29 03 2009

(Think ligustrum.)


The Rally Burger wrappings that lurked
On the sidewalk outside the campus
Catholic church entrapped me. I was bopping
Along in my usual April song
Of praise to the rank proliferative
Green glee of Spring, and to the rampant hedge
Whose annual frieze of flowers douses
The world with scent, as if we lived
For a month in a vegetable brothel
At the height of the shrub
Convention season, when stumpy
Sear-leafed madams pull out all the stops
To get the reliably-returning but aging
Leafy Shriners to rise to the occasion
And spend themselves and all
Their patient roots have worked so long to leach
From the cold soil and save —
When crinkled, grease-splotched paper
And a little house of blown foam
Spotted with green pickle-bits
Opposed the prow of my wide, sidewalk-faring
Ebony shoe, like Odysseus wakened
From lotus-eating on a torpid sea
To meet the most amorphous
Of his unsung adventures.

And I was left with nothing
But thoughts of shelter and my daily bread,
And tapes of mortgage
And car-note calculations unscrolling in my head.


23 03 2009

T. S. Eliot recoiled from the modernist situation in horror, while Wallace Stevens came along a bit later and accepted it eloquently. 




A bit of Wikipedia as background:



17 03 2009

From The Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

“In a powerful passage, he blames his violent outbursts on the unbearable contradictions of modern life. Brainwashed into that each of us is an individual of inestimable value with an individual destiny, that there is no limit to what we can attain, we set off, each of us, in quest of individual greatness. Inevitably we fail to find it. Then we begin to hate immoderately and punish ourselves and one another immoderately. The fear of lagging [behind] pursues and maddens us…. It makes an inner climate of darkness. And occasionally there is a storm of hate and wounding rain out of us.”

— J. M. Coetzee in Inner Workings, paraphrasing page 63 of the novel


14 03 2009


Why Obama?

A Relevant Story

Eleven years ago I moved into an historic little house downtown. The area was then a middlin-high crime area, so I took occupancy with trepidation. About a year after moving in, I was going to sleep around midnight when I heard the empty cans I had in a low box outside clunking against each other. Then I heard someone turning the doorknob to my kitchen door back and forth. I realized I had a prowler!

I called the cops immediately.

By the time they got there I was hearing the slithery, then cracking, sound of someone applying a pry bar to the back door. A minute or so later the cops drove up with their lights out and sirens off, and went back into my small yard. I heard yelling, and a scuffling sound, and soon the cops emerged at the front of the house, frogmarching a young guy in handcuffs. They were rough as they stuffed him in the back seat of the police car. I enjoyed seeing that.

Both of the cops were large men, taller and in much better shape than me. They looked like recently-retired, slightly-deteriorated athletes. I am a short guy who has always been overweight, and so never played any sports when I was a child. Probably for that reason, I have always disliked, and sometimes even hated, big, athletic men. But when those two beefy guys drove up, I was never gladder to see anyone in my life. And I loved the ease with which they subdued that prowler!

Why Obama.

Again, as in 2004 when Bush was re-elected, the American people were scared during the election just past. But, unlike last time, we were scared of something almost none of us could pretend to understand. Economics has been called “the dismal science”. It is boring and very hard. It takes a very determined and smart man to understand it. And here, in Obama, was a man who was calm and resolute, and who, above all, was obviously THE smartest of all the candidates who appeared before us during the long election season.

Lots of Americans don’t normally like intellectuals — for exactly the same reason I detest athletes. I call this phenomenon “cross-bell curve resentment”. But, as my little brush with crime taught me, when you desperately need the abilities of folks on the other side of a bell curve from you, those folks suddenly become as welcome as your long-lost best friend!

And that’s why Barack Obama was elected.

Update: Every once in a while some media person who is paid big money to do what I do for free agrees with one of my points. I am of course delighted. Please see this:



8 03 2009

Surely two more different people are hard to imagine. In fact I think they represent the two extremes of the American male personality: the good old boy and the analyzing intellectual.

Bush is — or more likely chose at some point in his life to act like — the classic Texas shit-kicker. I remember those guys well from growing up in Texas! They are strong and silent. But underneath that they are explosively emotional. They don’t know much about anything except business (which they often know a very great deal about indeed). When put in a tight spot they can be vindictive, even dangerous.

On the other side is a classic type from back east: articulate, elegant, widely-knowledgeable, and highly self-controlled. Many of our best technocrats are probably like this. And so are lots of people with Old Money (some of whom I met many years ago in college). Yet, through a delicious irony, Bush, having chosen to doff his inherited persona of Old — or  in his case Middle Aged — Money, has been succeeded in the highest office in the land by a man who comes from the lower middle class yet acts like a gentleman.

How could one People have elected two such different men in succession? I think the answer in the case of Bush is very clear. He was what a bunch of very scared and angry Americans called out for to save them. After being traumatized by the 9/11 attacks, we wanted someone tough to go somewhere, anywhere!, and whip some Arab ass. Bush, having chosen much earlier in his life to portray primitive American manhood, was just the man to embody our rage. He proceeded to act as ragefully as we could have wished, so we re-elected him in 2004.

Easy to understand.

But what about Obama, the cool, elegant, mixed-raced, smart guy? How could a country with a history of racism, and a streak of anti-intellectualism as wide as the Mississippi River, possibly have elected him President? I’m 61 years old, and the only time I remember our picking such a president in my lifetime was when Jack Kennedy (a Catholic, and therefor arguably unelectable at the time) was elected in 1960, whereupon his urbanity proceeded to charm the nation.

Needless to say, I have a theory about why Obama made it. Read my next post on this subject and see what you think about it.


7 03 2009

Here a bunch of people explain why I love France much better than I could:


This lineup of comments arose in response to a Roger Cohen column finding — Surprise! — that France is inferior to the USA because we have an admirable “culture of risk” and they have just a tacky old “nanny state”.

Here’s a book that provides a  bit of background on the whole question of living to enjoy vs living to work.


As late as the 1970s lots of people looked forward to a gradual decrease of the workweek in the USA (while earning the same pay), due to the promise of more automation primarily. I never heard anyone then say that  anticipating that prospect with pleasure  was unAmerican. Now I bet some folks who stumble on this blog will think that. I respectfully submit to you the possibility that you have been propagandized on this point over the last 30 years. 

I liked the idea of more leisure just fine, personally. I don’t know about you, but I have lots of interests, and I would like as much time as possible to pursue them — such as would be provided by the much-maligned French 35-hour work week, for example.

All I can add to the above is this:

“Dear Reader of this Blog (the vast majority of you who have to spend your whole lives working for a living): This is your one and only life!  Is being an optimum worker bee really the highest and best purpose you can imagine for it?”


6 03 2009


…of YouTube video making:

I discussed the wonderful cutie pie / YouTube personality known as Magibon back in July, and her YouTube channel is in the list that appears to the right of my blog.

Here is my analysis of the Magibon phenomenon:


And I’m glad to report that others are now following in Magi’s footsteps. Just think how much confidence in your beauty and/or charm it takes to go on YouTube and present yourself in the Magibon minimalist way!

The two best practitioners of the Magibon style I’ve stumbled upon are cotorich and jeerawan. I think if you are a man (or a woman with a keen appreciation of feminine beauty) then you will enjoy checking out these two YouTubers. I’ve added them to the list of fav YouTube channels to the right of my blog.

Some men like their women hot. Others would prefer that they be sweet.