Thursday, November 30, 2006

Greek to me

Pretty damn cool.
Also damn cool.

Under the Sea

Last night we were watching some cool deep sea beasties on David Attenborough's The Blue Planet. These are the beasties which will one day have to evolve and re-populate the Earth after everything goes to shit later this century.

I wonder what the next self-aware critters who come to dominate Earth will look like? Will they bioluminesce?

Cha and I have different plans for the upcoming environmental catastrophe. Her plan is for us to join hands and walk into the sea. My plan? Stockpile refried beans and bottled water and books on a mountain top so we can watch the end in comfort.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari the other night and didn't much like it. Seeing cinema in the equivalent of its toddler stage has some charms but aside from the Expressionist sets I wasn't particularly interested.

Pandora's Box, on the other hand, is magnificent. If the silent film from last week was a toddler, this is a post-pubescent experimenting with its raw sexuality. Of course Pandora's box and Eve's apple are euphemisms for the extraordinary power of female sexuality--and men's helplessness to resist it--and in this film dancer Lulu opens her own box (ahem) and unleashes its awesome power to the detriment of quite a few testosterone-laden dunderheads. Weimar Berlin provides numerous targets, including a besotted young woman whose Sapphic crush goes unrequited. Unfortunately, like her mythic and Biblical predecessors Lulu must pay for her hotness.

Louise Brooks scintillates in the lead role. I could watch 2 hours of footage of Louise brushing her teeth and be perfectly contented; she is fine. The sets and the obvious improvements in the craft of cinema between Caligari and Pandora's Box--less than a decade apart--are extraordinary. Loved Pabst's work with mirrors and moody angles and smoke and strange sculptural backdrops. Luscious.


Noam Chomsky has long discussed Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories in terms of apartheid South Africa--Chomsky has used the term bantustan to describe how the IDF divvies up enclaves of oppressed Palestinians and subjects them to dehumanizing treatment.

I watched Jimmy Carter on Wolf Bliter's show, then on Hardball with David Schuster, and finally on the News Hour tonight. The former President is plugging his new book on the Middle East conflict, and his three appearances marked perhaps the first three times I remember anyone telling the truth about the situation on American television. I think Jimmy's been reading Noam's stuff, because Carter has adapted the language of apartheid to describe Israel's actions. Just check out his title:

Carter didn't tell Wolf Blitzer that Clinton was lying about Arafat at Camp David, but he inferred strongly that Bill wasn't being truthful about what went on. All three anchors tried to press him about his facts but Carter said basically: "This stuff is in the public record. Nobody talks about it here, but it's true. The Israelis refused the offer we accuse Arafat of refusing. The Israelis have a debate within their society about this conflict and we uncritically report one side of it to our population. A small minority in Israel wants to steal land and control it and will use any means to ensure they can steal it. Most Israelis disagree with this policy, and Americans don't hear the full story."

Certain powerful lobbies are not going to be pleased by this media blitz of our most successful X-Pres. Many Democratic congresspeople will likely find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to disavow or distance themselves from Carter in order to hang on to the support of said lobbyists.


In clear, simple French (this is the first book I've read in that language without once having to thumb through a dictionary), Laurence Wyle and Jean-François Brière discuss French behavior and institutions in a historical context. Their goal is to give Ugly Americans a deeper understanding of their least favorite Europeans, beyond the lame "surrender monkeys" and Jerry-Lewis-fans stereotypes. Much of the book compares and contrasts American and French behavior and beliefs--our different views of democracy and education and capitalism in particular are emphasised. The comparisons are rewarding and the discussion of the separation of church and state in France vs. the US was very illuminating.

There are also excellent text features, including many cartoons. One night I was reading it at the Liberry and a French exchange student asked me if the book was 'fair' to her people. "Awl ze Americane bookz, zey ate ze Franch peoble," she said. Not this one.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I learned nothing new from Al Gore's mildly wonky documentary, but his slide presentation was effective and alarming. Gore finishes on an optimistic note, but I'm going to bed thoroughly depressed and further convinced the end is nigh.

One inconvenient truth Al conveniently forgot to mention: he and Bill Clinton allowed the SUV exemption and the deterioration of fuel efficiency standards in the US in order to bail out struggling auto manufacturers and to reward union supporters. All Al's talk about saving the environment being good for the economy if only we had the political will was therefore nothing more than air pollution coming from him. Of course he doesn't have to give these speeches; I respect Al Gore much more now than ever before, and suspect he's actually changed stripes since the Florida recount. Those pre-war MoveOn speeches were excellent, as were his passionate critiques of torture and wiretaps and other Cheney Admin forays into illegality. But, nevertheless:

Whistler's Mother in absentia

Snapped this of one of Julio's most recent paintings while over their place for dinner. Typically he's much more allegorical. Much as I love those densely significant paintings, this one has a purity I admire. Don't know the title, I'm afraid.

I'll have to take more snaps of his stuff when I get the chance. It sells too quickly!

Sheer Gluttony

The amount of food we have leftover from the holidays is beyond ridiculous. There are only two people in our household. Two people and a dove and some fish. Some plants, too. We can't possibly eat all of this food. I, in fact, have no desire to eat any food now. I feel like fasting for a week.

Thursday we went to my folks and had a nice day despite some atypical family drama resulting in the absence of one brother and one bit of sad health news. We brought home turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet taties, sour kraut, gravy.

Friday we went to my in-laws' and had a nice day despite some atypical family drama resulting in the absence of one brother. Again, it was a long day of gorging and we brought home a variety of Philippino leftovers.

Saturday we had a pleasant dinner at Julio and Yo! Adrienne's, and fortunately they didn't give us any food to bring home.

Sunday we had Cha's family over again, this time to our place, to try and eliminate some more food. We got through a good chunk of the leftover goodies, but more cake and pie was added to the stockpile, alas.

All in all a good weekend. From Wednesday night until last night at 10 pm there were no students in the neighborhood--they all went home to torment their parents. Then, at precisely 10:04 last evening the ominous thump of the bass from next door resumed.

I got a lot of painting done this weekend. Only five more rooms to go and we'll be ready to list the house.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Wings of Desire is something special. Angels move around a sepia-toned Berlin, listening to humans' thoughts. Occasionally the angels touch people when they are particularly moved, but only the very old, the frail, or the mad seem to notice these caresses. Oh, and the actor Peter Falk is aware of the angels too, for reasons I won't disclose.

I thought it magnificent and dreamy, like a masterpiece of German Expressionism with the light touches of a romantic comedy at the finale. Like Falk tells one of the angels: coffee is great, as is a cigarette, and rubbing your hands together when they're cold feels magnificent. People don't notice how wonderful these things are anymore, however, trapped in their interior monologues, their endless catalogues of personal suffering and doubt. The eternal angels envy us and we can't understand why.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mary Henderson

My second-favorite periodical, Harper's, often features interesting paintings by relatively unknown artists. This month they have Dinner Table by Mary Henderson (her painting Baseball Game is above).

I find her work very striking. There's a clash between what I regard as painfully banal subject matter and a truly masterful technique, and the void left betwixt these two opposing forces I fill in with my own experience as a college professor and a long-time sufferer of neighborhood frat and sorority shenanigans. I'm both drawn to and repulsed by these paintings as a result. According to James Joyce's aesthetic theory, Mary Henderson's work is therefore pornographic.


Troubled by some awkward cuts in this intriguing film, I checked around and found out that Disney chopped the theatrical release from 123 minutes down to 105 for no apparent reason. I can't say much about Like Water for Chocolate as a consequence, because I can only speculate about its full original effect. The 105-minute version is too jumpy and clumsy, but there are dreamy languid sequences that perhaps hint at the original pacing. I was reminded of a Telemundo soap opera, but with lots of magical realism. The mother is cartoonishly awful (¿cómo usted dice no more wire hangers en español?), and there are many very sexy touches (including an acrobatic redhead riding a revolutionary guerrilla cowgirl style while on horseback). Didn't expect the, uh ur--fiery climax at all.

Perhaps somebody will do a more complete DVD release, using a less murky transfer. Still worth seeing in its present frenetic state.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Reading Raymond Carver affects my vernacular. I begin thinking and speaking in a folksy clipped manner. All words worth more than a nickel vanish from my vocabulary. This phenomenon happens with TV shows regularly (when I watch 2 episodes of The Wire per day for a week, for example, I'll start to say muthafucka and sheeyit and bitch more often). But typically what I'm reading doesn't change how I speak. I don't coil my verbiage with endlessly looping dependent clauses when I'm reading Henry James, for instance.

But Carver's simplicity is deceptive, as they say. You can read one of his sad tales of loss and the losers who experience it in a straigtforward manner, enjoy the story and mark its lack of pretense, and miss completely its surprising depths. This collection has several stories I've read before: "A Small Good Thing" can still bring a tear to my jaded eye after a half-dozen re-visits; "Cathedral" insists that we're all blind and unable to communicate; "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" discusses darkly the greatest mystery humans face; and, of course, there's the title story, which I've taught to hundreds of undergrads,and which still knocks me for a loop. I find more symbolism in "Where I'm Calling From" each time I read it, and each time I think How in God's name could I have missed that all these years?

I missed that because Carver is a true master of the form, and his gift for subtle, simple imagery may be unmatched. All those references to fires, hearths, flames, chimneys, chimney sweeps, and wells in the title story? They add up to an impressionist masterpiece, and there are several in this volume.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I saw truly terrible trailers for this back in 1999, and refused to see it as a result. Just goes to show how foolish some marketing folk are, because The Iron Giant is an excellent animated film--easily on a par with The Triplets of Belleville or Miyazake's stuff. I laughed out lout several times as US Cold War propaganda was ably lampooned, and there's a scene with a freaky beatnik in a lawnchair that cracked me up. Features quelques hommages to Bambi and The Day the Earth Stood Still, which are seamlessly woven into the story. Beautifully animated to boot. I might break my self-imposed no-DVD-purchasing ban for this one. Kudos to Faulty Landscape for the recommendation.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Today while Cha was at her graduate class at George Mason I took the liberty of inviting the 1-800-Got Junk? boys over for a visit. Aside from breaking a window in our basement door, they did a great job. I feel immeasurably better.

Before the junk men came Cha put some stuff on Craig's List, and people took away old dumbells, a desk, and some crappy Caldor book cases.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Why wasn't God watching?
Why wasn't God listening?
Why wasn't God there?

Tom Waits

The Year of Magical Thinking is a horrible book. By the descriptive 'horrible' I don't mean in any way to impugn the quality of the book, which--like others Didions I've read--is sharply honed, elegantly reasoned, and deeply sincere. I'm rather describing with 'horrible' the events narrated in this memoir of suffering, of grief and mourning.

I recall near the culmination of the national fiasco known as the Schiavo Affair reading in the New York Review of Books an essay by Joan Didion about the case. I recall an unexpected turn in the essay's last third, wherein Didion was surprisingly sympathetic to the Schindler family stand, and in which she was deeply hostile to Michael Schiavo, to the point of re-hashing some rightwing claptrap about his motives, and even suggesting he was not wholly innocent in Terri's original injury. I'd of course long had my opinions about the Schiavo Situation, and finding an intellect I typically admire--and in a periodical with which I'm typically ideologically aligned--suggesting that I was entirely wrong was, to say the least, troubling. I remember thinking that if Joan Didion really thought Michael Schiavo had hurt Terri then perhaps I'd completely misread the entire national soap opera.

But I remained adamantly against the government's intrusion in the case, and simply shrugged off Didion's position as a quirk. I can disagree with my idols and continue admiring them.

Now that I've read The Year of Magical Thinking, and glimpsed in her own words what Joan Didion and her family had experienced shortly before Schiavo unfolded, I can understand more fully her attitude that Schiavo should be kept 'alive' by any means necessary for the sake of her parents. I doubt with distance from her own immediately successive family traumas that Joan Didion would still maintain a similar stance in a similar situation, but given her experience I can certainly see her point of view, and can appreciate with more compassion the 'magical' thinking to which the Schindlers fell victim.

Ricky don't lose that number

Santorum's decision robs us of a The Handmaid's Tale future.* Ironic that Rick cites his wife as threatening to "throw him out the window" if he ran, making the decision easy for him.

Ofrick has more clout than I thought.

*I can't link to the LiveJournal I stole this reference from--it's a long story.

Quite a storm yesterday

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sometimes a cigar

Cha's been telling me her dreams the last couple days. They're fun.


I'm with my parents and my sisters and we're buying chicken at a chicken restaurant. The chicken is crawling with flies and maggots but we decide to get some anyway. Suddenly I am overwhelmed by flies and larvae which cover me entirely. I fall on the floor and start suffocating. Then, I go out of my skin and there is my old self on the floor, collapsed, covered in flies. We walk down the street and a handsome man makes a sexual remark to me. I say "Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it?" and he [deleted for the protection of the innocent] my [CENSORED] exactly the way [pending Evangelical review by Ted Haggard]. Then there are worms everywhere.

This morning:

We're in a place where you go to see iguanas. There are iguanas everywhere. You are driving a motorcycle and I'm riding on the back. You are making too much noise with the motorcycle and the iguanas are getting angry, and so are the people who run the iguana place. We are supposed to get married, and we are late. I remind you of this and you tell me we are breaking up. I am crying and crying.

On the couch:

Last night's dream is a cute variation of the typical anxiety dream, but also features some interesting substrate projection material based in our past experience and into which I won't delve here. I found this dream very amusing; in fact, I think it's hysterical (nyuk nyuk nyuk).

Wednesday's dream is a true classic of Jungian transformation, and bears more significant fruit. Cha turns 35 in January, and according to esoteric philosophy the seven-year stages of life are powerfully significant in personal development. A dream of rebirth and renewal for sure.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


We've looked at probably 25 houses this year. Tonight we saw what I'd consider the loveliest by far, and were we to sell our place it's comfortably in our price range (and two miles from Cha's office). Built in 1860, it sits right on beautiful Union Square, catty-corner across the park from H.L. Mencken's home. The house has new 220 service, outlets galore, and recessed lighting. It has a spectacular gourmet kitchen that is about ideal in my book, and a big back yard with parking pad to boot.

Sure, whoever put in the dual-zoned HVAC hung some crappy bulkheads upstairs and punched vents through 140-year-old plaster to do the job, but even with these pesky problems the home is nevertheless lovely and in fantastic condition. And it maintains a lot of period detail despite the modern conveniences.

I'm surprised by the price. Homes on Union Square were over 400k last time I checked. Perhaps it's haunted!?

Monkey Mind

I was in a howling bad mood last night. For a few weekends I've been using spare time to throw junk away and pack. I've also been fixing moldings and patching cracks in the plaster and painting. Yesterday I painted the bathroom and found the process extremely frustrating. What's the point? I kept asking myself, applying the third coat of primer to the ceiling. Whoever buys this house--if anyone does--is going to gut this bathroom anyway. This is a waste of time! Every errant drop sent me into a rage, and I swore a hole through the ozone layer while trying to paint that fucking 20' high skylight over the tub. I screwed up at the border of the ceiling and wall at one point, bleeding lavender paint into pure white, and I nearly took a hammer to the plaster.

When Cha came home she asked if I was happy and I told her no. "I hate this fucking dingy old house. There's music throbbing through the wall, the front yard is littered with Busch Light cans again, and I'm trying to make it look palatable to buyers who are going to flip it into a quick rental property anyway. There's junk piled everywhere and I can't read or think or relax if there's clutter. There's always clutter." Meanwhile, she's finally started cleaning the junk out of her studio. Unfortunately, "cleaning" for Cha means hiding things in the attic, basement, and trunk of her car. It also means moving piles of things from one place to another. Now the formerly constrained catastrophe of her room is spread throughout the house. It's been worse in the past, but so much disorder makes me insane. I was moving some boxes down to the basement when one of her booby traps of mysteriously positioned objects nearly killed me. She'd stacked a bunch of wine glasses from the annual community association dinner on a plastic tray at the foot of the basement stairs and covered them with a red table cloth. Carrying a big load I didn't see them and they shattered around my ankles and I nearly fell on a rolling glass into the debris. I thought I'd stepped on a landmine, and my ankles were tangled in red fabric and I was crunching broken glass in my cheap flip-flop slippers. Whence this propensity of hers to put shoes and rolling pins and boxes and sharp objects right at the foot of staircases? I swear she's trying to collect my life insurance.

But we're making progress. Most of last night's rage I think came from the fact that I don't hate our house. I love our house, and would be happy fixing it up and staying. That option is off the table, however, because of the fraternal order of nincompoops next door and their brethren down the entire row of houses. My anger springs from the fact that I don't like being forced out of this formerly comfy niche.

All of this is upadana. I read some Raymond Carver short fiction last night and cheered up immediately. Then I noticed that our new brightly painted bathroom is much lovelier than the dank old moldering off-white cave it was before. It's a pleasure to sit in there and read The New York Review of Books.

Betty Crocker it Ain't

I was under the impression from today's easily available pronography (and from more intimate experience, heh-heh) that nobody even had pubic hair any more.

Seth proves me wrong. This type of niche marketing is fascinatating. What's next? We've already had the cornhole bleaching process, after all.

Homer: Mmmmmm, Super Moist Betty...


Palahniuk has been recommended to me so many times over the last decade that it's become a given at parties--somebody I meet for the first time is going to recommend one of his novels. This never fails.

I thought the film Fight Club was great fun, even though the alter-ego was handled a bit transparently, so when I did settle down to read my first Palahniuk I was eager to do so.

Diary was terrible, however. I didn't like the voice, the structure, the ham-handed way the novel turned now and again into a lecture on art history or Carl Jung or chemistry (note to novelists--it's possible to incorporate such material into the narrative rather than turning your narrative into an expository text several times). By the half-way point I was unamused, by the two-thirds point I was obligated to finish and bored by the entire affair.

Distill Diary down to its purest essence and you get Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, which is far creepier, far more elegant, and doesn't try to do too much. I think Palahniuk's book suffers from an overabundance of purposes--he wants it to be political, he wants it to be social commentary, he wants it to be a horror novel, he wants to show off his knowledge of art history, and he wants people to think that Jung for Dummies book he flipped through makes him an expert on psychoanalysis. Certainly it's possible to do so many things with a single novel; Pynchon, Gaddis, and Gass are only a few who've done so. I found Diary a mostly annoying rehash of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby. I'll give Chuck another shot--but only one more.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


We're still planning to move, but there's less urgency about it now. I'm packing the remaining uncrated half of my library more slowly. This is one of the books I found about which I'd forgotten: one of many 'advanced readers copies' leftover from the bookstore management days. Starting it, I fell so deeply into the first story that I wondered why I hadn't read it long ago. But, as one of Baxter's characters says: "It's funny how books find us when they want us to read them."

An extremely impressive collection of short fiction, capped off by a novella that stands with the absolute best of the form (Barn Burning, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, The Jolly Corner). I can't say enough about Baxter's work, so I'll say little--except that I'll be reading much more of his stuff, and sooner rather than later.


Stroszek, a German soldier, is wounded in the head in Greece. Near death, he is taken into the care of a local nurse named Nora, and marries her when healed. They are re-located to Crete where easy duty guarding a munitions dump in an old fortress will allow Stroszek time to recuperate.

But the walls of the fortress imprison Stroszek, whose recuperation is entirely physical. The maddening and endlessly cyclical behavior of fish and cockroaches and chickens frustrates him. The odd contradictory thoughts of his comrades annoy him. His wife's intelligence and love drive him batty. He goes mad after shooting at a field of windmills and dreams of blotting out the sun with a barrage of hand-made rockets.

Stroszek is an earth-bound Icarus, but Herzog's camera swoops joyfully close to the sun. A beautifully rendered masterpiece, and a stunning first film.


Years ago I read these disturbing twin volumes about male fantasies and repressed sexuality and the emergence of fascism in Germany. Then yesterday Steven Hart posted over at The Opinion Mill the following pathetic nonsense by Goucher College graduate Jonah Goldberg:

How Bush Should Handle Loss

I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear's claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, "I'm not going anywhere."

This will send important messages to Democrats and well as to our enemies overseas, who are no doubt high-fiving as we speak.

I think people on the Left do use the 'fascist' label a bit too freely when talking about today's rabid ultra-rightists. But when I read claptrap like Goldberg's pathetic masculine fantasy about the Dear Leader, I think of Goering and Goebbels and Himmler at a hunting lodge, blood on their faces, sitting in the steam room together in the 1930s. Whatsa matter Jonah? You went to Goucher the first year it was co-ed instead of all-gal and found out you still weren't regarded as particularly masculine on campus? Still feeling some sorry need to compensate? Still upset that those Volvo-driving elitist lefties outnumbered you in college? Loser.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Another Evil Bastard Down?

Looks like Revoltin' Bolton might join Rummy in the NeoCon Retirement Home/Loony Bin.

I don't see how Bush thinks this is a good move. The GOP Senators are already peeved over the timing of Rumsfeld's firing; had Bush done that before the election it's likely Republicans might have kept control of the chamber, after all. Plus, Chafee and Hagel and Voinovich didn't support Bolton last time--how's he even going to get out of committee, let alone win backing from two thirds of the Senate?

It's as if Bush is dissatisfied with having proved his stupidity to only 70% of the electorate. He wants to win everyone over.


I don't know what's going on where you are, but here in Baltimore it's perfectly clear and close to 80 degrees. Rather than eating on my lunch hour, I walked 1.5 miles, and sat on a bench at the Towson Courthouse (pictured) for a bit. Good people and bird watching.

My wife is in Ocean City for a conference. Hope she gets some time today to get out on the boardwalk and/or beach.

Work this afternoon: let's just say I'm less than motivated to write multiple choice vocab questions for fourth graders. I'd rather be out-of-doors (just as I finished typing this my boss emailed that she will be working from home the rest of the day--must be nice!).

I told you so

I've been saying here for more than 3 years that Dr. Dean had the prescription for what ailed us. Kudos to him for taking on such a difficult task after losing his quest for the presidency. After Kerry and the DLC Clintonites undercut Dean by any means possible, Dean decided to keep trying instead of telling the Democrats to 'fuck off.' He'd certainly have been justified in doing so. Dean actually cares about America more than about grabbing power, I suspect, and decided to keep working at rebuilding an opposition party in disarray. He didn't go home to sulk, but started immediately campaigning for the DNC Chair position, all along raising money for his 50-state strategy.

Rahm Emmanual and Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi deserve some credit of course, but Dr. Dean expanded Democratic efforts in a way that stretched Rove's 51% strategy too far and allowed surprising victories in deep red states. I for one think he's great, and all the Dean critics who called him foolish and incapable can SUCK IT.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Our Savior--apparently bored with his previous manifestations on windows, toasted cheese sandwiches, in trees and upon rocks--has decided to appear on a dog's ass:

Link via The Fortean Times

Still looking

Looked at four more houses last night, all in Charles Village. We saw a fantastic Victorian for about 30k above our price range. Too bad its kitchen was terrible, or we'd have been sorely tempted by those adorable original lamps and the lush woodwork and stained glass all over the place.

The one we liked most has a big yard, and is within blocks of the BMA and a new B&N and Wyman Park. The floors and lots of tiles are original, as are a few stained glass pieces and the mantels, but there are many good upated systems. The kitchen is abysmal--that seems to be the case in many of these city houses--but it's got good bones to work with. It also has a great basement; unfinished, but simply crying out for a club room with an 8 foot billiards table and bar.

The house is about five minutes from Cha's office at Young Audiences. I'd be a 25-minute bike ride from work, or--if I bought a car--a 10-minute drive away. The bus ride would take about 45 minutes each way. ]Speaking of work--I'm finished two five-week themes already, and I'm only supposed to be finishing the first one next week. I've been put on actual deadlines weeks earlier than anticipated because I'm fast. Should have slacked off even more. Hence the time to blog and search real estate web sites at the office.]

We're going to look at a couple places in Hampden, a couple more in Reservoir Hill, and perhaps more in Rodgers Forge/Govans/Belvedere Square. Good thing I enjoy looking at houses. We're in no rush in this suddenly cool market. Many of the houses we're looking at now have been on the market for 6 months, and have reduced in price already. Perhaps letting them simmer a bit longer is a good plan. At the price we paid for our place in Towson 10 years ago we can let the market freeze solid and still do well on the sale.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Can't concentrate on work

I'm a conflicted mess today, despite the joyous electoral news, and despite the resignation of our current leading war criminal. On the one hand, I'm giddy: I want to call every conservative I know and gloat. I want to get drunk. I want to wave banners and shout and scream. I want to piss on a burning Bush effigy. I want to hug Dr. Dean for his insistence on a 50-state strategy.

On the other hand, I feel great trepidation. The Iraq war is still going on. Darfur will continue to be ignored. The Rahm Emmanuels of the world want to play nice with the Republicans instead of exposing their misdeeds. The housing market sucks and I want badly to sell and buy. The budget is a wreck and the deficit will require painful decisions that will likely cost the Democrats some of their gains in two years. I recall that for a long time I agitated on behalf of 3rd party options because the Democrats fucking suck.

This is why I gave up intensely following politics over a year ago. The dizzying highs and lows, the hopeful and cynical cycles, the sense that when regarded with an eye cast toward epic stretches of history that nothing in politics ever really changes--all of this is enormously costly to sensitive folk. The toll is spiritual, physical, emotional.

But I had a fucking blast watching the coverage last night. Santorum's surprisingly eloquent concession was a joyous disappointment; I'd waited to see him lose for so long that to see him act gentlemanly instead of like his typically aggressive dickhead self deprived me of much-anticipated schadenfreude. Joe Scarborough attacked Chris Matthews after Chris Matthews attacked Howard Dean and it was awesomely bad TV. When that Virginia nail-biter turned to Webb before midnight last evening I was ecstatic and hooting like the frat boys next door. I enjoyed the maudlin round-table of Fox News ghouls slumping slowly through the evening and pulling out their hair. Seeing Michelle Malkin subdued was a gleeful thing.

But there's so much wrong now that a really right day doesn't dispell the worries. I still may get drunk tonight, however. One must allow the Dionysian release from time to time, and yesterday is a damn good reason. Rumsfeld is another!

An Equestrian to Boot--an Equestrian in Boots!

The Traveling Joneses forwarded this picture of Maryland's Governor Elect, taken on Defender's Day at Fort McHenry.

M. blames E. for the blurry image--and I thought those thousands of snapshots he took all over Europe with us had steadied his hands!

Another Evil Bastard Gone

Now that Renfield has resigned, what will The Master do? They've been joined at the hip in business and politics since Nixon.

Quite a bad day for Evil Bastards: Rummy joins Burns, Santorum, DeWine, Allen--the Evil Bastards from the House of Representatives who bought it yesterday are too numerous to list!
Our Governor can kick your Governor's ass.

Some joy in Muddville

Last night was astonishing. I stayed up flipping back and forth through the cable and local networks until a bit before 1am. Finally remembered that today was a busy day and decided to get some sleep. Looks like a Blue sweep, but I'll feel better when Virginia and Montana are finalized (both might take some time). I can't believe the donkeys actually pulled off both chambers.

Just seeing Santorum go pleased me no end, but Allen too? Wow.

Of course all Bush has to do is fire Don Rumsfeld, appoint Joe Lieberman Sec of Def, and then the Senate's back to 50-50 and Big Dick breaks the ties. Lieberman might save them the trouble of having to do all that and simply caucus with the party who financed and re-elected him: the Republicans.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Time to Vote

Work is granting us a half-hour of voting time; I'm taking advantage and leaving at 3pm to do my civic duty. That ten-minute walk to Towson High might suck if it starts to rain!

Forget all third-party idealism--I'm voting straight D this time around. Steele(R) is too close to Cardin(D), and Zeese(G)is an ass anyhow. Martin O'Malley might be a horrible guitar player and a worse singer, but he's getting my vote over Ehrlich for Gov.

All Dem down the line today. I'm trying not to be too optimistic, but I always feel very hopeful on Election Day. Let's hope tomorrow morning the hope turns out to have been warranted for once.


Love the lilting jazz soundtrack that occasionally bursts into full-fledged swing. Love the cloying sappy heartbreak anthem. Love the glorious colors of the sets, and the actors, and the streets of Cherbourg.

Hate Geneviève. She does Guy wrong, man. Even if they do end up happy apart, she really is heartless.

Better One than None

At the very least, after today there will be one senator in the US Senate with whom I'm ideologically aligned. There are a few who are near-misses (like Russ Feingold), but none I'd enthusiastically back since Paul Wellstone's death.

Go Bernie!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day

From the New York Times:

President Bush on Sunday seized on the conviction of Saddam Hussein as a milestone in Iraq, seeking to rally Republican voters with the issue of national security as some polls suggested that his party might be making gains in the final hours of the campaign.

The White House said the timing of the announcement, two days before Election Day, had nothing to do with American politics and had been dictated by the Iraqi court. But Mr. Bush moved quickly to put it to use in what has been his central strategic imperative over the past week, trying to rouse Republican voters to turn out.

Had a good belly-laugh over that assertion.

I'm not allowing myself any optimism about tomorrow; recent history has proven my optimism foolhardy one too many times.

OK, I'm allowing myself some optimism: at least after tomorrow those annoying canned phone message from Bob and Kendell Ehrlich and Babs Mikulski and Rudy Giuliani will cease. I had five such calls yesterday!


There's some fine writing here, and the premise is interesting, but I can't recommend Blue River. Two brothers--one successful, one a bit of a hoodlum--meet up again after a long separation. The successful brother Ed is a surgeon with a wife and son and all the trappings of an industrious career. The loser brother is Lawrence, who deals blackjack, works as a security guard, and hides in the hills when he's on the lam. Lawrence shows up one morning at Ed's place, and Ed tells him he can't stay. Then, for about 150 pages the novel goes into a bizarre passage wherein Ed thinks about Lawrence and addresses him in the second person. The second person is typically a drag and a technical challenge to pull off, and Canin is not up to the task. The reader is supposed to be surprised to find out that Ed and Lawrence's "good brother/bad brother" roles are perhaps not so clear-cut. But immediately after figuring that out our earlier decision is undercut with absolute proof that one brother is a monster--so who cares if the other feels guilty for turning him in?

Read Faulkner's Barn Burning instead--it's a far superior treatment of the same theme. Blood is thicker than water--to a degree.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a favorite of mine because I love the way Hedwig defeats sadness; she forges for herself a cartoonish superhero alter-ego who is tart, funny, and sexy, and who refuses to let life get the best of her. She also writes and performs kick-ass rock music. Watching the film one is continuously reminded that Hedwig's life is terribly sad, but everybody knows Hedwig has an indomitable strength of will, and that her powerful persona will ensure she'll always be ok.

Now John Cameron Mitchell has a new film, and I fought my way through an enormous throng of Borat patrons to catch the Shortbus matinee today at The Charles. It's pretty potent stuff, thematically related to Hedwig but much darker. Whereas Hedwig creates a cartoonish persona to combat a painfully real world, the characters in Shortbus are real people who inhabit a cartoonish NYC, rendered by Mitchell as a sort of quaintly ironic Mr. Roger's Neighborhood model. The camera moves around the adorable model buildings and in through the windows where people suffer the most miserable afflictions, and suffer them in terrible isolation despite the presence of friends and lovers and spouses and 10 million other people in similar circumstances. There's a lot of un-simulated fucking, much of it sexy and funny and sad. There are bodily fluids shooting through the air and the camera is unafraid of any het/homo/dom/tranny combo you can imagine. A sex therapist unable to have orgasms, a gay man in a wonderful relationship who is planning his suicide, a dominatrix with severe emotional issues--these are the sorts of people who end up at Shortbus, a kind of sex-club for the emotionally amiss. The film ends with the possibility of rescue for its main characters, but unlike in Hedwig I wasn't at all sure any of them would be ok after the credits began rolling. As a result, Shortbus made me exquisitely sad. There are awkward moments, but a film which relied on a collaborative process between the writer/director and his performers--and one which takes enormous risks to boot--will of course suffer some of these. They're not common. The leads are all believable and achieve believable people and believable fucking. I'd recommend it with the inevitable caveat that you can't be squeamish about frank portrayals of sex.

There are a couple good musical numbers, including the most rousing rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner I've ever seen on film.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why Borders Sucks, Reason Infinity

Borders at one time was really great. Then, they were taken over by the same crew of blinkered nincompoops that destroyed Waldenbooks. Now Borders just sucks.

City Living

Last night I walked around town waiting for Cha to finish her meeting. I walked up and down huge chunks of Calvert and St. Paul and Charles Streets, looking at houses for sale. I strolled the Walters Art Museum (the Courbet landscape show is pretty ok--not really situated in any particular enthusiasm of mine--and suffers from some terrible moody New Age music piped in). I could see the influence Courbet would have on later painters, in particular Cezanne. One darkened room was dramatic with snowy landscapes, each blazed with its own intense white-hot spotlight.

I visited the Contemporary Museum and saw its interesting show of saucy photos taken by fem photographers. I went to A People United and browsed fair-trade goods and Indian antiques.

Much on my mind: the possibility of living within city limits. Not since graduate school have I done so, when I lived in a section of Philadelphia affectionately referred to by Temple University faculty as 'Beirut.' Lafayette sat majestically astride his bronze steed just south of Washington's first phallic monument. I wish all Americans had read and understood its inscription before the Freedom Fries movement.

A tiny peace protest formed at the base of the park. I knew a few of the sign-waving Green Party peacenicks from my more active rabble-rousing days. They got lots of honks from passing cars. I sat on a bench. Immediately some chatty black teen employed at Sascha's sat down and filled me in on his life story. Then he rushed back to work and was replaced by an impossibly old woman in a ratty purple bathrobe and pink flip-flops. She looked at the peace protest with eyes sagged under the weight of basset hound skin hanging low off her forehead. "Lawdy, lawdy," she said, pointing at the puppet of Death waving a peace sign at the rally a half-block away, a tissue crumpled in her pointing hand. "Do you see that mumble-mumble?" she asked me.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," I said, bending near. "What did you say?"

"Lawdy. Do you see that tall ghost wrapped in black? Surely a sign o' bad tidings." She sighed and wiped the tissue along the bottom edge of one seeping eye. "The world is mystery." She looked so much like my great-grandmother I wanted to kiss her on the cheek.

Across the street from us were the offices of the Maryland Theosophical Society. A gaggle of crew-cut fat twenty-somethings made fun of the peacenicks from a safe distance. The moon waxed toward gibbous. The Catholic Church busily demolished an 18th-century building a block away. A Korean girl no more than five feet tall hauled a much taller double bass case down the block from the Peabody Academy. There was a small man on the steps of the Unitarian Liberal Church selling stolen merchandise. I could hear more cell phone conversations than I could follow. A gallery storefront featured French posters from the previous-to-last century and a large pink canvas with a chicken daubed dead-center.

"It sure is mystery," I agreed.


I'd been considering of late a return to 'fishatarianism,' but now that option seems less viable.

If 90% of ocean species "collapse" (love that euphemism), where will I get my USDA weekly requirement of mercury?

There is hope if commercial interests can be persuaded to accept some minimized profits short-term. Not likely, but if fish will cease to exist in the wild within a few decades at current rates, with the cost of finding and catching them growing each year, then perhaps fishing industrialists will see the writing on the wall and start rotating 'no take zones.'

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I just wrote a four-day lesson plan using this book for Listening Comprehension exercises. I don't know how the teacher is going to get through reading this to the class; you'd have to be a cold-hearted bastard not to get all misty. I had to shut my office door and yank out a hanky just writing questions about the text.


After work I'm heading down to The Walters to check out their Courbet show and renew my nearly-expired membership. It's First Thursday so the museums and galleries are free today. Cha has a meeting in Hamden until 6, and then we're looking at a few houses in Charles Village. After, we'll get some yummies in Mt. Vernon I'm sure.

Cha leaves for Toronto very early Friday morning. She and her folks and her sisters are going to a cousin's wedding. I'm remaining behind to continue painting and packing. Looking forward to the Rob Thorworth show Friday night.

Next weekend promises to be hectic too, what with the Charles Theater premiere of American Hardcore, my mother-in-law's birthday party, and of course Move Like Seamus Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween

The Horror

A truly horrifying Halloween; and no, it wasn't due to the three University parties on our block, or due to the couple of M.R. James masterpieces I re-visited late last night. The horror also wasn't due to the state of our politics domestically and internationally--the horrors of Halloween pale in comparison to those.

Rather, the horror--an icy hand of genital-clenching fear--came when our real estate agent dropped by and told us the seller's agent was trying to keep our good faith deposit on the Madison Avenue property. She was claiming we'd breached the contract because we didn't make a second good-faith deposit as required under said contract. The problem is, we'd already had the home inspection by the time that payment was required and had communicated through our agent--and received verbal assurances from the sellers that the message was loud and clear--that the contract was dead in the water. Our agent was in a mediation meeting with the seller's agent until about 10pm last night, involving a lawyer and the regional VP of his Coldwell Banker brokerage office.

I kept calling the office and our agent's cell phone and leaving messages: "I want my check back. I expect to have that check back. Get me my $5k back or we're going to have problems." It was kind of fun, but I'd much rather have watched The Fog or The Shining on DVD, or gone to karaoke somewhere.

Shortly after 10pm our harried and humbled agent called back to say our money was coming back to us. Bullet dodged. Back to looking.