Saturday, November 27, 2010

Like tears in rain


One more anniversary this evening, forty years ago; another tomorrow, thirty-eight. Neither co-principal will remember either occasion, the one being indifferent and the other deceased. “All these moments will be lost in time…”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

34 years ago


I suspect that the other principal has put the entire occasion out of her mind.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Noted (almost) without comment


The picture comes from “Hyperbole and a Half,” which I bookmarked half a minute after seeing this.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fraught anniversary

(reposted from the original blog half a decade back)
On this date many years ago, a Saturday, it was, I flickered into consciousness from sleep as—ah, Nabokov described it in a similar context in Ada—“the tiger of happiness fairly leaped into being.” I woke up, entwined and ungarbed, with a young woman whom I’d been stalking (as she would likely put it today) for over a quarter of my young life. I don’t think that the morning assembly of reality has ever rocketed up such a vertical gradient of joy, and I’m astonished looking back that my nose didn’t bleed. It all ended badly about a dozen years later, and while I don’t hold any truck with astrology (we Leos aren’t that credulous), I have to scratch my head at the thought that this radiant morning was also G.W. Bush’s twenty-eighth birthday. Clearly doom and grief were in the air, all unnoticed then...
I long ago understood that not all of my fellows maintained the equivalent of my conscientious internal calendar. I'd get amused responses in high school upon innocently observing “You know, it’s just two years ago today that...” I'm going to guess that the young woman in my account, for all the intense history we shared for a dozen years after that morning, has not summoned forth the event on this distant anniversary.

Friday, July 2, 2010

It could be verse


Sorting through my old papers I came across the above bit of doggerel. In the 1970s, in another life, Richard McCloud and I, and our then-wives, socialized rather frequently. Alas, I haven't seen any of the other three this century. McCloud was a sailor by profession and by avocation, and in 1979 purchased Tyche (named for the minor Greek deity of luck), on whom the four of us and sundry others passed many a splendid afternoon on San Francisco Bay. On the occasion of that purchase I penned the above lines, mimicking in my typographical treatment (to the extent this was possible given the technological resources of the day, which is to say, not much) the conventions of those Georgian poets who, when they made a classical allusion, wanted to make damn sure that their audience didn't imagine that they, the poets, were products of, you know, the XVIII Century equivalent of a red-brick university.

This comes from a brief period during which the Muse of Light Verse settled on my shoulder. I remain rather proud of it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Raymond Loewy eat your heart out


...or accept this tribute.

A labor of love: one Norman Timbs created this magnificent creature around a 1948 Buick V8 engine. The carcass was discovered in the Southern California desert eight years ago, purchased for a song and then lovingly restored. Source page here. Heartbreaking pictures of its low ebb here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The light of this and other days


For about as far back as the writ of memory reliably runs—in my case probably late in 1956—I have felt myself oppressed by the light of mid-morning, which first burned my emotional emulsions in the parched LA suburbs of my early childhood. For quite as long, I have basked and gloried in the slanted sunlight of late afternoon. I thought of this today as I strolled to the corner store (a 55,000 square foot Whole Foods Market on the edge of downtown Oakland, lest anyone imagine I'm speaking of a tiny mom&pop grocer) in the golden rays of a Northern California early summer.

Through my undergraduate years autumn was my favorite season, but in the years since, as the brute requirements of earning a livelihood have kept me indoors for most of the daylight hours, my preference has shifted toward summer, and Daylight Savings Time: I adore the illusion of a life after work. Since the beginning of the last decade I note a shift in my emotional response to the solstice from "Hot damn! Summer again!" to a pensive "I wonder how many more of these are left in the jar?"

It's good to be alive this late afternoon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Regarding Helen Thomas

She puts me in mind of Jimmy the Greek, back in the day. Particularly given that few present-day Israelis are of direct German or Polish origin, the notion that they should clear out and "go back" to those countries, from which such remnants of an earlier Jewish generation as survived the sieve of the Third Reich were justly grateful to flee, shows at best a tone-deafness to these historical sensibilities. And yet, and yet. Would Helen Thomas have entered retirement so abruptly had she weighed in on some different territorial/irredentist conflict elsewhere abroad?

The Kurds, for example: "Why don't the Kurds clear out of Turkey and move back to Iraq/Iran?" (Note that this game can be played with three corners)

The Tamils: "Can't they realize that Sri Lanka will never accept them? Why can't they just rejoin their fellow Hindus on the mainland?" (Alternatively: "The Sinhalese should just clear out and move down to southeast Asia with their fellow Buddhists.")

Or the Uighurs: "Surely these people can understand that they were never a logical fit with the Han Chinese. Why don't they just clear out and go live with the other Muslim camel-jockeys west of the Celestial Kingdom?"

See what I mean? Pretty darned offensive formulations, all of these, and any one of them might even have rated a public apology (although I doubt whether the Tamils have that kind of clout, and as for the Uighurs, the Cheney Shogunate demonstrated that these are to be shat upon with impunity). But Israel, plucky, (and periodically thuggish, although our own country has but slender ground from which to be censorious in these matters) little Israel, proves to be the third rail of foreign policy commentary.

I do not wish Israel ill, but I also do not wish it well in the sense that I am indifferent to its fate. I do not care whether the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka fails or prospers, and this indifference will not be taken by those who know me as a vile bias against the Tamils. An independent state for the Kurds carved out of Iraq, Iran and Turkey? OK by me. No state for the Kurds? Nichto problemo, and I trust that this will not be construed as Kurd-hatred. Autonomy for the Uighurs? I'm sure they care. I don't. A Jewish state in land also claimed as "Palestine?" Good luck with that, but no, I'm not prepared to subscribe.

Fortunately I'm not an elderly lady journalist who doesn't understand YouTube, and I suspect that HT ought to have retired some years back. I regret, though, that she had to go out on this particular banana peel. She deserved better.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Endorsed without comment


“Americans are a very modern people, of course. They are a very open people too. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. They don't stand on ceremony. They take people as the are. They make no distinction about a man's background, his parentage, his education. They say what they mean and there is a vivid muscularity about the way they say it. They admire everything about them without reserve or pretence or scholarship. They are always the first to put their hands in their pockets. They press you to visit them in their own home the moment they meet you, and are irrepressible, good-humored, ambitious, and brimming with self-confidence in any company. Apart from all that I've got nothing against them.”
—Tom Stoppard

Monday, April 5, 2010

Incident on a Baghdad Street

Three years past, but still sickening. If you have eighteen minutes and a tolerance for the banality of evil, here's the video:

Over on John Cole's site someone posted a response to the effect that requiring our Teeming Millions to sit through the footage might have a salutary effect, rather like having the local Germans marched through their friendly neighborhood extermination camps in 1945. Alas, I fear a significant fraction would simply giggle like our Brave Boys in their helicopter watching one of the wounded photographers attempting to crawl off the street ("C'mon...reach for a weapon...just try it!"). They didn't finally kill the photog until someone arrived in a van and had the effrontery to pick him up.

This is, mutatis mutandis, indistinguishable from sundry atrocities committed in Russia by the Beastly Hun during the late unpleasantness of the 1940s. The figures on the Baghdad street were, plain and simple, untermenschen, negligible existences to be erased as casually, and with as much satisfaction, as you or I might squash a buzzing fly. Some will say "Hey, this is war." In that case, I respond that we ought to shrug and respond "it's just war" when the charbroiled corpses of US troops—or contract killers—are displayed hanging from bridges.

A number of the US deaths in Iraq have been consequence of helicopters shot out of the air. If this crew had been among them, who among you is so wed to tribal loyalties that you would not agree that a rough justice was served?

I could almost see voting for Palin in 2012 on the grounds that this sorry ratfucking excuse for a republic, this savage, smirking, predatory empire deserves her. Bring on the Rapture, motherfuckers!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Auld lang syne


As I wrote to another friend recently, one's fifty-eighth year is a little late in the day to await the flowering of genius, and a sensible fallback position would accordingly seem to be to cultivate friendships, family ties and a rich interior life. It was in this spirit that I looked forward to yesterday's reunion with vertical-market composer Carl Stone, who never knows which of four cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Los Angeles or San Francisco) to pine for as the work of an itinerant musician draws him hither and thither around the four cornerth of the globe, and Alison Fleck, Benicia-based landscape designer, who tends her own garden whenever she can spare a moment from creating grottoes, vistas, terraces and bowers for the privileged classes of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. I, of course, do no useful work whatsoever outside the specialized precincts of BrainDead Systems (formerly Comatose, Somnolent, Torpor and Drowse, LLP), my employer since Hector was a pup.

I've known Carl for 47 years now; Alison for 41 and change. Alison and Carl probably met in 1965 or 1966 at Oakwood, a tony SoCal private school. We three have remained in tenuous contact over the years, the last reunion of the threesome being at the Crumbling Manse™ back in 2001. Saturday's reunion, which took advantage of Carl's swing through the Bay Area at the turning of the year, had us meeting at Alison's Benicia spread, in the hydrocarbon shadow of one of the region's many carcinogen-belching petroleum refineries, whence we sped away in Carl's trusty Saturn to lunch in a chi-chi Yountville beanery, where we three dined for a sum that could likely keep a blue-collar family of eight in TV dinners for a month (remind me to remind the proletariat, come the revolution, that we were rooting for them all along) before barely making the "Carols in the Caves" performance at the Clos Pegase winery outside of Calistoga. Our party's response was mixed. Carl, as a professional, took technical exceptions to certain particulars in the performance. I found it a trifle new-agey; Alison thought the lip-service to Christian themes too much lip and not enough sacrilege. I think, though, that on balance we three enjoyed ourselves in a sneering, condescending sort of way (as I remarked to Carl afterward, while I missed my chance to see the Last Supper sculpted in butter the last time I drove through the midwest in 1991, I have at least sat through "Carols in the Caves"). Actually, I give high marks to anyone who makes his living as a freelance entertainer, and give "Improvisator" David Auerbach bonus points for showmanship and and a decent level of competence with, if not in every instance actual mastery of, the "fifty rare instruments" he has taught himself to play.

It was good to catch up with Alison and Carl. I'm always suspicious when people make extravagant claims for their friends (the subtext in each instance seems to be "and imagine how bitchin' I must be to hang out with such prodigies"), so I'll say merely that apart from their particular, distinctive and unique good qualities, my two chums have the superlative virtue of possessing a set of cultural and individual memories, tropisms and associations in common with Yours Truly, a rare distinction along this stretch of the descending arc of personal history. It was a treat to compare notes once again.