June 30, 2010

The front fell off

June 29, 2010

A new hope

After Meg Whitman's brutalizing of her primary opponents - using her massive personal wealth to defame them - I suppose I can't be too shocked at her opening gambit in the general election.

But, you know, shit.  It's the Bush playbook, the same smirking playground insults, the same appeal to people's worst instincts.  All run through a huge PA system, at full volume, over and over. 

It won't matter - even if she wins she'll accomplish nothing.  Any Republican governor will have to find a way to cooperate with the Assembly - ask Arnold - and she has no experience or capability in any role where she can't be dictator.

And that job, Ms. Whitman, is not on offer.

I've got to get this game

This Cow is Suspicious!

Russian spies on Capitol Hill- in Seattle for a while at the Belmont apartments- under deep cover, now arrested.

Amused by the Cold-War redux, I look up the Seattle Belmont apartments on Google Street View .

How interesting. A number of Panoramio photos of the immediate area are in Russian.

June 28, 2010

And Moses ran the soundboard

Dr. X posts this from the EVA VIP Lounge at SFO:

Ezra Pound, in a rare lucid moment, said: art is news that stays news.  But that is not always so.  Some of the greatest artists have suffered from episodes of neglect.  Even Shakespeare's stock took a hit in the 19th century as social mores changed and the literary audience lost (temporarily) its taste for stabbings, poisonings, and cooking enemies into pies.  And when something great has been away from you, it creates the potential for a second shock of the new - a re-realization of what made it great in the first place.

I had that experience just the other day when I happened to hear again a song I thought I knew well, but hadn't really listened to in years - Fixing a Hole by Cheap Trick.  Robin Zander's powerful and assured vocal performance and Rick Nielsen's nicely-framed guitar solo are...way better than I would have expected.  But, then, Cheap Trick has always been a band that took its Beatles seriously.

But it got me wondering about the original - I know it's a Beatles song, but is it a really good song?  I looked it up.  Listening to it again (here, on 720) I noticed a few things:
  • Um, yes, it's a really good song.
  • It has aged better than many other songs on the album.   McCartney's customary vices - cuteness, sentimentality, vocal gimmickry - are absent here.  When I'm 64 should be so lucky.
  • The song shifts tone rapidly and repeatedly.  The estimable Alan Pollack suggests that there really are two songs here, a "Gershwinesque jazz/blues" for the verses and a "torch-song pop march" for the chorus.
  • I would propose that there is also a third song, or mode if you will.  Harrison's guitar solo is succinct and articulate, but also syncopated and a little in different in tone from either the verses or chorus.  It is raw and maybe a little angry.  Throughout the song the guitar acknowledges the protagonist's sentiments, but perhaps does not affirm them.
  • Surely this is one of McCartney's finer vocal performances.  His voice still has its youthful range and brilliance, but he is mature enough to handle the difficult vocal part without trying to show off (and if you don't think it's difficult, try singing it in the shower).
  • The lyrics are...a little confusing.  Writing in 1967 Robert Christgau said:
“Fixing a Hole,” is full of suggestive phrases(…):
“And it really doesn't matter if I’m wrong I’m right/ Where I belong I’m right/ Where I belong./ See the people standing there who disagree and never win/ And wonder why they don't get in my door.”
This passage not only indicates the interesting things the Beatles are doing with rhyme, skewing their stanzas and dispensing almost completely with traditional song form. It also serves as a gnomic reminder of the limitations of criticism. Allow me to fall into its trap by providing my own paraphrase, viz.: “In matters of interpretation, the important thing is not whether you're ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ but whether you are faithful to your own peculiar stance in the world. Those who insist upon the absolute rectitude of their opinions will never attain a state of enlightenment.”

Some good points there, but I don't think that's quite it.  Fixing a Hole is not an argument for relativism (which is the gateway drug to nihilism).  It's about fixing something, putting right something that one is only just seeing the need to put right.  And it's about some kind of transcendent experience that comes out of that, or led to it.

McCartney over the years would ward off questions by characterizing the song as an "ode to pot".  But that's just, like, his opinion.

The song confounds would-be interpreters.  YouTube is full of unfortunate attempts that need not be detailed here (the reggae version is ok, but a missed opportunity, I think).  I did want to take special notice, however, of The Fray's version.  It is a little lighter, but no less competent than the original, thanks in particular Isaac Slade's inspired vocal.  It was recorded at the BBC on 1960s equipment as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of Sgt. Pepper:

I believe the song's sense of wonder and awakening is so singular that it could be considered a religious tune, although McCartney has not offered that interpretation.  It is certainly as interested in enlightenment experiences as Within You Without You, but it is witnessing instead of preaching.

McCartney does attest, however, that Jesus was there for the recording session.  So he's got that going for him.

June 27, 2010

Sort of like your wedding arrangements

Steve Martin's tour rider.

June 26, 2010

Tired of your shenanigans we grow

Climategate?  Full-on bullshit.  You knew that, now we need to catch up a few hundred million people who don't.

Another comedian takes power

It has been several years since Dr. X's review of A Man Like Me was almost nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, so perhaps the details of the career of Icelandic comedian Jón Gnarr are not fresh in your mind.

Well, here is an update:
  • His new political party, founded in December, is The Best Party
  • He has been elected Mayor of Reykjavik
  • His campaign had a lot of good jokes, including the promise of "a drug-free parliament by 2020".
  • He refuses to form a coalition with any party whose members have not seen all five seasons of The Wire.
  • Now he's in The New York Times.
Why can't we have government like this?

Meanwhile, on the basis of his cultural and political achievements, I nominate this guy for the Eisengeiste Hall of Honor, or whatever we decide to call it.

June 24, 2010

A tiny flaw in the strategy

June 23, 2010

Marshall on the firing

It's not that I don't think Obama's tough or a strong leader or decisive or whatever adjective you want to use. Having watched Obama as president for going on two years, I've found remarkable his ability to ignore the chatter, the pundits and the polls and stick to whatever his plan is. But I've also gotten used to seeing that when crises come or key gut-check moments arise his tendency is to try to conciliate the situation. Not duck it; that's not what I mean. I mean find some new vantage point to come at the situation from which you look at it again and see that it's not really just a plain yes or no, that there's some more complexity and give in the situation. And you can find some creative way to address all the relevant concerns. I just haven't seen President Obama throw down a lot of gauntlets or, to put it harshly, cut the baby in half. 

So when I woke up this morning I still couldn't quite see how President Obama could not fire McChrystal. But I also couldn't quite imagine him doing it. 

But he did. Showed me a different side of him. And what I really couldn't have imagined was that he found a way not just to acquit himself honorably and protect the office but actually enhance his prestige and standing.

Gold bodysuit optional...

Dr. X posts this from the astrophysics dept. at the Imperial College London:

"Your prayers have been answered, there will be a Queen-themed Guitar Hero game.  It is virtually impossible to overpraise Brian May, I will offer just one example, this performance of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", in which he plays three different guitars in the space of four minutes..."

June 22, 2010

The Fate of Nature by Charles Wohlforth: A Review

This book is a primer for understanding natural eco systems, the stress humans have placed on those eco systems and how we might be able to save nature from our own need for resources. It also addresses the spilling of oil and what comes after the oil is spilled. The book is beautifully written, not preachy and isn't bleak. Much of the author’s descriptions of the Exxon Valdez disaster will be immediately recognizable in today's headlines and stories. I enjoyed the book. It made me think a great deal about how I use food and energy and why I like to walk on the beach. The book is a “must read” for anyone who has ever tackled these difficult issues and certainly should be required reading for everyone facing the current Gulf spill. I think it would be an excellent book for discussion in a reading group or class. Educators will love it.

In "The Fate of Nature" by Charles Wohlforth, he asks the question: Do humans have it in themselves to live within their means? Are we connected to nature or set apart from it? Using Alaska history, Prince William Sound and the Exxon Valdez disaster as a topic for discussion, Wohlforth does a great job of examining the current state of the oceans, the history of the Exxon Valdez and issues surrounding finite resource management. Readers of this book are asked to ponder some very important questions: Are we doomed to use up and destroy the very resources that allow us to live or can we overcome our instincts and arrive at a sane approach to resource management.

The subject matter is complex but Wohlforth does his homework laying out the story and breaking it into understandable pieces. The writing is beautiful and his descriptions come alive as they are read. Here is an example of where Wohlforth writes about a tide pool in Prince William Sound:

The sound is heavy with mystery, full of secret places where life stews down in the mud, on fractured rocks, and within tide-pool universes, where I have watched a twenty-four-legged sunflower star chase a herd of fleeing hermit crabs like Godzilla pursuing extras through the streets of Tokyo.

I have to work hard to get Godzilla references into my own writing so I applaud Mr. Wohlforth. If only we could look forward to a Megallon reference in his next one.

Part of the book is devoted to laying out an introduction to Alaskan history from the time before white’s arrived on the scene, the Russians first, then Captain Cook, followed by events including a gold rush, land reform, and then an oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. It also attempts to imagine what Alaska looked like during those early days when sea life including otters, salmon and herring were plentiful. Readers will learn about Alaskan Native tribes and how they managed to coexist with their food resources. Was it simply because their numbers were so small, or did they have a different relationship to the sea, the land and its animal inhabitants?

Wohlforth looks deeply into the psychology of hunting and gathering cultures who manage finite resources in ways we may not have thought about. He looks at psychological game theory to better understand why groups of individuals make the choices they do (sometimes in their own self interest and sometimes not). One of my favorite sections is when Wohlforth describes a group of indigenous people who did not allow fishing at a particular time of year. Any man caught fishing during this time would be insulted sexually and made the but of sexually explicit, derogatory jokes.

Wohlforth visits all of the places he writes about, getting to know the people to whom his question matters the most, fishermen, biologists, native villagers and government officials. Each one has a different spin on the subject matter. Wohlforth meets a whale biologist who refused government grants so he could conduct his own research without bias or interruption. He meets residents of Chenga, Alaska whose home town was destroyed by a tsunami in the 1964 earthquake, but was rebuilt years later at a new location, safe from tsunamis. He meets a blind biologist at the University of California who expertly identifies snail shells by feel and suggests that the rules of economics may fit as well to snail biology as they do to human interactions. He meets a fisherman from Cordova so affected by the Exxon oil spill and the changes it brought that he moved to Anchorage and never fished again. It is clear that Charles Wohlforth has been out in skiffs, drudging through marsh land, walking beaches, bouncing through muskeg and listening to nature. This is the only way he could have brought the characters in his book to life.

Much of the last third of the book is devoted to a history of the Exxon Oil Spill and its after-effects. Wohlforth, at the time a “cub reporter” with the Anchorage Daily News revisits the spill twenty years later and rekindles relationships with people he hadn’t seen since then. In this portion of the book we learn some amazingly relevant facts about the subject. We learn how the cleanup itself created a new economy for people in the area, pitting those that worked with Exxon against those who didn’t. We examine if there really is any way to clean up spilled oil. We learn that long after the spill, Exxon used their nearly infinite resources to tie up litigation in court and slow reform. In the end, many of the fishermen affected by the spill received their share of the settlement some 20 years later. Most of the settlements amounted to pennies on the dollar lost. Lastly we learn that long after the beach appears clean and the otters have been washed, trace amounts of oil are still affecting salmon and herring recoveries some 20 years after the initial insult.

Some of Wohlforth’s descriptions of the atmosphere surrounding the oil spill are quite haunting (Remember, they were written before the current BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.) Here is an excerpt:

As I spent more time in the sound, in oil, the press conferences and carnival of activity in Valdez seemed increasingly irrelevant and disconnected from reality. Exxon officials always announced numbers—miles of boom, numbers of skimmers, millions of dollars spent—facts that, if they meant anything at all, couldn’t be checked….State officials, fishing groups and the like pointed out Exxon’s faults, lobbing impotent verbal shells from bunker to bunker. ..The Coast Guard sent a series of admirals to take charge, issuing commanding statements to once and for all get the situation under control….Everyone adopted the metaphor of war. We were an army en route and we needed leadership and aggressiveness to meet the enemy and start taking back ground

With everything I liked about this book there were a few things I didn’t care for. I would have liked to see pictures depicting some of the history of Alaska. One especially that I wanted to see is Mike Webber’s Shame Totem Pole that he carved after the oil spill. The pole was described in great detail that left me urgently grasping for my keyboard and “the Google”. Also I found some of the description of the politics surrounding Gifford Pinchot a little lengthily but still important to an understanding of his thesis.

It is with fortunate yet horrific timeliness that this book has just hit the book shelves given the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Although the book was written well before this current spill, it is full of important information for everyone facing this current disaster and future environmental disasters which may come. Had the Gulf oil spill never happened, Wohlforth’s book would stand on its own merits, but because it is so useful as a tool to understand the current disaster, it cannot be overlooked.

June 20, 2010

I'm thinking of taking up heroin

Or, more precisely, picking up this here new-fangled computer-game, the Knights of the Old RepublicWord on the street is that it's pretty good.

I'm not talking about the MMOMGWTF, I mean the original, the one that runs on a real computer, in your house.  Anyone tried it?

Acorn totally vindicated

Republicans, we grow tired of your shenanigans.

A word from the Vice President

June 19, 2010

Tony Gets His Life Back


BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward sits aboard his yacht Bob, during the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race circumnavigating the Isle of Wight, Saturday, June 19, 2010.
(Credit: AP/Chris Ison, PA)

There's a new DEVO album

and it's awesome.

June 17, 2010

Internet is useful

Here are some Clone Wars masks, like for wedding parties and things.

Wohlforth Improves Television News

But use this link so he'll get credit for 'most viewed.'

Our man Wohlforth on Morning Joe

Charles killed on Morning Joe, today. Watch it.

June 16, 2010

The greatest suicide in television history


A semi-official organ of the Catholic Church has acknowledged that The Blues Brothers is a "Catholic classic," but notes, according to this story, that "spirituality does not play a significant role in the film."

Oh, really.

Oh, really?

I beg to differ (bonus: Hebrew subtitles).

Reggie Bush is Sorry

Or so he says.

Here is a picture of his off-season house.

I wonder if Reggie paid taxes on the compensation he received to play football for USC?  I wonder if the IRS has looked into that?

Postmodern Race Baiting

The American people are angry.  The President, who represents and leads them, expresses anger.

CNN thinks the melanin content of the President's skin has something to do with this.

The Times gets to the heart of the matter:
President Obama’s ire with BP is not anti-British, as he pointed out to David Cameron at the weekend. It’s anti-BP. His ire has been relentless, but not all that surprising and no more vindictive than it would have been had the responsible party for the Deepwater Horizon rig been Exxon or Shell. This disaster has made a mess of many things, including Mr Obama’s diary. If he were not in the Gulf today, he would be in Indonesia showing the Muslim world that he meant what he said last year in Cairo about ending the “cycle of suspicion and discord” in the Middle East. The spill has soaked up time that the White House wanted to spend on immigration reform, and taken off the table the one concession — more offshore drilling — that might have lured Republicans into a deal on climate change. Worst of all, it has happened off Louisiana, the Katrina state.

These are substantive problems.  And in this modern world, when faced with substantive problems, your top Republican strategist wonders, "ok - how can we turn this into a racial issue?"

Now we know.  Thank you CNN, and thank you for reminding me who you work for.

June 15, 2010

I have a question

I was interested to learn that Texas will remain in the Big 12, thanks to a complex deal that will allow the University to have its own sports network.
"Based on a TV deal in the works that could pay upwards of $25 million per year, Texas leaned toward staying in a 10-team Big 12 for the foreseeable future, Orangebloods.com reported, citing sources familiar with negotiations."
In other news, many college coaches earn millions of dollars per year in compensation.

My question is this:

Why is this activity tax-exempt?

The IRS wonders, too.

June 12, 2010

Can't We All Just Get Along? Toward US-UK Reconciliation

Don't call us, we'll call you

May 26th - Chevron CEO touts "culture of safety" at shareholders' meeting.

June 12th - Chevron pipeline leak goes undetected, fouls water and park in Salt Lake City.

Ah, thanks for clearing that up

From Yahoo thingy:

Brian O'Neill, an attorney with the enormous law firm Faegre & Benson who represented numerous Alaskans after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, spoke to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein about the prospects for Gulf Coast fisherman and other would-be plaintiffs harmed by the colossal BP oil spill in the region. He didn't exactly mince words.

"If you were affected in Louisiana, to use a legal term, you are just f*cked," he said.

June 09, 2010

Happy Election Day

"That girl" is the estimable Christine Lakeland.

June 08, 2010

Around my neighborhood

According to Netflix, here is what my neighbors are watching ("Local favorites for Mountain View, California"):

  • Changing fortunes await wealthy but dejected industrialist Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) when he meets a spirited chatterbox named Geet (Kareena Kapoor) on a train in this breezy romantic comedy from Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali. Nursing a broken heart, Aditya ends up traveling with the impulsive Geet, who's on her way to elope with her secret beau. But fate has other plans, and soon Geet and Aditya are thrust together again ... perhaps for keeps.

  • When his department is outsourced to India, customer call center manager Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) heads to Mumbai to train his successor (Asif Basra), and amusing culture clashes ensue as Anderson tries to explain American business practices to the befuddled new employees. In the process, he learns important lessons about globalization -- and life. Ayesha Dharker and Matt Smith also star in director John Jeffcoat's cross-cultural comedy.

  • After do-gooder Happy (Akshay Kumar) wrecks half of his town, local villagers joyfully send him away on an impossible mission to Australia. When a crazy turn of events places Happy in charge of a mighty underworld gang, he tries using his new power for good. In control of killers and thieves, Happy forces his new employees to replace their illegal activities with household chores such as cooking and gardening.

  • When Rajiv's respectable uncle gives his blessing to his nephew's love for Sanjana, he doesn't know the girl comes from a Mafia family. When he tries to retract his approval, Sanjana's brothers set out on a comical mission to convince him otherwise. Directed by Anees Bazmee, this rollicking comedy stars Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Paresh Rawal, Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor and Mallika Sherawat.

  • After Gopal (Ajay Devgan) rescues an attractive woman from a criminal gang, the two are forced to spend the night on a yacht. But when his wife, Ekta (Kareena Kapoor), becomes suspicious about the absence, Gopal claims he was with a friend. Gopal makes up an alibi, but the story starts to fall apart and takes hilarious turns when a dead body is found and the police start to ask questions about where Gopal really was that fateful night.

June 07, 2010

Speaking of the moon

Qiwu Qian

Thoughtful elation has no end:
Onward I bear it to whatever comes.
And my boat and I, before the evening breeze
Passing flowers, entering the lake,
Turn at nightfall toward the western valley,
Where I watch the south star over the mountain
And a mist that rises, hovering soft,
And the low moon slanting through the trees;
And I choose to put away from me every worldly matter
And only to be an old man with a fishing-pole.



Khil, upon reviewing the tape, compares himself to 'Dassin'.   He can only mean Joe Dassin, arguably the finest New York-born University of Michigan graduate to ever hit the French pop charts.  And he hit them like the fist of an angry god, putting up hit after hit before his untimely passing in 1980.

Dassin was the quintessential musical chameleon, producing songs in a bewildering variety of languages, always with impeccable taste and confident technical perfection

If you ever wonder if there can be peace between our nation and our Gallic cousins, I'd urge you to take the time to reflect on Dassin's syncretic masterpiece of robbery, wrongful conviction, serving hard time, and how life is just like that - Comme la lune:

A Riff Through Time

I'm a Man, Original:

The Yardbirds picked up the pace:

Dutronc thought it was good enough to steal for La fille du père Noël:

...as did Bowie for Jean Genie:

It was inevitable that they meet - Beverly Jo Scott & Arno figured since they're the same song, why not play them together all at once, under the name Jean Baltazaarrr:

I think we took a wrong turn in there somewhere. This is the definitive version:

Five year-old guest blogger recommends...

June 06, 2010

Meet your new government

  • "In North Carolina, national party officials make no secret of their displeasure at the possibility of the GOP banner being carried by a "tea-party"-backed candidate with an apparent history of religious zealotry and drug use. In divorce records, the man's ex-wife said he planned to raise his stepfather from the dead in New Jersey.
  • "In South Carolina, the tea party favorite for governor is trying to bat down accusations of infidelity.
  • "In Nevada, a leading conservative contender is facing questions about her ties to the Church of Scientology.
  • "And the newest hero of the tea party movement, Rand Paul, who won the GOP Senate primary in Kentucky, startled more-mainstream Republicans by questioning part of the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act that allowed the government to force lunch counters to desegregate."
Pass the popcorn, please.


Dr. X posts this from his summer home in Normandy:

I believe your Star Fleet colleagues are fascinated by the estimable Eduard Khil, as fine a baritone as ever received a 4th-class Order of Merit for the Fatherland.

I don't know why (the hairstyle?) but it brought to mind another performer of the era, with a perhaps better-developed sense of irony.  See if you notice any similarities in this performance by Jacques Dutronc:

Dutronc was subjected to so many indignities in the 1960s it would be impossible to catalog them all, but here are some highlights:

As bizarre and sometimes horrific as these are visually, a few interesting things emerge.  First, the man simply cannot be thrown off his game. He's a pro's pro. You could ask him to sing in a mosh pit of rabid springer spaniels, and he'd execute - probably walking off without a stain on his suit.

Second, he's alarmingly skillful and diverse. He's playing the game, but at his convenience he's also shaking the jukebox so hard the record skips, as in Les Cactus (translation here) or his magnificent A la Queue les Yvelines:

Third, he was the only musician on the planet at that time who wasn't trying to be The Beatles.  To the degree he had any, his role models were Bob Dylan and Ray Davies.

Fourth, he spares no one.  Here is the song that made him a star, Et moi, et moi, et moi:

In English that would be, approximately (translation source here):
Seven hundred million Chinese
And me, and me and me
With my life, my little place
My headache, mon psyche
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

Eighty million Indonesians
And me, and me and me
With my car and my dog
His Canigou [brand of dog food] when he barks
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

Three or four hundred million blacks
And me, and me and me
I go to the tanning booth
To the sauna to lose weight
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

Three hundred million Soviets
And me, and me and me
With my manias and my tics
In my little goose-feather bead
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

50 million imperfect people
And me, and me and me
I watch Catherine Langeais [TV presenter from the 50s - 70s)
On TV at home
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

Nine hundred million dying of hunger
And me, and me and me
With my vegetarian diet
And all the whiskey I drink
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

500 million South Americans
And me, and me and me
I'm naked in the bath
With a girl washing me
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

50 million Vietnamese
And me, and me and me
Rabbit-hunting on Sunday
With my gun, I'm the king
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

500 thousand little Martians
And me, and me and me
Like an asshole Parisian
I wait for my check at the end of the month
I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

I think about it and then I forget
That's life, that's life

10 Years in Seattle!

10 years in Seattle: I've grown to greatly admire of its balance of urbanity and nature, free-thinking and civilization, public education and private creative drive. Curiosity is encouraged, not resented. Seattlites are ironic but not cynical, which annoys more selfish places.

Among the many things I value: a truly dynamic culture and economy, yet a fairly low amount of corruption; a tremendous regard for workcraft of all kinds, as well as traditional crafts, music and art; higher education broadly integrated into the community, a great public university, cheap for residents, that is one of the best in the world, a public regard for nature, a working desire to make good social policies that make things better for everyone; a  fluid class hierarchy for a major American city; a serious understanding that profit is not the only consideration in life; and a healthy skepticism of power structures in religion, companies and government. And I think it's not a minor point that when I find myself talking to almost anyone I meet about Art, they usually offer a bit of genuine interest, from UPS drivers to fishermen to Grandmas in the burbs to your average hobo, who of course lives next to the galleries. Or at least they are too polite to tell me to shut up.

90% of the irritations boil down to emotional distance: (guilty!), and real estate (expensive- a by- product of urban success). The weather- personally I like it. Rain is good for writing, music, art and other life forms. If you like irrigated deserts, this is not your bottle of Evian. 

As for emotional distance, if you can't engage this conservation in a respectful and constructive way, I would urge you to seek an interactive counseling strategy of your preference, or perhaps spiritual guidance, in a creed that feels comfortable for you. 

Seattle's heart is empathetic, its work is serious, its soul is shy, and yet it rocks the rock. Kudos to my city!

You sold out and didn't get paid?


June 05, 2010

Palette Cleanser

Big Long Books I Never Finish

Who has time to even read the newspaper anymore.  These are too big to take on my travels - the sort of books you'd need to devote a few weeks to really get through and understand them.  I catch them in snippets, ten free minutes before dinner, or just after the kids have gone to bed.  But they're great, and at some point I will spend more time with them:

Malory:  The Knight Who Became King Arthur's Chronicler (link)

Seven bucks, 672 pages.  A comprehensive and imaginative biography of the man who wrote Le Morte D'Arthur, from his childhood, to his service in the Hundred Years' War, to the War of the Roses and years of imprisonment (a good review is here).  In this biography Christina Hardyment is really taking on two subjects - the idea of chivalry in England at that time, and the related but crucially distinct medieval dreamscape that some adolescent boys seem to inhabit more or less continuously.  As Malory is the maker of that dreamscape, it is fair to ask what, or who, made him.  Hardyment pulls no punches:
These were dangerous times.  Rumour had it that if Richard II had not already been murdered in his Pontefract Castle prison, he soon would be.  But his cousin the usurping Duke of Lancaster, though crowned Henry IV in October 1399, did not yet feel secure on the throne.  Hard-faced, hard-riding bands of armed men were scouring the shires for 'traitors'.

Pathfinders:  A Global History of Exploration (link)

Only 428 pages, and I cannot get through it.  It's too good.  I read three pages and put the book down and stare off into space.  Sometimes I don't even make it into the text - the maps, hand-drawn by this guy, are marvels in themselves.  But it's worth actually reading it:  Historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has written a history of exploration from a global perspective, one smart enough to draw parallels among Polynesians, Vikings, and Spaniards without overstating (or over-believing) them (a good review is here).  This is not to say that he has no big points to make, however:
We think of European culture, such as it is, as formed by movements that have unfolded from west to east:  Charlemagne's Drang nach Osten and those that followed it; a renaissance or three; the scientific and industrial 'revolutions'...  But for most of prehistory and antiquity, the formative movements were exercised in the opposite direction:  the spread of farming and metallurgy; the transmission of Indo-European languages; the migrations of Phoenicians, Greeks, and Jews...  Most of these movements generated refuse and refugees who ended up on the Atlantic rim, where they stayed, surprisingly immobile, as if pinioned by the westerlies that blew onto their shores.  I hope I can be excused for returning to this point with insistence that allows no escape.  Westerners' long passivity is more remarkable than their eventual awakening.  Now Western civilization is identified with enterprise.  Yet for millenia Westerner stared inertly at the sea.

The Pursuit of Victory:  The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson (link)

Your $18 gets you the definitive scholarly biography of the real life Ender, scrupulously researched and well-written.  Knight's clearheaded skepticism is a breath of fresh air (he dismisses the endlessly-repeated tale that Nelson held his telescope to his blind eye at Copenhagen).  What emerges is the terrifying reality of a brilliant and almost suicidally brave flag officer - the first to board an enemy ship in battle since 1513.  The book is also full of useful supplementary material, e.g., 'Nelson's Ships:  Size, Armament, Complements and a Full Listing of Officers', biographical sketches of a few leading figures in the Royal Navy, and a brief but very useful glossary.  A good review is here.  Excerpt:
Yet again Nelson's career had been on a knife-edge.  In the matter of appointments the easygoing first lord was led by the two naval members of the board, Hood and Commodore Alan Gardner...  The King too would have had an influence on the appointment of officers.  The change of heart [in 1792] can only be explained by the French threat.  Hood could also see that this crisis was one in which risks had to be taken.  The mobilizations of 1790 and 1791 had been against Spain and Russia; this one was against a France in possession of the Low Countries, and every statement coming out of Paris suggested the situation was extremely dangerous.  Aggressive young captains with war experience were needed now.  Hood had been consistent in saying nearly five years before that 'should a disturbance take place [Nelson] need not fear having a good ship'...  Except for only two brief pauses, Nelson would now be on active service until his death twelve years later.

June 04, 2010

Another outrage

Just when you thought that the mega-corporations had expended their last cartridge in their seemingly ceaseless effort to fuck up our world, we get this.  No wonder Burma wants the Bomb.

Y'all's miscegenatin'!!!

Can't stop us now.  Used to be different.

June 02, 2010

76 is just a number

And so is 110 mph.

June 01, 2010

Punk-Grass at Seattle Folklife