Sunday, November 29, 2009

Am I my crazy politician-author's keeper?

Sullivan links to "an interesting and intellectually honest" post about Palin's book by some kind of Christian winger. The winger thinks the book gives no indication Palin has a "political or governing philosophy." After reading it, in fact, he's pretty sure the ex-gov is minus "the intellectual skills needed to be an effective President." The fellow adds, "Most important, she does not seem to recognize this and shows no sign of getting them." Poor Palin is "sensitive to the charge she is 'dumb,'" he tells us, "but has not been given the tools or the teachers who can help her." He tacks on this troubled parenthetical: "(Has she sought them out?)"

Yet the man still digs the lady: "She seems a splendid person who has lived a remarkable life ..." So the winger must be classified as a critical Palinite, which is quite different from a non-Palinite. The identifying mark of his kind shows up in the "has not been given" comment. Lovers of Lady Dynamite think that not much actually depends on this vigorous, stand-up, take-charge leader of guys and gals ("an effective mayor and governor," says the winger, "an excellent chief executive in Alaska"). For anyone else, the standing assumption would be that intellectual development is impossible without some voluntary seeking after knowledge and understanding; we call it curiosity and having a mind of your own. To a Palinite, this consideration can be at best an afterthought, a dull twinge that shows up in parentheses. Nothing is up to her, no matter how close to home it may lie.

Dig this:

Her publisher did not fact check this book well (if at all). She was badly served by her publisher and editor. People who criticize me for nit-picking her use of quotations miss the point. I am a fan . . . though now a weary one . . . and I found the errors. The publisher had to know that her critics would check every fact.

In short, he found out that this "splendid person," in giving "her side of things," could not be trusted to tell the truth. And he decides that this is the fault of her publisher, who should have hired someone to take the lies out of her mouth like an orderly taking sharp objects away from a mental patient. And why should the publisher have done this? Because otherwise Palin's enemies would have more ammunition to use against her.

Why is that HarperCollins's problem? They're not in charge of her political viability or personal reputation. She is. But a Palinite knows only love, not reason. Sarah is the sun, and her shortcomings are clouds imposed on her radiance from without.

update, I must disclose that Andrew Sullivan also feels that HarperCollins is at fault for not requiring the use of a fact checker. But I think he just has it in for Adam Bellow.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I just spoke out boldly in a thread at the Comics Journal message board. Why? Because something was being said that struck me as obviously wrong. Yet stating the obvious took me 45 minutes and a sizable block of text. If anyone takes notice of my post, I'll find that my key points have been ignored and that I have misconstrued key parts of the posts that I'm responding to. How ghastly it all is. How I wish I could go to bars instead.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Progress report: Nov. 1

This is really depressing. I've been working on my novel for years and years and years, and that's understating it. Now I've added this extra lump of a project, the blogging of my day-to-day progress. How could it be anything but a waste of time? And yet I don't want to back down and lose face with my nonexistent audience. Which is the same reason I'm still trying to write the book.


Nov. 1: I find written down: "11:30 am to 2:10 pm, read turq[uoise] folder material, edited book excerpts, Len's waiting for Janey at drugstore, etc." This means that I dug out a turqoise folder full of drafts and notes, and that I wrote in line edits for excerpts from pretend books and for a disturbing little scene where the hero waits for his girlfriend in downtown L.A. and wonders what if she's left him, would his life actually feel like a better fit if he didn't have to love someone?

Then: "2:25 pm to :50, these notes." That means I spent 25 minutes writing two pages of notes: What sets would my fictional tv show have, how many guys would be needed to move a segment of a set, what segments would make up the show's various sets, on what decks would the various locales represented by the sets be found. (My fictional tv show is about a space station that is divided into "decks," as in Deck 1, Deck 2, etc.)

The notes show that this was the day that I hit on an idea I especially like: each major set assigned to a deck would have the same centerpiece: a round, black-metal stand on which is placed a duo of off-kilter almost-rectangles that are made of glass and lit up with a different color, depending on the function of the deck in question (blue for science, red for engineering, I suppose). The idea is that these sites are all redresses of the same basic set. The difference in the centerpieces' color would underline the differences between the sets; the similarity in the centerpieces' shape and position would underline that all parts of the space station belong to a single greater entity.

Then: "10:30 pm thru 12:30 pm." Notes about which sets would be in which sound stage, speculation about how much movement between sound stages there would be -- get all the scenes done in one sound stage before moving to the next, or switch back and forth? More of that sort.

A name for one of the tv show's characters: Valerie Korova.

Parody of a parody of T. S. Eliot:

The unsought corridor, the unwelcome grave,
the smile that yields no deliverance.
Rough calculations to an uncertain end, with failure
the foredestined shrub of our diminutive landscape.

Admittedly, the bit about the shrub and the landscape is a bit rich even for a parody.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Just finished it and liked it a lot. The first fantasy novel I've read since Susanna Clarke, and hers was the first I had read since 2000 (the opening Harry Potter book), and before that I don't remember.

Magicians. Vampires lead, of course, and then zombies, but I think magicians rank as the third-place staple for today's fantasy genre. Granted, their status rests on one mega-buster YA series and two fine popular novels. But werewolves are the only competition and I haven't heard of any big-deal novels/movies all about werewolves.

update, From his AV Club interview:

My overriding concern while writing this book was that fantasy fandom not perceive this book as coming from an outsider. I recognize that on paper, you can’t really tell that I’m a fan or a nerd. I work at Time, and then there are the schools I went to, which I need to get taken out of my fucking bio. I was really concerned about that. That’s why I spent a lot of time over the past year at conventions, just talking to people and introducing myself.

That's how I wound up talking with him! It seemed kind of odd that a big wheel at Time would be pressing his chapbook into the hands of some dork at a con. But it certainly worked out for me, since otherwise I wouldn't have read Grossman's novel. The joke is that, as noted, I don't read much fantasy/s.f. these days, so we were two floaters taking each other for insiders. Except that one of the floaters had written a damn good fantasy novel.

Here's my account, originally posted on HU:

In other news, I spent two hours in large, crowded rooms with Neil Gaiman today and can report that he is charming beyond smooth. This was at Worldcon, where the Hugo is awarded and which is being held here in Montreal this year. I also met Lev Grossman, though I had no idea who he was. He gave me a chapbook with the first chapter of his novel, which I liked, and at the end there was an author's bio. It revealed he is by far the most literarily connected person I've ever spoken to. Seemed like a nice guy! He had wandered into the back of the room during a misbegotten shambles of a panel whose scheduled participants had bailed and been replaced at the last minute. The subject was fantasy novels and how much politics and economics they should contain. Grossman offered that he was a fantasy novelist -- heads turned -- and that he had just finished a novel about a world much like the Narnia world but with some revisionism as to adult realities, including socioeconomic realities. For instance, how come Mrs. Hedgehog or whoever has a sewing machine when there are no factories in Narnia? That sounded good to me, so after the panel I asked for his name, he gave me the chapbook, etc. Hence the revelation that followed.

Back to the panel discussion. A very odd, even semi-deranged, lout also wandered into the room, but he sat up front and soon planted himself in the middle of the conversation, such as it was. Otherwise the place was full of whispery fans who deferred to each other; we didn't even raise our hands properly, just bent our elbows and parked a hand by our ear, fingers curled over. So the strange lout began talking loudly and soon offered an idea that I liked: how do we know that the whatever kids, Peter and Lucy and Susan and that other one, how do we know they were the first bunch to be sent along from our world to wake the sleeping king (or whatever their mission was). The fellow reasoned that getting the job done first crack out of the box was kind of a long shot. So maybe others had come along, failed, and died, and all over Narnia there were discreet little plots of land dedicated to the graves of the Wilkins children, the Anderson children, the Smith children, etc., but the talking animals didn't want Peter and Lucy and the rest to know, so they covered it up. I liked that he remembered they would all be Anglo-Saxon family names.

All right, so maybe it isn't the greatest single pop-culture revisionist geek goof you ever heard, but it sure livelied up the occasion. That panel sucked so bad. And the idea would come in handy if you were doing a parody about it being the late '80s and DC somehow acquiring the rights to Narnia and hiring some schmuck writer who had just read Watchmen.

My mother's dream

I'm visiting my mother for Thanksgiving. She just told me the dream she had last night, an exam dream. Her test had come back with this note:

Your exam paper is determinedly amusing. Still, you do know the subject matter. I agree with you about Susan.

What can it mean?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser at Time Magazine

Or Techland, a web site run by Time. Still ... here it is. The pic accompanies Lev Grossman's list of the 6 best fantasy novels ever. And here's the list:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
– Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monkey, dig your grave

Having grown accustomed to his freedom in The Jungle, the "humanized" chimp needed too much supervision and went berserk when he was put in his cage. ... When Jerry became more and more impossible, Dutton took Jerry into a nearby orange grove and gave him a shovel. "I had him dig a deep hole," Dutton said. "When he was finished, I told him to jump inside. Then a policeman friend shot him in the head."

"Dutton" is Jack Dutton, described as an "eccentric millionaire and showman." He built up a private menagerie, then put it on display as an Anaheim tourist attraction called The Jungle. Jerry the chimp was the attraction's top-billed star, "The World's Most Human Chimpanzee."

Dutton and his wife had brought Jerry home from Africa and "raised him as their child," says my source, the fine coffee-table book Southern California in the '50s (compiled and written by Charles Phoenix, designed by Kathy Kikkert). The book continues: "Within a few months he was toilet trained, sat at the dinner table, dressed himself ... Locals, tourists, schoolchildren and church groups enjoyed Jerry's antics as he played with Sunny the bear or swam with the ducks in the pond."

But in just a few years everything fell apart. Disneyland opened down the road, neighbors sued because they thought the animals were dangerous, Dutton's wife eloped with his lawyer. And Jerry fritzed out. Dutton had to hire people to look after Jerry around the clock. Then he tried giving Jerry away to zoos -- no good.

Then the shovel, the grave. The single bullet. The role for Bill Murray if some indy wiseacre makes this business into a film. (I see Murray in shorts and safari jacket, bush cap riding the back of his head, his oatmeal face puckering as the tears squeeze out.)

Thanks to The Inkwell Collector for recommending Southern California in the '50s.

[ Note: I wrote this for The Hooded Utilitarian, a comics-and-stuff blog run by Noah Berlatsky. As you may have noticed, the post and my blog have the same title. That's the main reason I'm running the post here; the backup reason is that I like it. ]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It was funnier after 9/11

My favorite
Onion headline turns out to be from 1998, not from the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in the country's history. That renders the joke less funny, but it's still damn good. Here it is:

Oprah Viewers Patiently Awaiting Instructions

Friday, November 20, 2009

Buddy Rich

He had a temper. Via James Wolcott and a blog called The Basement Rug, I find that a citizen named Emmett J. Ientilucci has compiled some transcripts and recordings of Buddy Rich coming unglued. Wikipedia reveals that Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld planted a number of Buddy quotes in episodes of Seinfeld.

Some favorite bits:

... This is not the goddamn House of David fuckin’ baseball team. This is the Buddy Rich Band: young people … with faces! No more fuckin’ beards ...

... I don’t need this shit. I have a home in Palm Springs and I can go sit on my ass the rest of my life and not worry about a fuckin’ thing … and don’t have to meet your fuckin’ payroll, and pay you for playin’ like a fuckin’ high school dropout! How dare you do that! ASSHOLES!! ...

... Everybody’s on two weeks notice tonight. I’m telling you, everybody gets two weeks notice tonight. I can’t handle this anymore. You’re all … [pauses thoughtfully] you’re not my kind of people at all.

Compare and contrast

A tv reporter caught out a kid who likes Sarah Palin but apparently doesn't know too much about her. The kid has a blog and tells us her side of the story. Her big reason for liking Sarah Palin:

"I like how Sarah Palin will speak her mind, regardless of what the media will say about it.”

A little further down, the kid thinks over various remarks she could have made on air. For example:

Call me crazy but it would have looked pretty bad had Sarah Palin been against something John McCain was against [she means "for"] while they were running together.

At issue is TARP. The kid is against it, and she had no idea that Palin was for it. McCain supported TARP in '08, so Palin, as his veep choice, had to go along no matter what her own views might have been. And, sure, no one could disagree with that analysis. But what happened to speaking her mind?

The kid makes a subsidiary point:

I could have said ... “Hey Norah, have you read the book? She talks about how during her debate prep she was handed a list of note cards that had questions and ‘non-answers’”

You know, that was pretty much my view of the debate also. It seemed to me that Palin really was not saying much of anything. So on what occasions does she speak her mind? When being interviewed by Hannity, I guess. The kid figures that Palin is outspoken because, when talking to conservatives, Palin says the things that conservatives say.

Okay, the kid's just 17. But her blog post has been applauded by the Weekly Standard and other pro-Palin outposts manned by adults. Do they notice this incoherence and gloss over it, or do they share the incoherence and therefore don't notice it?

update, Unhappy Palinites in Noblesville, Ind. Apparently the Great Goose bailed on a bunch of people who had been standing on line (for hours in the rain with their infant children!) because they had been promised her signature on copies of Going Rogue. This link has a sampling of unhappy comments left on her Facebook page. My favorite:

... the real disappointment was the realization that someone you supported and believed in didn’t follow through on the commitment they made.

Pal, if only you followed the news.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas for Nazis

You don't see this every day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our elusive ideals

Men don't see it as an ideal to be aspired to that we get our way on everything and show no interest whatsoever in compromise and balancing respective interests. Why does the feminist ideal often seem to suggest that is the goal?

Says the fan of George W. Bush ... Because that's from Ace of Spades, the renowned war blogger whose web site has a skull and crossbones (a skull and crossed swords, actually).

A lot of men do see throwing their weight around as an ideal way to live. They wish they could get away with it at the office or on line at the coffee place. But instead they settle for watching action movies and advocating a hardline foreign policy.

One guy who didn't settle was George Bush. He didn't have to advocate. He was able to live the dream and conduct a tough-guy foreign policy that was all my-way-or-the-highway and shut-up-stupid. Ace and the other wingnut bloggers liked that just fine.

Now everything has turned to crap, but the wingnuts can still bitch about that devious wimp, Barack Obama. And about women. Apparently women play too rough.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Progress report: Oct 24 thru 31

Typical. I stay away from the Internet, so my progress reports become a backlog. Now I have to set aside blocks of time and churn thru the backlog. It's all become a chore.

Okay, to begin:

Oct. 24 I find listed "12:22 noon to 2:25 pm," and then "5 pm to" nothing. I find a list of standing sets for the program (Sky Frontier), and a list of season 4 shows, each marked "ship" or "planet" or "ship, planet" plus a few more less-used terms. The list marks an episode ("Speak Your Name") as having "space storm not called Bronson-Gann."

A page of changes I want to make to "The World Is Fair," a chapter about the shooting of an episode in Sept 1966, just when the show is new and CG's character (Lieut. Taj, the alien) is taking off with viewers.

Oct 25 nothing

Oct 26 This was when I took the morning bus to Ottawa. In my noteboook I started working out a step-by-step progress from the gates of the studio lot inward. That is, I sat there on the floor of the Gare Central at 9:30 am (early for me) and wrote out what you'd find on driving up to the studio gates, then driving to the administration building, seeing the ornamental shruberry between the admin building and the tv shows' building, and so on.

Rectangles drawn to represent the sound stages, bungalows, parking lot, admin building. Wrote questions to myself: "Where's the shade, if any?" and so on.

But we're only talking a couple of pages. I know that I dropped the work after getting on the bus.

Oct 2- ? Nine pages of notes show up, no date. Fairly useful sort. Working out where SkyFron and Tracer offices would be. A list of design people and tech staff for SkyFron. (But also a stray couple of stories about someone recalling childhood with a seer-mother, a bit of Dunsany-ism about "the Virulean Gate.") Then material about studio offices, tech/design people listed again, question of who was unit production manager, a crowded diagram attempting to represent the shooting of a scene in a sound stage. Questions about color sound stages painted, distance between sound stages (Burt Ward sounds like he's saying it was 15 feet). A lot on sound stages and shooting, and every step of the way I've got questions. Yet I sort of like the experience. I've had sound stages in the back of my mind for years now, while working on this book, and it's nice to take a look at them full on. So I take what I've got and lay it out, and then figure ways all the bits together may make sense.

Oct 30 Marked "5:18 pm to 9:19 pm." Thirteen pages of notes, mainly nailing down (probable) layout of sound stage floor, position of generators, how soon cables begin to get underfoot once you walk in the door, where the actors would be sitting, bit of their between-sets behavior, what principles would be applied in the scheduling of scenes to be shot.

(There's also some stray material: the layout for a novelty book about notable personalities; a page of comebacks to people who are being impossible; more of the same; a paragraph about the evolution of social interaction among the members of the world's elites if they had transferred themselves to zeppelins located high above the earth; the title in English of a 1950s French popularization of philosophy, The Deluded Beast. Also, the title and subtitles for a book about how the Roman Republic fell. That's because right about then I was finishing Imperium by Robert Harris. The zeppelins paragraph is some sort of afterbelch to an idea I had 20 years ago and never acted on.)

Oct 31 Nothing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


From WaPo's retrospective on the Scozzafava mess:

"There is a great song called 'Coca Cola Cowboy' and I believe that's what we have here. She was a Republican as long as it enhanced her electability," said Armey, reached while petting a goat at his Texas ranch. "My guess is she made a deal with Chuck Schumer or the White House that will eventually show itself to us."

The "goat" bit is what surprises me, of course.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I say Hoffman

final update,  I said wrong.


The Republican candidate folds. I predict that the tea party candidate will win. This is based on nothing but a few headlines, so call it the recording of a hunch.

Premise: Politically, this is a terrible time to be Republican but not such a bad time to be a really pissed-off right-winger. Republicans per se have got it tough all over; pissed-off extreme conservatives have their spots where they can break thru.

update, Lib blogs point me to this, a Siena Institute poll. Chris Cilizza highlights:

more than 60 percent of Scozzafava backers were self-identified Republicans, meaning that the majority of them are likely to back Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.
The NRCC is promising the tea party candidate a seat on Armed Services; the district contains a U.S. army military reservation, per Wiki.