Friday, December 11, 2009

I succumb

So here I find myself surrendering to one of the dumbest conventions of the cyber age: sticking a list of favorite songs on my blog. Next up for me, online dating.

And speaking of dating, I date the list phenomenon back to a 1987 issue of Rolling Stone that ranked the 100 best albums of the past 20 years. Such cut and dried canonizing was a new concept then: while there had already been a few "desert-island disk" exercises out there, those had an undeniable parlor-game feel to them and held no real sway. The RS list's rankings, most of which I remember to this day, seared themselves into my young, as yet untouched-by-lists mind. That list obviously made an impression on a few others as well, for the following decade, in which we RS-fed kids grew up and assumed media jobs, saw a complete overdose of lists. Everybody does them now, whether it's sports writers with their "power rankings," VH1's sexiest celebrity pets lists, or even Rolling Stone itself, which time passed by long ago but which continues to crank this shit out.

And now you don't even need to be a magazine or a network to have a list; you can just be a regular old schmuck with a blog. Like hanging an Egon Schiele print on your dorm wall, such lists are one of the most expedient ways to grab some quick cred for yourself—as if recognizing some artifact's quality is the next best thing to having created it. (Artists themselves are not immune to such associations. I recently saw Muse, who came onstage to Prokofiev's admittedly thrilling "Dance of the Knights"; and, while this definitely lent Muse themselves some grandness, the fact is it was written by an odd and gifted Soviet composer who died over half a century ago. What an effect, though. After a few seconds, it didn't even matter who'd written it, because it belonged to Muse.)

So go ahead and make a list: assert your taste, impress/baffle your friends ("The Ting Tings? Where's he come up with this stuff?"), or just remind yourself what you like—because sometimes you forget. Anyway, here, in no particular order, are my favorites from this decade, which has only a few weeks of life left.

"Reckoner," Radiohead
"I Thought," Bryan Ferry with Brian Eno
"John Wayne Gacy, Jr." Sufjan Stevens
"Diamonds of Sierra Leone," Kanye West
"The Rip," Portishead
"A Love You Can't Survive," Richard Thompson
"White Chalk," PJ Harvey
"Phantom Other," Department of Eagles
"Weekend Wars," MGMT
"I Feel Like Dying," Lil Wayne
"The Island," Decemberists
"Saint Simon," The Shins
"Triangle Walks," Fever Ray
"Comet," Wire
"Revelator," Gillian Welch
"The Modern Age," The Strokes
"Agoraphobia," Deerhunter
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find," Tom Waits
"North American Scum," LCD Soundsystem
"In the Flowers," Animal Collective
"Frontier Psychiatrist," Avalanches
"Gila," Beach House
"Paper Planes," M.I.A.
"I Love My Car," Belle & Sebastian
"Ready, Able," Grizzly Bear
"Cato as a Pun," Of Montreal
"Flume," Bon Iver
"How Kind of You," Paul McCartney
"13 Months in 6 Minutes," The Wrens
"How It Ends," Devotchka
"Things I Miss the Most," Steely Dan
"Analyse," Thom Yorke
"Sunday," David Bowie
"The Crown of Love," Arcade Fire
"Paparazzi," Lady Gaga
"Sunday," David Bowie
"My Rights versus Yours," New Pornographers
"Horse to Water," R.E.M.
"Oxford Comma," Vampire Weekend
"Little One," Beck
"Wolf Like Me," TV on the Radio
"Animal Midnight," Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
"Xanax and Wine," U2
"Disconnection Notice," Sonic Youth
"The Union Forever," White Stripes
"Crystalised," The xx
"This Tornado Loves You," Neko Case
"Fatal," Pearl Jam
"That's Not My Name," Ting Tings
"Tiger Mountain Peasant Song," Fleet Foxes
"Like Spinning Plates (Live)," Radiohead

My list of the decade's best albums can be found on this blog's younger, crueler sibling.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And let's not forget the man who was pulled over for speeding

Partial list of people we're being asked to pray for by the radio station I listened to last week while driving through North Carolina (an organ playing solemnly in the background and an extremely long pause between each):

* The daughter who has been stealing from her mother. We pray that the little girl sees this is wrong.

* The woman who is in a predicament. We pray that she finds a solution.

* The woman who wrecked her car. We pray that her husband has the courage to tell his mother what really happened to the car and that there are no serious insurance ramifications.

* The man who broke his foot.

* The mother who wants to see her son find employment. (Read: When's that kid of Ethel's going to get damn job.)

This program followed a painfully old-fashioned radio play (possibly recorded in 1971, if not 1743) dramatizing the story of Samuel and Eli that had so many pedophilic overtones in it I thought the dial had somehow landed on America's Most Wanted. Such was my incredulity over these proceedings, by the time I crossed the state line I whipped out my cell phone to relay my experience to the folks back home. I didn't pay attention to my speed, nearly swerved off the road as I flew past a cop, and was smote by the Lord with a speeding ticket in Emporia, Virginia....where, by the way, they put the D.C. Sniper to death last night.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Inner Circle

My mother, who passed away this summer, cast her last vote for Obama and even volunteered for his campaign. Because she sometimes voted Republican, however, she apparently received all sorts of invitations from the GOP to donate to the cause. I know this because I happen to be receiving her mail these days, and I have to endure letters like this one, from Senator John Cornyn:

"Because you have been an active leader and concerned citizen, you are one of only a few Republicans in Virginia who have been recommended by the Republican Senate Leadership to serve as a member of the prestigious Republican Senatorial Inner Circle.

"Congratulations. This is tremendous honor that comes with both extraordinary opportunity and profound responsibility.

"As a testament to this exclusive organization, former Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush, General Norman Schwarzkopf, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have all personally addressed the Inner Circle in the past."

And so on. Following a page and a half of this sort of preamble stuff, my deceased mother is then invited to two fall events, including a golf outing. To take part in this, she need only cough up a thousand bucks. Membership in the Inner Circle comes with a special certificate and lapel pin, a U.S. Capitol lithograph, consideration for special honors such as the American Spirit Medal, and a copy of The Greatest Speeches of Ronald Reagen. And, even if my mother feels it is not the right time to join the Inner Circle--and it probably isn't--Senator Cornyn urges her to nonetheless make a contribution of $250 or $500 to the party, because "Nancy Pelosi and Hary Reid have increased their numbers...their power...and their bitter ultra-liberal stranglehold on Washington."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eight More Reasons the Beatles Broke Up

* Paul's Rickenbacher ate his Hofner.

* That gay episode between John and George Martin in Barcelona.

* Paul thought Julian Lennon's name was Jude.

* Ringo couldn't shake off that gang of Indian priests after him for his ring with the giant ruby.

* The cops discovered the band's dog-fighting ring in Surry County, Virginia.

* Paul was dead.

* Yoko should should have been named O-yes instead of O-no.

* I was only four years old when they broke up--too young to help!

(First ten reasons are here, but they're not very funny.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Enjoy it now, while you can still get a seat

Remember when the Bravo channel was just starting out, and all it did was show a bunch of great foreign films and almost no commercials, but hardly anyone watched it, so you felt all the effort that went into it seemed a little, well, pitiful? As we all know, Bravo began to gather steam, gradually rolling out the makeovers, the chefs, the runways, the decadent housewives, and about 37 minutes of commercials per hour. It became the center of the gay-television universe (which means that your mom watches it).

I like to think I'm doing something similar with this blog. No, my blog is not going to turn out to be gay. Let me explain. At the moment, this blog might seem a bit "early Bravo" pitiful, with all the tidy, often slaved-over posts with zero comments, as well as my having only one follower (who happens to live in my house). Just know that I have told almost no one yet that I am blogging. When I do, we may have ten, twelve readers for this thing.

Anyways, I now have a second blog. Because you can't argue with success.

Faucet's fixed

Well, looks like the plumber came, because the Water History web site in my links column is now working again. My many readers and I are happy to see it flowing again. The pipes were shut for a long time, and we all got pretty thirsty.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hey, everybody, meet my new friend--Agnes

Email from earlier this week...

SUBJECT: I hope my mail will meet you in good conditions.

Hi dear,
How are you today? My name is Agnes Donaldson, i hope that every things is ok with you as it is my great pleasure to contact you in having communications with you, please i wish you will have the desire with me so that we can get to know each other better and see what happened in the future.

I will be very happy if you can write me through my email for easiest communication and to know all about each others, and also give you my pictures and more details about me, here is my email [address] i will be waiting to hear from you as i wish you all the best for your day.

your new friend,

Monday, October 5, 2009

The list all the world has been waiting for

My baker's dozen films of the decade:

There Will Be Blood
Mulholland Drive
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
United 93
Brokeback Mountain
Royal Tennenbaums
Un Prophet (France)
Spirited Away (Japan)
Before Sunset
The Fellowship of the Ring

Plus these other fine films (please go and see them sometime): The Pianist; Control; Children of Men; Sideways; Traffic; A.I.; Gosford Park; Revanche (Austria); Black Hawk Down; Dark Water; No Country for Old Men; Mystic River; Let The Right One In (Sweden); Master and Commander; The Departed; Talk to Her (Spain); 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Romania); Sexy Beast; Y Tu Mama Tambien (Mexico); Cache (France); The Lives of Others (Germany); The Dark Knight; Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico); Anchorman; Waking Life; Gerry; Far from Heaven; Munich; Amores Perros (Mexico).

Not if, but when

The writing could be more penetrating but, as the sole readily-available account of Stanley Kubrick's never-made film about Napoleon, this turn-of-the-millennium Salon article is about as essential as footnotes get. Hung up by budget concerns and the subject's bad track record at the box office, the film, as we all know, was never made. Kubrick used some its ideas in later works--not only in the obvious Napoleon substitute, Barry Lyndon, but even Eyes Wide Shut, whose strange idea of a good time had its roots in erotic scenes first conceived for Napoleon.

As a young film punk, I actually scored a used copy of the Joseph Gelmis book of interviews with film directors that the article refers to, and it's both fascinating and pitiful to listen to Kubrick talk about when--not if--he is going to make his Napoleon film. His failure to see it through deprives us not only of another (potentially great) Kubrick picture, but also alters the shape of his life's work: there is, for better or worse, no obvious go-for-broke shot at a masterwork, no dream project. Sometimes such all-in bets work out, and sometimes they do not, but they sit at the centers of artists' careers like Kilimanjaro. With 2001 reluctant to be nudged into the centerpiece role, Kubrick's career is just one long, weird, mostly fine, always dogged trajectory. Which may be just as well.

For those of you with a few extra bucks to spend, Taschen has published a $560 limited-edition book on the making--or, in this case, non-making--of the film.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Epigraphs for three unwritten novels

"[He] neglected invesitgating one of the walls as a result of a deduction to the effect that the door of a room in the upper storey of a house is rarely to be found in the same wall which contains the window."
Flann O'Brien, At Swim-Two Birds

SOLYONY (Entering drawing room from the reception room with CHERBUTYKIN): With one hand I can't lift more than fifty pounds, but with both hands it goes up to two hundred pounds. Which leads me to conclude that two men are not twice as strong as one, but three times strong, even stronger. . .
Chekhov, Three Sisters

"If we were all suddenly someone else."
Joyce, Hades chapter of Ulysses

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My companion at 90-minute mark: "When is this thing over?"

Went with the ten-year-old last night to see It Might Get Loud, the Inconvenient Truth guy's documentary about electric guitars. (No, I don't mean Al Gore. He must be, what, sixty years old.) Jimmy Page seems remarkably sane and benevolent for someone who was once strung out on smack, allegedly helped destroy numerous hotel rooms, hand-picked a former wrestler to run his label and rough guys up, and was deep enough into the devil to buy Aleister Crowley's old crib. Watching him play old 45s is kind of like hanging out with your newly-mellow Vietnam-vet uncle.

The Edge is the very serious fellow we suspected. Not many destroyed hotel rooms in this guy's past. The Christianity he burst onto the scene with has been transformed into a rather impressive, monk-like search for perfect guitar sounds. He is a parer-downer: plays an E chord with three strings. When Page launches into the blues, Edge gets the same skeptical-father-in-law look that McCain had when he debated Obama. One of the shortcomings of the film is its failure to address Edge's right-on dismissal of the era of the epic guitar solo, which the discovery of the Buzzcocks, Pistols, Clash, et al, emancipated him from, and which Page, on the other hand, was the godfather of. How the filmmakers failed to cash in on this brewing confrontation is hard to fathom. But no, they keep it friendly.

There are just too damn many stories jockeying for attention in this film. Which brings us to Jack White. Dude should have a whole movie to himself. He brings the same genius for conceptualization to this film that he brings to the Stripes. Opening shots of him building a guitar from a 2 x 4, a Coke bottle, some twine, and the most bare-boned pick-up imaginable, while a pasture full of Herfords looks on, is the highpoint of the film--and, I feel sure, was White's idea, not the director's. As was, no doubt, the recruitment of the child in the Panama hat to act as a sort of mini-White. Watching the two of them driving dream-like through empty landscapes gives us a glimpse of a never-made, better film.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dream of the month

So, a little confused as to what I'm even doing here (as one often is in a dream), I suit up and run onto the practice field. Whole team is out there, running drills, loosening up, all that jazz. Coach looks me over and says, "You ever played football?"

"No," I tell him, "but I've played hot dog."

"Hot dog?! What the hell is that?"

"Well, it's almost the same as football. Same rules, same helmet and pads. But instead of a football you play with a hot dog."

Best reason yet to drink whisky

If you thought Wes Anderson's Amex spot was impressive, check out this Johnny Walker ad. Joins Touch of Evil and Goodfellas in the single-take hall of fame.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The End of History

Some of my many, many readers may have noticed that the link to the left called "the history of water" is no longer working. My only explanation is that, before I discovered it, the site actually had no visitors and I single-handedly brought down their server.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Official "making of" documentary of last post

My little illustrated guide was begun on a whim and ended up taking me about three or four hours. The text is from the "Ithaka" chapter of Ulysses, which is presented in a catechistic, question-and-answer format. It's past midnight, and Leopold Bloom has brought Stephen Dedalus home with him. The long paragraph I used comes after Bloom contemplates the water he draws from the faucet to make tea. Joyce uses it as an opportunity to deliver an elaborate prose poem celebrating water in all its forms (it was Richard Ellmann who called it a "pseudo-hymn to water," a phrase that's stuck with me as strongly as anything in the hymn itself). Joyce, a fellow Aquarian who was born only a day apart from me on the calendar, is a certified hydrophile; like Hollis Mulwray in Chinatown, we both have water on the brain.

In finding links for all these watery terms I had most trouble with "freshets," "rhabdomantic," "bights," and, weirdly enough, "dissolve." Also had trouble with "torrents"--it mostly brought up file-sharing sites, and besides, what the hell is a water torrent anyway? "Maelstrom" is similarly unscientific, imprecise. I had no idea what Joyce meant by "luteofulvous bed" until I broke the adjective down into two parts, both of which pertained to the color yellow, thus the pic of yellow coral. Turns out Joyce is wrong with his "Sundam trench" (should be Sunda), and the Ashtown gate in Dublin has no well (or, as he weirdly calls it, a "hole in the wall"), which just goes to show that if you write a 700-page novel about your old hometown, you're bound to remember something wrong.

Funny that Joyce, although he does include spring tides, does not mention tidal waves. More surprising is his neglecting to address high and low tides, something I'd have guessed he'd go totally apeshit over. (Plumbing and other water-delivery concepts are also absent, but the paragraph I illustrated is preceded by an equally extravagant paragraph in which Joyce traces the delivery of Bloom's water, step by meticulous step, from the Roundwood reservoir [cubic capacity: 2,400 million gallons] to the kitchen faucet.) The original Odyssey kept coming back to the wine-dark sea, and in Joyce's work allusions to water are hardly confined to this chapter. Elsewhere in the book Joyce sends a crumpled-up leaflet for a journey down the Liffey, compares the greenish morning bay to the bowl of bile beside Stephen's mother's deathbed, and, in one of his attempts to rid the world of hyphens, speaks of the "scrotumtightening sea" and "everchanging neverchanging water." His water obsession would culminate in Finnegans Wake with the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" chapter, an account of two washerwomen on the Liffey in which hundreds of names of real rivers are ingeniously worked into the text. Upon completing it, Joyce ran out his door and down to the nearest river (in this case the Seine) to make sure the chapter's cadences truly sounded like water.

In seeking images, I found that "gulley," "marsh," and "fathom," besides being hydro terms, are also the names of various popular heavily-augmented women. (If Google searches are the yardstick, Michelle Marsh currently enjoys far more popularity than all the world's actual marshes combined.) Finally, here's a picture that I liked very much but could not find a place for even in a paragraph as seemingly all-inclusive as Joyce's. And here's another.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Illustrated Guide to Joyce's Pseudo-Hymn to Water

What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier returning to the range, admire?

Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator's projection: its umplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8,000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: Its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including billions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents: gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs, and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe) numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90% of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Not safe for work, home...planet

A French site has posted the Stones' infamous 1972 tour film. The first clip has been removed, but the others still seem to be working. (You can also find it on this fine blog.) This film possesses an Eat The Document-level rarity, so, although I wasn't particularly in the mood for it, I felt I had to ACT NOW and watch the damn thing.

Director Robert Frank was given rather jaw-dropping access and made the most of it. Not surprising that the Stones shelved the film; they would probably have been arrested in half a dozen states if it had ever been screened. That's an exaggeration, of course, but safe to say it probably won't be showing at your friendly neighborhood theater anytime soon. It's boring at times, shocking at others. For all the film's high and low times, Frank is not out to titillate. This is the same guy who shot the spooky b&w photos on the Exile on Main Street cover; he is drawn to the empty, desolate America where anything--even something dull--might happen. He sure found the right cast to show this. Helps if you suffer from the same nostalgia for the era that I do, because above all else this is a fresh hit of 1972, in all its dark decadent glory. Hanging around in your underwear (no matter who drops by), always a groupie there to help you with your hangover, and, my god, all the endless hotel rooms. Did I mention that I was six years old in 1972?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The busy life of one NBA star and high school graduate

AP story from a few days ago:

NEW YORK -- All-Star forward Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic has been suspended without pay for 10 games for testing positive for an elevated testosterone level, the NBA announced Thursday. "First and foremost I take full responsibility for the situation and accept the corresponding penalty," Lewis said in a statement released by the league. "Toward the end of the season I took an over-the-counter supplement which at the time I did not realize included a substance banned by the NBA. I apologize to Magic fans, my teammates and this organization for not doing the research that should come with good judgment."

We now join Rashard Lewis at his Orlando estate. It has been a long day. It began in his library, where he spent all morning drafting a public statement in which he shouldered the entire blame for his substance infraction. "We have lawyers to do that, man," his friend told him—"You don't have to write that thing yourself, Rashard." But no. Rashard insisted.

Having completed that task and returned various volumes of law to their shelves, he took the secret elevator to his laboratory. Only the dopest, phattest, sickest laboratory in any NBA crib. Rashard threw on his lab coat. "Where could I have gone wrong?" he wondered. An afternoon of intense research ensued.

"I have it!" he finally cried. The answer was clear. It was that over-the-counter drug he had taken last spring for his sniffles—damn thing was loaded with the chemical compound dehydroepiandrosterone. Of course. It had been staring him in the face all along. He dialed headquarters at once and related his findings.

He retired upstairs. In the few hours before the whores showed up, he ate three bowls of Fruity Pebbles and watched Spongebob Squarepants.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Steve, how can you be so fucking funny

Avoiding the promotional copy I must write for a book on Florentine architecture by listening to Steve Martin's trio of late-70s comedy albums. First time I've heard them since I was fully past the pubertal stage, and this is what I have to say: aside from the stadium show that makes up half of the second record (and which is a document of a phenomenon more than an honest-to-god comedy act), they hold up pretty damn well. Two things strike me now as I listen to these things. First, the guy worked his ass off. There are no approximations here; he honed something until it was exactly what he wanted it to be. (What a dogged worker he was. Think it would be funny to add some banjo-playing or juggling to the act? No problem, just spend a few years learning it.)

Second thing that strikes me is how Martin can take neither himself nor the audience seriously. He lampoons the whole concept of an audience with impossible sing-alongs, transparent pandering (check the absurdly technical joke for plumbers), meaningless confessions. His act is as totally free of vanity as it is of earnestness; all he can commit to is his intelligence and discipline.

For your convenience, this guy has put links to all these albums on his blog. No Ukrainian-bride pop-up windows, no exotic file formats to convert, no Portuguese passwords to decipher, just good old-fashioned, illegally-shared recordings we can all download and enjoy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Albacore Club

Inspired by a legal mini-drama that has just made my personal life more interesting, I'm now thinking of those residents of the Mar Vista nursing home--the oblivious front for the land grab that is exposed in the great Chinatown.

Knowing that a stretch of drought-stricken California farmland is going to benefit from a future diversion of water, fat cat Noah Cross buys it all up while the prices are bottoming out. Not wanting anyone to know he is the buyer, he registers the residents of the Mar Vista as the owners. The detective, Gittes, finds it particularly puzzling that one of the landowners, a Jasper Lamar Crabbe, bought his property about a week after he had passed away. Gittes pays a visit to the retirement home, which is sponsored by the Cross's own yacht club, the Albacore Club (earlier in the film, one of Gittes' eavesdropping operatives--in a nice naturalistic touch not entirely metaphor-free--hears this wrongly as "apple core.") Gittes approaches one woman, a resident who is embroidering a flag for the Albacore Club, and asks her if she realizes that she is a very wealthy woman.

The nerve of some people. Here's the script's author, Robert Towne, on how society deals with people like Noah Cross:
"Originally, I had Evelyn kill her father [and] you knew that [she] was going to have to stand trial. . .But the larger crime against the whole community went unpunished. In a sense, that was my point, that there are some crimes for which you get punished, and killing her father was a crime for which she could be punished, and so she would be. Then, there are some crimes that our society isn't equipped to punish, so we reward it. You displace a whole community and take their land and there's really nothing that's done except putting their names on a plaque at City Hall." The full interview--and it's a good one--is online.

By the way, author Alexandra Sokoloff has posted an extravagant but worthwhile, three-part analysis of Chinatown on her blog. And here is another one.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Massing gnat maggots

A colleague discovered on the Press's driveway this morning an organism she at first mistook for a snake. Looking closer, she discovered it to be thousands of tiny worms. This created a small stir in the office almost on the level of when someone brings a box of Spudnuts in.

This being a university department, after all, an answer was arrived at before lunch. These surging worms, it turns out, were actually maggots: gnat larvae. They were engaged in a mass migration, probably due to all the recent rain, and apparently we were pretty lucky to see it (it's kind of rare). Here is a photo of one of these migrations, with the attractive file name "maggot stream."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Burn building

Just now, on our almost-always-worthless local news, I just came across an intriguing new concept--the burn building. This was new to me, and fairly new to most of you, too, as it does not even have a Wikipedia entry, so there you go. This thing is managed by a fire department or fire academy and is constructed solely to be lit on fire for training in fire fighting and evacuation. Some of these buildings use actual burning wood or hay, while other have gas-jet systems. They have their own particular architecture (many have towers, for example). Some are steel, others stone; some are even portable.

So, a correct use of the term burn building: "The firefighters trained all day in the burn building."

And an incorrect use of the term: "After church, we'll all meet out at the burn building."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Come to think of it

I'm told by my Dutch wife (knew that marrying her would come in handy for something) that the native name for the painting that lends its name to this blog might be De Tijd die den Nijdt Doodt. But this is not yet confirmed.

The elusiveness of this hardly-obscure work (it hangs in the Royal Palace in The Hague) is a little baffling. Image searches for Jordaens' work turn up nothing, and searches on the title in English turn up only the original reference (from John Rupert Martin's excellent book on the baroque) that introduced me to this painting in the first place. Which brings us to this disturbing question: did Martin make it up?

My first commercial

If y'all want some damn tasty Texas barbecue delivered right to your door, do yourself a favor and visit the folks at New Braunfels Smokehouse.

Now that that's fixed

As my readers know, I began this blog (about, oh, six minutes ago) with a complaint about the number of characters allowed by the Google empire in a blog title, forcing me to hang a badly abbreviated sign outside this little shop. I just found that, through the editing option, this limit can be trumped. So we now have the complete, overblown title I always intended.

Well, to begin with...

Full title of my blog was supposed to be "Time Mowing Down Slander and Vice and Death Strangling Envy," an allegorical painting from 1605 by Jacob Jordaens--and the title of the first draft of a story of mine that, rewritten years later, actually got published in a good magazine. Pretty darn angry at Blogspot or Google or whoever for limiting the word-count on titles and thus castrating my blog right out of the gate.