Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Childish graffiti on an Elizabeth Bishop poem

Out on the high "bird islands," Ciboux and Hertford,
the razorbill auks and the silly-looking puffins all stand
with their backs to the mainland
in solemn, uneven lines along the cliff's brown grass-frayed edge,
while the few sheep pastured there go "Baaa, baaa."
(Sometimes, frightened by aeroplanes, they stampede
and fall over into the sea or onto the rocks,
and I say "Haaa, haaa.")

Not really up-to-snuff unsullied original here.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

If wishes were ponies, then bloggers would ride

First use, according to google. Hard to believe.

We're going to have sheep

Continuing on with my worst nightmares, there's an interesting article about "green burial" in the 29 August New Yorker (the one with all the naked people on the cover). The article is by Tad Friend, is entitled "The Shroud of Marin", and is behind a subscription wall. Tyler Cassity, the subject of the article, turns out to be something of a genius in the cemetery business and something of a psychopath in human relationships. A few people are trying to encourage environmentally friendly burial, with the additional idea of thereby financing and insuring the preservation of the involved (and surrounding) land as wilderness. Some of them had the bad luck to run into Cassity, which provides Friend with plenty of wacky or painful moments to describe. Early in the article we learn that Cassity plans to have sheep graze on a green (or sort of green, or partly, or advertised as but ..) cemetery he's developing in Marin, and (as you know if you've read this post), I immediately knew he'd turn out to be evil.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Kakistos, the worst of the worst

In Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we learn about the worst poetry in the galaxy. The idea that there could be a worst poet or poem is interesting - certainly one comes across famously bad poems in books about poetry, but not the sort of stuff that makes one think, That's as bad as it gets and couldn't be worsened. In the same sense, you're not going to read anything better than, say, Keats's ode "To Autumn", or, apropos, Hopkins's "No Worst, There Is None". But here commenter xanax points me to my "worst nightmare".

Interestingly enough, I encountered the worst of the worst food just Thursday: spam sushi.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Music you should buy

at this working link here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Light in August

I'll grab the plot when I'm not eating lunch (or at work), but go look at the Bush bargain basement plots at Prof. Pollkatz's place. I don't think we're seeing a phase change so much as an example of why not to plot the data as soon as you get a point you like, but it's still a beautiful thing. While there check out the Clinton numbers and the (unconvincing but amusing) Bush-Nixon Gallup projection.

What irony is

Mrs. R. asks, "Is it ironic if a guy is afraid of dying in a plane crash so always travels by car then dies in a car accident?"

My response, "No, that's just bad luck - ironic would be if he's driving and a plane crash-lands on his car."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Billmon cries wolf

Here conflating the Hitchenses of the world and the sane & sober, and pretending that there's no difference between someone (allegedly) saying an American soldier died to protect Israel and someone saying that increasing the security of Israel was a part of the reason we went to war - and no difference between the above and plain anti-Semitism. It seems to me he's defending his tendency to anti-Israel paranoia by claiming those who call him out on it are playing the anti-Semitism card. Oh well. At least the surrounding posts are top-notch.

A guy in dire need of firing

Leonardo and Stagger Lee

I've been rereading some of John M. Ford's work recently. In his historical novel The Dragon Waiting, he has Lorenzo de' Medici, who knows that Florence is about to fall to Byzantium, say, "Leonardo once told me he could bring down Brunelleschi's Pantheon with a single swing of the pick." In The Last Hot Time, Stagger Lee demonstrates a similar engineering or architectural aptitude in a secular setting.

When I noticed the above, it occurred to me that Stagger Lee, who is both ambidextrous and bisexual and adept in both the mechanical and magical, may in some ways be meant to represent Leonardo. Much of what one learns in Ford's work comes in piecing together passing descriptions or comments or implications, so gathering further evidence for this hypothesis would require learning a lot more about Leonardo and another close reading of The Last Hot Time - maybe someday.

p.s. here's how to decide between the two- and one-word forms of the last word above.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

A frustratingly vague article about Cy Young winner Mike Marshall

and his frustrated attempts to get MLB to teach pitching without injury risk from the always interesting Murray Chass, an article which the frustratingly broken NYT link generator doesn't find.

Some valuable commentary on They Feed They Lion

I'm jealous that Levine got the title for free (see the final section).


Another Obsidian Wings comment

From a conversation about the possibly-permanent bases in Iraq and the unclear war policy goals of the admin generally:
Without the blueprints in my hands, I can't know if the Iraqi bases are built on rock or shifting sands. I can look in Bush and Cheney's faces, and at the souls behind (and wish them to the Hague), or try to read Don Rumsfeld's mind, or check the price of Halliburton stock. But that's all vague, and sand is made from rock.

More on verse and blogging can be found later in the thread.

Also, commenter ral points out that the first sentence of this article I linked to is striking:
From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, U.S. military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years.
This reminds me of this fierce Philip Levine poem for some reason.

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Billmon enters bad territory

Now, I think Billmon is a great lefty blogger, but he has a thing. It's in evidence in this post about Israel and her alliance with the US - the exact point where it shines (so to speak) clear is "Israel has nukes, and the upper hand in the relationship."

More on the thing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Comment on Bush and Sheehan

I don't see how Bush talks to her now without appearing to have caved. A few days ago this was a golden opportunity, now time has Midasized it.

Recycled from Obsidian Wings.

Funny joke by someone

"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it any more."

A friend who laughs at disasters sent this to me, attributing it to George Carlin. Juan Cole quotes it without attribution, lazily. A google suggests Jay Leno is more likely. But I haven't come across anything definitive, just slight variations attributed to Carlin or to one of Leno's monologues from early 2004.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

America's Stupid Test Kitchen

I got the latest Cook's Illustrated the other day. The raspberry bars are pretty good, and the wrong berry proportion in my attempt was probably a result of not yet owning a kitchen scale. There's also an article about canned tomatoes, a subject I've pondered a few times recently. In particular I wondered what they'd have to say about the Muir Glen brand, which a chef friend recommends. Well, as it turns out, they like Progresso the best, and a bunch of imported Italian brands the least.

Actually, as it turns out, there's a perfect correlation between the ranking and the acidity of the product. Tasters like the brands which have added citric acid.

When I read this, I wanted to tear out my hair. They need to repeat the expt balancing out the acidity.

Hey, ATK, how about hiring someone with a Ph.D. in hard science?

(As an aside, the article has fascinating things to say about canned tomatoes - American brands use citric acid and calcium chloride to brighten and firm the tomatoes, and Italian brands are packed in puree not juice because of punitive [i.e., 100%] tariffs placed on European vegetables and fruits by Bush I [when in puree, whole tomatoes are considered sauce by the regulations]. I'm not sure how I feel about calcium chloride; I have a definite opinion about protectionism, esp. under a Republican president.)

(p.s. Tasters called the Muir Glen organic tomatoes "waterlogged", "chewy", and "stringy".)

Whismical comment

My friend Mark has won a commission for a typically clever project which he describes as "whimsical". I misread that as"whismical", which I figured must be a google empty set, but which gets 1590 hits, so I don't get to make up an interesting meaning, though "whismical bunny container" (no link because of annoying popup) inspires dark thoughts.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

More on the Subaru Nothng Lasts Forever Ad

I described a very odd commercial here; now I see that Steve Walsh (the lead singer and keyboardist of Kansas) has an equally oddly-expressed comment on it (not directly linkable - see the 1 Aug entry). The Kerry he refers to is Kerry Livgren, who wrote "Dust in the Wind" and many less familiar but more beautiful songs.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday bug blogging

orange bug on water plant Posted by Picasa

There's a pair of these creatures that like the little fishpond near our house. Anyone know what sort of bug this is? Or what sort of plant it's on?


Monday, August 08, 2005

Conservative anti-protest-puppetists, take note

Two words on Rafael Palmeiro

0. For a variety of reasons - his reputation as one of the best men in the game, the unusual sympathy of the arbiter, his straightforward denial, my perhaps characteristically American naive sense of fair play - I'm still willing to entertain the possibility that Palmeiro didn't intentionally take steroids, much as I was wiling to entertain the possibility that Clinton hadn't had sex with that woman.

1. Those on the left (e.g., people I usually agree with like Digby or Mark Kleiman) who are mocking Bush for his statement of support for Palmeiro seem to be confusing (in the latter's words) "Palmeiro's denial that he had ever used steroids" with his later statement that he had never intentionally used steroids. That or they don't feel the pull of the arguments in 0.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Vade retro me, O'Reilly

Vade retro me, O'Reilly Posted by Picasa

See this description of some unAmerican idiocy.

More cool uses for the web

Interesting pictures at Flickr. Via Eszter at Crooked Timber, who seems to be specializing in finding cool uses for the web lately.

More on Giambi

Tyler Kepner of the NYT on Giambi's redemption (non-permanent link -the NYT link generator seems to be having trouble lately).

More possible explanations for Giambi's recovery.

Here's Mike Lupica sucking on a lemon.


Friday, August 05, 2005

John Crowley's The Translator

Three months ago I started reading John Crowley's The Translator. I thought I had said of it that it's not a "foundation of a new religion" book like Engine Summer and Little, Big, but I didn't and would anyway have been wrong. The religion even has a name available (even if its current proponents aren't worshippers): nationalism. Without giving anything away, I'll note that the book rhymes with one of Graham Greene's greatest novels, and that the title turns out to be a beautiful three-level pun. Be sure to read it if you care about poetry, grief, and hope.


Thursday, August 04, 2005


alchemy Posted by Picasa

A little distraction and a low flame turn stainless steel to gold and violet-cerise (I guess that's more accurate than "purple" or "magenta").


Violet was flayed on the lawn

The subject of the previous post is still a mote in my eye. Reading Elizabeth Bishop's "A Cold Spring", the second line "the violet was flawed on the lawn" looks like the above. And when she writes "the dogwood infiltrated the wood/each petal burned, apparently, by a cigarette-butt" ...

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Man, The Tool Maker

The interrogation proceded with a sledgehammer
handle, wieldier without the heavy head and more
suitable for repeated application.
Why the soldier had a sledgehammer,
and whether he kept both hands on the handle
in accord with its design, is not noted.
About the inspiration behind another tool the report is more
forthcoming: the soldier's older brother had,
as a child, closed him up in a sleeping bag
and he had found it scary.
Whether the man inside the bag
had been informed he was about to be
questioned with a sledgehammer
handle, the report also does not make clear.

(See here and here and here and here.)

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Bad poem material

Domestic cats suffer from hyperthyroidism. Since the thyroid concentrates iodine, a standard treatment for serious cases is a single dose of radioactive iodine. (Cats have duplicate thyroid glands, one of which is turned off, so the diseased functional gland gets zapped and the good gland gets turned on.) Because of (probably paranoid) health concerns, the treated cat is isolated for five or so days until the hot iodine decays; in fact, it's kept in a lead-lined box. If you want to visit your cat during that time, you have to do so through a glass wall.

A friend, hearing the above, turned to me and said, "Sorry to say this, but that sounds like the subject of a bad poem."

There's a good poem by Elizabeth Bishop called "Large Bad Picture", but admittedly for the most part bad subject matter makes for bad poetry. Or is that a tautology?

Here's some sure-fire bad poem material: a bird that sings with its wings. Be sure to check out the videos on the left. (In further fascinating bird sound news involving the same ornithologist, the ivory-billed woodpecker observation I noted here has been [following some controversy] accepted after skeptics heard recorded calls and rapping.)

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