Category Archives: Uncategorized


Hey everybody! I hear there’s a big football game coming up! Let’s all . . . what’s that? You mean, I missed it again? Damn!

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.

A thousand points of light

Some people really go overboard on this Christmas decoration business. Here are some others.

All ‘Hallows’ eve

I’ll be taking Dances With Mermaids to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My money is on the first flick ending with the escape from the Malfoy basement and the belated discovery that Dobby has been fatally wounded. That’s my prediction. Remember, I forecast Snape as the tragic hero of the series. On the other hand, I also predicted Ron Weasley would buy the farm. Right or wrong, I’m expecting to have a good time.

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Friday finds

As much as I admire Lucino Visconti’s film version of The Leopard, there’s no getting around the fact that Giuseppi Tomasi di Lampedusa’s original novel (published in 1958, a year after his death) is sharper, wittier, more probing and, in an unexpected way, more scathing than anything Visconti put on the screen. Set during the Italian Risorgimento, Lampedusa’s novel follows Don Fabrizio, a Sicilian nobleman who anticipates change by arranging the marriage of his beloved nephew, Tancredi, to a merchant’s daughter — something that would have been unheard of in the family’s heyday.  The signature line — “Things are going to have to change if we want them to stay the same” — characterizes Lampedusa’s barbed style, and the book’s closing image, which I’ll leave you to discover for yourself, is far crueler than Visconti’s sentimental sendoff. This post by the Accidental Blogger is a nice summation of the book’s qualities; this appreciation by Roger Ebert overrates the movie, but only slightly.

Larry Niven’s Ringworld may well be the most tedious novel ever to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards, but as this post demonstrates, it can provoke scientific debates far more interesting than anything Niven thought up.

A real historian talks about the Tea Party’s grasp of the Constitution, and can barely keep from collapsing into horselaughs.

Try your movie knowledge against Dennis Cozzalio’s Halloween Horror Screengrab Contest. It’s a toughie.

Jimi Hendrix and his military career.

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The poison tree

A woman wandered into the store yesterday and struck up a conversation, during the course of which it was established that (a) she was a Billie Holliday fan, and yet (b) had never heard of “Strange Fruit,” arguably Hollliday’s most famous performance.  Through the magic of iPod, this gap was immediately filled.

It’s wild to think that when Holliday recorded the song in 1939, she herself could have been lynched for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’d like to compare the arguments used to delay the passage of anti-lynching laws with the arguments against hate-crime laws. I expect the comparison would be instructive.

Okay, all you Confederate nostalgists — sing along:

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

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Newt ye shall always have with ye

Though I’ve always found a certain horrid fascination in watching Newt Gingrich’s adoption of various self-destructing personas — conservative “intellectual,” futurist, family-values tub-thumper, race-baiting demagogue — I confess that I was startled by the sheer weirdness that comes across in this Esquire interview with the lil’ lizard’s second wife. How to describe this bizarre troll? Damaged little boy? Deluded sociopath? How reassuring to know this strutting gnome no longer has a chance to getting anywhere near the levers of power.

I’d like to think the interview will kill Gingrich’s standing in the GOP, but tribal identity politics are all that remain of the party’s principles, and the lil’ lizard knows all the shibboleths and secret handshakes that grant access to the great bedlam of movement conservatism. There’s certainly no way he’ll ever disappear from FoxNoise or the Sunday squawk shows, where the rubes never fail to squeal whenever Gingrich, like a blowsy strumpet flashing a bit of thigh, starts hinting that this just might be the year he makes a try for the White House.

Super-Geeks vs. The Pellagra People

You’ve all heard of Fred Phelps and his merry band from the Meth-Cooking Chromosome-Damaged Church of the Testors-Huffing KrazeeKhrist — aka, the Westboro Baptist Church — and their penchant for showing up at funerals and other occasions with placards announcing GOD HATES FAGS and similarly charming messages.

Well, the whole hookworm-infested clan showed up at Comic-Con to stage one of their hatenannies. Call it Invasion of the Pellagra People. Only the geeks were ready, and the geeks punked them. Read about it here.

That is one friendly porcupine

Of course, I still wouldn’t want to pet it without those heavy canvas gloves.

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Shake, rattle, and roll

All the chuckling and eye-rolling over the earthquake in the D.C. area — “You call that a quake? Come on!” — brings to mind the strongest (and so far only) temblor I’ve experienced. It was about seven years ago in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, hard up against the Tian Shan mountain range. On the plus side, that makes ski trips a breeze, and gives you scenery to rival the Swiss Alps. On the debit side, the mountains are so close that there are actually avalanche barriers just outside Almaty.

It was December and brutally cold, and since few residents of the city believed in shoveling their walks, everything was locked in rock-hard, dirty ice and hard-packed frozen snow. Almaty is supposed to be a beautiful garden city in the spring and summer, but in the winter it is one ugly town.

The woman warrior and I were staying in an apartment in one of the city’s Soviet-vintage concrete towers. Just before dawn, I was sitting in the living room when the chandelier made a little tinkling sound, the way ripples in a puddle announce the approach of a T-Rex in one of the Jurassic Park movies. You know, I thought to myself, that could be the start of an earthquake, and just as I thought “earthquake” the entire building started lurching from side to side. It will give you some idea of the kind of trip it was that my only reaction to practically being thrown out of my chair was to think, Of course, an earthquake. Now I’ve seen everything.

The Woman Warrior, who was born in California and knows about these things, raced into the living room and cried, “That was an earthquake!” There was then the question of What to Do Next. We were barefoot and wearing only light sleeping clothes, and it was pretty freaking cold outside. But the building was pretty shabby looking, and to our untutored eyes looked like something that would collapse after a good hard push, much less an earthquake.

But when we looked out the windows, nobody was outside. After a whole, we went back to bed. When in Rome, do as the Romans do — or, in this case, don’t. “We get a couple of those a year,” one of the locals told us later on. I can only admire that kind of savoir faire.