Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The nose knows


The spousette was out of town this past weekend, and I was feeling at loose ends—OK, lonely—and called sundry chums on Friday in an attempt to set up a dinner party. In the event, only Mary and Eileen had a hole in their schedules, so we were just three on Saturday night, but a jolly trio we were. Napalm the Aged Wonder Dog (seventeen this winter) staggered out to the dining room to check out the guests and then wandered off to spend the rest of the evening in slumber. Ravi the Younger Wonder Dog, perfectly unaware that the day marked exactly one year since he'd landed this gig, posed for a wonderful photograph (above) by Mary Barnsdale, who has an almost preternatural knack for canine photography. I am pleased to post it for the three or four regular readers of this blog.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

From “Zlateh the Goat”



First seen hanging in College V "Old House" Room A447 (then hers; later mine; splendid chambers—never better, really) at this time 36 years ago; now handsomely framed on the walls of the Crumbling Manse™.

In praise of dogs

They ask for so little, really.

Late this morning, as I was attempting to get some things done—well let's be honest, I was thinking about attempting to get things done in those moments I wasn't devoting to reading the political blogs—the dogs were pestering me, which I rather resented. "C'mon!" they were saying (I here essay a rather simple and un-nuanced translation from dogspeak to idiomatic English) "C'mon! It's a beautiful autumn day!" (It was: warm in the sunlight, crisp in the shade. Gorgeous. The Bay Area typically partakes of the Goldilocks' Porridge of North American weather on any given day of the year about three hundred samples out of 365.) "Let's go, let's get out, let's do something!"

I reluctantly put aside my preparations to "get some things done" and drove to the nearby "Linda Dog Park" in Piedmont, a nearby enclave of privilege and distinct municipality surrounded by some of the better districts of Oakland (who are nevertheless forbidden the privileges of Piedmont's separate school district, a policy, living as I do across the street from an Oakland middle school, I cannot bring myself to deplore). There the three of us—elderly Napalm, going on seventeen, and two year-old Ravi—passed the early afternoon from noon to 2:30 as an assortment of dogs and people transited the park. Napalm doesn't ask much of these excursions anymore: a rich assortment of olfactory signals along the main trail provided ample information for his leisured evaluation. Two year-old Ravi had over the course of our hundred and fifty minutes half a dozen playmates, including a couple who helped drain his batteries in games of chase/flee/posture all around the park.

We left shortly before noon and returned here, sundry additional errands run, by 3:30. Napalm sleeps, but at his age that's what he generally does of a given hour. Ravi, who was earlier bouncing off the walls, also slumbers, his batteries discharged for the nonce, in the safety of his "crate." Left to my own devices I would likely not have ventured outdoors for this splendid autumn day. I'm glad that the dogs drew me out. The "things to be done" can be done another time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How it happens

So a long-established rightie blog "Newsmax" runs this provocative little piece (reproduced courtesy of TPM) and then withdraws it, perhaps on the advice of counsel, saying "John Perry? Who? Never heard of him." Yeah, right.

The point is to infect the public discourse with this meme of domestic military intervention. This will shortly come to seem like a subject on which reasonable people might reasonably disagree. Do you doubt it? Reflect that at one time (in living memory!) torture seemed an unambiguous evil. The bad guys (the Nazis; assorted Southeast Asians north of armistice lines) did it and we didn't, and back in the day no one suggested that the line was blurry, or that there might be circumstances under which it was permitted to step across even a smudged boundary. Nope. But over the course of the Cheney Shogunate, our political discourse became debauched by degrees, advanced by just such initially outrageous salients, with evil increments creeping behind them. We may accordingly look forward to pieces in the Washington Post along the lines of "Military coups: Obviously not an optimal solution, but hasn't the Obama administration invited consideration of this option?" Then, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer: "Next up, Mark Shields and David Brooks on whether proponents of the armed overthrow of the Obama regime have been a little intemperate in their rhetoric, or whether a few leftist bloggers are just too thin-skinned." Just wait.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another one over the side


The Cronk. A shame he couldn't have made it just a few more days to the moon landing anniversary.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Niece blogging



My youngest niece and I have just returned from a rather inefficient road trip that took us to Victoria BC and back. She made the ordeal a pleasure. The spousette and I promise that when next we conscript her for a vacation, it will be better planned.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mary Barnsdale has a birthday


We were briefly an item, back in the day. That it didn't work out was entirely due to my ongoing post-divorce nervous breakdown, which took the form of a sudden spasm of agoraphobia as the 1990s began. We have remained friends, and I've always looked back on our liaison as a providential meeting in exile of two citizens of a common country. My warmest wishes go out this evening...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This grand old man


Raised in a semi-bookish household I was vaguely aware of John Updike (1932-2009) as a wunderkind of American letters long before I ever got around to reading him. As a snotty undergraduate in the early 1970s, knowing nothing more detailed about him than the lurid reputation he'd gained from the publication of Couples, I remember loftily disparaging him as a mere chronicler of suburban adultery. That was almost four decades ago: I began to discover, upon actually encountering his work in the short story collection Museums and Women, that he was a chronicler of genius, and I was subsequently to learn to my enduring sorrow that suburban adultery is a more piquant and, ah, fraught subject than I understood at twenty.

I wanted to write novels and stories myself, back in the day; a portion of talent and a vaster degree of discipline proved in the event to be wanting. It did not help that I'd accumulated some ruinous literary influences along the way--not themselves bad writers, but terrible mutagens, most of them, from the standpoint of a wannabee's embryonic DNA. Updike's influence was alone beneficent, and the only decent short story I ever wrote owed its closing cadences to a confluence of the final sentences of "The Taste of Metal" and "Your Lover Just Called" from Museums and Women:

He reached forward slowly, as underwater, and gently pulled the pencil from her hair. Rising with surprising speed she flowed into the embrace whispering indistinctly, please, please, eclipsed by kisses as he sought, still somewhat hesitantly, the softness of her small breasts. He wondered, as the narrow fissure of indecision closed, whether in the longer run of things he would credit this to volition or destiny, but in the longer run of things the distinction never matters; nor was it troubling him by the time there came again from the bedroom, in oddly muffled but imperative peals, the strident summons of the telephone.


From the late seventies forward I had a vague intention to drop a note to JU, merely a "well done." The notion flickered again early this year, but I imagined that I had another ten years at least to get around to it. As it turns out...not.

Tonight's assignment: read "The Happiest I've Been," which closes out Updike's first short story collection The Same Door.