Sunday, April 30, 2006

note from the underground

I had sworn off blogging till I finish all my schoolwork. But this obituary of John Kenneth Galbraith was 2 Good 2 let pass without my remarking.

The obituary is excellent and inspiring and awe-inspiring, too. An earnest, wry, scary smart liberal-- gotta love it. Everything he did was OTT. just his physical statute 80 inches tall (tried to enlist in the army during WWII but was rejected for his height) and near-century-long lifespan are daunting. The obit's best when it showcases JKG's wit:

A major influence on him was the caustic social commentary he found in [Thorstein] Veblen's [19th century] "Theory of the Leisure Class." Mr. Galbraith called Veblen one of American history's most astute social scientists, but also acknowledged that he tended to be overcritical.

"I've thought to resist this tendency," Mr. Galbraith said, "but in other respects Veblen's influence on me has lasted long. One of my greatest pleasures in my writing has come from the thought that perhaps my work might annoy someone of comfortably pretentious position. Then comes the realization that such people rarely read."

One more thing--I just discovered this character named Francois de La Rouchefoucauld, a 17th century French memoirist. But his real passion was maxims; he spent years polishing them to perfect pure gems. See here.

He's a Maxim Master. Or Master Maxim. Or a Maximizer. Or Master Maximizer.

Back to paper.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brew Ha Ha

Breaking: Lauren sends reports of a warm-beverage scuffle at the New York State legislature. Apparently State Senator Ada Smith, of Queens, has been stripped of her state car and a $9,000 stipend for a pattern of abusive behavior that features throwing coffee at her aides. Hairpiece pulling, too.

"Senator Smith, a nine-term incumbent, said last week that she was a tea drinker, not a coffee drinker, and she flatly denied throwing coffee at Ms. Jackson."

Equally dubious, but more florid, defenses come from Smith's lawyer, one Ravi Batra. He protested the violation of Ms. Smith's constitutional presumption of innocence. Then he called the accusations "'a felonious hoax'" and questioned why there were no coffee stains in Senator Smith's office. He said that at his invitation, investigators from the Albany district attorney's office will come to the office on Wednesday to search for physical evidence."

Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dispatch from Haiti

So, encouraged by an article in--- of all fora-- the tweedy New York Review of Books, I have ventured into the world of Daily Kos, whose founder, according to Tweedy, has presented "the most ambitious, interesting, and hopeful venture in progressive politics in decades."

Fortuitously, one poster had written an entry about Haiti, my favorite dystopia. She was vacationing in the Dominican Republic and stumbled haphazardly across the border, enticed by the un-PC prospects of cockfighting and voodoo. Instead, she found hovels and kids with dead eyes. For instance, when one member of her tour group tossed some baseball hats to the congregation of children outside the bus,

it got really bad really fast. They were fist fighting in the dirt over a hat. One of them broke away and the others gave chase. They caught him and they fought some more. Running, chasing and fighting until we couldn't see them in the dust. It was about this point that I took my trusty flask out of my backpack and started drinking.

I learned from readers' comments that a new documentary about Haiti, by a Danish first-time director, is on its way. Word is that it's pretty anti-Aristide.

More on Haiti later.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Apropos of Nothing

I've been meaning to post on a couple of movies for a while.

The first is Mutual Appreciation, directed by Andrew Bujalski. It's remarkably sensitive,
registering emotional frequencies that most films miss, and true and generous and kind. And even better than his first feature, Funny Ha Ha, which got rave reviews last year--- two New York Times critics named it one of the 10 best films of 2005. Today's the last day you can buy a DVD, which the director will send you personally from Jamaica Plain; it's going to be officially released soon.

The second is Ingmar Bergman's six-episode series, Scenes from a Marriage,
which I watched on the pretext of doing research for my 3L paper.

Each episode is about two people struggling to become with each other. It's hard to watch sometimes, just as marriages are hard:

Marianne: If only we could meet as the people we were meant to be and not as people trying to play the parts others have assigned us.

Johan: That’s impossible. We start putting on those masks as infants

Can't describe well, sorry. But it's stunning and beautiful. Rent it, and get the TV version, not the edited movie version.

Much Adoing

When I read a headline that says, "Cheney's Aide Says Bush Approved Leak," my spirits lift.

They promptly sink when I learn that said leak was unrelated to covert CIA agents. It was just more (dis)information about Iraq's search for nuclear materials, stuff that was declassified a week later. What a tease!

I can't see what the big deal is here. Sure, "authorized leak" is an oxymoron, but every president has done it. We've known for a while that the Bush administration is particularly effective at turning the media into its mouthpiece. I understand, too, that President Bush has castigated leakers in the past, and that this exposes him as a hypocrite. But hypocrisy is the least of his sins!

Am I missing something here?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spring Fever (and Sore Throat, Headache, Dizzyness)

I am in the process of recovering from a very nasty cold-flu-type thing. My sinuses drip like a slow-melting icicle and my metaphors hurt almost as much as my head and gulllet combined. The only upside of this is my diet: Today I have eaten seven oranges, a packet of cough drops, some yogurt and approximately one dozen Fudgsicles.

I blame United Airlines, which-- thanks to "weather" delays and general incompetence-- turned a five-hour trip from Clinton, Iowa, to Cambridge into a 24-hour-long ordeal. I will refrain from reliving the experience, which ended yesterday, on blog. Just know that you should avoid the airline totally.