Monthly Archives: January 2011

Friday finds

Blogger-illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi offers a mini-history of illustrations for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, starting with some of Tolkien’s own pictures and concluding with this 1967 sketch by the great Maurice Sendak, part of a proposal for a new illustrated edition. Unfortunately, Sendak was sidelined by a heart attack shortly before he was to have met with Tolkien about the project, leaving us to wonder what the creator of Where the Wild Things Are would have done with Smaug. Meanwhile, the tsuris that The Lord of the Rings films managed to avoid (and is being visited tenfold on the production of The Hobbit films) continued with the hospitalization of director Peter Jackson.

Frederik Pohl recalls Gustav Hasford, whose Vietnam War novel The Short-Timers was the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket.

Geoff has a very personal and emotionally generous reaction to Toy Story 3.

Hunter! Scavenger! Hunter!

I seldom agree with conservative apparatchik David Frum about much of anything– and I despise his war-whoring on Iraq — but I do enjoy his readiness to ridicule radio ranter Mark Levin, second only to Rush Limbaugh among the gas giants of the conservative solar system, and first in his readiness to respond to even the slightest criticism to torrents of childish invective. Frum has been happily slapping around Levin’s magnum bolus Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, and the reluctance of other conservatives to point out Levin’s intellectual malfeasance in any but the most circumspect terms. Now Alex Knapp has joined the fun by blogging the book chapter by chapter, which might seem like an exercise in pure masochism were it not for the fact that Levin’s tome is a kind of intellectual grease trap in which most of the cherished notions of movement wingerdom can be scraped loose and subjected to scrutiny. Knapp’s first chapter is here, and subsequent installments are here, here, and here.

Mount Shinmoe, the volcano used for the secret rocket base in You Only Live Twice, is erupting.

The life and times of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs.

Urban infiltrators drink up.

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The bookstore at the end of the universe

The snowstorm, which had slacked off late in the afternoon, started building in intensity once again right about dinnertime. The streetlights developed halos of snow and ice pellets, and the passing cars sounded more like boats than wheeled vehicles. Then just before 8 p.m., I went back to the kitchen to start another pot of coffee. When I turned one of the taps, all I got was a hollow, gurgling sound. No water.

My first thought was that I’d somehow messed up and let the pipes freeze. So I called the Pad Thai restaurant across the Avenue. The woman in charge was beside herself — they’d lost their water, too. Hard to run a restaurant without water. After about five minutes, the restaurant’s “Open” sign went out and suddenly Nighthawk Books was the only business open on the Avenue between Dunkin Donuts and the supermarket two blocks thataway.

I was thinking about locking up for the night. Brosna, a group playing traditional Irish music, was supposed to perform, but I hadn’t gotten any e-mails from them and the roads were getting risky. But they are dedicated people, and a little after 8 p.m. they showed up to play, storm or no storm.

Better still, there was an audience: two women, one from town, the other from Piscataway — one town over, but not so close that one would drive over from there on a bad night without giving the matter some serious thought. It was probably the smallest audience Brosna has ever played for, but I doubt many others could have matched it for attentiveness and enthusiasm. For the next 90 minutes or so we were a lovely island of light, warmth, and music on a dark street full of snow and ice.

But the storm wasn’t letting up, and the roads were still bad, so the band packed up a little past 10 p.m. I followed everyone out the door in order to unplug the exterior lights. I took a last look up and down the Avenue. Taking a note from Douglas Adams, I dubbed it the bookstore at the end of the universe. Then I turned off the lights and got the shovel and sidewalk salt into position for the morning, when it would be time to move all the glop out of the way.

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Gail Collins reminds us that by announcing his retirement with two years left in his Senate term, Joe Lieberman is giving himself the most drawn-out farewell since the stagehands put the trampoline under the battlements for the finale of Tosca. In other words, the diva is going to keep bouncing up into our sight, yowling her goodbye aria, long after we thought the whole interminable spectacle was over at last.

Holy Joe may well regret the length of his departure as much as the rest of us. For one thing, it allows plenty of time for the rest of us to limber up our throwing arms. Gail Collins herself lands a particularly ripe tomato on Lieberman’s smug kisser:

Lieberman assured everyone that he was not stepping down because the odds of his losing the next race were astronomically high but rather because he had been reading the Old Testament and decided that to everything there is a season.

He will leave behind a long list of achievements, from helping to consolidate the nation’s intelligence gathering services in a way that appears to make it more difficult to gather intelligence, to threatening to filibuster the health care reform act until it had been watered down to suit his own high principles.

Lieberman is leaving office the way he lived it: like a methane-swollen ego balloon, drifting ponderously toward the horizon. But there are plenty of pea-shooters and slingshots out there, and with such an inviting target, plenty of people to use them.

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Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya

Or, on second thought, let it hit. In fact, let me kick it.

Now that Holy Joe Lieberman has announced he won’t run for another Senate term, I guess I’m supposed to be grateful that his last substantive act in office was to campaign for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Whoopee for Joe. After years of war-whoring, lying in every direction, selling his constituents down the river, and pandering for health-insurers, the creep was on track for a big, humiliating loss. I would have enjoyed seeing him get shellacked, but in the end I’m just glad we’ll be rid of him.

Friday finds

NASA lists the seven most absurd science fiction movies of all time, as well as the seven most plausible. Can’t argue with the ridiculous roster — anything with Roland Emmerich’s name on it is a lock for such a list — but the plausible list is puzzling. There’s no sign of 2001: A Space Odyssey — was it really less believable than The Thing From Another World, or The Day The Earth Stood Still?

How Michael Chabon handled the n-word while reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to his kids.

Timothy Donnelly lists six contemporary poets you ought to check out.

Three rediscovered stories by Zora Neale Hurston.

Roger Ebert lists the best documentaries of 2010.

“. . . if I had a choice between a more civil discourse and a more honest one, I’d pick honesty every time. The reason that hundreds of angry people came to town hall meetings in my Congressional district in 2009, and the reason that police had to be present where they had never been before, wasn’t because someone was ‘uncivil.’ It was because their media heroes and party leaders told them a pack of lies about death panels, federal funding for abortions, Medicare being taken away and free insurance for illegal immigrants. The questions that my Congressman took at those hate-filled meetings weren’t reasonable queries about limited government, deficits and healthcare outcomes. They were questions about why he wanted to kill grandma, let the government pay to abort babies, and take away Medicare.”


Bathsheba Monk, an Approved Author from 2008, has a new novel coming out and a spiffed-up Web site to go with it. You should check them both out. Bathsheba Monk is the real thing. And she better do a reading at my bookstore, or there’ll be hell to pay.

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Sarah “Don’t Retreat, Reload!” Palin, proud owner of a map using rifle-scope crosshairs to mark states with Democrats who displeased Mama Grizzly, now wants to offer her “sincere condolences” to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (one of the Dems Palin marked with the crosshairs) and the other victims of the Arizona shootings.  Michele Bachman, friend of anti-government extremist cults, says her “tears are flowing” over the incident.  John “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” McCain wants everyone to know the shooter is a disgrace to Arizona.

There’s going to be a great rush to quarantine the alleged shooter as a loner, a weirdo whose Internet rambling in no way link him to the little tinpot warriors of wingerdom. It’s going on right now, in fact. And it’s garbage. There have been other gun-crazed wackos who get their news and opinion from Glenn Beck and all the other bottom-feeders. This Arizona shooting is just the latest example of what happens when a political party and its attendant propaganda channels make crazy into their lingua franca.

I don’t care how many crocodile tears Bachmann, Palin, and all the other career sleazes shed. They own this. They’ve lying to loons and poisoning our politics to make money and keep power, and when one of their deluded followers decides to take them at their word and act on his convictions, they can’t pretend it has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with them.

They have spent years demonizing Democrats and liberals, imagining a sinister alternate universe where liberals are in control of everything, and the President is actually a Kenyan-born dictator who wants to establish death panels for the elderly. They smirk about “second-amendment solutions” to politicians they don’t like, and talk about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants when Obama talks about reining in the ability of health insurers to screw their customers. And this is where that crazy talk leads us.

So, I guess we can’t use the term “teabaggers” anymore. It’s no longer appropriate. They’re bodybaggers.

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Caribou Saki

On the basis of this report on Sarah Palin’s nonexistent hunting skills, I think it’s high time Mama Grizzly starred in a film version of “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger,” the genius short story by Saki. Maybe Levi could co-star as a gender-switched Loona Bimberton. Who do you like for Miss Mebbin?

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January is Bruno’s month

January 18 is the birthday of philosopher Jacob Bronowski. This is “Knowledge or Certainty,” one of the most powerful essays in his grand series The Ascent of Man. The dominance of our politics by a rising tide of deeply convinced idiots, led by the phalanx of teabaggers now in government, makes his message more timely than ever.

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