Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A great song about a dog

My wife will dance to this one - dig the elementary school flute solo!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Some of you have the day off - good for you. Veteran's Day never meant much more than that to me either, until I became enthralled by the English poets Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, and others. That led to a fascination with WWI in general, and the Western Front in particular. I think I could make a pretty convincing argument that much of the way we think today, and many of the international crises we currently face, can be traced back to that terrible conflict that ended 90 years ago, and the botched carving up of Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East that followed. Whether it's "the former Yugoslavia", Iraq, the Congo, or many other places, just look back to 1918-19 and you'll usually find the peremptory and unrealistic decisions that all but guaranteed animosity and bloodshed would erupt again in a matter of decades.

Today, the English will all wear red paper poppies on their lapels in memory of the fallen from WWI and other wars. Perhaps we should all adopt the same practice as a reminder that the costs of war are measured not just in lives, not just in dollars, but in generations to come who will be burdened with our folly. It is not only our hearts that are stained, but also the hearts of those who follow us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Liberty's sword has a double edge

We had about 30 people over at Treat Street for the November 4 results. By the time I arrived home at about 6:30, they'd just called Pennsylvania, and I did a little jig as I walked across the threshold. I'll admit that well into the summer, well into October, even well into Election Day, I was unconvinced we'd pull it off. The New York Times recently had a piece about people with frayed nerves and terrible sleep patterns due to the election and the economy, and I felt they were writing about me. Like that terrible beast slouching towards Bethlehem, the world looked like it was coming apart in just a few short weeks, moving inexorably from one crisis to the next. And somehow Sarah Pailn embodied the attitude that I thought would undo us all - the unblinking, unwavering certitude, the absolute faith in values that didn't require any connection with empirical evidence. It's that conservative optimism that suggests that everything will be great with the world provided that everyone simply adopt the views of the extreme Right. It had made me tired.

So we drank wine and watched TV and checked Indiana and Ohio and Virginia county by county. Our friend Jani told my wife that if she'd seemed out of sorts in the past 8 years it was because she hadn't been herself with Bush in office. It seems a tall claim, but I think I know what she meant. My own animus was like a bank account, compounding interest over the years, then doubling again in November 2004.

Then they called Ohio and the math said it was over. We all got quite jolly and picked up the pace on the wine and champagne. Then just a few minutes after the polls closed on the West Coast, the call was made all across the media. Exultate! Tiger Woods' fist pumps! Tears! Hugs! I ran out to my car and honked the horn for a few minutes.

McCain gave the best speech of his venal campaign. Obama just another in his expanding collection of greatest hits. We cheered some more. I was watching my wife's home state of Indiana as the numbers went from bleak to iffy to too close to call. Taking Indiana was the twist of the blade I needed.

As the evening wound down, attention turned to Prop 8. The news didn't look good, but I guess the bitter comes with the sweet. And even the elation of the results has to be tempered with the burdens yet to come. Eight years of Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales, Rumsfeld,the Stanford girl Condi Rice - there is much to be repaired, and little else we can accomplish before the mountainous ash-heap of the global economy is somehow addressed.

Kelly and I slept pretty well Tuesday night, but this is hardly a result - it's just an opportunity.
And to my friends and to all people who can't marry as I have - that's also an opportunity to keep striving to move us forward too. Congratulations to Senators Obama and Biden. Serve us well.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Turkey Lurkey Time

We need to return to this kind of unbridled, unironic enthusiasm. What alternatives are there after all? 2008: The year the Turkey Lurkey returned to public consciousness.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I know a guy and he's a writer. A legit writer!

You ought to write a book. Really, you should. You're witty and well-read, nuanced and multi-dimensional. Problem is, writing a full-length novel isn't something that happens in those interstices when you're feeling witty, nuanced, and multi-dimensional; it is a grinding slog involving months of existential mirror-gazing, when the self-doubt and and less salutary brain chemistry embrace your every keystroke. That's why you've never even tried it.

I met this guy, Toby Barlow, through my lovely wife. He is witty, accomplished, and an excellent man to meet for cocktails. We spent a week at his place in Brooklyn once, and I saw that he had 3x5 cards up on his bedroom wall with Ideas. Not ideas. Ideas. The kind of Ideas that come to you from time to time that you would love to realize but probably won't, because you have to work or you're just too tired or there are errands you haven't taken care of. I won't say what was on the cards on his wall, except to say that they were grand and fun. I didn't make too much of them at the time, but I now know that Toby is the kind of fellow who isn't just whistling Dixie when he affixes 3x5 cards to his wall - he's actually finding the wherewithal to make good on his Ideas.

Like this epic poem/novel he has written. It's called Sharp Teeth and it's about werewolves in Los Angeles. Except that it's not just about werewolves in Los Angeles - it's about all sorts of untidy emotions and the people who have them. The people just happen to be werewolves. And it's good. And while the plot is a rollicking yarn, it's the stuff about love and loyalty and betrayal that's particularly fine. And I'm pretty sure that he wrote it because he had an original Idea and wrote it on a 3x5 card and then followed through. And that's really impressive.

He came through SF on a book tour some months ago, and someone asked him how he managed to write Sharp Teeth and have a demanding job and tons of other responsibilities. He said he worked on it in hotel rooms when he was traveling, and I thought about how I can't even work on the crossword puzzle after work most nights. And again, this book doesn't read like something someone was tackling in their off-hours at the Sheraton. Although there is a significant sub-plot set in a hotel.

So kudos to you Toby, and I'm unreservedly recommending that people check out this book. It is about a lot of things, but for me, it's mostly about the triumph of Ideas over all that stuff in daily life that usually holds Ideas in abeyance.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hitler Plans Burning Man

This is how it must be for those diehards still willing and able to spend a week in the Nevada dust as people like me slowly peel off into a settled middle age of barbecues and white wine.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I miss my youth...

It was never like this, but it's how I imagine it might have been had I grown up in NZ and been the son of a rabbit farmer. This song (Death and the Maiden by The Verlaines) got stuck in my noggin and I couldn't find it on iTunes, so thank you YouTube. Watch a video by any eighties era band from New Zealand and you'll find the same low production values and touching innocence. I imagine that the band's mums were in a room off-camera fixing up a nice luncheon for everyone. Lead singer Graeme Downs? Now a professor at the University of Otago teaching music theory and composition. Fancy that.