Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monument to St. Paul Street Bridge Builders

You find the strangest alcoves wandering around sketchy neighborhoods in Baltimore.

the 'hood

Eutaw Mansion, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Walked around the neighborhood today, trying to capture some of the socioeconomic contrasts in our area.

Note to self: stay off of Lennox Avenue, even in broad daylight.

North Ave

North Ave, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Revitalization, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Swanky, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Eutaw Place

Eutaw Place, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Our latest HBO TV series via Netflix project, and we're hooked. Seems silly to keep watching these shows we know got cancelled before achieving fruition, but what they hey? Gotta kill time somehow.

An avatar is found by a roving band of carnies during the Great Depression. Like most avatars, Ben Hawkins doesn't really understand his gifts or his role. Lots of creepy mutants, mystical visions, supernaturally gifted weirdos, and hot chicks. And Tarot symbolism.

Plus, it's good to see Michael J. Anderson in something other than a David Lynch production:


Broke down and saw The Simpsons movie last night. Pleasantly surprised by its subservsive silliness. I guess I was expecting it to be terrible, but it was rather good. Don't watch the show often any more, but have noted on the occasional Sunday eve the past couple of years that the series has regained some of its previously lost lustre. The movie is like one of the better recent episodes; it's not quite up to the glory days, but has several good laughs. The state of our politics gets a good razzing, Homer ruins the world through stupid arrogance but redeems his mistakes, Disney is targeted for a sound drubbing, and many Springfield cliches are revisited for long-time fans. Even the jokes that have been done before on the show are redone in new and engaging ways.

A puzzling lack of Mr. Burns in the plot. The villains this time come from Washington DC.

Many teens in the audience were likely born during the fourth or fifth season.

Went with K'wali and Klez, who doesn't understand parallel parking. They are leaving for Bermuda in a week. I asked if their package deal includes a trip via wormhole back to 1947, or an alien abduction with probing.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Re-assessed to death

One of the main reasons we bought our house was the ten-year tax credit deal. Because it was an abandoned property rehabbed to historic specifications, the City was supposed to credit our tax bill each year with an amount equal to the increased tax due to re-assessment after the rehab. This plan is to encourage suckers from the County to move into formerly abandoned City properties. Makes sense. It lured us downtown.

Yes, the process can be a bit confusing. But the final result is supposed to be that our out-of-pocket property tax costs should not increase over the pre-rehab amount for ten years. Before the rehab work on our house, the annual property taxes amounted to $500. We are supposed to be locked in at $500 for ten years.

I got a property tax bill for $5000 dollars a month ago. We can't afford more than $400 a month in property taxes. If we could I would buy a BMW. I called the City. I waited on the phone in an endless queue. Every two minutes an electronic voice updates you on on your progress through this queue: "You are now caller number 23. Your approximate wait time is one hour and seven minutes." An awful experience. I got through eventually to someone who told me to wait because the paperwork hadn't gone through and that everything would be fine in two weeks.

So I waited. The paperwork went through. I got a bill for $3,500. This of course is still $3000 more than what we were told we would have to pay each year. I went through the miserable phone queue again: "You are now caller number 8,547. By the time we get to you, the sun will have expanded into its red giant phase, consuming the innermost planets and rendering your concerns petty and insignificant."

I got through again. I was given the name Brigitte in the City office. Brigitte said she had to go into the Archives, and that it would take her a while. Two weeks later Brigitte called back and said there was a mistake, but she didn't know what it was. She gave me the name Owen at the State level. Now I'm at the State level, and expect in another two weeks to be at the Federal level.

Why can't anything be easy? I just know we're going to have to hire a lawyer and fight this bullshit, and that we'll end up at hearings. And that as a result I'll be paying thousands in attorney fees to avoid paying thousands in property taxes that we're not supposed to owe in the first place.

Wah. I want my mommy.


According to the Antichrist in the Kitchen, all Blogger sites have been banned from military installations. Presumably government offices will soon follow. No wonder I've seen a precipitous drop in traffic over the last few weeks*. Several regular readers in the federal government, in the intelligence field, and in the armed services are now unable to poison their minds with my doubleplus ungood ramblings about Alberto Gonzales.

I'm sure glad we have a conservative nanny state to protect us from dangerous ideas. Much better any day than that long-feared liberal nanny state.

*which has, of course, nothing to do with the painfully rote blogging here of late.


Working through Bergman's catalog on Netflix has been one of my great pleasures over the past few years. A couple dozen films not in Netflix's warehouse remain, and I look forward to tracking them down.

Ingmar has rejoined Sven Nyquist on the other side.

Here is Bergman in 2004:

"I don't watch my own films very often. I become so jittery and ready to cry ... and miserable. I think it's awful."

I too often become jittery and ready to cry and miserable watching his films. Bergman often challenged us painfully with shocking honesty and unbearably intense intimacy. I thank him. Perhaps the greatest artist in cinema history? If not, definitely a premiere member of a tiny elite.

Friday, July 27, 2007

It happens that quickly

A couple weeks ago I shaved my head bald. This is not uncommon. I used to do it every two weeks. Now I wait a few months in between, developing a thick shag before I cut close and start again. I haven't paid for a haircut since I was 19, and have saved an assload of cash that way.

But this most recent shave was significant. I shaved off my calico blond/brown/red hair, and in its place grew back hair with a new feature--a touch of gray just above both ears.

This shouldn't be surprising. I'm 38 years old. Most of my long-time friends have been gray or balding for quite some time. Guys five or six years younger than me are balding or gray. But I was shocked. I had to look twice. I couldn't believe it.

Cha saw it a couple days ago and freaked out. She was playing with my hair, she gasped, she grabbed, she turned on the light. I knew what she was looking at. "Stop playing with my gray hairs," I said.

"I'm married to an old man," she said.

DUI's final frontier

I suggest that in light of this disclosure we blast Paris and Lindsay into space.

Through the looking glass

In his book Body of Secrets, James Bamford uncovered many ultra-secret plans by US Intelligence agencies to target American citizens with terror attacks. After these attacks--carried out by operatives trained and coordinated by the NSA and/or CIA--official foes of the US would be blamed in order to provide a pretext for war.

One such plan involved sabotaging a US space mission. After the space craft was exploded, killing the crew, the US government would find "evidence" that Castro had done it. Voila! War with Cuba.

I wonder who is going to be blamed for this?

Für Emily

Pithy music blurbs

I adore this CD. Miller inhabits a kind of middle ground between the rough-and-tumble country rock of the Drive By Truckers and the more polished hard-driven songcraft of Steve Earle. As instantly appealing as Peter Case or Gillian Welch's stuff, the songs on Citation sound like they've been around forever. And, there's a kick-ass Neil Young cover.

I was floored by LaMontagne's debut LP Trouble. Till the Sun Turns Black is just as soulfoul, but takes a Nietzschean turn toward the dark abyss. "You can bring me flowers/when I'm dead and gone"--such dark lyrics sung over a shaky blues jazz groove in that expressive gravelly voice? Delicious.

A roots music record narrated by a world-travelling cat who claims friendship with Hank Williams. Fuckin' a. This here is the shit.

This album can't be thirty years old. It still pushes boundaries. I think this is fantastic, but my neighbors won't let me play it loud. Adventurous fractured jams.

Nod to Seth for the recommendations.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Had dinner with Julio and Yo! Adrienne last eve at Iggy's. She gave me the above book for no particular reason--she just loves giving gifts! It's really great, with lovely 19th century images of gothic cathedrals and landscapes.

Iggy's is awesome too, but eating there is like eating in an airplane hangar during the testing of jet engines. You can't hear over the cacaphony. Great pie, though. The four of us ate three large and one small. I thought I was going to puke but couldn't stop myself--the slices are, after all, only wafer-thin!

Try the Alice, or the funghi with shrooms and goat cheese, or the exquisite anchovie, olive and capers.

Joyeuse anniversaire...

Mommie Dearest turns 58 today. Holy cow! Happy Birthday.

She shares it with Mick Jagger and Helen Mirren.

Dr. May

Brian May is not merely a kick-ass guitarist with his own unique pure tone (from crafting his own guitars). He's also a physicist and mathematician about to achieve his PhD.

Apparently Mr. May stopped his doctoral thesis on the movement of space dust when his band Queen became a bit more successful than anticipated in the early '70s.

Queen was the shit, man. When I was nine years old my mom re-married and my new stepbrothers had the Queen LP A Night at the Opera. I listened to that stuff daily for a year, and used to get in fights with other neighborhood kids in Reisterstown who thought Kiss was better. Kiss sucked. In the Pantheon of rock gods Kiss wouldn't rate an altar niche, and any Kiss presence in the holy sanctuary would be based on costume and gimics more than their musical achievement. Queen, however, would merit their own tympanum. May's gorgeous slick guitar and Freddie Mercury's operatic voice moved me from tepid AM rock hits to more interesting material and I never looked back. I had all of Queen's LPs into my middle teens, but quickly moved on to other bands and kind of lost touch with them. I credit ambitious rock acts like Queen with my eventual interest in classical music.

The last few times I sang karaoke I did a little Freddie-channeling-Elvis number called "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Awesome! And it has a clever little guitar solo by Dr. May to boot. Might be time to get a few of their LPs on CD and see how they hold up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just Do It

I signed this pledge even though I had boycotted Nike long ago for a variety of cruel and inhuman activities.

Anyone associated with Michael Vick should face public and economic pressure to end that association ASAP, the NFL included. Take a minute to pet your dog or cat, think about Vick personally killing dogs on his property, and then sign the form.

Moist Pussy

There's nothing more disturbing than a wet cat. But you can see pictures of them here.

Impeach Gonzo at your own risk

I'm all for impeaching Alberto Gonzales; I think there's sufficient evidence not only to impeach his ass, but to chuck him in the clink today. He spent another few hours lying to the Senate yesterday, and now he doesn't even bother feigning respect or humility while using the Bill of Rights as Depends undergarments. He lies in a condescending manner, sneering at times with open contempt for the very processes he's sworn to uphold and protect. I was against Gonzo from the get-go, and upon his nomination pointed out that he was worse than the lunatic he replaced. John Ashcroft would never attempt to pressure a hospitalized and sedated AG to overturn the Constitution, as Gonzales did. Ashcroft would perhaps have anointed the sedated's head with oil and sung a rousing song about eagles...

The problem with impeaching Gonzales is that Bush has even worse assholes waiting in the wings. I suspect this is intentional, a sort of bizarro self-protection racket. "Impeach me, muthafuckas," Bush thinks to himself, "and you get Preznit Cheney. Impeach Alberto and you get Theodore Olson, or John Yoo."

The fact that we finally have a Senate that won't rubber-stamp whatever hoodlum the Administration sends up for approval means nothing to Bush. Recess appointments, baby.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Everyone here laughs nervously when I tell them about my new job, and then proceeds to tell me some horror story about why they fled the classroom to work in an educational non-profit. I just heard about a superintendent of schools who bumped into a student in the hallway at Lake Clifton high and was beaten senseless by a gang of kids.

Fear is the mind-killer.


apotheosis, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Suddenly and mysteriously my Flickr account has upgraded to Pro. I didn't pay for it, and I received no email notification that an anonymous do-gooder paid to upgrade me.

Strange. I'm not complaining certainly, but can't figure it out.

If I do have a benefactor, I'd like to request a renewal of my Library Thing account as well.



Monday, July 23, 2007


2 trains running, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

I gave notice this morning, and felt considerable guilt. My boss is close to a month's leave of absence due to her first pregnancy and now must rush around to find a replacement for me.* There are already other openings in Development, and a co-worker just had a death in the family and is out on bereavement to boot.

But I had to do it. I was going bonkers sitting here day after day reading lame picture books. Even Roald Dahl and Judy Blume couldn't make curriculum-writing palatable. I offered to work here part-time through September in order to make the transition easier, and there is some ongoing negotation about that possibility. I wouldn't mind this kind of work on a part-time basis. Especially if I were allowed to do it from home.

*I'm the fastest gun in the west. I routinely beat my deadlines by three or more days.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mt. Royal Station at MICA

Mt. Royal Station at MICA, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

A lovely day at Artscape

Pistil or Stamen?

Pistil or Stamen?, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Clever installation at MICA

Aches and Panes

Aches and Panes, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Taken during Artscape--inside what I believe is the Brown building at MICA

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This sucks

LE MATIN_FELLATIO.JPG, originally uploaded by ziormaworld.

Everything fun is deadly

Package from Chicago

Package from Chicago, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

I sent a package of Willie Nelson CDs to Chicago a few weeks back. My unadorned, ghetto assortment of discs sans cases, liner notes, or cover art went USPS.

In return I got a lovely assortment. Via FedEx. Jamming to CAN now. Never heard them. Like Bitches Brew meets Ummagumma.


Et tu, Brute?

So Mike Bahnicle of the Boston Globe was sitting in for Tweety on Hardball last night. There was a roundtable discussion about the Pentagon's dangerously un-democratic criticism of HRC.

One of the panelists was conservative Terry Jeffrey. Typically he's on the show to lie and obfuscate and defend the Administration. Last night he criticized the Pentagon and said HRC was entitled to the information she'd requested. He even quoted the requisite sections of the Constitution.

I fell on the floor. In recent weeks Bill O'Reilly, Peggy Noonan, The Washington Times' kooky Moonie editorial page, and the Richard Mellon Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have criticized Bush and the Iraq debacle. And now die-hard loyalist Terry Jeffrey is defending Hilary Rodham Clinton against deeply dishonest Bush administration attacks.

If his most loyal ideological "intellectuals" are criticizing Bush and calling his policies stupid and--in some cases--questioning his mental stability and competence--then who are the 25% of the population who still support the guy?

Friday, July 20, 2007


Whitelock Crew Wannabees, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

I watch kids in the neighborhood. They tresspass, they vandalize, they try to steal things from neighbors' yards. When confronted they say "fuck you." If you call the cops they vanish for an hour or two and then re-appear, trying to steal the scooter two doors down, or a bike next door, or the propane tank off someone's grill.

Two of the kids pictured here are homeless. They were squatting in the carriage house behind an end-unit building on our row. The carriage house was condemned and an investor has begun remodeling the end-unit into condominiums. The children and their mother were put out on the street. Not two weeks later the upper story where they lived collapsed.

In February I saw these children bathing in their swimsuits with a garden hose in a neighbor's yard.

I've been offered a job assisting a mentor teacher in a Title 1 school in Baltimore City. We're talking the worst of the worst. The City will pay me a stipend and will fund my participation in an accelerated graduate program at Notre Dame of Maryland. By May next year I'd be certified to teach French and English in middle or high school, and with two MAs and two BAs I'd be pretty advanced on the payscale. With summers off for lengthy travel opportunities.

But this is a major commitment. The environment in these schools is conducive to everything except learning. The buildings are a shambles--I drove past some wretched schools in Park Heights yesterday, schools where I could be assigned--and there is daily violence. I think Baltimore City graduates less than 30% of its students. Chaos rules the classrooms and hallways.

I have an easy boring job, but I also have a conscience. I have skills that might help. Other better-suited idealists have crashed and burned in the City schools. But if I can't cut it in the City I can flee with my certification to another county, or state, or even international teaching job.

Ugh. I have to decide by Monday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to talk about books you've never read

In ten years working book retail I dealt with many troubling, puzzling, or dimwitted patrons. Of course there were gazillions of the "it's a yellow book, about this tall, with the word 'the' in the title" sort, but they are a dime a dozen. There are more advanced degrees of troubling patrons, like the earnest young woman who brought her novel manuscript to the Info Desk and asked how long it would take us to 'print up' her book. When I explained that bookstores didn't solicit and print manuscripts on site she was dumbfounded and hurt. She'd no idea about editors, publishers, rejection notices--I shattered her glass unicorn worldview into bits. (With some glee, I might guiltily add.)

But the most troubling patron of all was the obviously wealthy 40-something who asked me for a single book that would allow him to discuss literature, philosophy, religion, art, cinema, and history like an intellectual. "I want just one book I can read that will make me sound like an expert on stuff, but I don't really want to read anything or have to think too much." I figure this guy made a mint selling swibbles or somewhat, because he was pure dullard, the kind of shallow dumbass who'd make $100 million and use it to start a dogfighting business.

That patron left the bookshop dis-satisfied. I teasingly tried to sell him Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, assuring him the wisdom of all ages was contained therein. But his plight made me sad. He was tired of hanging out with smart people at parties and having not a clue what anyone was talking about, and wanted in on the game. But he didn't want actually to have to learn anything. I was, in fact doubly sad, because I have been at parties where people talked about things about which I knew nothing (for example: hermeneutics, cosmic dust, daguerrotype preservation techniques, disorders of the amygdala, fisting, Nicholas Sparks, pseudo-Dionysus) and wished similarly for a magic elixir that could render me conversant on the most esoteric subjects. But I've always been keen on learning, and reading, and seeking. The fact that this guy thought a single book could bring him up to speed was a sign of deepest naivete; the fact that he wanted only a superficial degree of knowledge--just enough to impress the cocktail party set with his erudition--upset me no end.

Knowledge is about personal enrichment, about forging an identity, about crafting a unique capacity to engage the world. It's not about impressing other Rotarians at the country club.

Now Pierre Bayard has written a book for that patron.

[link via 3 Quarks Daily]

elles sont bien épuissées

elles sont bien épuissées, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

The gals are happy to see Julio back home.


Habenyowies!, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Julio's deadly pepper crop. Soon to be jarred as Stupid Hot Jelly.

Chilis and Chocolate

Chilis and Chocolate, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Julio is back from six weeks in Italy teaching fresco painting and touring hill towns. I didn't knock on their door today because I figured after six weeks that he and Yo! Adrienne would be, um, er, uh watching Deadwood or something.

But no, they called and asked me over. I got good loot: truffles, a jar of exquisite crema di porcini, and killer chocolate with chilis.

Julio busted out some habeneros from his garden and we ate them with a bar of dark chocolate. And sweated.


George W. Bush looked into Vlad Putin's eyes and declared him a "decent fella." That in itself serves as sufficient condemnation of Putin's character. In Russia journalists are killed, television stations are shut down or taken over by the government, and dissenters are beaten, imprisoned, or poisoned overseas with radioactive teas.

And now this? WTF?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Cecil B. DeMille's Sign of the Cross is on DVD at last. Unfortunately you can only purchase it as part of the above boxed set, but Netflix has each disc individually. Now you can freeze frame those wonderful pre-code shots of Empress Claudette Colbert's bosoms in a milk bath. Ah, technology. Charles Laughton plays Charles Laughton playing Nero, and the Christian corpses pile up quickly. Gloriously made, and fantastically trashy. Love it. Brings to mind old H.L. Mencken, who said somewhere that Christians were not persecuted in ancient Rome for their beliefs, but rather because they were a public nuisance.

I've enjoyed other Peter Weir films, but found Gallipoli curiously unmoving despite its anti-war theme. Curious to note that Mel Gibson once was a young and attractive and charismatic performer. Now Mel mumbles into his beard in his own dour cathedral, flagellating himself. Watch Picnic at Hanging Rock, or even Witness again instead.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What I learned tonight

Phyllis Diller is a portal.

Get a life

Nicholas Lezard needs to get a life. I might have failed to get through the first of the Potter books, but I'd never presume to judge Rowling or the level of her craft for such a paltry reason. Who cares if Rowling overuses adverbs to denote her characters' manner of delivering dialogue? Just think of all those gazillion youths, branded forever by "indignantly" or "firmly" or "curiously"! Won't somebody think of the children?

Adult bestselling authors overuse adverbs routinely(oops). Stephen King overuses adverbs and also CAPS LOCK and italics in order to make up for a lack of descriptive power.* I still liked Pet Sematary.

"Some books are meant to be FUN," he said frustratedly.

*Or because, like Rowling, he needs to churn out the next blockbuster by lunchtime, and worrying about silly stylistic points slows down the process.


Back when I worked for a certain enormous global retailer of books 'n such, they opened a superstore in Singapore. Within three days an appeal for assistance went out because the store did more than a million dollars' business in 72 hours and the staff was overwhelmed. I was flown there at considerable expense to re-arrange the back room into a more efficient workspace, to train the inventory crew, and to assist the cash office with an enormous backlog of daily sales reconciliations.

I had a great time. I stayed in an executive suite. I drank booze for free in an executive lounge every day. I met cool people and toured an exciting and vibrant city.

And worked 15 hour days.

Singapore is strange. It's got a lot of freedoms, and a high standard of living, but there's a soft fascism in effect. You can be fined a thousand dollars for possessing chewing gum, and you can be caned for relatively minor infractions. Undercover cops police the restrooms and hand out big fines for a failure to flush urinals. For some segments of the population, the soft fascism is rather hard. Homosexuality, for example, is totally outlawed. I remember when machine-gun toting police and soldiers burst into the receiving room at the bookstore and confiscated boxes of gay-themed page-a-day calendars. Some of my Sing staff were gay, and they were devestated and terrified. This is a nation where disgusting pimps walk the streets offering Westerners binders full of photos of young women for rent. Somehow it's okay for a Yank or a Brit to pay money to debauch teenage girls there, but consenting gay and lesbian adults are denied their basic human right to engage in sexual behavior. While straight prostitution is legal in Singapore, pornography is not. A bizarre and conflicted nanny state indeed.

Never fear, however: Gandalf is on the case.


Contemplate nothingness

I was saving my vacation time to take two consecutive weeks off in August, but have decided not to wait. I haven't had time off in more than a year and half, and grow weary.

After today I'll have five days off in a row. I'm getting a deep tissue massage, and planning to do a great deal of nothing. I've got a big decision to make, and must make it by Friday.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lack of power corrupts

Because of a power outage at the office, I'm working from home today. I love working from home. When my back hurts from sitting at the desk for too long I can lie on the floor, as I just did. Were I to do that at the office, my office mate would likely administer CPR.

Of course lying on the floor while working from home resulted as it often does in napping at home. But I'm awake now. And diligently working. I promise.

Watching the Parade

Cha, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Cha bought gigantic yellow earrings at the Fest.


UFO, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

My favorite entry in the Caribbean Fest parade.

Caribbean Fest

Caribbean Fest, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Cha is at College Park mentoring teachers for two weeks. She came home Saturday for a break, and we walked up to a big festival at Druid Hill Park. I didn't eat anything, and we didn't stick around for the bands. Curiously, I still enjoyed the festival a great deal. I'm not sure why.

War is the organizing principal of state action

We can't afford the two wars we've got going. We don't have sufficient troops to secure either Afghanistan or Iraq, and equipment grows scarce. The next generation of Americans will be saddled with an enormous financial debt because of these poorly managed misadventures, and the world will face the violent consequences of Bush's already foolhardy foreign policy for decades.

Who in their right mind would start a third war under these conditions? No one in their right mind would do so.

Most Americans know by now that Cheney and Bush are corrupt and incompetent. Those of us who've suspected they were also demonstrably insane now have more proof.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Legally Blind 2

Like, whatever, oh my God! The President and the Constitution are like, the freaking same thing, Grandpa. As if!

Dream Job

I wish I had Bill Kristol's job. I wish it were my lot to reap generous compensation for being demonstrably, abysmally wrong about everything all the time. I wish that my continuous wrongheadedness resulted in people soliciting my goofy and completely illogical opinions on television, so that my stupidity and arrogance could influence public debate on key issues. Imagine having a job where you never had to say anything accurate or wise! You could say painfully stupid and misguided things all the time and suffer absolutely no consequences. Man, that's my dream job.

Not only does Kristol get to spout whatever ridiculous nonsense pops into his head on television--but he gets to do so whilst surrounded by people who don't challenge him with inconvenient things like facts and data. Because other reasonably eloquent men capable of passionate rhetorical flourishes sit around and nod agreement at Kristol while utterly silly things roll from his tongue, Bill's ideas manage to have traction in Washington DC amongst powerful people. And consequently American soldiers and Iraqis continue to die because powerful people in DC still listen to him despite ending up in this quagmire after listening to Kristol's jackass bullshit in the first place.

In a sane Republic, Bill Kristol would be in a padded room wearing a foil crown. Each time he talked about the successful progression of Bush's Iraq venture a few thousand volts would be administered to sooth his restless ranting soul. I can see the campus of Shepard Pratt hospital from my office window. They have room for Kristol I'm sure--and Krauthammer, Brooks, Friedman, Klein, etc.


Insomnia last night. Asleep and deeply so by 11pm following red wine infusion, but up at 3 and unable to quiet the mind. The goldfish nibbling gravel in their tank, the whirring ceiling fan, the dim outlined curtains tinted orange by sodium glare, the spider crawling along the floor by the door, the gleam of Cha's illuminated alarm, the sifting of dust motes, the steady work of internal ducts and valves--all was distraction, all intent on sleep prevention.

Contemplating a career change--meaning contemplating having a career--and had a successful interview yesterday along those lines. Now face a choice: give up a cozy sinecure where work is simple, bland, and unchallenging? Or tackle a difficult job for twice the money and four times the vacation, but with ten times the work and stress? I'm surprised I slept at all. I have to decide by next Friday.

Let each man raise The Self by Soul, not trample down his Self, Since Soul that is Self's friend may grow Self's foe. Soul is Self's friend when Self doth rule o'er Self But self turns enemy if Soul's own self Hates Self as not itself.

The Bhagavad Gita

Keith goes after DHS for Cherting Off

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We need a new H.L. Mencken

Once again I subjected myself to a bit of cable news last evening. Some ingenuous talking head named Viqueira asserted that people in DC were truly surprised that a "family values" conservative like Senator Vitter (R-LA) had frequented prostitutes for much of his career.

Whence these DC pundits and their buffoonery? Nobody with any sense is ever surprised to hear of a politician who frequents prostitutes, or who solicits sex in public restrooms, or who cheats on his or her spouse. And people with true discernment, honed by decades of studious attention to history and current events, are in fact least surprised by the exposure of family values conservatives as deeply hypocritical on these matters. Where has this Viqueira character been? Has he heard of Bob Barr, Bob Livingstone, Robert Packwood, Mark Foley, Newt Gingrich, or Henry Hyde? And the culprits who spew hypocritical fire and brimstone from the hallowed halls of government are of course accompanied by those who do so from the pulpit: Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and most recently Ted Haggart. I shall end my list there, but could continue it until carpal tunnel swelled my wrists beyond endurance.

Journalists do many a dis-service in the United States. One of their worst offenses is feigning surprise at this sort of behavior by public representatives of the Moral Majority. Were they to practise actual journalism, they would of course know that most of the family values conservatives and Christian rightists are not at all concerned with Jesus and standards of moral behavior. The most fiery Bible thumpers in government want one paramount result: that slavish drooling mobs of mindless ignorami--preached at mercilessly by retrograde theocrats and small-town Torquemada wannabes, flumoxed by screeds about homosexual cults, secular humanist abortion factories, and the End of Times--will turn out en masse to pull levers marked R in elections.

Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed can howl about Jesus for hours each day, tearing their garments and wearing hair shirts, but nobody with a ninth grade education would be surprised if either were caught pissing in the baptismal font or using pages from Leviticus to clean up santorum after visiting a homosexual brothel. Their true Lord and Saviour is Manon, and were they instructed to blaspheme mightily in exchange for a fat check from a Big Pharma outfit or Indian casino, either gentleman would pucker eagerly at the raising of Baphomet's tail. Their supposed Christianity is an illusion designed to lure voters with emotionally potent oversimplifications. Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed know, after all, that regardless what happens to the law books, their girlfriends, daughters, and sons will always have access to safe abortions, cocaine, hookers, and pornography.

To journalists like Viqueira I suggest one simple tactic to avert future surprise: the next time an elected official enthuses about the Christian principles upon which America was supposedly founded, ask for specifics. What precisely are the scriptural prescriptions for an egalitarian democratic republic? Where in the Bible can I find them? What evidence of Biblical or theological underpinnings exist in our deeply secular Constitution?

I would like to point out that for nearly two thousand years Christian history was anything BUT democratic, and that Americans who believe that the Bible had anything to do with the political theorizing of the principal Founders of our Republic are in dire need of history lessons. The Founders sought keenly to evade any influence of Christian theology in the business of government. History taught them valuable lessons. The bloody centuries in Europe from the fall of Rome up through the seventeenth century were rife with examples of Christian values at work. And on the intolerant shores of the Puritan northeast, where Quakers were whipped, witches broiled, crushed and drowned, and savages converted under penalty of death the Founders saw further evidence that Christian principles rarely had anything to do with the message of the Christ. These men founded our country on ENLIGHTENMENT principles of secular humanism, NOT Christian principles.

I do not doubt some Democrats shall fall victim to the DC Madam phone list. But Democrats are not railing about private sexual behavior to the same degree as their Republican counterparts. I for one fully support Larry Flynt's mission to out these hypocrites.

They're Back

Two Move Like Seamus gigs at Mick O'Shea's this weekend. We'll be there Friday night. I'll be the guy drinking Guiness.

A Dud Indeed

I wanted to like this. I liked some of it a lot. Much of it was terrible. Elaine Dundy I suppose had read Henry James--Daisy Miller, The American, The Ambassadors--and figured "Books like this can be fun in the right hands!" Her attempt to infuse a hip bobby-soxer sensibility into The Master's innocents abroad schematic is uneven at best.

The Dud Avacado got raving accolades, and continues to generate fans. I'm not sure why. I suppose it's because a woman wrote frankly about casual sex so long ago, and this was likely shocking to some and liberating to many. In an age, however, when women are filming themselves having sex and uploading the mpegs onto the Internets, this novel is a big yawn. The narrator is supremely annoying, falling in and out of love routinely, spending her uncle's money on booze, failing to note that she's being manipulated by more sophisticated Europeans and other expat Yanks. Spoiled rich kids getting bamboozled while traveling around Europe are not sympathetic characters IMHO.

There are flashes of brilliance, and quite a few F. Scott-worthy descriptive flourishes. Dundy can certainly write. Perhaps her portraits of bohemians, artistes, and poseurs were once fresh and vibrant, but now they're tired cliches of the sort most recently trotted out during that Freedom Fries nonsense. There's simply no there there in this book, which is as relevant to our age as Leave it to Beaver.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I miss Europe

We just don't have enough Bernini 'round these parts.

[link courtesy 86400]

Legally Blind

Oh my God, I like so totally invoke my fifth commandment right to avoid saying stuff that may tend to incriminate my former boss the President.

all things will appear as they are

Orion Magazine provides useful context and interesting perspective to our current batch of woes, from global warming to the Iraq War to criminal miscreants running the world.

[via 3 Quarks Daily]

Mojo Risin'

After six months plus of gloomy Gus-iness, I feel suddenly energized. I've started playing my long-neglected guitar. I've begun journaling for the first time in two years. I'm having powerful and interesting dreams. Not sure what planetary alignment is responsible, but it feels good. I feel more sociable than I have in ages, and can get excited about ideas like Flea's book discussion group, instead of shrinking in fear from possible conversation.

Yo! Adrienne and I are imagining a French language conversation group because our skills grow rusty indeed. We hope to rope the neighborhood Parisian into participation--but, seeing as he's a Parisian, one doubts his potential enthusiasm for such an enterprise. Perhaps Mathieu would enjoy sneering contemptuously at us over red wine, correcting our faulty grammar? And yes, I'm stereotyping--but Matthieu fits the bill perfectly, dressed as he is all in black at all times, even in this wretched weather--black longsleeved shirts and thick black denim pants. The only things missing are a beret angled to the side of his head and a bright scarf tied jauntily round his neck. When you speak to Mathieu he demands to know whether you're being sarcastic or cynical, and if you say "non" he asks "mais pourquoi pas?"

Cha is at College Park for two weeks and Julio remains in Italy. Yo! Adrienne and I have been mourning our absent spouses by going to get ice cream or sushi or shopping at Mill Valley. I love Mill Valley but approach it with caution. One of my old Liberry nemeses haunts it from time to time. Will I ever escape the dreaded Assburger?

Today is our departmental cook-out, ostensibly designed to boost departmental morale. A cook-out in 100 degree weather. At noon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Particularly Good This Modern World


I just walked over to my mother-in-law's and back for lunch. Miserable. The heat index is already over 100 degrees, and the temperature is supposed to climb another 10 or so through the afternoon. The thermometer at my house was at 96 degrees when I left for work this morning--at 5:30 am.

My job might be tedious, but I'm in an air-conditioned office (cooled to a reasonable 75 degrees). Out my window there are some poor saps digging through asphalt to lay cable. Stay hydrated!

Look Maw! I grew a pair.

I devote approximately 10 minutes a week to cable TV 'news' anymore. Last night's ten minutes happened to coincide with the growth of Tweety's testicles. He brutally smacked down Rep. Steve King (R-IOWA) for lying about the Scooter Libby case, and for logical and ethical inconsistency. When King suggested the media had never even explained why Scooter was charged Matthews condescendedly sneered: "If you were paying attention you'd know, because anyone who watches TV or reads the paper knows what he lied about, and the President even admitted he was guilty." Tweety told King that "you didn't care about underlying crimes when Clinton was impeached," and that lying to investigators was sufficient then to qualify as a high crime. Matthews told King that he only cared when the other team lied, and that he was turning a blind eye to illegal acts committed by members of his own party.

A cable news talking head actually bothering to refute RNC talking points? WTF? This isn't my country.

I was a wee bairn during Watergate but now I's gots that same feeling of imminent collapse I had back then. Of course I also had that feeling during Iran-Contra, but a colluding group of legislative and executive branch conspirators made just enough noise to allow the major players their escape. I'm looking at you GHWB. And now your demon-spawn rushes us all over the cliff.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dreaming again

I've never, to my knowledge, had recurring dreams. I do, however, have dreams in the same settings. Last night I dreamt for the billionth time that I was in my paternal grandparents' house in Stewartstown, PA. I'm not sure why my unconscious needs regularly to return there. I almost never dream of houses I actually lived in as a child, but for some reason this house--where I spent a lot of time--gets repeated work-overs.

The terrain shifts in interesting ways, not atypical of dreams. Extra rooms or wings will appear, typically off the attic or the enclosed back porch. The rarely-visited room where Grandma did her laundry in an open tub with ringer can manifest as anything from a subterranean cavern to a shaman's hut to an opulent ballroom full of tuxedoed politicos scheming. Often I'm seeking something I lost in the house. I go through boxes of old toys I used to play with there: clay miniature bricks, dusty Erector sets, rusty model cars and trucks--only to be frustrated. I can't get into the giant safe and fear what I need is locked inside. The small cabinets behind the fridge yield nothing but spiderwebs and dessicated liquor bottles with faded labels. The fridge itself has cows' eyeballs in brown paper, or piled sausages on plates (Grandpa was a butcher). It holds no answer.

I should go walk around Stewartstown some day. I had the run of it as a child. My friends and I had many secret places. There was a fantastic ancient graveyard with a monument to I believe George Stewart, who founded the town, or after whom the town was named. I think he was an early Postmaster of the US? Can't find anything on Google yet. Missy Jo and I would climb the gravestones, then scramble around under the baseball diamond bleachers, or inside the walls of the ruined recreation center. There were numerous friendly biddies in town with readily available candies, willing to fatten us up. We even had on our property several ancient barns and outbuildings--including an outhouse--that were fun to clamber around, in, and upon. And a big bush the neighborhood children used to congregate beneath on our side yard.

My childhood was often idyllic in a 1950s small-town way. Of course there was the drunken abusive wife-beating father and the divorce, but you can't have everything.

Nori Bucci

I've always found the dearth of women in the top rank of guitar-shredding rock soloists mystifying. Women of course can play any instrument as well as or better than any man, but can you name a top-tier rock or jazz guitar soloist off the top of your head who happens to be a woman? Likely not. There are very fine female slide blues players, country and folk finger-pickers, and ryhthm players, not to mention excellent female classical guitarists. But rock soloists of note are puzzlingly rare. I recall seeing Natalie Merchant do "Carnival" off her Tigerlily LP on SNL years ago. She had a female guitar soloist who was exceptionally good named Jennifer Turner.

Check out the chops on this young lady. Look at that spider-like left hand. Musically this kind of jazzy rock fusion stuff isn't my bag anymore, but Nori Bucci's got mad skills.


I read a review recently of books about reviewing books. Its subject, I suppose, and its purpose, was to criticize the criticism of critics criticizing criticism. The author of said article belittled the standard practice of using this formula in reviews:

A is like B meets C, as in:

Donnie Darko is like The World According to Garp meets Edward Scissorhands.

Belittlable or not, I'll continue using this formula, because for an intellectually curious and fundamentally lazy person like myself, it helps express what I want to say about a film or book quickly. In fact, I'll say that Donnie Darko is like The World According to Garp meets Edward Scissorhands with a bit of Evil Dead thrown in (A is like B meets C plus D). Not because Donnie Darko has any technical or thematic association with Sam Raimi's brutally original horror flick*, but because some characters in Donnie Darko actually go to see Evil Dead, and there are literally bits of Evil Dead seen in the film.

I shan't recommend Donnie Darko. Mostly my response was "whatever," though occasionally it improved to "eh." Patrick Swayze's role was a surprise at least.

*There is, of course, a dead character in Donnie Darko who is evil. Or whose behavior seems to be evil. I'm sorry if that's a spoiler. Whatever.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


I really enjoyed this. I think Dick's novel--inspired by the amplified paranoia surrounding Nixon's late phase--is perfectly timed for today's descent into Bush's amplified mimicry of Nixon's late phase paranoia. And Linklater's film does Dick's book justice.

Of course no actors playing burnout paranoid drug abusers could be more unbelievable in the role than Robert Downey, Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, and Keanu Reeves. Am I being sarcastic? Who knows any more, to paraphrase an old Simpsons episode.

The animation is beautiful and jarring. I'd of course not know from experience, but would imagine that looking at oneself in the mirror blasted on mescalin or psilocybin might be similar to looking at the shimmering features of these actors given whatever special technical treatment they received in order to jazz up the imagery. And Winona's cartoon boobs are nice.

Yes, Keanu does say "Woah" at one point. His fans shan't be disappointed in that regard.