Friday, May 25, 2012

Predictions and Random Thoughts


1) The Spurs over the Heat, in six games, in the NBA finals.

2) Bringing Tebow to the Jets was a bad idea.  Massive problems will result.  The Jets will finish 8-8.  Rex Ryan's job will be in jeopardy. (Not all due to Tebow, of course.  But he's going to exacerbate an already-bad situation).

3) Even though they're down against the Devils, I like the Rangers to win not only this series, but to beat the Kings in the Stanley Cup.  Even though I'm rooting for the Kings.  The only LA team worth rooting for.

Random Thoughts

Veep on HBO is exactly what I feared it would be.  Cynicism masquerading as wit.  Worse, cynicism masquerading as wisdom.  No surprise, I guess given that two of the main producers are the ever-bilious and horrible Frank Rich, and the guy behind In The Loop.  It's the same problem I have, in some ways, with Mad Men.  Making every character on a show base and selfish is just as shallow and unconvincing as making every character a noble, selfless would-be saint (see The West Wing).  Humans aren't always, only motivated by fear, careerism, and selfishness.  It's irksome.  

Also irksome, though for many different reason, in the much-ballyhooed Girls, also on HBO.  I don't yet know what I think of this show.  It goes from impressing to bothering the living hell out of me every time I watch it.  One of its core problems, I think, is that the suffering of its main character, Hannah, rarely transcends her own place and time.  We sometimes feel for her, but we rarely feel _with_ her.  At least, I rarely do.  And, I don't get why every single sex scene in the entire show has to strive to attain the maximum level of cringe-inducing awkwardness.  Jury's still out, I guess.  My favorite moment in it so far has been the scene between Hannah and her now-gay ex-boyfriend.  THAT was funny-and also, somewhat moving.  Wish the show had more of that.

Van The Man

Despite the sneering disdain of my New York Intellectual friend ASWOBA, Astral Weeks remains one of my most beloved rock (rock-jazz?) albums.  On that subject, I highly recommend this excellent appreciation of Morrison's work.  It contains, among other things, a fascinating list of Morrison clips avialable on YouTube (which I am off to check out).  A sample: 

I recently edited a book titled The Neuroscience of Preference. Unsurprisingly, this got me reflecting on my own preferences. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that few have endured the ebb and flow of time. In fact I often experience what I suspect is a common phenomenon: private embarrassment at these temporal disjunctions in taste. A recent example was seeing a model of car that I owned in the late 1970s. At the time it seemed desirable and the essence of modernity. What presented itself to my eyes all these years later was nothing short of a hideous box awkwardly balanced on four wheels. When it comes to preferences, an awful lot of them are evanescent, a fact that is perennially exploited by the fashion industry.
At the same time, I have to acknowledge that there are some constants. For me, one of these is an enduring passion for the music of Van Morrison. No other human voice has such power to arrest my attention and compel me to listen. This is a preference that has endured for more than 40 years.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Of Course. Who Wouldn't?

"Bertie, you're extraordinary," she said.

"Eh?  How do you mean, extraordinary?"

"All this nonsense you have been talking, trying to reconcile me and D'Arcy.  Not that I don't admire you for it.  I think it's rather wonderful of you.  But then everybody says that, though you have a brain like a peahen, you're the soul of kindness and generosity."

Well, I was handicapped here by the fact that, never having met a peahen, I was unable to estimate the quality of these fowls' intelligence, but she had spoken as if they were a bit short of the grey matter, and I was about to ask her who the hell she meant by 'everybody,' when she resumed.

"You want to marry me yourself, don't you?"

I had to take another mouthful of the substance in the bottle before I could speak.  One of those difficult questions to answer.

"Oh, rather," I said, for I was anxious to make the evening a success.  "Of course.  Who wouldn't?"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sebald Is As Good As Advertised

But the more I labored on this project over several months the more pitiful did the results seem.  I was increasingly overcome by a sense of aversion and distaste, said Austerlitz, at the mere thought of opening the bundles of papers and looking through the endless reams I had written in the course of the years.  Yet reading and writing, he added, had always been his favorite occupation.  How happily, said Austerlitz, have I sat over a book in the deepening twilight until I could no longer make out the words and my mind began to wander, and how secure have I felt seated at the desk in my house in the dark night, just watching the tip of my pencil in the lamplight following its shadow, as if of its own accord and with perfect fidelity, while that shadow moved regularly from left to right, line by line, over the ruled paper.  But now I found writing such hard going that it often took me a whole day to compose a single sentence, and no sooner had I thought such a sentence out, with the greatest effort, and written it down, that I saw the awkward falsity of my constructions and the inadequacy of all the words I had employed.  If at times some kind of self-deception nonetheless made me feel that I had done a good day's work, then as soon as I glanced at the page next morning I was sure to find the most appalling mistakes, inconsistencies, and lapses staring at me from the paper.  How much or little I had written, on a subsequent reading it always seemed so fundamentally flawed that I had to destroy it immediately and begin again.  Soon I could not even venture on the first step.  Like a tightrope walker who has forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other, all I felt was the swaying of the precarious structure on which I stood, stricken with terror at the realization that the ends of the balancing pole gleaming far out on the edges of my field of vision were no longer my guiding lights, as before, but malignant enticements to me to cast myself into the depths.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The SAT is Tomorrow. That Affects None of You, I Know

Sorry for the long radio silence.  I've been teaching and writing, mostly the latter.  The wife and I are going on a mini vacation to the Napa Valley next weekend, and I'm trying to reach a certain writing threshhold before then.  For the last two weeks it seemed impossible that I was going to meet that threshold, but something good seems to have happened finally and it's looking sunny.

I'll try to take some photos in Napa and do another foodie write-up.  We're going to The French Laundry, which should be a highlight.  Also going to stay at place with a nice pool and view and so forth, so it should be relaxing.  Not that I ever really relax.  But, I should be less anxious, at least.

More to come, soon, I trust...