Archive for February, 2010

Weekend Open Thread: Mount Gracie

Saturday, February 27th, 2010


Have A Look: Bon Weekend à Tous!

Friday, February 26th, 2010


¶ Crop Art of Japan. (Hoax Slayer)

¶ Tyler Coates tries ChatRoulette. (The Awl.)

¶ As God Is My Waitress! (@  Joe.My.God)

¶ Tourism spots from Lars von Drear. (The Onion)

Daily Office: Friday

Friday, February 26th, 2010


¶ Matins: “Can psychiatry be a science?” asks Louis Menand in the current New Yorker. The welter of conflicting conclusions that he proceeds to lay out for us seems to require, at a minimum, an answer of “Not yet!” By the end of the piece, however, Mr Menand is wondering if science can ever be enough for psychiatry.

¶ Lauds: If the American embassy proposed for Battersea has any friends, they’re keeping mum. (Evening Standard)

¶ Prime: At 24/7, Douglas McIntyre expresses boilerplate outrage at the fees charged by lawyers and others to wind up Lehman Brothers — $642 million — but counsels against claw-back. (via Felix Salmon)

¶ Tierce: s this the journalistic equivalent of coitus interruptus, or is there a really big story smouldering in Governor Paterson’s lap? A few weeks ago, the jungle drums promised a big Times story that might require the Mr Paterson to resign. ! Then, not so much. Now it’s hard to tell whose seat is hotter, the governor’s or the newspaper’s.

¶ Sext: Kevin Hartnett wonders how much longer young people will get to know their parents through old bookshelves. (The Millions)

¶ Nones: At The Economist, closing notes on a roundtable on the viability and desirability of a European Monetary Fund. By and large, the commenters don’t see the need for a new institution.

¶ Vespers: In an excellent piece on the faith of Flannery O’Connor, Terry Teachout illuminates the orienting role that O’Connor’s Catholicism played in her ongoing study of the Protestants all around her. (Commentary; via 3 Quarks Daily)

¶ Compline: Ron Rosenbaum waxes rapturous about the — Dickensian? Dostoevskian? — moral tone of crime stories in the New York Post. (Slate; via Arts Journal)

Dear Diary: Big Game

Thursday, February 25th, 2010


Last week, I made a somewhat intemperate remark about sport, at Facebook. I wished for it to be as illegal as cocaine. Frankly, I’d rather that cocaine were as legal as sport. But what occasioned the comment was the hubbub of enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics, which I encountered wherever I turned.

What I object to isn’t sport. It’s the yearning for transcendence that moves so many people to whip up enthusiasm at Big Game time. There’s a dreadful collectivism about it: no matter how interested anybody says that he or she is in figure skating, the principal appeal is the fact that everybody else is watching. This is what explains the success of reality shows. We’re wired to believe that the bonfire gets bigger and warmer when more of us draw up to it.

We’re wired for a lot of things that don’t work in civilization, and here’s why: civilization is intended to take over most of the survival functions that in tribal societies (most places on earth today, in my opinion) are seen to by instinct and self-interest. Consider our health-care debate. It’s obvious to all civilized folks that a society that doesn’t guarantee some minimal level of health care to all of its members is wearing a big black eye. The tribals, more shrewdly no doubt, wonder why they ought to pay for other people’s problems.

The United States has never been about civilization. Civilization in the United States was from the beginning seen as a weakness into which the Eastern cities had degenerated. They were “soft.” Not that the United States stands for genuine tribalism, either. It is Calvinist through and through: Me and God, two for the road.

But our rugged individualism turns out to be a crock. Except for a few woolly mammoths, it is awfully boring. Even Americans like to have friends — and with friends come commitments. Because we like to pick our friends for ourselves, though, we’re hardly tribal.

Except at Big Game time! Then we gather to form one immense tribe, rubbing our hands lustily in front of the gigantic bonfire of common spectacle. Because sport is utterly devoid of internal meaning (as all games are — which is why we play them, those of us who play), and because its external meaning is, ultimately, a numerical matter of scoring (you can argue the fine points of a game, but respect for scoring is the one and only universal in sport), the Big Game makes for a perfect Big Tent. Everybody is welcome.

That is, everybody is welcome to check individuality and insight at the door.

What’s exciting about watching sport is awfully close to what’s exciting about watching a poor sod stand on a ledge with a view to jumping. Things could go horribly, arrestingly, fascinatingly wrong!. When they don’t, and something ineffably beautiful happens instead, you ought to turn off the television set and find other beautiful things to watch — Fonteyn and Nureyev, perhaps. A beautiful performance ought to be your signal to leave the pack, and cultivate your own idea of beauty and grace. Tell me about that, and I’ll not only hear you out on Davis and White but watch a clip myself.

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, February 25th, 2010


¶ Matins: The exercise in “militainment” known as America’s Army may be the cheapest recruiting technique since the English kings fostered village archery.

The introduction of video gaming into military training is so hugely inevitable that there is no reason to have an opinion about it. We believe, however, that it portends a smarter and more effective military. Not to mention the opportunity to attain military glory in peacetime, through games that bring the honor described by Virgil in the Iliad. (Foreign Policy; via The Morning News)

¶ Lauds: David Cope, the creator of an AI program that composed plausible fakes of Bach and Mozart, is about to unveil its successor, Emily Howell. (Miller-McCune; via 3 Quarks Daily)

¶ Prime: The author of Economists for Firing Larry Summers has a question for Fed Chief Bernanke: Remember? (How much easier it is to give advice when one doesn’t need any.)

¶ Tierce: Today’s truly with-it potager has to be a garden planted on a restaurants rooftop. As Jerry James Jones notes, hydroponics sidelines fertilizer production and runoff. (Treehugger; via Good)

¶ Sext: Cord Jefferson wonders if he ought to be dressing in “Old Money Green.” (The Awl)

¶ Nones: Not again! According to BBC News, the Argentians are calling the Falklands “Las Malvinas” again — at the United Nations.

¶ Vespers: Laura Miller proposes five rules for novelists who aspire to attract readers, but we think that her concluding paragraph could be repackaged as an all-important sixth, entitled, “If you have to try to be a genius, you’re not one; so give it up and get on.” (Salon; via Arts Journal)

¶ Compline: Jonathan Gourlay, who might be accused of having gone native, pretends to be an outsider, as he brings us up to speed on adultery in Pohnpei, which is much like adultery anywhere, only watch out for women wearing trousers. (The Bygone Bureau)

Dear Diary: Insouci

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


I had dreams of bringing the late spate of light entries to an end this evening, but now that it’s time to write, I haven’t a thought in my head. I made the mistake of watching the second half of Honolulu after dinner, and it gummed up my brain. “Gum,” you may not realize, is an anagram, more or less, of “MGM.” Honolulu is a catalogue raisoné of the high-minded vulgarities to which MGM was prone in years around 1940. It’s all there, but never moreso than in the hula skirt worn by Eleanor Powell with her tap shoes. Kathleen is in a state somewhere between apoplexy and plotz.

I loved every minute.

But I’d probably love anything tonight, now that my latest slate of doctoring is over. Friday’s Remicade infusion had its effect on Saturday, as I sloughed off a dully inexplicable fatigue and worked hard enough to feel tired for a reason. This morning’s procedure was devoid of bad news. At my age, and perhaps at any, there is only one form for good news: the fact that you are as alive as you are today means that you will probably be alive tomorrow. This state of affairs could end at any time, and indeed it will. There will come a time when tomorrow looks unlikely. There does for everyone, or at least for everyone who is not crushed in an unforeseen catastrophe.

Quatorze met me at the flat afterward, and we set out for lunch — how good it was to chew! — and an hour at Westphalia, which more than ever hums with currency. Q was determined to gratify my desire to get an imposing portrait of Kathleen off the floor and onto one of the storage unit’s walls, and I was resolved to let him try for as long as he liked. What’s imposing is not so much the portrait itself, which nobody likes except Kathleen and the artist who painted it, as the frame in which the artist mounted it, a baroque object found on the street with a pope in its hole. Getting it off the floor opened up quite a number of shelves.

Then we went to Gracious! I used to call this UES hardware store  “Gracious Empire,” but now that I am thinking of writing a musical about the enterprise (with branches in Lincoln Plaza and Chelsea), I prefer the exclamation point. We went to the lighting branch first and then to the main store, and in both locations I placed bulky, low three-figure orders and had them delivered. (“Had them delivered” is New-Yorkese for “asked that they be delivered.”) Then I strode into Third Avenue and hailed a cab. There was nothing at all out of the way about my buying a dozen boxes of lightbulbs and a garment rack, but I felt, stepping into the taxi, that I’d bought a shooting box in Scotland. I was almost intolerably pleased with life. I have been in Tired-of-London mode for so many weeks now (Remicade withdrawal?) that I feel honor-bound to report this afternoon’s bout of gross insouciance.

Spring must be just around the corner.

Have A Look: Loose Links

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


¶ Photographs by Jesse Speer (via The Online Photographer)

¶ Writing at cross-purposes. (amassblog)

¶ HBO 1983: An unforgettable intro. But, you know, it really does look almost thirty years old. Not to mention what it sounds like. (Brain Pickings)

¶ The Litwit dusts off the Tour Eiffel.

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


¶ Matins: At The Second Pass, Michael Rymer appraises David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, and although he finds the book to be “hobbled,” he reminds us that cracked explanations appeal by telling a good story.

¶ Lauds: In one interview, or perhaps two, Ewan McGregor talks to the Wall Street Journal and to its popular-scene blog, Speakeasy, about working with Roman Polanski and his “upcoming projects.”

¶ Prime: Few pundits share David Brooks’s gift for papering over surprising omissions with a patina of reasonable patter that sounds comprehensive. In a recent column, for example, Mr Brooks finds regrettable drawbacks in the “meritocratic” nature of the American elite. He attributes the fact that respect for “our institutions” has “plummeted” to all sorts of interesting slippages among the alleged holders of power, from rootlessness to insensitivity to “context.” One factor that goes unmentioned, however, is an income disparity that has left too many Americans without much of a reason to respect anything. Chris Lehman rebuts with the suggestion that nation may have become even less progressive than it was in the 1950s. (NYT, The Awl)

¶ Tierce: At The Infrastructurist, Yonah Freemark considers alternatives to concrete in the paving of sidewalks. Brick and stone are more attractive, but brick is fragile and stone is expensive, and both make for uneven surfaces. Who’d a thunk it: the bane of recycling may do the trick.

¶ Sext: Having thought the matter over, Mike Johnston decided that merely crediting the maker of a YouTube clip that he embedded at The Online Photographer. And he sent Harlan Ellison $25. And he got a thank-you note.

(Information may want to be free, but it doesn’t have to eat.)

¶ Nones: Sebnem Arsu’s report on the latest arrest of alleged military conspirators in Turkey clarifies some of the complexity in which national sovereignty is entangled, as newly empowered religious conservatives seek an alternative to the militant secularism of Turkey’s Twentieth-Century past. The alignment of values is altogether unlike what’s familiar in the Christian West. (NYT)

¶ Vespers: Now that some time has passed by, and the brouhaha is all but forgotten, Maud Newton pauses over The Original of Laura and finds it to be a fitting finale to Vladimir Nabokov’s career.

¶ Compline: Why unignited natural gas stinks: the New London School Explosion of 1937. (via MetaFilter)

Dear Diary: Jell-O

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


Regular readers know what the header means.

Not a lot to report, you betcha.  I got very hungry, but, eventually, my stomach gave up. There’s still plenty of Jell-O. I finished the last of the nectar before nine.

I watched three movies. Le Patinoire is one of the funniest films that I’ve ever seen. So funny, in fact, that I’m not recommending it to anybody. It must be just me. To Kill a King was — like The Wolfman, it would have been better in Martian. Was today really the day for Fatih Akin’s Gegen die Wand again? Now it’s too late to watch Honolulu, a movie I didn’t even know about until just the other day, when Brooks Peters ran a clip. I love Eleanor Powell, but I bought the tape for George and Gracie. Not to mention Honolulu.

Amazingly, I completed tomorrow’s Daily Office. I worked. That has never happened on a Jell-O day before — and I estimate that there have been somewhere between twelve and fifteen of them. Jell-O days have always had a determined sort of Victoria-mourning-Albert inertia about them.

I am going to eat my head off tomorrow at lunch. Frites en ciel.

Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


¶ Matins: Despite misgivings, we have set our fear of a Trojan Horse aside, and decided to take an essay from The American Conservative at face value: evidence of real discussion in the conservative community — no more. With fairly painstaking analysis of the numbers, Ron Unz dismantles “His-Panic.”

¶ Lauds: Jens Laurson packs a bundle of history into a brief account of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, not only one of the oldest and largest of its kind but certainly the the most prestigious. Contrary to unexamined opinion, orchestras don’t grow on trees. (Ionarts)

¶ Prime: The Epicurean Dealmaker professes to evince what’s wrong with Goldman Sachs from the behavior of its PR man, Lucas van Praag.

¶ Tierce: Although we are confident that Descartes’s “psychological” metaphors will one day be overturned, we must acknowledged that that day has not yet arrived. Jonah Lehrer, at The Frontal Cortex:

¶ Sext: We’re not making this up! There used to be an irrational exuberance for portraits of Alan Greenspan, and Erin Crowe was to the go-to Gainsborough. Times have changed. (WSJ, via Arts Journal)

¶ Nones: On the occasion of Dick Francis’s death, the London Review of Books reminds us of a very strong appreciation of his work by Wendy Doniger from 1998. 

¶ Vespers: On the occasion of Dick Francis’s death, the London Review of Books reminds us of a very strong appreciation of his work by Wendy Doniger from 1998. 

¶ Compline: We’ll let you work out the relationship between Common Sense and Conformity for yourself. (Hint: they have little in common!) First, William Polley on Common Sense. Second, at Psyblog, “Ten Timeless Influencers” of Conformity. Dissent is the second.

Dear Diary: Elder

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


This morning, as I was tootling downtown to see The Ghost Writer, I saw my first Elders. It took a bit of noticing. At first, I was aware only of a pale blond young man with very long eyelashes. He was standing right in front of me, wearing earmuffs not unlike my headset, running round the back of his head. He did not look happy, and he certainly looked out of place in New York City. But I didn’t notice that he was an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints until I noticed that the guy whom he was facing, a more substantial twentysomething leaning against the subway door, and who seemed to be talking to him now and then, was wearing a badge that announced him as an Elder. I read no further, but I noticed that the young man right in front of me was wearing an identical anorak. “Elder,” I thought. The idea of sending such young persons to the fleshpots of New York on missionary work strikes me as cruel and unusual, but that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, I suppose. Unusual enough to make Utah look good. Or (worse!) Idaho.

I have more to say, but my brain is clogged by adoration of Olivia Williams. This isn’t to say that I’m  not still in love with Emily Blunt! All I do these days, it seems, is go to the movies and tombe amoureux with actresses. Then I come home and talk for hours with my true love.

Have A Look: Neat

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


¶ Carnivorous plants and how they — do their thing. (National Geographic; via

¶ Russian wooden churches. (arkinet; via The Morning News)

¶ Recovering Lolita. (Venus febriculosa ; via Brainiac)

Monday Scramble: Procedure

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


We’re a bit distracted, this week, on the medical front; let’s just say that Jell-O is involved — lemon and pineapple Jell-O, to be precise. In a subsequent entry, the Editor will dilate discreetly.

We would like to take a course in Managing Your Google Reader, but it’s wishful thinking to imagine that there could be such a thing, at least in this early days. It is depressing, Monday mornings, to be greeted thus: “All Items (1000+).” Especially when it persists after all 257 reddit items have been marked as read. Ditto MetaFilter‘s 114. Only after dutifully scrolling through our friend Joe’s 95 most recent feeds (how did fall so far behind?) does the number come into focus, at 913.

And even as we feel that we’re looking at too many different sites, we also feel that we need to see new ones. We rely too heavily upon Felix Salmon, but we haven’t found anyone else who writes so well about the economy. Also: pertinently. As often as we’re intrigued by entries at Marginal Revolution, we’re discouraged by the impatience that our having merely showed up inspires in Tyler Cowen.

And we miss last year’s Astor and Zelaya sagas, which amused at almost every turn. The best that we can hope for this year is that someone will declare war on the War on Terror.

Perhaps we’ll live long enough to see the introduction of Seniors Jell-O: all flavors, no dyes.

Weekend Open Thread: Sunset

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Photograph by Kathleen Moriarty

Have A Look: Loose Links

Friday, February 19th, 2010


¶ Famous stars! Talk! About the Best! Performance! (s)! of the Past Ten Years. The range of intelligence on display is even greater than we expected it to be. (NYT; via The Awl)

¶ Sonneteers will be hanged. (Letters of Note)

¶ The Body Politic. (Strange Maps)

Daily Office: Friday

Friday, February 19th, 2010


¶ Matins: Rochelle Gurstein has thought up a brilliant satire of John Rawls’s “original position” that, very much like Swift’s famous “Modest Proposal,” is intended to make people stop and think, after they’ve had their laugh. This stopping and thinking is an element that she finds from popular satire today. (The New Republic; via 3 Quarks Daily)

¶ Lauds: Perhaps the most memorable celebration of Django Reinhardt’s centennial was Steve Jobs’s use of “Swing Guitars” to introduce the iPad. Will Friedwald celebrates the gypsy king at the Wall Street Journal.

¶ Prime: Tyler Cowen asks, “Is there a case for a VAT?” and outlines an argument that foresees the possibility of a credit collapse that would dwarf what’s happening in Greece. Mr Cowen also points to a lucid Op-Ed piece by Gregory Mankiw, “What’s Sustainable About This Budget?” (Marginal Revolution)

¶ Tierce: In the guise of a “backward glance,” assessing our times from the vantage of 2210, Spencer Weart endeavors to put the climate fight in perspective. (NYT)

¶ Sext: Cathy Erway may live in the restaurant/take-out capital of the United States, but she foreswore eating out for not one but two years. She talks with Borborygmi about her reasons, which, while sound, implicitly make the case that the uneducated poor cannot follow in her footsteps. (Good)

¶ Nones: How was Hamas exponent Mahmoud al-Mabhouh killed? By a team of expert assassins? Or by a bunch of bumblers? We guess it depends on whom you read.

¶ Vespers:  The Daily Blague is committed to the idea that favorable reviews are invariably more useful and informative than unfavorable ones, but every now and then we get down off our high horse — or, rather, we let other people vent. At Open Letters Monthly, seven oxen, some of them quite well known, are gored with aplomb, under the rubric “Bad Books, Good Hooks.” Lisa Peet, for example, loves reading about “moral” dogs, but she excoriates David Wroblewski for the ending of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which she considers a betrayal of everything foregoing.

¶ Compline: Craig Risen critiques Joan Didion: “Hello to All That.” Da noive! What nails Mr Risen’s case is his concluding paragraph, which introduces Joseph Mitchell into the discussion. Now, there’s an interrogation! (The Morning News)

Dear Diary: Already?

Thursday, February 18th, 2010


This is what it comes to in the end: each week day lasts as long as an episode of Masterpiece Theatre did, forty years ago. Time becomes businesslike, and gets you where you’re going (death) with a dispatch that you didn’t appreciate when you were younger. And you can’t tell anybody who’s still “younger” to be on guard. They’re too — younger.

When I look back on the day, this Thursday that is about to come to an end, I see, if not progress exactly, then a certain advancement of the story so far. There was a very upsidey visit to the dermatologist. Since almost anything that a dermatologist tells you is TMI as regards the rest of the world, I’ll reduce it to one word: “Moisturizer!” Which, you’ll note, requires no prescription. So that was good. I got a haircut — which really means that my beard was trimmed. I showed up impromptu, after the doctor’s appointment. I could have waited, but the proprietor, who always takes care of me, was getting ready to take care of another gent, and it was he who suggested that I submit to his second-in-command. The result was that I look a bit too much like Gianni Versace — but the young man promised that, next time, he won’t take so much off. It’s all good: it will all grow back. The proprietor, I soon gathered, wanted to talk futbol with his client, a thirty-something man of Romance-language background who spoke with the slightest accent. Brazilian, perhaps? Because he was less comfortable in the barber’s Spanish than he was in English. The two of them were still chatting when I was walking out the door. Would sport exist as we know it, if it weren’t for barber shops?

Now, I hadn’t expected to get a whole paragraph out of the hour between one and two, and it’s true that, during that time, I felt that time had slowed down a bit. But it speeded up again at lunch, which — can it really have done so? — took an hour and a quarter. It’s because I was reading. The corollary to the rule that time flies when you’re an antique is that it takes aeons to read anything. Before the club sandwich was set before me, I knocked off the “last of Prince Albert” chapter in Strachey’s Queen Victoria — a desert-island book if ever there was one. Chalk one up for me! But then, over lunch, I read about rape in American prisons. The NYRB piece was really about impunity in American prisons — for the staff — so it wasn’t really all that contradigestive. But I had to re-read many sentences.

After a few more errands, I sat down to write up The Wolfman, which I saw last Friday. Time really flew during that project. It seemed that I could work no faster than four words per hour. At one point, I fell asleep with my finger on the ‘k’ key.

Then it was time to make dinner. I wasn’t at all ready. There were messes all over the apartment, and piles that needed sorting and putting away. And I wasn’t in the mood; I was “too tired.” But I gone with it like a manly man. We had a chicken sauté — by which I mean that chicken legs, browned in clarified butter, were simmered, along with shallots and mushrooms, in a broth that was finished with thickening cream — served over cavatappi, with a stir-fry of snow peas and green onions (nothing remotely Chinese about the seasoning). For dessert, Eli’s palmiers, which please Kathleen during the chocolate ban of Lent.

Tomorrow, time will really slow down for a few hours. I’ll be at the Hospital for Special Surgery, being examined by my Facebook friend, rheumatologist Steven Magid, and absorbing a Remicade infusion. Time will stop altogether next week, for a few hours on Wednesday, when I have my umpteenth you-know-what. Don’t listen to old people when they tell you that time flies by in a blur. Just remind them of what it’s like to visit their many doctors.

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, February 18th, 2010


¶ Matins: The ACLU has brought suit on behalf of a student who was unreasonably detained by TSA operatives simply because he was carrying Arabic-language flash cards (“to smile,” “funny,” &c). This sort of thing makes us feel that we’re in a Laurel & Hardy sketch, but one in which the pratfalls really hurt, and may even be fatal. (Crooks And Liars; via MetaFilter)

¶ Lauds: We’ve all seen the tantrum scene from Der Untergang (Downfall) at least half a dozen times, each reiteration spliced to different, highly parodic subtitles. Linda Yablonsky is brave but correct to praise the latest entry, “Hitler Learns MOCA Job Goes to Jeffrey Deitch.” The clip is funny in a way that it wouldn’t be if, say, it were “Hitler Learns New Yorker job goes to William Shawn.” (T)

¶ Prime: Felix Salmon slams the nonsense that is “market reporting.”

¶ Tierce: At The Infrastructurist, Yonah Freemark reports on the use of robots to clear the floor of the Baltic Sea of mines left over from World War II, in connection with the controversial laying of a natural gas pipeline.

¶ Sext: Maria Popova shares links to six on-line sources of inexpensive artwork.  We went right over to  Eye Buy Art and bought two photographs by Ryan Schude. (Brain Pickings)

¶ Nones: Slow boats to China are hot right now — and maybe forever. Elisabeth Rosenthal’s “Slow Trip Across Sea Aids Profit and Environment.” (NYT)

¶ Vespers: Garth Risk Hallberg nominates Dave Eggers as the next editor of The Paris Review, and follows it up with a persuasive discussion, placing both the periodical and the writer in a context that has them looking made for each other. (The Millions)

¶ Compline: We’ve been reading bits and pieces of Lawrence Lessig’s “How to Get Our Democracy Back” for so many days now that we didn’t think that it could be news (according to Christopher Shea at Brainiac) that the proposal is the “most trafficked” item at The Nation‘s site in the past six months. In fact, it is dated 3 February, so we have been reading it for ages. But it has begun to sound the ring of a classic declaration.

Dear Diary: Pushing and Pulling

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


For almost two hours this afternoon, Quatorze and I toiled in the apartment, with Q doing most of the toiling. At one point, an importunate Fossil Darling telephoned. I had to tell him that Quatorze could not take the call because he was busy screwing on the floor. Wonderful seconds of dead silence. You know, I wish I could remember how those dumb old jokes went; you know, the ones with “they pushed, they pulled, they pushed, they pulled, and then — ” but all I can remember are the “shut up” jokes. —Mommy, Mommy, I don’t want to go to Europe. —Shut up and keep swimming!

Now I remember how the push/pull jokes went. “And then they got out of the car to see about the tire.” I do love the dumb jokes of childhood. (“See this lump in my shoe?”) Not that I don’t appreciate a crackling bon mot. We used to tell one about Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations. She was introducing Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, “who led the Democratic Party in Nineteen-Hundred-and-Fifty-Tooooo [think Streep as Child] and again in Nineteen-Hundred-and-Fifty-Six” — at which point some character in the peanut gallery called out, with Bronx-cheer gusto, “Adlai Stevenson’s an ass!” To which the imperturbable former First Lady replied, “Nevertheless!” To tell you the truth, I had made this joke an entertaining staple of my repertoire before I realized that it probably hadn’t happened verbatim.

Where was I? Oh, yes: Quatorze was screwing on the floor. He was screwing the “bridge table” together. It would be difficult to play any game of cards, much less bridge, on the “bridge table,” which is in fact a console or sofa table, meant to stand against the wall in a corridor or behind a sofa. I think that I know why it’s called a “bridge table,” but it’s too boring to go into. The long and the short of the story is that once homes had been found for the items of furniture that were, in a sort of cold-fusion chain-reaction, displaced by the “bridge table,” the apartment looked almost exactly as it had done before the toiling and screwing. —Shut up and keep digging!

Seriously, by tomorrow afternoon, even I won’t remember what we did. So you might wonder why we bothered. I certainly do. I’d better think of something, though, or Quatorze (who did all the work, after all) will weigh in with a Comment. Did I mention the Chinese footbaths? It was so that there would be room for the Chinese footbaths behind the love seat in the window. Yes! That was it. The Chinese footbaths.

When Will paid his first state visit to the apartment last week, one of the two Chinese footbaths had arrived. I made a joke about how it was big enough to give Will a bath in, but even though I did not come out and call it a “Chinese footbath,” Megan didn’t see the humor. She missed the ha-ha. I think that all that she could see was her son’s cracked skull. I am writing this down now so that, when Will inherits the Chinese footbaths, he will have a good joke with which to entertain his friends.

We pushed, we pulled. Then I got back to work on the Book Review review.

Have A Look: Wow

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


¶ Eddie Bauer, 1966. (A Continuous Lean)

¶ T-Shirt War. (via  MetaFilter)

¶ Crazy Apartments. (via Joe.My.God)

¶ Zooming in on the Mandelbrot to e.214. (