Friday, May 07, 2004

Literary losers
It would be hard to parody this account of a literary prize gathering on Mauritius. It self-parodies so well one is suspicious if such a prize even exists. The animadversions against "modern" literature in The Fountainhead pale by comparison. So I sent the following letter to the editors of the Independent:

Dear Editors:

I just wanted to make sure you knew how much I enjoyed Tracy Macleod's satire on literary prize competitions. I laughed till I cried. Books which have "love at their spine"!! Please, stop!! "A Glaswegian painter-decorator"! "Lesbian love in a shabby-genteel Oxford"!! "love between an ageing gay composer, his dog and a brutal Bosnian interloper."!!! That last one, if I may criticize, is where Macleod went a little over the top. I mean, come on. Bosnians are always victims. Oh, wait a minute, maybe he was a Bosnian Serb. Then that would be OK. But Macleod overdoes it again with "it's smart to be intelligent". I needed my heart pills after that one. The Aberdonian Travelodge was also a bit much, but all in all I haven't enjoyed such a brutal yet humorous savaging of literary pretensions since The Fountainhead. Thanks again.

Robert Speirs

Tallahassee, Florida

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Full Story - Shot Live! does a good job in this piece explaining exactly what must have been going through John Feckless's mind when he went to Vietnam. I'd always been puzzled why he was so aggressive and warlike as a soldier, when even before he joined the service:

By that time Kerry had also expressed grave doubts about the war in Vietnam, most notably on June 12, 1966 when he said in an oration to his fellow students, "We have not really lost the desire to serve. We question the very roots of what we are serving."

For someone that much opposed to the war to go to Vietnam is understandable only if he had coldly calculated the whole thing in advance. He was about to be drafted. So his plan was to join the Navy and sit safely on a ship offshore and set up a nice juicy political career. Then his hitch on the Swift boats got dicey. But there he was with a movie camera getting himself on film, Liveshot shot live! It must have been near-hallucinogenic. All the medals he grubbed, the action he got into, the praise and, probably, somewhere deep inside, the awful guilt for even having gone, much less having killed enemy soldiers. I suppose it's hardly surprising that he had to come back and apologize, publicly and repeatedly. In his mind the whole war was an atrocity and he was part of it. The fact that his ravings and even his apologies and his medal-throwing garnered him more publicity than he could have dreamed must have seemed hugely laughable. And he must have known it was all wrong. Because here he is thirty years later, pluming himself on the medals whose ribbons he threw away, acting as though his actions in Vietnam "defended America" when he never thought they did any such thing. And he's having to defend what he must always have thought was his most admirable action, his criticism of and apologies for his country's trying sincerely to defend a small vulnerable country from Communism.

What a mixed-up man.

update Pernod and bitter lemon is not my favorite drink. Bitter licorice needs something else. Sugar? Maybe I need to put a little lemoncello in it. I'm trying to conceive how a Hemingway would taste. That's one part Pernod to five parts champagne. Maybe I'll try it on Mother's Day. Found the perfect present for Mom. A music box with an airplane that goes round and round while "Here we go into the wild blue yonder" plays. You see, Dad was an Air Force guy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Peugeot Panne-ic

Little Anglo-French pun there for ya. The 505STX is in the shop after pooping out on the side of the road. Since my daughter's car is also in traction, mending, it's been an interesting couple of days. I would swear the Cortislim has had something to do with keeping me calm and focused. It almost got me through the neighbor's brass band rehearsal for Cinco de Mayo last night, but he pushed things a bit too far and I yelled at him anyway. Moron. Tonight seems quiet, so maybe I'll be able to get some distance into the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini before I pick up the kids at work at nine. And then there's the Lakers-Spurs game. Busy busy. And I finally got the Pernod drink menus. Tonight I'm going to try it with Bitter Lemon. After I finish driving.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Looser clothes?

Hmm. Does my abdomen actually have muscles in it, under all that fat? My usual way of judging whether I'm losing weight or not is whether my belt still fits. It's in the last hole - OK, so I bought a 44, hoping for this result. The problem is that I'm still wearing 40 pants and I could swear they're getting all bunched up around the waist, so the belt is still working even though just maybe there's less fat for it to circumscribe, but all the bunched-up fabric makes it seem just as tight. The real test will be to buy some 38 pants and see if I can breathe in them and if I'll have to put another hole in the belt.

I've been reading all the pieces about the prison "atrocities" in Iraq. What atrocities? Sounds like all the things they tell teenagers about prison in Florida to get them not to smoke dope. And that leads me to wonder about all the pundits solemnly opining that the pictures of mistreatment - that's the proper word - will convince millions of Arabs to rise up and become terrorists. Maybe this is cynical and mean, but isn't it more likely that millions of young Arab men will look at the news stories and become markedly LESS eager to earn a place in an American-run prison? Of course a few may think it looks like fun.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Andalusia is lost - again!

What would El Cid say? Did he worry about upsetting the Moors? No, he was too busy slicing them into little bits and crushing their heads and stringing them up three or four at a time on his lance. To be historically accurate, I've heard he did actually use Moors in his army, when the time was right. But now BBC alleges that people say idiot things like this:

The Baroque image of a sword-wielding St James cutting the heads off Moors is not a very sensitive or evangelical image that fits the teachings of Christ, he added.

Nah, nobody else ever cut people's heads off in the name of Christ (or Muhammad!) so why should St. James be the only one!? How about those of the six million tourists who visit Santiago de Compostela just to see the image of St. James cutting off Moorish heads? That must be right up to five million, nine hundred and ninety thousand or so. Including all the real live boys.

This explains it

I always wondered why I could never understand Chomsky's linguistics when I studied linguistics in the early Seventies. I even went to a summer seminar and sat - literally - at the feet of the great master. I just figured I was too dense or lazy to penetrate the mysteries. Now Pejman has opened my eyes to the nature of Chomsky's evil ineptitude. I think I'll steal bits and pieces and just call Chomsky an "intellectually stunted microbe" and forget him. Be sure to check out the comments. And Amritas on the subject. "Like Lenin and Lysenko rolled into one." Yup. That's Chomsky.
Two Weeks

The literature says not to look at a scale for the first thirty days of the Cortislim regime. Of course, I couldn't resist, looked again yesterday morning, which marked two weeks since I started taking the stuff, and realized why the Cortislim folks say that. You get frustrated by seeing you only lost five pounds in two weeks. The scale shows me at 200, where I was a couple of days after I started. Will I be able to avoid scale obsession for the next two weeks? No. Can looking at a scale make you gain weight or lose it slower? Of course not - or - hmm. Depends on the psychological component. I'm still waiting for the dramatic looser-clothes effect to hit, too. On the bright side, I'm off Atkins and not gaining weight. I walk quite a lot, sometimes not by choice, as when my car broke down yesterday. I seem to have mastered the art of stopping the snacks early in the evening. And I feel better. On balance, I have hope. I'm not yet at the point where I can recommend to others to spend a hundred bucks on three bottles of these pills, though. I'll know about that after six months when I've lost as much weight as I want and kept it off.