Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Live Free or Die in the Heartbreak Hotel, Your Honor

The truth will out: I love fantasies of revenge. Especially when they are of the-mills-of-God-grind-slowly-but-they-grind-exceedingly-fine variety. Here’s the best one this week, from Rantburg, via the all-seeing Joe Katzman:

Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Hey, Weare, New Hampshire would stand to gain if they replaced Souter's home with an income-generating hotel. But it would most certainly be America's gain if "The Lost Liberty Hotel" becomes a reality. In addition to the "Just Desserts Cafe" there'll be a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" in every room. Instead of nodding off over the Gideon Bible in your nightstand drawer, you can be put to sleep even more effectively pondering the timeless quandries of Hank Rearden.

Ah, yes, a great break-through in liberty from the state of New Hampshire: "Live Free or Die," your Honor. But just don't plan to retire to 34 Cilley Hill Road in Weare. Not unless you want to live in a hotel room.

On the other hand, maybe they'll make you a deal?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Leading Untidy Lives

The Goops Goops and How to Be Them : A Manual of Manners for Polite Infants Inculcating Many Juvenile Virtues, etc.

by Gelett Burgess.

Amazing to think this book is still in circulation and being bought a century after Burgess wrote it. It's not just the humor of the book, though that is a strong attraction. What makes it so memorable is its hypnotic rhythm, rather similar to the one we used for learning our multiplication tables or the alphabet:

The Goops they lick their fingers
And the Goops they lick their knives
They spill their broth on the tablecloth --
Oh, they lead untidy lives!

Mr. Burgess' life had its untidy moments: after graduating with a degree in engineering, he taught for a time at Berkeley. However, this career of "unseemly dignity" came to an abrupt end when he toppled a statue on campus that he considered an eyesore. Having thus improved the landscape aesthetically, he was requested by the administration to move on. Which he did.

He gave us a number of cultural delights: to him is attributed the "blurb." Supposedly he assigned credit for some of the effusive praise on one of his books' covers to one "Miss Belinda Blurb." And to him belongs the immortal quatrain:

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.

In addition to his cultural flair, Mr. Burgess also founded the first Boys' Club, this one in San Francisco.

However, it is a particular trick of his youth which would put him in line as a possible patron saint of bloggers, to wit:

At 15, he took advantage of a practice of The Boston Transcript, of printing hard-to-find poems for readers who ask for them, by having a friend write and ask them to locate one of Burgess's own writings. When the paper couldn't find the work (or, for that matter, anyone who'd ever heard of it), Burgess graciously supplied a copy — and that's how he first got into print.

Mr. Burgess would have loved the hat tip, wouldn't he just?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Billy Collins' New Book

The Trouble with Poetry won't be available until October. You can pre-order it, though.

Is there anyone quite like Billy Collins? Few poets hold readings with SRO audiences. Billy Collins does. It's because he makes it look so easy, like a tightrope walker dancing across that little wire waaaay up there. Is there any other poet with a best-selling CD? The Best Cigarette is a wonder. In fact, if you're not familiar with his work, begin with the CD so you can hear him. From then on, whatever of his poems you read, his voice will be there, reading it for you. Here's one favorite, if having just one is possible:


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even
forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Now at least I know that everything I've forgotten is in a tiny fishing village in the southern hemisphere of my brain. It's so primitive and tropical there.

Maria and The Gazpacho

The Baron's Boy brought his True Love home to meet the family. By all accounts it was a successful event. She is sweet, demure, and intelligent and the Baron is most pleased. So am I, for that matter. It's wonderful to watch them from the safe harbor of age. Having to sort all that out seems so laborious now, but that's easy to say at this distance, sitting as I am in bare, ruined choirs; to them it's all new and exciting and the birds are indeed singing from every branch...

Speaking of which, we spent time after supper watching the hummingbirds flitting about the mimosa tree blossoms. They seem to have made a nest in the near-by wild cherry. It may be secreted between the gnarly vines of a rampant English ivy that has overtaken the tree. I'd planned to have the tree taken down soon but perhaps should wait. I wonder when hummingbirds fledge?

Maria -- for that is the name of our True Love -- is a vegetarian. Fortunately, veggie food can be rather fun to fix. Below is a recipe for gazpacho...which I made and then forgot to serve. Obviously, there were lots of choices so it wasn't missed: eggplant parmesan, thai veggies with saffron rice, southern-style green beans and potatoes, and plates of shrimp and ham for those who do eat meat. I notice the lack of bread; it's something we seem to have dropped from our eating habits.

Here is the unserved gazpacho, which Maria and I ate the next day, and which I will be having for awhile:

Gazpacho Dymphna

several good tomatoes
an English cucumber
a red pepper
a green pepper
two scallions
1 clove garlic
1 medium shallot
crumbled stale bread crumbs (use good bread)
fresh dill and cilantro and chives
ground cumin if you like
optional: an egg.*
wine vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper (or cayenne) to taste

Cut the vegetables in half.
Put one half in the blender with some V-8.
Chop or mince the other half, depending on how fine you like the pieces to be.
Dump all together in a pretty glass bowl.
Put some more V-8 in the blender along the white part of the scallions, the garlic and shallot. Blend and pour into the bowl.
More V-8 into the blender with the bread crumbs and egg. Blend well. Add vinegar and dribble in the oil while the blender is running. Pour this into the bowl.
Finally, add the chopped green onion tops along with minced chives, dill and cilantro. Sprinkle cumin to taste along with salt and pepper.
Chill for several hours. Taste and correct seasonings to suit.
If serving outside, set the bowl in a larger one containg crushed ice.

Variation: Crab Gazpacho
Instead of the cumin, cilantro, etc., use crab boil seasoning (suit to taste)and add crab meat after everything else has been blended.

*If using an egg, it's best to know from whence it comes. Salmonella is not as big a problem as it's touted to be, though it does deserve your cautious respect. However, if it's your neighbor's chickens which have been running about the yard and you've talked to the hens about their health, the eggs are safe enough. Just don't forget to wash the shell first.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Slouching Toward Eden

That's what the Baron has always called our wooded retreat: Eden. He named it before I got here or I might have named it "Forty Leagues From the Nearest Latte" except they didn't have latte then. Or "F.L.F. the Nearest Washington Post" because they did have that back then and back then I actually read it. That was when I was a blue-blood. A long time ago in anyone's book. If they're writing one...

So today comes the Baron's Boy, bringing his True Love for a mutual inspection. Actually, he wants her to see all the things he loves: the creek that the beavers work assiduously to destroy; the '47 Chevy going slowly to ruin near the compost heap; the various and sundry "digs" where old houses used to be and where he likes to find treasure. Well, she's an anthropology major so that ought to be interesting.

She's also a vegetarian. Gazpacho. Grilled veggies. Ummm. Mushrooms. A tofu loaf? Nahh...everyone else has to eat this feast, too.

Like many others before me, I went through a veggie stage. In this case, probably the influence of the ashram down the road. In my fervor, I made something called a tofu loaf. Kind of like meatloaf, you see. Except it was so bland I had to cover the top of it with bacon strips. Helped some, but not enough to actually make the loose lump sitting in the pan anywhere near to edible.

So. Today we have True Love and eggplant. I can do that.

Friday, June 24, 2005

She's Baaack

The Joy of Knitting has returned. She was down for awhile due to the fact that her computer room was being repainted. When she first went off line, I thought it would be a few days, perhaps a week at the most. But it was almost a month -- oh, I forgot: these were Italian painters. They're probably much like French plumbers, about whom I've read horror stories. Americans living in France have learned to do their own plumbing -- which is illegal, of course.
Her latest post is devoted to her sad experience of reading one of the da Vinci code books (and no, I'm not going to link to the darn book. I don't link to trash, you have to work for it yourself).

As I did, Joy figured if so many people were reading and talking about a book, it must be good, right? Suuure...was it H.L. Mencken who cautioned us about never underestimating general intelligence? The Da Vinci Code is a prime example of that adage.

Fortunately, I never had to buy it. In my weekly visits to the Blue Town nearest us (if NYC is the Big Apple, this place is the Little Kumquat: sweet on the outside, seedy and sour in the middle) a stop at Barnes and Noble to see what's new and what's being pushed, one couldn't avoid "Da Code." So up it went into my stack for the toddle over to the Starbucks for a peruse -- as I remember, it joined some political essays, a new Elmore Leonard, an old Billy Collins, and a nicely bound Jane Austen.

After getting my latte and settling into the booth, the first book up was da Vinci. Yak! Hex sign. What drivel, what fourth rate sloppy writing. We're back to the Goddess, folks. The suppressed Goddess of course. Egad, more Pope Joan gar-bage. I thought that was done after Mary Daley went away. And guess who's to blame for this state of affairs? Why the mean and evil Catholic Church and those nasty men who run it. Were it not for them, we'd still be in Eden, worshipping Herself and lazing around chewing apples and medlar fruit.

Spare me. Or rather, despair is can my fellow women fall for this stuff, over and over? Buncha hennie pennies, too: I'll bet the same niche in the market who actually reads this stuff believes in global warming and oil for blood, or whatever the tinfoil term for the Iraq War is. Tell me there aren't any men buying this thing? Oh Lord, a man actually wrote it.

I felt like such a feminist after looking that book over. I felt like what's-her-name -- the one who had to flee the room during Larry Summer's remarks about math and gender correlations. Such was my distress, I didn't know whether to throw up or come down with a case of the vapors...I must say I didn't run from the room, though. I stopped on the way out to pay for Elmore and Billy's books.

Joy actually got through the whole thing, which is more than I (or what's-her-name at Harvard with Larry Summers)could do. Here's part of her experience:’s the mother of all disappointments. For one thing, the writing is sloppy to say the least. I’m a non-native speaker but I’ve read a lot of books in English in my life, and I’ve never found such a repetitive, unimaginative use of the English language. The characters are made of cardboard, all built with tired clichés. Faint attempts at characterization here and there made my eyes water. The plot never really takes off the ground, it’s utterly non-sensational twist after non-sensational twist, all predictable and boring. Yet, reading the excerpts from the rave reviews quoted in the first few pages you’d think the critics had had one too many or had been smoking some mysterious substance. They even went so far as praising the author’s erudition and scholarship, and for “incorporating massive amounts of historical and academic information”. If there’s anything academic in this book, the world of academe has gone down the drain. Actually, “The Da Vinci Code” is based on an extraordinary feat of bad research....
She gives you the spoiler, which will save you the trouble of having to actually look at the book.

I must admit that so far the only boughten copies I've seen sit on the coffee tables and bookshelves of my liberal friends. I shall have to say something tactful should one of them ask me if I've read the book. Having reached my mature years I cannot say what is in my heart, which is : ARE YOU TOTALLY INSANE, WOMAN? YOU HAVE A LAW DEGREE, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE. SURELY YOU KNOW SOME HISTORY? DON'T TELL ME -- YOU SLEEP UNDER A PYRAMID. In this scenario, I'd run from the room, screaming.

Nah. I'll just point at her philodendron and ask her how she keeps her plants so healthy. Or something.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Left-Over From Father's Day

A June Sunday

I know a man, his daughter doesn’t speak to him.
None of us knows why nor wants to even guess
Why this young girl would ever have left
A perfectly good father out in the rain,
Why she would jeer as he turns to rust.

It’s a lack of years plus all that impatient yearning
To be gone that makes them blind
To how the smallest choice is always still made
In the garden of forking paths, a glade
Deceptive in its many turnings.

Those of us without fathers are afraid to ask
If he’s for sale. Would she part with him rather
Than simply let him rust? But we know he can’t be given away
He can only be left or reclaimed — by her, undoing this sin—
This waste of a perfectly good father.

Okay, Sun-Tzu, Where Are You?

In the summer before President Bush’s re-election, a liberal friend used to send me dire warnings about (a) Bush’s defeat in November, or failing that (b) Bush’s impeachment within eighteen months. It seemed so preposterous at the time that I didn’t pay attention to whether he meant impeachment 18 months after the election itself, or 18 months after the President’s inauguration. The first date would be around May, 2006. The second date would be two months later, sometime in July, 2006. Back then it seemed so strange that I didn’t give it much thought — except to remind myself to send a “haha” when his predictions proved not only wrong but whacked.

However, with all the shenanigans of late, even someone with a congenital lack of self-preserving paranoia has got to wonder: what in the world is going on here? Why the venom? From whence the irrational hatred? To what end the country’s self-destruction?

Not “what is going on” in the psychological fisking that Drs Sanity and Shrink-Wrapped are so nimbly able to apply. No, this question is more about strategy than tactics or underlying motivation. This is about “Hey, what’s up?” Specifically, what is the game plan and how do they plan to execute it? Was my friend right? Were they planning the impeachment before the election?

Varifrank has some interesting ideas. First of all, he likens the amount of play that the Democrat’s fulminating gets from the media to the template used for “shark summer” news:

“The Summer Story” is a phenomenon I’ve noted ever since the days of Watergate. There is a natural cycle to the news that corresponds to the amount of time people are at work. During the post 4th of July time period, a high percentage of the workforce is out on vacation. This leaves less than a critical mass behind to get anything accomplished. Very often what happens that everything goes on hold until enough of the staff returns to get on with work. In the media its much the same, except for one small problem, they can't just wait around for the news, they cant go dark just because there’s nothing to report. The result is that most news organizations make things up to get excited about during the late summer.
Okay. So these kids at the newspapers don’t have enough to do. And real reporting would involve thinking, which is not a reporter’s forte (had it been a strong point he/she might have gone into philosophy. Both areas involve talking, but the discipline of philosophy requires thinking —in most cases — while journalism requires neither discipline nor much thought. It is necessary only to be able to twist a phrase here and there). So there they are, these reporters, easy prey for politicians who want to score some points. Enter Durbin, stage left.

He has an expectant audience, especially if it looks like he’s into serious slaying of Dragonus Republicanus. Maybe, (hold breath here) he'll have another Abu Gharib. Kewl.. Whoo…look at that: toilets, handcuffs, cold air. It’s all S and M to them. And it will have to substitute for the real thing since there is no real thing. Nada.

President Bush has no scandals. No venal flaws by which to hang him from the nearest public hook. No bimbo eruptions, no pardons for food, no mortgages on the Lincoln Bedroom, no fisticuffs with the First Lady, no semen samples. Nobody has died in the White House under suspicious circumstances. No leaks, no rumors, no back-stabbing —unless you count General Powell’s ire, but even that was so gentlemanly it was impossible to build up a head of steam sufficient to get the indignation train very far down the track.

The MSM would be falling asleep at the wheel were it not for the toothpicks in the eyelids by the Democrats. Howard Dean has to scream like that to keep the press pool awake. Durbin has to build his astonishing castle-in-the-air comparisons to get attention. And they all have to villainize whomever Bush has the temerity to attempt to appoint to some post requiring the Senate’s advice and consent.

This is getting tiresome and dangerous. As Varifrank says, we can’t afford these kinds of distractions. But what can we do? Lots of people wrote their senators after Durbins vomitus hit the microphone; that helped some. And then President Bush called Frist on the carpet and made him do a 180 on his wimpy “I-don’t-think-we’ll-bother-with-Bolton” pronouncement. Thank you, Mr. President. You saved a whole lot of work on that one.

But it’s not over. Here’s Varifrank’s take:

I think Durbin spoke out of turn in a calculated campaign. He and the Democrats clearly miscalculated the reaction, but I don’t think its over with just this one flub. I think we are going to hear much, much worse, and in a much more coordinated fashion over the summer. I don’t think we should just be shocked, I think we need to prepare ourselves for what is about to come.

He cites a chilling example of Democrats holding mock-up impeachment proceedings. These are not off-the-wall tinfoil hat San Franciscans. These are elected members of Congress, especially Mr. Conyers, who owes his election to so many Islamists in Michigan. The Hon. Mr. Pander…

So do you laugh or cry as such hubris? The Democrats control nothing. This is not Richard Nixon and they are not his Congress. It’s all about publicity and planting the seed in the heart of the public. Creepy. The Democratic Party becomes creepier as the summer wears on.

Meanwhile, how do we set about disrupting this well-organized smear campaign on a sitting president in a time of war? It’s time to build a domestic war machine and bring to bear the wit and wisdom of the blogosphere in designing goals and objectives for victory. Simply being reactive and putting out fires isn’t going to work.

Anyone have some ideas? Brainstorming permitted.