GREATEST subtle anything, because we're accustomed to thinking of greatness as a kind of exhibitionism.  Making a living as comedy headliner, as Liebman has, deserves some kind of award.

Something understated, of course.


Suggested activity for Port Townsend

September 28, 2018

Guest Blogger #1 recommends

In which Benedict Cumberbatch gets paid in full.

Check Out the Big Brain on Brett

Mashable on Kav.

September 25, 2018

Then they came for the "rape apologists"...

There are dumpsters, there are dumpster fires, and then there's what's happening with Linux:

I blame the Russians.

Key point in the comments:  "Part of Linus’ email was written in an editor that inserts smart quotes, something he has never done in his entire email history."

Maybe this isn't a good time, but I was wondering about how it's going with the Ubuntu Unity desktop...?  Never mind, I'll come back later.


That time of the year again

As the Warriors begin camp, someone has posted this very fine informator on the skills of one S. Livingston.  Very nice.


September 23, 2018

Let me explain. No...there is too much. Let me sum up.

Tiger Woods won his 80th golf tournament today, five years and two spinal fusions after winning his 79th.

I don't know much about golf, but I know you don't see this every day:

In these situations our go-to guy is Thomas Boswell:
This wasn’t a day for those double Woods uppercut fist pumps. He held his emotions in, no energy or will to spare. “Fight and grind,” he said afterward of his day. Then, referring to his year: “I found a game. I put pieces together.” And of the final hole: “I was having a hard time not crying coming up to the last green.” 
Against injuries, against eight surgeries, against self-inflicted shame and mortification, against the golf gravity of a 10-year slump without a major championship and five years without any victory, Woods still led by two. 
At that moment, the same question went through 19th holes, press boxes, living rooms, bars, sports departments and locker rooms all over America, all over the world for that matter, as everyone realized that one evaluation needed to be made about Woods’s win. 
Was this the greatest individual comeback in the history of sports?

Maybe Ali?  But if we're comparing your comeback to Muhammed Ali, you have climbed a hell of a mountain.

I'd say welcome back, but this is the first time it's been like this, isn't it...?  After all those tournaments he was supposed to win...maybe tomorrow morning Tiger Woods wakes up and feels a new sensation:  gratitude.

Never too late.


September 20, 2018

"Eating Menacingly": The nominees

Liberty Valance


Angel Eyes

September 18, 2018

Sunny Side

Doc explains

The Old Hotness

Neil Armstrong with X-15 number 1

Here is the cockpit of an aircraft that could go 4,520 mph

September 15, 2018

Yes, you'll probably get a pardon

No, you don't get your stuff back.  And thank you for your donation!


Addendum:  No pardon either?

Will this clickbait never end...!?

CNN homepage has an item on "The world's fastest plane."  The SR-71 Blackbird, which first took flight in 1964, when I was two.  This is news!?

Granted that is one sweet plane...


September 13, 2018

Current mood, VMM edition

Authentic, heart-felt music from beloved local performers, Thee Oh Sees:

Keeper of the flame

[Norm MacDonald] is resolutely nonpolitical in an industry bent on producing new versions of “The Daily Show,” an ironist working on the same platform as “Nanette.” At a moment when comedians work for applause as much as laughter, by being vulnerable, honest, outspoken, socially relevant, Macdonald is still pursuing the laugh — and nothing more. This anachronistic approach might be limiting his audience, but it could also explain his enduring appeal, because it lends him a kind of moral authority. He is something like a comedy ascetic, demanding a purity that temporal jokes cannot achieve. He seems vital and transgressive again, but pushing 60, he also seems tragic. One thing that makes him a captivating figure onstage is the tension between his refusal to do material about himself and the sympathy you feel for a craftsman who has not been rewarded in proportion to his talent.


Here's a strategy - stop pretending to believe bullshit

In a recent interview with Tim Boyum of Spectrum News, [North Carolina's Senator] Tillis said, “I think we have to come up with several strategies to recognize reality. That climate changes. Sometimes it changes just because it has over millennia, and other times it changes because of human factors.” Tillis said he was influenced by the U.S. military’s concerns that climate change could lead to global instability and is a threat to national security.


Here's a fact you can practice on -

I think that's "WE must own..." but otherwise I'm in full agreement

"You must own what you've done."

Stephen Miller, an architect of President Trump's immigration plans, is being criticized by his childhood rabbi, Neil Comess-Daniels, for the policy of child separations at the border."


September 12, 2018

Current mood

Yes, that's Ginger Baker. Yes, that's Jack Bruce. Yes, that's (pre Mahavishnu) John McClaughlin.

"Other musical contributors were – and remained – obscure." - Wikipedia

Which is a bit unfair to the sax player, who is raging here.  Words now fail me, but it is from this movie, which I am going to force my family to watch this weekend.


Steady as the rhythm of a clock

There is a brilliant brief ballet entitled "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude". This is the rock and roll version, 2:02 of succinct musical expression.

From the California shore to New York City
The beat don't never stop
You can hear it on the radio anywhere you go
It's steady as the rhythm of a clock
It cuts through the noise of the city life
It won't seem to go away
It's the devil in disguise I tell you no lies 

My fingers do the walking everyday

Yonder comes a young girl she wants to take a whirl
She thinks it's all a dream
She got rock and roll way down in her soul
She wants to know where's the limousine
Get up honey let your mama sit down
You're too young anyway
The devil in disguise give her the prize
Then you can carry her away
When the road I travel starts to unravel
Every which way it goes
The beat starts to press on my bullet proof vest
And my high turns out to be low
Give me my guitar I'm going to go far
Let me see it let me hold it in my hand
I'm the devil in disguise I tell you no lies
I'm playing in a rock 'n roll band

Here it live in a Dutch studio in 1994 with the estimable Christine Lakeland clowning Cale as they play: