Friday, December 27, 2013

Orhan Pamuk on C. P. Cavafy

I think of him as an old man wandering the familiar streets of an aging city. I think of him as a lover of books living as a member of a minority within a minority. I think of him as a lonely, provincial man who is fully aware of his provinciality, and who turns that knowledge into a kind of wisdom.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

her blazing world

I'm also dipping in and out of Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing-World and it is frequently hilarious. I love Virginia but she did "Mad Madge" a real disservice. Take just the opening of her book of "Atomic Poems":

I cannot say, I have not heard of Atomes, and Figures, and  
Motions and Matter; but not throughly reason'd on: but if I do erre,
it is no great matter; for my Discourse of them is not to be ac-
counted Authentick: so if there be any thing worthy of no-
ting, it is a good Chance; if not, there is no harm done, nor
time lost. For I had nothing to do when I wrot it, and I sup-
pose those have nothing, or little e'se to do, that read it. And
the Reason why I write it in Verse, is, because I thought Er-
rours might better passe there, then in Prose; since Poets write
most Fiction, and Fiction is not given for Truth, but Pastime;
and I feare my Atomes will be as small Pastime, as themselves:
for nothing can be lesse then an Atome. But my desire that
they should please the Readers, is as big as the World the
make; and my Feares are of the same bulk; yet my Hopes fall to
a single Atome agen: and so shall I remaine an unsettled Atome,
or a confus'd heape, till I heare my Censure. If I be prais'd, it
fixes them; but if I am condemn'd, I shall be Annihilated to
nothing: but my Ambition is such, as I would either be a
World, or nothing.

I would say "right in the feels" but I'm not illiterate

"Now will you tell us how the letters are collected for the post in the morning at the Lodge?"

"They are put into the post-bag, which is locked. His Grace keeps one key and the post-office has the other. The lettters are put in through a slit in the top."

- Dorothy Sayers, Clouds of Witness

(And suddenly I thought: aw, damn, letters.) (I miss letters more than I could ever say.)

we the undersigned

Generation X is sick of your bullshit.

....Generation X is tired of your sense of entitlement. Generation X also graduated during a recession. It had even shittier jobs, and actually had to pay for its own music. (At least, when music mattered most to it.) Generation X is used to being fucked over. It lost its meager savings in the dot-com bust. Then came George Bush, and 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Generation X bore the brunt of all that. And then came the housing crisis.

Generation X wasn’t surprised. Generation X kind of expected it....Generation X is used to being ignored, stuffed between two much larger, much more vocal, demographics. But whatever! Generation X is self-sufficient. It was a latchkey child. Its parents were too busy fulfilling their own personal ambitions to notice any of its trophies—which were admittedly few and far between because they were only awarded for victories, not participation.

Right now, Generation X just wants a beer and to be left alone. It just wants to sit here quietly and think for a minute. Can you just do that, okay? It knows that you are so very special and so very numerous, but can you just leave it alone? Just for a little bit? Just long enough to sneak one last fucking cigarette? No?

- Generation X Doesn’t Want to Hear It

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

stamp of approval

....damn, why does my girl Anne ALWAYS GET LEFT OUT? ALWAYS.

And they used that awful fake engraving of Charlotte. On the plus side: Nice version of Emily. And Lily and Marianne! I really love the backgrounds, too.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

what I'm reading

"But if you were investigating a crime," said Lady Swaffham, "you'd have to begin by the usual things, I suppose—finding out what the person had been doing, and who'd been to call, and looking for a motive, wouldn't you?"

"Oh, yes," said Lord Peter, "but most of us have such dozens of motives for murderin' all sorts of inoffensive people. There's lots of people I'd like to murder, wouldn't you?"

"Heaps," said Lady Swaffham. "There's that dreadful—perhaps I'd better not say it, though, for fear you should remember it later on."

"Well, I wouldn't if I were you," said Peter, amiably. "You never know. It'd be beastly awkward if the person died suddenly to-morrow."

- Dorothy Sayers, Whose Body?

Monday, December 23, 2013

no wonder she and Charlotte couldn't get along

I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.

- Jane Austen, 1816 letter

(But -- "Why, it would startle him to see me in my natural home character....I could not sit all day long making a grave face before my husband. I would laugh and satirise, and say whatever came into my head first; and if he were a clever man, and loved me, the whole world weighed in the balance against his lightest wish would be light as air." -- Charlotte in an 1839 letter. -- Maybe they could talk, after all?)

Yves Klein, Anthropométrie sans titre, 1960


I am FINALLY reading Dorothy Sayers (Unnatural Death, which I know isn't first, but whatever) and she is just as absolutely fucking wonderful as all my friends always said she was. Why did I wait this long?

good old neon

Saturday, December 21, 2013


His books, and his work on the words he found in them, were about to become the defining feature of his newly chosen life. For the next twenty years he would do almost nothing except enfold himself and his tortured brain in the world of his books, their writings, and their words.

- Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nightwitch film

I mean --



The women were part of the Soviet Union’s all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment, and among the world’s first female combat flight pilots. In the dark, they’d cut their engines and fly close to the ground to hit their targets; the sound made the Germans think of a witch’s broom. In making a short film to honor Ms. Popova, who died in July, I sought to emphasize the fairy-tale quality of the Night Witches’ story. 

I teamed with the animator Dustin Grella (creator of a previous Op-Doc and a short film, “Prayers for Peace,” which memorialized his brother, who died in combat in Iraq). He draws each frame of his animations in pastels on slate, providing a stark quality that complements the historical narrative.

what it truly looks like here

The Seattle Times is a joke, but they did publish this beautiful 'reader photo of the year' by Dale Johnson, which, yes, does actually capture what the PNW looks like, besides the Sneedle and the downtown shopping corridor and the horrible new Ferris wheel and all that touristy crap.

via the CHS blog

As long as it melts real quick I'll be happy. No fucking way I'm going outside, though.


Thursday, December 19, 2013


A couple of posts by friends elsewhere reminded me of how much I liked 'Reading Wednesday' originally, before I burnt out on it (I think it's that it was always the same damn three questions -- I never do well with lists of questions, I always have the impulse to tear them up halfway through). So this: not capsule reviews really, not anything organized, just an update of sorts.

Inside Rehab by Anne Fletcher is interesting, if thuddingly written: "In short, the clients I met expressed pros and cons of residential treatment, depending upon where they'd gone, but it may also have been a matter of where they happened to be when they were ready for treatment" is a sample sentence from the page I'm on. Laura Miller (God, Laura fucken Miller - she and Dwight Garner are the twin banes of my goddamn online reading existence) misses the point spectacularly, opening with "Amy Winehouse was right," which is designed to make the reader say ho, ho, ho, I suppose. Fletcher's point isn't that rehab "doesn't work," as so many online "news" sites have picked up (sort of like "Einstein says everything's relative!"), but that there's no actual evidence that extremely expensive short-term inpatient rehabs work better than much less costly outpatient programs which can be attended for longer periods of time; and furthermore, rehab programs in general have a startling lack of evidence-based treatment, relying instead on amateur group therapy, lectures and readings from the twelve-step 'literature.' Although going to AA itself is not considered part of "rehab," most rehabs depend heavily on the twelve steps, and if the Program doesn't work for you, the problem is considered to be with you, not with the Program. I'm reading this half for book research, half out of personal curiosity; apparently Jane Brody wrote an article on this that "went viral" which I missed completely (not an uncommon occurrence, I'm always terminally out of the loop). I think this book would be a great read for families or loved ones of addicts trying to figure out how the hell they can help, and every therapist who treats addicts should read it. -- That said, Fletcher is pretty snobbish about recovered addicts who don't have degrees yet work at rehab centers, and while she flat-out says that it isn't true that only addicts can help other addicts, it's also true that recovered addicts will be able to catch a lot of the bullshit that non-addicts miss. But those are small flaws. The book's not great, and I can't put up with the lousy writing for more than a few chapters at a time, but it's worthwhile.

Jim Lynch's Truth Like the Sun, centered around the 1962 World's Fair held in Seattle, is much better than I expected, even if inevitably not as fantastic as everyone said it was -- a rather pleasant surprise. The 'Mr Seattle' mayoral candidate annoyed me so much I wanted to drown him in Puget Sound, but Lynch's writing has entertaining little blips of style: "He wasn't as dismayed by her lack of interest in jazz as he was by his interest in a woman who wasn't interested in jazz." That is actually funny. (Unlike cheap references to Amy Winehouse in a review about a book on addicts, for Christ's sweet suffering sake.) It's also nice to read a book about Seattle by someone who didn't move here in the last fifteen minutes, and can see beneath the dot-bomb headlines to the gold rush boom-or-bust mentality, which eerily foreshadows the way the post-90's economy has become dependent on bubbles (the stock market, IT, real estate, God knows what's fucking next. Virtual condos? Invisible beef?). Not that profound, but certainly a pleasant read.

I also inhaled a couple of Kindle Singles, which still make me feel uneasy -- are these long stories? Are they really worth $1.99 or even ninety-nine cents? If I bought a magazine for a showcased long article, I'd pay more....but I'd also get all the other stuff in the magazine. Then again, if you buy enough magazines you wind up wondering where the hell to store them, all slippery and floppy and thin, and once stored you can't flip through them easily for the original articles you wanted....unless you wind up buying them in book form. I was irrationally annoyed by Ann Patchett's selling "The Getaway Car," which I'd originally bought as a Kingle, again in her nonfiction collection (which I also bought as an ebook), even though it fit into the general narrative arc of the pieces well enough. If I'd bought it in a magazine, instead of a standalone, would I have been as irritated? I don't think so.... -- And then it seems like what we talk about when we talk about publishing is always money, which sucks. Basta!

-- I read:
 The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side, highly touted as an "Atlantic ebook," which was disappointing -- often sexist, slapdash and thrown-together, with no real insight. If you're interested in this kind of story, read Shoes Outside the Door instead. It did point me in the direction of, which is an amazing, horrifying, absolute time-suck collection of original documents online (see also Sweeping Zen and thezensite). The pattern of sexual abuse in American Zen is very troubling, and while this book is good in that it's part of the public exposure of that pattern, it's not much more than that. (Natalie Goldberg pretty much fluffed the topic in her memoir The Great Failure, as best I can recall. Seriously: read Shoes Outside the Door. It's beautiful and wise and wrenching.)
The Man Behind Narnia, by A.N. Wilson, which was much more mellow and forgiving than his actual biography of C.S. Lewis which I read long ago, and is hilariously titled, given that Wilson hates Narnia and spends most of his time on all the other books Lewis ever wrote. It reminded me of Wilson's Iris Murdoch memoir, which was also good.
It's All In Your Head and The Man with the Electrified Brain, both well-written, harrowing memoirs of brain disease and disorder. The writing was admirable, but if you've ever suffered even the most minor twinge of hypochondria, not to speak of mental illness, you're going to be sorry you picked these up.

I bought the book on Courtney Love, but it was only available via B&N so apparently I'm going to have to read it online, given that I neither want to download "Nook for PC" (not for one book, no) nor give my credit card number to some kind of DRM-stripping program (a lot of my friends use it with no apparent theft, but that still thicks my blood with cold). Argh.

music never dies

Phil Ochs playing Elvis Presley tunes live at Carnegie Hall is the best goddamn thing you will hear all day. Trust me on this one. (His version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" adds an amazing amount of soul and heartache, like Richard Thompson turning "Oops I Did It Again" into a kind of Elvis Costello anthem, except in the opposite emotional direction which left me teary-eyed in front of my laptop.)

The only thing better is Phil Ochs playing Buddy Holly. (The little fucker top-and-tailed the medley with "Not Fade Away" and at the end he sang "Said Buddy Holly not fade away. Said Buddy Holly not fade away" and I fucking cried, yeah. Phil Ochs not fade away. Love true love not fade away.)

this is the best editorial you will read all year

I even love the amazing graphic:

Hawes was a bebop pianist with a right-hand technique so brilliant that he was admired by none other than Art Tatum, widely considered the greatest jazz pianist ever.

Hawes had been sentenced to 10 years in a Fort Worth prison for buying drugs from an undercover agent. “Just after my third Christmas I was watching John Kennedy accept the presidency on the Washington steps,” Hawes wrote later. “Something about him, the voice, the eyes, the way he stood bright and coatless and proud in that cold air ... I thought, that’s the right cat; looks like he got some soul and might listen.” He applied for a pardon, and received one from the president on Aug. 16, 1963.

- Ishmael Reed

'After the chicken. Before the lupus.'

For O'Connor, writing became an expression of faith. For many artists, regardless of what they think or not of the divine, making art is an act of, and requires, faith. You do it out of longing, from what William Gass has called "a reckless inner need"; you do it as you would an act of love.

There is some uncomfortable desire or want in you, and outside of you is nothing—an empty page or screen or room. But then out of your fear or hope or loneliness or anger or desperation, you do things with words or movements or images that try to show or give....O'Connor's art was part of her longing for God.

Rebecca Brown

I, Anonymous: SPEAKS FOR ME

To all you studded-tire folks: If you only knew how much damage your precious studs cost us taxpayers, you probably would think twice about buying them. They don't help 99 percent of the time. The state patrol does not recommend them because they actually increase the stopping distance on wet pavement, which is 99 percent of the time in Seattle during the winter months. It's a waste of money, it's hard on the pavement, and, worst of all, I hate the sound of your stupid four-wheel-drive SUV grinding its way through a parking lot with four studded tires on bare pavement when the only snow or ice is 50 miles away on Snoqualmie Pass. You are a paranoid bunch of suburban dwellers who have never been east of the mountains where studded tires are for pussies. And if you can't drive in some inclement weather, then leave your four-wheel-drive SUV in the heated parking garage and take the bus.

The other day walking to QFC I saw a woman on Broadway driving A HUMMER. AN H2 IN A FUCKING URBAN ENVIRONMENT. I wanted to slap her. Oh, suburbanites. Can't you stay off in the woods and leave my city alone?

(As someone else pointed out: people who drive with studded tires ((and have H2s! -- I am still fuming)) won't give a fuck about public roads. Which they use. Tax the fucking studded tires so the price is commensurate with the cost to the city, and their use would drop right quick. But that will never, ever, ever happen.)

P.L. Travers as Titania, 1924

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'change feels like death beause it is'

If we knew what was going to happen -- if we knew the pain and fear and ugliness that's part of our fate, if we forgot that it keeps the world turning -- who knows what we'd do differently? That's why the Oracle only has one eye, because this is not part of the physics: God and time work together to tell you this story, as many times as it takes, until you start paying attention. If it doesn't hurt, if it doesn't feel like death, you're just pretending to change. Burn sage and sweetgrass and get a haircut and move to another city, go on a diet and swear off men for six months, a year, the rest of your life: that's cosmetic. Nothing really changes until you close your eyes and jump. That's half the confusion right there. Take a drop of water, or mercury, and divide it: whatever face the messenger wears, the message stays the's just that we keep hearing it wrong. Over and over again, until we get it right.

- Jacob on Battlestar

(which is lovely, and makes me cry every time I read it, but still, THEY KILLED MY GIRL AND IT PISSED ME OFF)

Just Fucking Beautiful, as the jet pilots used to say

Suppose you were reading and came to the following line:

“She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.”

Would you …
(a) continue reading, because that’s a perfectly acceptable sentence, or
(b) throw a tantrum and insist that the author is an imbecile speeding the wholesale destruction of the English language?
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably answering (a). If you’re answering (b), I regret to inform you that you hate the writing of C. S. Lewis.
- Motivated Grammar

vintage travel posters

Visit the Pacific Northwest wonderland!

'Four percussionists play the frozen surface of Lake Baikal'

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

like dislike 1 0 1 0

The most successful websites are too massive, and too interested in spinning out their own success, to change their ways — and they also don’t think they’re soliciting hate-reads. The most successful Web posts simply put forward half of an idea (Rob Ford is weird!, #twerking) and allow you to impute love or hate as you will...Everyone’s Internet is still individual, because an argument provocatively argued, intended to inspire a response more fervent than “agree” or “disagree,” inspires nothing more than sustained reading. Sustained reading is time spent not clicking any other links. It got less important in 2013 and could well disappear next year. Maybe it’s time to spend more time logged out; I know a website that could recommend a praiseworthy book.

- Daniel D'addario


what I'm reading

The way most medicine comes about is that you have various treatments and you test them and see if it’s effective and then you implement it. And it seems like many things in addiction treatment have happened the other way around. They evolved because they kind of came out of the 12-step movement and addicts helping other addicts. And then they evolved into treatment programs—I think in part because the medical system didn't want to deal with addicts, [which is] unfortunate.

....It’s been helpful for a lot of people and I don’t think the problem is with the downfalls of AA. Part of the problem is that the medical treatment industry adopted AA … lock, stock and barrel as the mainstay of treatment. What I discovered in writing the book is that a lot of the things that people [in treatment] complained about having to do with AA were not actually part of AA. For example: Bill W. never said that AA was the only way, but many people told me that they felt that in treatment they were led to believe that if they didn't get the program, they were going to fail.

- interview with The Fix

Jane Brody's article

Monday, December 16, 2013

nothing is written

To watch O’Toole and Orson Welles on the BBC’s “Monitor” program, in 1963, as they ruminate at length on “Hamlet” and his father’s ghost, is to realize what a real talk show is, or what it could be, when the airwaves were still haunted by the grand talkers. What takes you slightly aback, however, is not that O’Toole seems willing and able to discuss seventeenth-century Catholic doctrines of the afterlife but that, with his dicky bow, dark shirt, and thick-rimmed black spectacles, he looks like a man in disguise. His face and frame were those of an El Greco saint, caught between temptation and penance; scan his filmography and you see how seldom he made an impact in modern garb, and what elegant shelter he sought in period dress. Twice he played King Henry II, in “Becket” and “The Lion in Winter.” He was Don Quixote; he was King Priam, trembling at the sack of Troy; he was Tiberius, attending the even greater disaster of “Caligula.” He also played Conan Doyle, in “Fairy Tale: A True Story,” which only reinforced one’s disappointment that he was never fully unleashed as Sherlock Holmes. His résumé does list four appearances as Holmes, but those were in low-rent, animated versions for TV, and, for once, the voice was not enough; we needed to observe him in his finery, unfurling the long limbs, the languor, and the dread of boredom that we associate with Baker Street, not to mention the neurosis that twitched below the skin of the sleuth. Sometimes unmade films, like unmade beds, tell stories of their own.

- Anthony Lane

And then he actually quotes "Crossing the Bar." I didn't know whether to be slightly horrified or even more deeply in love with him. Jesus, I didn't know anyone still even knew that one anymore. (Well, I looked up his age, and he's 51 -- which surprised me, I'd always thought he was younger than me. ((Who isn't, these days.)) He's still got the perpetual too-smart-for-the-room glibness of the eternal Wunderkind. ((Why no, I know nothing about that style composed of verbal tics. Why even ask?)) )

I hate Twitter, but this is pretty fanfuckingtastic.

oh hell yes

Norton’s new edition of The Metamorphosis

AMAZING, gorgeous, non-Shopped art

(PhotoShop is like PowerPoint: it makes you stupid.)

Artist Creates Elaborate Non-Photoshopped Scenes in Her Small Studio
"Jee Young Lee creates highly elaborate scenes that require an incredible amount of patience and absolutely no photo manipulation. For weeks and sometimes months, the young Korean artist works in the confines of her small 360 x 410 x 240 cm studio bringing to life worlds that defy all logic. In the middle of the sets you can always find the artist herself, as these are self-portraits but of the unconventional kind. Inspired by either her personal life or old Korean fables, they each have their own backstory, which of course, only adds to the intense drama."

'Black Birds'

I'm just bitter about selfies because I am the most unphotogenic person you will ever see

And you won't. I can crack a lens at fifty paces.

We don’t experience interruptions as disruptions anymore. But they make it hard to settle into serious conversations with ourselves and with other people because emotionally, we keep ourselves available to be taken away from everything. I talk to young people about etiquette when they go out to dinner, and they explain to me that when in a group of, say, seven, they make sure that at least three people are “heads up” in the “talking” conversation at any one time. Only then do they feel permission to text. But it doesn’t have to be the same three people. In these settings, the most commonly heard phrase is “Wait, what?” as one person and then another drops back into the conversation and tries to catch up. All of this has become the new normal.

- Sherry Turkle

Sunday, December 15, 2013

women's novels

Men's novels are about men. Women's novels are about men too but from a different point of view. You can have a men's novel with no women in it except possibly the landlady or the horse, but you can't have a women's novel with no men in it. Sometimes men put women in men's novels but they leave out some of the parts: the heads, for instance, or the hands.

- Margaret Atwood, Good Bones & Simple Murders

headings in current notebook







collective nouns in pictures

From Woop Studios.

the secret history

haven't you ever been lied to by saints with a soulful sound

One of my favourite poems ever.

The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

When thou descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.

Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leaves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away.

- Horace, "Diffugere Nives," tr. A.E. Housman

Mandela in his former cell, 1994

fuck that killer martinis shit, read Adrian LeBlanc instead

Because she's a far better writer (which isn't saying anything -- but she is, she's marvelous. Killer Martinis is awful) and she admits she's a middle-class white girl writing about poor people, and because she's not lying, the work is better. With no hyperbole, Random Family (and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, that's how highly I rate it) isn't just one of the best-reported books I've ever read, and it isn't just one of the best-written books about the poor, it's one of the best-written modern books, period. It makes Executioner's Song look like a sick parrot.

-- Or if you're allergic to reading anything over a year old, read Men We Reaped, which was fucking stunning, and no lie, even better than Random Family because while LeBlanc worked her way inside, Jesmyn Ward was born there -- it's like the difference between an embedded war correspondent and a war refugee.

"The Price of Parsimony: NYT, 2004"

A while after my experience in C-Town, Lolli's stepfather received a $70,000 check after winning a lawsuit and burned through the money in a matter of months. By then, however, this sort of abandon made perfect sense. Holding onto the money placed him in physical danger; he'd also have to field an endless litany of heartbreaking requests from family and friends. Putting it in the bank wasn't practical, because he might lose his disability benefits if the government knew of his assets; for the same reason, he couldn't invest the money legally, which left him especially vulnerable to scams. The smartest thing was to treat it like the windfall that it was -- like hitting the lottery. 

I gushed over the sight of that stunning check -- $70,000! He gave everyone Christmas gifts and bought furniture. He proudly repaid his brother twice over for a $10,000 overdue debt and covered the costs of his girlfriend's sister's funeral in style. When he offered to buy me a leather coat, I declined, but I knew I wanted one. I happily accompanied him on cab rides to buy takeout: he didn't have to struggle down the street with his cane, and I was as glad for the change of pace. Only once did I caution him, on New Year's, after he handed a livery cabdriver $20 for a $5 trip. But when he said, ''It makes me feel like a man,'' I understood. By that point in his life, he'd given up hoping for a different future. I'd given up believing in a different future for him, too. 

Whenever I was downtown, which was less and less, I felt that life was elsewhere. Uptown, I was learning to surrender to the slower rhythms of my subjects' days. Ordinary acts absorbed me utterly. Even the most mundane things -- children playing, a trip to the grocery store, watching an old dog sleeping -- gave me a sense of discovery. After all, I was supposed to spend hours hanging out, observing. I started to crave the street. On the best days, I was keenly aware of the sensory environment but unaware of myself. I knew I was in precisely the right place, at the right time. Doing my work meant remaining still.

Like that of a child shuttling between divorced parents, my behavior changed with my surroundings: at a welfare office in the Bronx, I could be endlessly patient, numbed. Yet if I had to wait in line at the Gourmet Garage, I became irritable. Increasingly at ease in the places most white New Yorkers thought of as impossibly dangerous, I'd tense up at book parties and gallery openings. I preferred to brave the stairwell in a housing project than walk into a roof-top party. A college friend, now a psychologist, declared me counter-phobic. Possibly true, but what good do labels do?

But the greatest threat to my reporting wasn't the danger, which was erratic and unusual, but the frustrations and despair, which were relentless, pervading every task of daily life. In the Bronx, survival regularly felt impossible, escape unimaginable. Even hope became a risk.

Back in SoHo, I slept, a lot. I'm generally an early morning person, but I came to love the bed. I'd sleep a solid 12 hours after a prison visit, a whole day after a weekend in Lolli's mother's courtyard. One afternoon, one of the girls from the Bronx called to wake me; I used to be prompt, calling up to their windows, waking them. Now, I was late, I answered the telephone cranky. ''You sound like my mother,'' she said critically.
Poverty is a climate. Within a few years, I had adapted to its weather's unpredictability: I stopped believing that institutions functioned in any reliable or useful fashion. I would be surprised, delighted, when anything went smoothly. I developed a sense of humor. I stopped wearing black, started wearing fuchsia. I became an optimist, and a fatalist.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

'Teary Hormonal Paste' is so the name of my new punk band

Canadian author and poet Zoe Whittall looked at how female writers are written about in reviews, especially when the reviewers is a man. In what’s called a “found poem,” Whittall culled lines from real reviews in major publications of books by women, but switched the pronouns to male. The result is a jarring look at the sort of tone and ridiculous attention to appearance and judgement of character women face in reviews that are about books.

"Unequal to Me," Zoe Whittall

Much of the novel seems held together with a kind of teary hormonal paste.*

I can sniff out the ink of the men.

But has the author made his parents proud?
What do they think about him writing about sex so brazenly?

There’s just something about his ‘tough boy’ author photo.
He writes self-indulgent fiction.

His house is immaculate, he has three children but there is no
evidence of them.

The floors gleam with perfection.
He’s a publicist’s dream author.

I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know
whether it is by a man or not.

I think [it is] unequal to me.

*More on that here.

first lines of books on the bed

-- Metaphorically speaking: these are all on my Paperwhite, which is often under my pillow (yes) (because after 20+ years of marriage I can FINALLY read myself to sleep again late at night with the lit screen on low, and when I start drowsing off I can just slip the case under my pillow instead of fumbling around for the stand in the dark).

Now it was night.  
(A Marker to Measure Drift, Alexander Maksik.)

In the middle of the twentieth century three men were charged with the task of removing the tension between minute and vast things.  
(Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Lydia Millet.)

'And the material doesn't stain,' the salesgirl says.  
(The Driver's Seat, Muriel Spark.)

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.  
(Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.)

The child's world changed late one afternoon, though she didn't know it.  
(Hild, Nicola Griffith.)

On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.
(A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra.)

Irresolute, no, shivering, I'd crashed a party in the private dining room of a hotel.
(In America, Susan Sontag.)

Alma Whittaker, born with the century, slid into our world on the fifth of January, 1800.  
(The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert.)

The village of Weedon Bec in Northamptonshire was an unlikely setting for paradise, but for Patrick Leigh Fermor the years he spent there as a small child were among the happiest in his life.  
(Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, Artemis Cooper.)

One of the women buying amber was so much like Mrs Cosway that it gave me a shock to see her.  
(The Minotaur, Barbara Vine.)

This is a game I've played only twice.  
(Good Bones and Simple Murders, Margaret Atwood.)

How angry am I? You don't want to know.  
(The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud.)

When the year turns, there are bells on the wind.
(Quiet Dell, Jayne Anne Phillips.)

I had a lotta luck and it's all been bad

Friday, December 13, 2013

when routine bites hard

immune to the virus

TED videos, often seasoned with cheery platitudes, become viral for the same reason that grumpy cat pictures do. They don't ask us to think critically — just to enjoy, or be amused and enlightened without the time-consuming labor of skepticism and doubt clouding our clicks. Why do we want to share these stories? Because in some sense they are not open to interpretation. You don't have to worry whether your friends will wonder why you shared this – it's obvious.

....Most of all, we don't want to say something that we didn't intend. And that is the danger with any story that falls into the valley of ambiguity. We can't be sure how people will take it. We don't want to risk our reputations on a story that can be taken more than one way.

More than anything, the fear of a smeared reputation is what creates that dip in virality. Sharing a story means that in some sense we stake our reputation on it. That's why sharing a story is not the same thing as enjoying a story, reading a story, or even learning from a story.

- Viral Journalism and the Valley of Ambiguity

open her carefully

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pussy Jones

I couldn't deal with that whacko Vogue spread (where Edith Wharton was portrayed by a beautiful vapid model and all the men in her life were....unbeautiful actual male writers? Okay!) but I did have to admire how they paid attention to one of my very favourite photographs of her:

(The way she's shyly hiding behind her dogges! The feathers on the hat! Her neatly folded hands, and those enormous immobilizing sleeves! It just kills me.)

"You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

Bosch's birdman (detail)

Reading Wednesday anniversary

I wasn't feeling the Reading Wednesday love for quite a while now, but I was checking my archives and saw apparently the very first Readsday post I ever did was exactly a year ago, so I can't pass up that opportunity of an anniversary.

I'm just not reading as much right now -- it's partly being sick (still), partly end-of-year malaise, partly panic at our financial situation....this last not helped at all by seeing those numerous docs about how the end of the global economy was brought about by crooks in deregulated industries. Also I was sick not just with the flu; if you think chronic pancreatitis will not be violently set off by 2 tsp of half-and-half in half a cup of coffee, I am here to tell you HOW VERY WRONG I was you are. Apparently my future will consist of kale and quinoa. Possibly also carrots and cabbages.

Also, while I'm sick, we're mainlining Battlestar Galactica. Yeah yeah I 'never watch TV' and was pretty loud about disliking BSG when it first aired (I bailed the first time through after "Pegasus"), but that's the problem with wanting to watch a series via Netflix streaming: you go with what they have. Actually, as Jacob said on TWOP (and you guys think I'm longwinded) all those years ago, for the first two seasons it's a pretty neat show. It changed into something really different after the occupation, and all the women are now fuckups or baby-fixated (or both), but it's still worth watching at this point for the endless weaselley survival tactics of Gaius Balthar. But -- it began as a show with a kickass female President and a kickass female pilot and other great women characters (even the priest was a woman!), and I miss that. (I just resent the way EVERY science fiction show I love goes for the baby factor -- X-Files, Farscape, Fringe, it's like even the brave brilliant beautiful women aren't worth shit unless they reproduce! Fancy that!)

(Yes, I have warned T several times about the show's ending, I'm not heartless. He loftily assumes that since he knows some main characters -- not which ones -- are really Cylons, he's prepared. I dunno whether to break his heart completely or enjoy the inevitable mayhem that will break out right around the "Let's ditch all technology and start anew!" ending. And that's about half an hour before the other, even more shitty endings. Extra popcorn may be popped on my part.)

Part of the reason I bummed out on the readsday posts was I really grew to hate the fucking format, so I have to think of something new. Maybe writing up capsule summaries of the three-to-five books I read per week on average? SURE, that'll happen....I do still miss Goodreads and the farcebook-like update feed that was filled with notes about what people were reading, and how much easier it was to start drafting a review right on the book's page once you were done with it. sigh. Well, I did that for years, it's hard to get out of one habit and into a new one. I just finished Lovesey's The Circle, which was oddly disappointing not least in its totally unconvincing use of technology-speak, and am just about done with Scarcity, which is one of those nonfiction books you read for its content and not the writing style because that doesn't exist, and I just picked up If Not, Winter again because I need some beauty. ("Beauty will save the world....")

Deathless Aphrodite of the spangled mind,
child of Zeus, who twists lures, I beg you
do not break with hard pains,
O lady, my heart....

after winter must come spring

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

brother can you spare a

 December 5th, 2013: Democrats: No Budget Deal Without Unemployment Insurance Extension
“Yes, indeed, we are making a very clear statement that we cannot, cannot support a budget agreement that does not include unemployment insurance in the budget or as a sidebar in order to move it all along,” (Nancy Pelosi) said at a Democrats-only hearing on the uninsured.

December 10th, 2013: Capitol Leaders Agree to a Deal on the Budget
"Democrats gave up their demand that the deal extend unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the month, but they hope to press for an extension in a separate measure."

Wow, that's....beyond disappointing. That is flat-out disastrous, not only for us but for about a million and a half other people, and about three and a half million people on top of that by the end of next year, if I remember the figures right. God. The Republicans are horrible, but it's like the Democrats are almost even worse, always fucking caving in. Roll over and play dead, only their lives aren't the ones on the line. If the Republican brass was so terrified of the very idea of another shutdown why the hell didn't the Dems use it as a bargaining chip to get the EUC through? Or maybe it will get through, somehow, under the table, greatly reduced, who fucking knows.

Jesus. This is just devastating.

Monday, December 9, 2013




That said -- Robert McCrum, you're aces, but some of this was painful.

(That is one terrible engraving of Charlotte, too, altho not bad as what Austen gets stuck with.)

From its haunting first line to its famous closer, "Reader, I married him", -- Not the last line.

Add to this a prose style of unvarnished simplicity whaa? No.

she also craves submission to her "master", the Byronic Mr Rochester ....OK this is arguable, but with that ending?

Within a very few pages of the opening, there are references to Paradise Lost, Walter Scott's Marmion and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels The 'Marmion' reference is much later (and vexes literary critics because of how it dates -- or doesn't date -- the novel).

Brontë herself, the daughter of a tyrannical north country parson SIGH.

And JE is only 12th because it's in chronological order (Pilgrim's Progress is FIRST? arrrrgh allegory not a novel &c &c &c) but still -- pretty neat to see!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

he is pedantic, you nitpick, I am critically acute

Recently, I was at an event where Neil Armstrong’s son talked about his father’s many wonderful qualities and one bad one – it was very difficult to watch a sci fi movie with his dad. He would complain if one instrument was out of place on an aircraft’s panel. He objected to the catapulting of fighters off the Battlestar Galactica – it’s not like they have to build up airspeed to get aloft – why not just plop them out the door?


(Ask my husband how fun it was watching the goofball Ripper Street -- or as I called it, "CSI: Whitechapel" -- series with me, while I ranted about costuming choices and vocabulary constantly in the background. Go on! Ask him. I'm sure he'll be perfectly honest....)

(-- Why was I watching it at all? Well, due to the TITLE and all, I thought it was about, you know, JACK THE GODDAMN RIPPER, and mostly: Matthew Macfadyen and Jerome Flynn dressed up like this.)

(Wait wait WHAT, they killed it? Fuck, this is why I never fucking watch TV, it's like when I try to grow plants: I just kill them off. Poor sad Jerome Flynn. No more shirtless boxing scenes!)

gpoy (possibly the best Post Secret card ever)

'We do tiny bits of work for Google, for Tumblr, for Twitter, all day and every day.'

Even if there is more than a modicum of exploitation at work in the hyperemployment economy, the despair and overwhelm of online life doesn’t derive from that exploitation—not directly anyway. Rather, it’s a type of exhaustion cut of the same sort that afflicts the underemployed as well, like the single mother working two part-time service jobs with no benefits, or the PhD working three contingent teaching gigs at three different regional colleges to scrape together a still insufficient income. The economic impact of hyperemployment is obviously different from that of underemployment, but some of the same emotional toll imbues both: a sense of inundation, of being trounced by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even possible. The only difference between the despair of hyperemployment and that of un- or under-employment is that the latter at least acknowledges itself as an substandard condition, while the former celebrates the hyperemployed’s purported freedom to “share” and “connect,” to do business more easily and effectively by doing jobs once left for others competence and compensation, from the convenience of your car or toilet.

....Even if productivity has increased mostly to the benefit of the wealthy, hasn’t everyone gained enormous leisure, but by replacing recreation with work rather than work with recreation? This new work doesn’t even require employment; the destitute and unemployed hyperemployed are just as common as the affluent and retired hyperemployed. Perversely, it is only then, at the labor equivalent of the techno-anarchist’s singularity, that the malaise of hyperemployment can cease. Then all time will become work time, and we will not have any memory of leisure to distract us.

- "Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

drop everything and read this fanfuckingtastic essay

What is this defining feature of our times? What is snark reacting to? 

It is reacting to smarm. 

What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.

Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?

The most significant explicator of the niceness rule—the loudest Thumper of all, the true prophetic voice of anti-negativity—is neither the cartoon rabbit nor the publicists' group nor Julavits, nor even David Denby. It is The Believer's founder and impresario, Dave Eggers. If there is a defining document of contemporary literary smarm, it is an interview Eggers did via email with the Harvard Advocate in 2000, in which a college student had the poor manners to ask the literary celebrity about "selling out." 

(BONUS: includes a sarcastic description of David Denby agonizing over my dead satirical boyfriend Juvenal. "Thanks, Dave. Big of you, there. Juvenal needed it." //swoons)

dearest flavourwire, all is forgiven

Even if you did still have to put your 'reasons why Jonathan Franzen is an asshole' in "listicle" form.
Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Ames, and Jonathan Lethem are all critical darlings, but Franzen is usually the #1 example cited in conversations about the way the literary world treats male vs. female writers. As Jennifer Weiner said about The New York Times and other major publications heaping piles of praise on Franzen, ”It’s about the establishment choosing one writer and writing about him again and again and again.”

for all those idiots obsessed with Effie Trinket

('Capitol Couture') is a visually stunning, in-character spectacle, with contributors pretending to work for, and live in, the Capitol. Using quotes, products and photographs from real-world fashion designers further blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. This is perhaps the most creative and brilliant marketing campaign I've ever seen. It is also one of the most disturbing.

During the making of the first "Hunger Games" film, director Gary Ross (who did not direct the second film) explained his shooting philosophy. "If you shoot it like a slick glossy Hollywood movie … you lose the feeling of reality and urgency that you need all the way through — you're turning into the Capitol, you're not examining the Capitol anymore."

Has Lionsgate become the Capitol? Its marketing strategy is turning an anti-classist epic into a platform for the novels' villains.

At its core, "The Hunger Games" is about economic inequality. In the books, the country of Panem is a future version of the United States, after nuclear disaster wipes out most of the population. In Panem, the fraction of people living in the Capitol controls almost all of the wealth. In 12 outlying Districts, people work long hours in Capitol-approved industries at dangerous jobs with low pay. Starvation is a daily reality.
If the books are supposed to function as a cautionary tale against the real class divide in the U.S., we need not look far for evidence. The future of Panem is upon us: More than 20 million Americans can't find full-time jobs, 22% of children live in poverty and middle-class wages have been largely stagnant since 1974. Meanwhile, corporate profits are at an all-time high.

If the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist, the same can be said of systemic economic inequality. The pull of the American dream is still so strong that many believe the only reasonable explanation for poverty is that it's poor people's fault. We don't blame the system — and in Panem, you don't blame the Capitol.
- Andrew Slack

(Hunger Games NAIL POLISH was bad enough. But "Hey, it's a series of books where the heroine's makeover is shown as invasive and deeply disturbing!....haute couture clothing made by real-world designers, oh yes" is even worse. Is anyone going to ask where the fucking clothes are made? No, right?)

yes, this about wraps it up


Friday, December 6, 2013

Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics for 'Mr Tambourine Man'



You’re probably wondering what’s in the archive. For the most part, these are handwritten and typed bits and pieces and scenes from the book published as The Pale King. Other titles for the book include Glitterer, Sir John Feelgood, and my personal favorite, What Is Peoria For? There is a mass of material labeled “freewriting.” The same scenes are written and rewritten many times. There are lists upon lists of characters and possible names for them. There are maps. There are printouts of tax returns, pixilated images of enormous offices divided into cubicles, of actual tingle tables used by the IRS, there’s a map of Peoria. (Each of these has about a million tack points in it, or double-sided tape on the back, which suggests he had them posted up on his walls.)

- 'The Human Heart is a Chump': Cataloguing the Pale King

Then again....

....speaking of fraud, T reminded me of this bit from the Frontline doc about Brooksley (what a name!*) Born:

He said something to the effect that, "Well, Brooksley, we're never going to agree on fraud." And she said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he said, "You probably think there should be rules against it." And she said, "Well, yes, I do." He said, you know, "I think the market will figure it out and take care of the fraudsters."

Greenspan didn't believe that fraud was something that needed to be enforced, and he assumed she probably did. And of course, she did. I've never met a financial regulator who didn't feel that fraud was part of their mission.

And this is an absolute stunner for the new head of this tiny agency who is charged with making sure people don't commit fraud.

Well, I think she was taken aback about how far he would go towards deregulation, that even the notion that we should police fraudulent activity he didn't think was something that was a given.

That was her introduction to Alan Greenspan.

That flips me out so completely I can't even think of any cutesy illiterate "I can't even" Tumblrspeak slang to communicate my flippedness. I am flipped like a whole pile of truck-stop flapjacks. The market will take care of fraud? Will it take care of theft and murder and rape too? Does he imagine Adam Smith's Invisible Hand is going to morph into the long arm of the law and reach out to fist all criminal activity into submission? What the hell.

*It begins with a father who wants a boy. She was born in San Francisco. Her father was a welfare agency executive for a long time. And he thought it would be great to have a son. His best friend at the time was named Brooks, and he thought, "I'll name my son Brooks." But he ended up with a girl and he named her Brooksley at the last minute, feminizing it.

'come with me if you want to live'

MR. SP: I have a suggestion.

The Skateboard Pup laughs.

SKATEPUP: You always have a suggestion.

MR. SP: It's how you can tell I haven't been replaced by a robot duplicate.

SKATEPUP: No that's cool! An android sponsor! You'd be like Arnold Schwarzenegger in all the "Terminator" movies. You're all "Come vith me if you vant to live!"

MR. SP: I don't remember the Terminator talking like a vampire.

SKATEPUP: Okay, okay, I can't do a good Arnold. But anyway, that's like your message though: Come with me if you want to live!

He has no idea how sweet that sounds or how choked up that makes me for a second. I get it together right away because I don't want to lose what I wanted to say to him.

That might have been the best thing I read all day. And that's the awesome flip side of the shitty part of the virtual world, I get to read Mr SP too, and I truly wouldn't want to miss out on that.

why I hate web 2.0, right fucking there

OUR HEROINE: I read the post you wrote about that documentary we watched last night, and really liked it!

SPOUSAL OVERUNIT: Aww, thanks....only one person shared it and two people liked it, though [this includes me, his wife of 20+ years] so I guess it wasn't as good as I hoped.


This is also why I left Tumblr. I hate the way everything is insta-graded by likes or shares or plusses in the moment and then everyone moves on to the Next New New Thing which is Jennifer Lawrence's cat with a bacon pancake a la Hannibal's food stylist on its head, or something. Cannot even stand it. Drives me nucking futs.

The American Way of Poverty: an interview with author Sasha Abramsky

notes towards a Readsday post

My reading has been going very slowly lately because I've been fighting off winter flu, and we've also been watching I don't know how many documentaries on The Meltdown all of a sudden -- I seem to be acquiring an education about derivatives and mortgage-based securities and subprime loans nearly against my will. (The last time I saw a derivative was in a college calculus class.) We saw The Flaw, Inside Job, The Smartest Guys in the Room, and a couple of Frontline docs, all streaming for free various places around the internet. (Charles Ferguson is my new filmmaker boyfriend.)

What I couldn't get over, especially after seeing Inside Job, was that even if you're the most absolutist anti-regulatory free marketeer ever, eight miles high on whatever Alan Greenspan is smoking imported from his home planet of Ultima Libertad -- clearly, if someone makes a bunch of bad loans, disguises those loans as good investments, PAYS a ratings company to issue the best ratings to convince innocent people to buy them, and then makes money when those investments/loans go bad as they were designed to -- you have to admit that is fraud. Actual, criminal, honest-to-God bare-assed bald-headed fraud! How is it that nobody has served jail time? Been arrested? Even been indicted? It was a giant, global, multi-billion -- hell, probably in the hundreds of billions by the time you could add it all up -- Ponzi scheme.

I've been reading After the Music Stopped by Alan S. Blinder which is tough going for several reasons -- namely his terrible prose style. A sample: "This option requires some explaining, starting with some vocabulary. (Sorry!)" (No, really.) I think he's writing that way because of his stated goal to make a complete picture of the Giant Meltdown accessible to ordinary Americans, but I find it patronizing and aggravatingly faux-folksy, like people who write "Hunh" and "Ain't no thing" in online comments. He also has a giant blind spot (ha, ha. "Sorry!") centered squarely on Ben Bernanke, so every time he defends the man I fling my Paperwhite across the room (not very far -- I'm lying sick in bed) and then have to get up and out from under the covers to find it again. The emotional effect of the book is bizarre -- it's like a horror film disguised as a tax law (insert DFW reference here). Something like "The spread between three-month financial company CP and three-month T-bills rose 138 basis points between September 25 and October 6" might make your retinas fall asleep out of context but I sat up straight when I read it (basically, as he says earlier, "Spreads provide an objective, numerical, market-based measure of financial distress" and the average spread for T-bills is I think thirty or forty points. You get the idea).

I also read the first half of The American Way of Poverty, which was absolutely heartbreaking, and couldn't bear to go on and finish it partly because I get bored with other peoples' "if-I-ran-the-world-this-is-how-I'd-fix-it" fantasies but mainly because even if that part was any good, there is absolutely no chance any kind of policy change is going to be made at all -- hell, we're still fucking waiting around here to find out whether or not EUC is going to be renewed or if it's going to be an absolutely terrible Christmas. The book is based on this website, which is full of even more absolutely heartbreaking stories. And those stories are just going to go on and on. There will be more of them -- more of us. Nobody is even going to try to fix it, just as nobody is going to jail for the giant global Ponzi scheme. There's no acceptable vocabulary in Washington left to even try to conceive of the problem, let alone how to possibly fix it.

I kept taking time out from all this to reread parts of To Say Nothing of the Dog, and I think you can probably understand why.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


'The Zodiacal Light' from The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings


'Today he's gone home'

'it is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world....but I don't see much movement out there'


'the man who died in his boat'

When I was a teenager the wreckage of a sailboat washed up on the shore of Agate Beach. The remains of the vessel weren't removed for several days. I walked down with my father to peer inside the boat cabin. Maps, coffee cups and clothing were strewn around inside. 

I remember looking only briefly, wilted by the feeling that I was violating some remnant of this man's presence by witnessing the evidence of its failure. Later I read a story about him in the paper. It was impossible to know what had happened. The boat had never crashed or capsized. He had simply slipped off somehow, and the boat, like a riderless horse, eventually came back home.

reason #987,654,321 why Twitter sucks

She began tweeting at Trooper William Finn, a spokesman with the Washington State Patrol who was at the scene of the crash, to see if he had descriptions of the cars involved. They had interacted online before regarding traffic incidents and once exchanging the recipe for a low-carb pizza.

“Immediately, I went into overdrive mode and I stopped tweeting the whole thing,” Finn told CNN. While he would normally tweet out an image of the wreck, this time was an exception. “I didn’t want someone to find out over Twitter that their husband passed away. I didn’t want her to find out that way. That is a hard thing to go through.”


Dan Savage out-snarked by his own comments section

I get tired of his schtick but today I'm happy for his existence, because it meant I got comments like this:

Let's get back to basics this time of year, "natalis solis invictus" everyone!

I want a shirt that says MERRY WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT TO CELEBRATE. Can anyone make this for me? Comic Sans preferred.  

FRONT: "Merry Christmas is what conservatives say" 
BACK: "99% of you can fuck off is what conservatives mean" 

Ha! We have them fooled! REAL liberals say "Joyous Solstice". 

Is it time for that zombie carpenter's birthday again? You'd think after being eaten by Papists all year long there'd be nothing left to throw a party for. That must be the miracle part, I suppose. And why is there never cake for his birthday? Everyone else has cake and ice cream for their birthday parties. And hats. The Brits have hats for zombie carpenter's birthday so why not us? Cake and Ice cream and hats. Now that's a goddamn birthday party.  

How about "Merry Wednesday"?  

....the extremes on either side can be vexing. I went to a "holiday tree" lighting the other night that featured a choir that sang a sappy song about helping, a traditional Hanukah song, and a song about solar energy that was set to the tune of "Angels We Have Heard On High". The whole thing was so ridiculously Seattle that I had the urge to stage a live Nativity scene right then and there, but I didn't have a manger handy (although there were plenty of asses in attendance). 

I want a shirt that says "'Happy Hanukkah' is what Reform Jews say" and has the Shehecheyanu on the back. No wait, I'm not a complete tosser.

(And for good measure we got this beautifully earnest fightin' mad comment too.)

'President Obama Speaks on Economic Mobility'

Transcript here.

The top 10 percent no longer takes in one-third of our income -- it now takes half.  Whereas in the past, the average CEO made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker, today’s CEO now makes 273 times more.  And meanwhile, a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family, which is a record for this country.

So the basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed.  In fact, this trend towards growing inequality is not unique to America’s market economy.  Across the developed world, inequality has increased.  Some of you may have seen just last week, the Pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length.  “How can it be,” he wrote, “that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.

Yesterday we saw The Smartest Guys in the Room and Inside Job. I sat there with my mouth open for so long my tongue dried out. One more documentary and I'll be wandering down to Kshama Sawant's office and begging to be allowed to lick envelopes in support of her plan to retool Boeing war machine plants into bus factories, or whatever the hell it is she's doing now.

e for effort

NPR finally realizes all those internet-mad "listicles" are brain-deadening, and tries for something that requires actual intellectual effort: a thematic "best books concierge."

Unfortunately their staff's prose is still rampant with Choire Sichaform encephalopathy and will have to be put down: "And we started to think about a site that would be more Venn diagram-y than list-y...." TALK LIKE AN ADULT, PLEASE.

"....a site that could help you seek out the best biographies that were also love stories, or the best mysteries that were also set in the past." Hey, I remember something that worked like this! It was called a CARD CATALOGUE. The lost art of cross-referencing! What other mysterious yet intriguing intellectual tools await us in the dark lands far from the comforting neon ADD glare cast by Buzzfeed and Flavorwire? Safe return doubtful indeed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013