Monthly Archives: April 2010

Zantzinger zingers

Via the estimable Michael Gray we learn that the BBC is about to broadcast a half-hour documentary about the wealthy scumheel William Zantzinger, whose 1963 attack on a black barmaid led Bob Dylan to write “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and thus immortalize Zantzinger’s infamy. The doc was produced by Howard Sounes, author of the Bob Dylan biography Down the Highway, a book worth reading chiefly for Zantinger’s amusing explosion over the effect Dylan’s song had on his life. Sounes claims he even located the cane Zantzinger used against his victim.  This is gonna be good.

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Another Jazz & Heritage Festival going on and I’m not there. Bummer.

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The former slave writes a letter

In August 1865, a former slave living with his family in Ohio wrote to his former master, in response to the ex-slaveholder’s offer of good treatment if he would return to Tennessee. The letter is as dryly funny, and as lethally deadpan, as anything I’ve read. (Via 3QD.)

Big buck-buck-bucks

Apparently it’s impossible to underestimate the Republican capacity for sheer balls-to-the-wall epic crazy. I refer, of course, to Nevada Senate hopeful Sue Lowden and her suggestion that people in need of health care could resort to bartering, say, chickens with their local physicians. Because the Internet abhors a vacuum even more than nature, an enterprising soul has come up with a converter that will help you calculate the number of chickens you’ll need for bypass surgery, or a tonsilectomy.

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Friday finds

In honor of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, the Guardian assembles a podcast about apocalyptic themes in literature, including a chat with Simon Winchester about the destruction of Krakatoa, and a survey of disaster novels.

A history professor at Birkbeck College in London has confessed to using anonymous Amazon book reviews to trash works by other historians.

Two books about cities devastated by natural and man-made calamities — The Ground Truth by John Farmer and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers — are reviewed by Frederik Pohl, whose blog is one of my regular Internet reads.

Emerald wasps and zombie cockroaches!

A sad story from the halls of the March.

Matt Yglesias surveys the fever swamp that is Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood and, like any rational adult, comes away scratching his head. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to read, let alone launch, a site devoted to round-the-clock whining about how so many creative people in Hollywood are lefties. Let Breitbart put his money where his mooks are and produce that great wingnut epic he’s been waiting for somebody else to make. Hey, how about a sequel to An American Carol?

What did you do on Charles Krauthammer Day? We all know what Charles Krauthammer himself didn’t do.

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The bookstore’s been open for almost three months now. Last night I checked off the eighth visit from a particular breed of dolt who wanders through the front door, shambles through the various rooms, then returns to the counter and asks:

“So how does this work?”

“Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”

“You lend these books out?”

“No, this is a store. We sell the books.”

“I thought this was like a lending library.”

“The library’s three blocks up the Avenue, turn left. This is a book store.”

“Huh.” At that point, the dolt heads out the door, knuckles bumping along the concrete steps.

Now, the vast majority of the people who come into the bookstore are perfectly pleasant folk who conduct themselves in a friendly, courteous manner. Even the handful of mutts I’ve had to deal with follow understandable patterns of behavior. Most of them want to come in, mooch the wi-fi for a couple of hours, then slither out without buying anything. Cheapskates and bums I can understand, though I have to say that anybody who balks at paying my low prices for used books is gunning for the gold medal in the Olympics of the Pathetic.

But these CroMags who think I’m running a library always knock me for a loop. Is my joint the first bookstore they’ve ever seen? Do they really think they can walk into Barnes and Noble and “borrow” books for a week or two? Most of them are middle-aged and even older. How do they tie their shoes without hanging themselves?

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The decline of American civilization, cont’d

Apparently the English don’t think too highly of American cuisine. Stop and think about that for a minute. The English — culinary perpetrators of Toad In A Hole, jellied eels, and meals smothered in cooking grease — are making jokes about American food on the BBC. As Matt Yglesias notes, this is not good.

It does, however, give me a chance to trot out one of my favorite old jokes. In heaven, the police are all English, the cooks are all French, the mechanics are all German, the lovers are all Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss. In hell, the cooks are all English, the police are all German, the mechanics are all French, the lovers are all Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.

On the other hand, I should note that when I visited England a few years ago I was impressed by how mainstream Indian food had become — the colony had conquered the empire. I suspect that kind of thing will be the salvation of American food as well. Just south of me here in Villa Villekulla, New Brunswick has a small paradise of great Mexican joints, and to the north one must drive past excellent Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian restaurants before reaching a McDonald’s outpost. You can eat as badly as you like, but you have to work at it.

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Ashes to ashes

Some pretty outrageous photos of the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

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Friday finds

Since I don’t watch a whole lot of television,  I’m late getting the word that Keith Olbermann is devoting his Fridays to reading James Thurber stories. Class act! Now maybe somebody will reissue My World and Welcome To It on DVD.

J.K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, on how the much-maligned welfare state saved her neck when she was a single mother, and how conservatives worked to make her life harder when she was broke.

Libertarian pundit Megan McArdle attempts to address the real world. Hilarity ensues.

“Malcolm McLaren saw the front pages of the daily newspapers as a blank canvas on which to create havoc. Without him there would be no split sheep or unmade bed, no Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin, who carried on his sense of mischievous subversion. He was also the first spin doctor. He seemed to have his finger on an invisible button, hardwired into the brains of the Fleet Street editors, driving them into an apoplectic frenzy of rage each time he chose to push it.” A lot more about Malcolm McLaren here.

An epiphany in Yonkers, courtesy of a dead lizard.

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But Michael Crichton said!

It appears that a chunk of ice measuring 1,640- by 656-feet broke off a Peruvian glacier and plunged into a mountain lake, triggering a 75-foot wave that killed at least three people and wrecked a water-processing plant.

Fortunately, I know that this calamity is in no way a consequence of man-made climate change, because said climate change is a big fraud perpetrated by liberals who want to control every aspect of American life. I know this because Glenn Beck and James Inhofe say so, as did the late Michael Crichton in his novel State of Fear.

What a shame that Crichton is no longer around to offer reassurance at such difficult times. Perhaps Freeman Dyson could take a few moments off from tending his grove of carbon-eating trees to offer his thoughts.

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