Monthly Archives: July 2009

Pub, Pogues, and Pelecanos

George Pelecanos, novelist and former writer for The Wire, is a fan of the Pogues. The Pogues are fans of The Wire, which used some of their songs throughout its five seasons, notably “Body of an American” played during the several Irish wakes that take place. So when Pelecanos went to Europe to promote his novel The Way Home, it was only to be expected that they would get together for a pub date. If you, like me, love all three of them — Pogues music, Pelecanos novels, The Wire — along with pubs, you’ll want to follow every clip on the man’s site.

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Friday finds


Apparently quite a few artificial limbs have been left behind at Travelodge and Swallow Hotels over the years.

Aravind Adiga, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger and the new story collection Between the Assassinations, gets the full literary Monty from the Daily Beast, with articles, reviews and essays.

The Don DeLillo novel that Don DeLillo won’t allow to be republished.

What you have to give up to be a writer.

Obey the fungus.

Editing, unediting and dis-editing the stories of Raymond Carver.

“While Apollo was on its way to the moon, I was on a Russian ocean liner with my husband and three kids on our way home to America. The Captain came on the ship’s sound system one morning and told us (in Russian and English) that Americans had walked on the moon, and ruefully but politely congratulated us. The kids, not really knowing what a blow it was to the Russians, put up a little cheer — and the Russian passengers on deck were kind or unprejudiced enough to cheer with them.”

SF writers and their work spaces.

Getting a look at Thomas Pynchon.

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The blogging breed

When I hear people talk about the slow death of the newspaper industry, I point out that it’s more akin to an assisted suicide. Of course there are many outside factors dealing blows to the business, but the industry’s knack for making self-destructive, short-sighted business decisions made those blows all the more wounding. The journo snobbery about the Internet is a case in point.

For decades, the twin monsters bedeviling the newspaper business have been production costs (printing plants ain’t cheap) and distribution (maintaining fleets of trucks and drivers to get the papers out to the public). So along comes the Internet, which at a stroke eliminates both problems, and the response of newspaper executives is to treat Web sites as garbage dumps, and then to whine about those nasty bloggers linking to their stories without paying. David Simon’s line about bloggers being the parasites that destroy their hosts is one of the dumbest things ever said by a demonstrably smart person.

So Michael Massing’s piece about how some adventurous  journos are turning the Web to their own purposes is a refreshing tonic. He also provides a list of pioneering sites like Talking Points Memo that have exploited the possibilities of the Intertubes to advance journalism. For anyone who still needs convincing, this article might just do the trick.

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The Wednesday Westie


White-Westie-on-black-leather edition.

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Tech-tempus fugit

When DVDs were introduced a while back, I felt no great urgency to get a player: I’d spent plenty of money on the VCR and videotapes, so I was inclined to take my time, though even then I understood that VHS is not a preservation medium. The experience of the first wave of compact discs, which despite all the squawking about superior sound were usually no better and sometimes demonstrably inferior to vinyl LPs in the Eighties, made me reluctant to join the steeplechase race of consumer electronics.

Of course, CDs improved, and the flood of previously hard-to-find music as record labels churned their catalogues for product, made a believer out of me. What converted me to the DVD way of life was the release of the extended editions of Peter Jackson’s three Lords of the Rings films, which I not only had to see but own as well.

So maybe this will be the spur that leads me to buy a Blu-Ray player.

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Late to the party

I realize this clip has been around the world via the Internets at least a thousand times by now, but I wanted to join in the fun. Ladies and gentlemen, open your minds and ears to the greatness that is William Shatner reading from Sarah Palin’s farewell speech:

Among Shatner’s career distinctions is to have starred in one of the only two feature films performed in Esperanto. That experience must have come in handy when it came time to translate Sarah Palin’s utterances into English.

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Quirks of the clan

As regular readers know, this site’s officially endorsed house dog is the West Highland White Terrier. They are a frisky, feisty and affectionate breed, quick to make friends and very intelligent overall.  Like all breeds, they have their quirks.

Westies can always be counted on to do three things: dig, chase small animals, and bark. The first two usually result in character comedy, such as a readiness to make threatening noises at squirrels even when said squirrels are sitting on a tree branch forty feet above the ground and thus safe from anything a Westie might try.

Mind you, the whole thing may look comical, but the dogs mean business. Shortly after The Strapping Laddie came to live with us at Villa Villekulla, he killed a squirrel and proudly brought it into the house for a victory lap through the kitchen, living room and dining room. Great for his self esteem, but at the time we were throwing a birthday party for Dances With Mermaids and the house was full of five-year-old girls, some of whom had only started getting over their fear of The Strapping Laddie. I think the chorus of screeches that rang through the room shaved away some of my high-end hearing.

Still, I didn’t want to hurt The Strapping Laddie’s feelings, so after I wrested the trophy  away from him, I made sure to praise him and pet him. I might even have put a few splashes of Laphroaig in his water dish. Just as encouragement, you understand.

This week, a special guest Westie named Benny is staying with us at Villa Villekulla and it’s been interesting to see how he learned to fit in with Clan Westie. For the first couple of days, Benny made frequent trips to the front door, sniffing the lintel and waiting for his owners to come back in and take him home. He appears to have gotten past that stage, though I still notice him staring at corners, as though expecting his owners to spring out into the open and call his name.

Benny’s owners trimmed his hair close along the body and hindquarters but let his hair bush out along the chest, neck and head, giving him a rather leonine profile. I’ve taken to calling him Kimba the White Lion. You may counter by saying that Westies don’t look very much like lions, but when you come right down to it, neither did Kimba. While getting adjusted to his new surroundings, Benny left a few puddles on the floor, so every now and then I refer to him as Benny and the Wets. I’m just a cornucopia of Baby Boomer references today.

The Strapping Laddie, being an easygoing fellow, is happy to join in the occasional tussle but otherwise seems indifferent to the visitor. The Dowager Empress, who has gotten grumpier with each passing year, growls the Westie version of “Get off my lawn” whenever Benny strays too close. Leave it to The Highland Fling, youngest of the clan, to take to Benny in a big way. When something happens in the backyard that demands immediate investigation, The Highland Fling and Benny are always the first through the door and down the steps.

But Benny’s character truly revealed itself a few days ago, when we had a thunderstorm of almost surrealistic intensity: strobe lights, hissing curtains of rain, sideways lightning bolts and a general sense that the seventh seal may just have been broken. Quite a show in the sky, but the show in the house was almost as noisy.

Benny, you see, is a wee brave thing, so brave that he tries to tell lightning to back off and get the YAP outta Dodge. He delivered his warnings from one end of the house to the other, barking at each window, then moving on to another part of the house to promise all kinds of trouble if the storm didn’t clean (YAP) up (YAP) its act (YAP) right (YAP) now (YAP). Even the other members of Clan Westie, usually ready and willing to raise the roof whenever a dog walks past the house, stayed stretched out on the floor, following Benny’s threat displays with mildly confused looks. Since lightning flashed and thunder rumbled an average of every fifteen seconds, we got to hear a lot from Benny.

And when the storm ended, after about an hour and a half of intense thundering and barking, Benny hit the cushion like a bag of peat and stayed there until the morning, when he rose to begin another yappy day.

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Blue Monday

I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Pink Floyd, but I’ve always found one or two songs per album to like. In the case of “Comfortably Numb,” the key track from The Wall, that translates into “really, obsessively like,” with much of the credit going to guitarist David Gilmour and his two solos: the initial, shorter one, and the barnstorming epic that closes the song. Each opens with that deep, soulful bend that’s enough to make a Strat Cat out of anyone. This clip from the 1989 performance in Venice doesn’t feature the fabled Black Strat, but Gilmour makes do with a red one just fine.

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Sixth season of ‘The Wire’

At first it just seemed like another New Jersey corruption scandal, albeit on a larger scale. The bit with the Apple Jacks box full of cash was a nice detail. But then the organ-trafficking and Syrian Jews from Deal stuff came out, and it now appears we’re watching the unofficial sixth season of The Wire.

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Friday finds

EclipseThe longest solar eclipse of the century took place Wednesday. Check out this gallery of images from Asia.

A novel idea for an alternate-history novel.

Is it true that forty percent of all the books that get printed are destroyed? Well . . .

Cat ladders from around the world.

Now here is the island that should have been used as Azkaban.

I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space-travel, sideshows or gorillas. When such occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

Aliens and robots are invading vintage postcards!

Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy has been a sad joke for decades, so it’s no surprise to see this dotty wingnut radio squawker is one of the loons demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate. Nor is it a surprise to see him lying through his teeth on television.

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