Just a typical work conversation

Posted by David on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 11:10 AM.

Uncle Vinny says (11:03 AM):
   Could you please send me an email? My outlook is acting weird.

dae says (11:04 AM):

Uncle Vinny says (11:05 AM):
   you are a prince among men.

dae says (11:05 AM):
   I am but a man among princes.

Uncle Vinny says (11:05 AM):
   I am a toad among Jupiters

dae says (11:05 AM):
   I am but a monacle among pince-nez

Uncle Vinny says (11:05 AM):
   I am a mung bean among Monks.

dae says (11:06 AM):
   I am a toe among fools; I am a bean among curds.

Uncle Vinny says (11:06 AM):
   At least I'm a *well-hung* mung bean, though.

dae says (11:06 AM):
   You've sung that well-hung song before, young son.

Uncle Vinny says (11:06 AM):
   I done sung it, I done rung it up.

dae says (11:07 AM):
   You are both ripped, and roaring; both rooting *and* tooting.

UncleVinny, on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 12:35 PM:

You never let me get the last word in!

david adam edelstein, on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 12:48 PM:


heather, on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 2:00 PM:

That's an understatement, if this conversation is any indication. Your outlook is just down right bizarre.

Laura Z, on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 at 8:37 AM:

You guys crack me up! ;-P

ejuana, on Friday, August 18, 2006 at 12:27 PM:

You're both dumb.

ejuana, on Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 1:06 AM:

Ok, here's something completely different: the pronunciation of pince-nez is just weird.


David Adam Edelstein, on Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 8:42 AM:

Weird... almost like it's... French!

My new credo

Posted by David on Tuesday, December 6, 2005 at 3:44 PM.

Or, I'd like to believe, the credo I've always tried to live by, but didn't know it:

"One can show's one contempt for the stupidity and cruelty of the universe by making of one's life a poem of incoherence and absurdity."

   —Alfred Jarry

Via some clown.

Laura Zeigen, on Tuesday, December 6, 2005 at 6:18 PM:

So *that's* what you call it...:-)

Technique is an empty vessel

Posted by David on Saturday, July 2, 2005 at 11:13 PM.

"The spirit and the idea are of the greatest and essential importance. Technique is ... secondary. Technique is an empty vessel. It has to be filled by a vision, an idea, a spirit, an emotion."

-- Andy Schwartz of the NY Rocker, from the DVD extras for the excellent documentary The Nomi Song.


Posted by David on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 at 7:25 AM.

Since he doesn't have his own damn site any more, I asked Vince to let me publish the following bit of silliness here.

In response to this editorial by National Geographic where they apologize for letting a photographer scam them, Vince wrote:

In an email sent August 7, 2003, I related a story about a Third Reich sewing circle in Renton run by former Boeing engineers.

To my profound disappointment, I have learned that I was misled by my bookie and that three of the details which I emphatically and excitedly relayed were not faithful to the situation.

In the third paragraph, I stated that aeronautical engineers are carrying "a number 19 needle formed from eyeglasses worn by the Führer." Soon after the email was sent, several of you pointed out that there is a faint and unacceptably low probability that 30’s era eyeglasses were thick enough to be made into a 44 mm diameter needle —which I failed to notice before publishing the story. I now know that the needle originates in the Boeing Department of Upholstery, and is of recent manufacture. When I asked bookie “Punch” Froomkin to explain, he admitted that he himself had suggested the story to the engineers after drinking heavily with them at a local sports bar.

This was in direct contrast to what Froomkin had repeatedly assured me while I was preparing the email. As part of my rigorous internal system of checks and balances, I routinely obtain independent verification of the circumstances in which a claim of neo-Nazi embroidery or stitching-related activity is made. In very few instances, I am unable to do so. This story was one of those cases, and I mailed it knowing that I was relying heavily on Punch’s account.

In light of his disturbing admission about the needle, I immediately launched an investigation into the other elements of the story and determined that the last two paragraphs—in which a whimsically anacreontic poem links the electoral success of South Side attorney Rob McKenna to the resurrection of a whites-only sidewalk policy in the state of Washington—were actually invented out of whole cloth several weeks earlier by “Punch” and are not attributable to the former engineers.

By sending this email, I failed my friends and gave succor to my foes. I am currently reviewing my internal procedures to do my best to ensure that this type of mistake does not happen again. In addition, I am re-examining the only other story sourced to Mr. Froomkin ("Great Balls of Fire! Who’re Firefighters Balling These Days?," May 1997); to date it appears that all aspects of the story are accurate.

I apologize to my readers.

Vince Houmes
Editor in Chief

Uncle Vinny, on Thursday, September 16, 2004 at 1:27 PM:

It's a common mistake. "Uncle Vinnie" is a species related but not identical to the "Uncle Vinny" under discussion. The -IE lifeform is far more likely to be found in Motorhead or mafioso ecosystems; the -Y is more easily startled, and is less prone to pilosis of the torso.

Poetry on the busses

Posted by David on Wednesday, September 1, 2004 at 10:22 AM.

We're on the downward slope of 2004, which makes it odd that I hadn't noticed this year's Poetry on the Bus collection yet (although it's possible they just went up).

In any event, I was delighted to look up this morning and see this delightful entry from a friend of mine sandwiched between two ads:

Leaving some shell of yourself

covered in sheets, you catch
your bus, pull the cord ten blocks
early, walk into the store that sells magic.

When your boss asks where you’ve been
you say you wanted to learn

how a thing disappeared comes back
how a velvet-lined cape
feels against skin.

Marjorie Manwaring

Check out the rest of the 2004 Poetry on the Bus poems. As always with these things, the selection is uneven -- but some of them are quite good. Enjoy!

That ain't no fruit salad

Posted by David on Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 8:42 AM.

I blame it on the Bakerina, really, who posted some, well, suggestive lyrics, which started a bit of a trend, which meant that I of course had to post my favorite example of the genre:

Diamonds and Buttermilk
Poi Dog Pondering, Pomegranate

I wanna suck your guava juice
Get down on my knees and slip in your passion fruit
I come in diamonds and buttermilk
And swim right in and out of you 'til you shake-a like the chills
Licking the butter from your lilikoi lips
And deep-sea diving for the oyster in your hips
I'm gonna suck your kiwi right through my teeth
I'm gonna split your pomegranate
I'm gonna suckle on your seeds

So slippery, I'm feeling greedy
Gonna take you like smack to the needy...

(and so on)

Why yes, I do have a little sample from the live album Liquid White Light for you.

goliard, on Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 9:18 AM:

Sweet! You win the uber-Suggestive yet Not Obscene Award with that one, methinks. (Bakerina notified me to brag that we had started a meme).

Nice to meetchya, mind if I linkya?


Alicia, on Monday, May 31, 2004 at 8:16 AM:

Poi Dog, original Poi Dog, is one of my favorite groups. I have Pomegranate and the self titled Poi Dog Pondering, which I love. Pulling Touch isn't as subtle but certainly is erotic.

Great meme.

Richard Selig blows my mind

Posted by David on Monday, April 26, 2004 at 12:24 PM.

So there I am at lunch, sitting in the sun and reading Wes' book, and I hit this gem, which just about makes me jump out of my chair:

From the 16th Floor

Pardoning this borough for its evil,
I look past the tops of buildings, to where
The sky is. Remembering that man's malice,
This man's fate; the former's cunning,
the latter's jeopardy -- seeing the sky,
Placid in spite of soot and heartache,
I am reminded to pray. Redemption,
like our janitor, comes as we go home:
A stooped man turning out the lights.

Richard Selig, New York City, 1957

I should mention here that at the time he wrote this poem, Richard Selig knew he was dying.

Bad poetry

Posted by David on Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 7:41 AM.

So Slate is celebrating National Poetry Month by:

presenting each week a poem that is about poetry from a viewpoint that is in one way or another negative: more sour than sweet. Another goal will be to avoid the best-known poems about poetry: no chestnuts allowed.

In service of that goal, this week they're presenting the following wonderful example from Su Tung-p'o, an 11th century poet from China, who has better things to do than read bad poetry:

By Su Tung-p'o, translated by Burton Watson

Night: reading Meng Chao's poems,
characters fine as a cow's hair.
By the cold lamp, my eyes blur and swim.
Good passages I rarely find—
lone flowers poking up from the mud—
but more hard words than the Odes or Li sao—
jumbled rocks clogging the clear stream,
making rapids too swift for poling.
My first impression is of eating little fishes—
what you get's not worth the trouble;
or of boiling tiny mud crabs
and ending up with some empty claws.
For refinement he might compete with monks
but he'll never match his master Han Yh.
Man's life is like morning dew,
a flame eating up the oil night by night.
Why should I strain my ears
listening to the squeak of this autumn insect?
Better lay aside the book
and drink my cup of jade-white wine.

Robert Jahrling, on Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 2:13 PM:

Forgive me...but this gives new meaning to the term "poetry slam".

Robert Jahrling, on Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 2:38 PM:

I was reimagining Su Tung-p'o as a twentieth century gangsta rap artist...

Meng Chao is wack
His words don't flow
His rhymes are as cheap as a fifty-cent crack ho'

The brother can't rhyme
He don't know how
He's a sucka MC, MC, Meng Chao!

Yo, where my BuJews* at?

Posted by David on Friday, March 12, 2004 at 10:44 AM.

At Chabad.org, apparently, where they've been more than a little Buddhist the last couple of days.

Reality in Tidy Boxes

Tell me you found G-d in a tidy package, I will tell you that is not G-d, that is Mind.

Tell me you found G-d in the limitless beyond-beyond space, beyond time-that too is not G-d. That too is Mind.

Where the boundless dwells within a bounded space, where darkness shines, where silence sings, where bitterness is sweet and a moment lives forever-there is G-d; there is the essence of all that is real.


Soul Repair

How will you repair a soul?

Blind yourself to the shell of mud. Dig deeply and deeper yet, sift through the darkened embers, search for a spark that still shines. Fan that spark until a flame appears, fall in love with the flame and despise the evil that encrusts it. Until all is consumed in the warmth of that flame.

For empathy is the redeemer of love and the liberator of deeds that shine.

* Buddhist Jews or Jewish Buddhists.

David Adam Edelstein, on Sunday, March 14, 2004 at 8:39 AM:

What I should have said... "They're in the Chabizzle Hizzle!"

My kinda Christmas

Posted by David on Thursday, December 18, 2003 at 9:47 AM.

Thanks to Dmitry Polyakovsky. Origin unknown.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas (Jewish Style)

'Twas the night before Christmas, and we, being Jews,
My girlfriend and me - we had nothing to do.
The gentiles were home, hanging stockings with care,
Secure in their knowledge St. Nick would be there.
But for us, once the Chanukah candles burned down,
There was nothing but boredom all over town.
The malls and the theaters were all closed up tight;
There weren't any concerts to go to that night.
A dance would have saved us, some ballroom or swing,
But we searched through the papers; there wasn't a thing.
Outside the window sat 2 feet of snow;
With the wind chill, they said, it was 15 below.
And while all I could do was sit there a brood,
My girl saved the night and called out: "CHINESE FOOD!"
So we ran to the closet, grabbed hats, mitts and boots -
To cover out heads, our hands and our foots.
We pulled on our jackets, all puffy with down,
And boarded the T bound for old Chinatown.
The train nearly empty, it rolled through the stops,
While visions of wontons danced through our kopfs.
We hopped off at Park Street; the Common was bright
With fresh-fallen snow and the trees strung with lights,
We crept through "The Zone" with its bums and its thugs,
And entrepreneurs selling ladies and drugs.
At last we reached chinatown, rushed through the gate,
Past bakeries, markets, shops and cafes,
In search of a restaurant: "Which one? Let's decide!"
We chose "Hunan Chozer," and ventured inside.
Around us sat others, their platters piled high
With the finest of fine foods their money could buy:
There was roast duck and fried squid, (sweet, sour and spiced,)
Dried beef and mixed veggies, lo mein and fried rice,
Whole fish and moo shi and shrimp chow mee foon,
And General Gau's chicken a ma po tofu...
When at last we decided, and the waiter did call,
We said: "Skip the menu!" and ordered it all.
And when in due time the food was all made,
It came to the table in a sort of parade.
Before us sat dim sum, spare ribs and egg rolls,
And four different soups, in four great, huge bowls.
And chicken wings! Dumplings! and Beef Teriakis!
The courses kept coming from spicy to mild,
And higher and higher toward the ceiling were piled.
And while this went on, we became aware
Every diner around us had started to stare.
Their jaws hanging open, they looked on unblinking;
Some dropped their teacups, some drooled without thinking.
So much piled up, one dish after another,
My girlfriend and I couldn't see one another!
Now we sait there, we two, without proper utensils,
While they handed us something that looked like two pencils.
We poked and we jabbed till our fingers were sore
And half of our dinner wound up on the floor.
We tried - how we tried - but, said truth to tell,
Ten long minutes later and still hungry as hell,
We swallowed our pride, feeling vaguely like dorks,
And called to our waiter to bring us two forks.
We fressed and we feastered, we slurped and we munched;
We noshed and we supped, we breakfast'd and lunched.
We ate till we couldn't and drank down our teas
And barely had room for our fortune cookies.
But my fortune was perfect; it summed up the mood
When it said: "Pork is kosher, when its in Chinese food."
And my girlfriend - well... she got a real winner;
Her's said: "Your companion will pay for the dinner."
Our bellies were full and at last it was time
To travel back home and write some bad rhyme
Of our Chinatown trek (and to privately speak
About trying to refine our chopstick technique).
The MSG spun round and round in our heads,
And we tripped and we laughed and gaily we said,
As we carried our leftovers home through the night:
"Good Yom Tov to all - and to all a Good Night!"

Americans marching

Posted by David on Saturday, November 15, 2003 at 5:04 PM.

Another one from Mr. Steinbeck that I meant to post Tuesday:

It is a strange thing how Americans love to march if they don't have to. Every holiday draws millions of marchers, sweating in the sun, some falling and being carted away to hospitals. In hardship and in some danger they will march, clad in any imaginable outlandish costume, carrying heavy banners with them too. Everything from Saint Patrick's Day to the Grandmothers of America, Inc., draws milling marchers; but let the Army take them and force them to march, and they will wail like hopeless kelpies on a tidal reef, and it requires patience and enormous strictness to turn them into soldiers. Once they give in, they make very good soldiers; but they never cease their complaints and their mutinous talk. This, of course, does not describe our relatively small class of professional soldiers: they are like professionals in any army; but national need calls up the citizen soldier, and he is a sight. He kicks like a steer going in, bitches the whole time, fights very well when he is trained and properly armed. He lives for the day when he can get out of uniform, and once out spends a large part of his future life at reunions, conventions, marching his heart out while his uniform gets tighter and tighter, and his collar and waistband torture him. Then the war he loathed becomes the great time of his life, and he can conscientiously bore his wife and children to death with it.

The colors of photography

Posted by David on Friday, November 14, 2003 at 4:39 PM.

"Black and White are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected. most of my photographs are of people; they are seen simply, as through the eyes of of theman in the street. There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough -- there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph. It is difficult to describe this thin line where matter ends and mind begins."

-Robert Frank

Sweet honey

Posted by David on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 at 10:57 PM.

Anoche cuando dormia
soñe, bendita ilusion!,
que una colmena tenia
dentro de mi corazon;
y las doradas abejas
iban fabricando en el,
con las amarguras viejas
blanca cera y dulce miel.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt--marvelous error!--
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

-- Antonio Machado

Via Maya, on the WELL.

Steinbeck: America and Americans

Posted by David on Monday, November 10, 2003 at 7:02 AM.

A couple of months ago, Becky and I were killing time in a used book store near the UW, before seeing So Close at the Varsity. I came across a book that looked pretty interesting: America and Americans, with text by John Steinbeck, and photos by many of my favorite photographers, published in 1966.

I confess I had primarily bought it for the photos, but last week when I was lying around feeling sorry for myself I picked it up off my "to read" stack and burned right through it.

The text is Steinbeck's observations about US history and culture, from the perspective of his 64 years (at the time) of closely observing human beings. It's a fascinating work -- equal parts affectionate and scathing. Some of his comments, particularly about politics, have a haunting timeliness to them that creeped me out. For example, today's selection, which is from a larger discussion of people reacting to life out of fear instead of curiousity:

... they live in a state of constant apprehension. This makes them fair game for the man or group with dictatorial desires.

Such leaders are surely screwballs, but they are wise in the use of timidity. They have only to bring charges, no matter how ridiculous or improbable, of plots ... in order to arouse fear, which is the mother of ferocity... Once they have been frightened into organization for self-defense, the Messiah who has planted the fear is able to use it for his own ends. He has only to bring some cruel, stupid, and untrue charge against an official, and particularly against any reform movement, to set these cohorts in noisy motion and to draw from them large amounts of money which, devoted to publications and radio and television programs, keep these poor people further off balance; and, as Joseph McCarthy proved, the more ridiculous the charge, the less possibility there is of defense.

What is the purpose of such leaders or stimulators or catalysts? Probably a simple desire for power. But their stated purpose is invariably patriotic -- they promise to preserve the nation by techniques which will inevitably destroy it. They may even have convinced themselves of the virtue of their mission; and yet, over all such activities there is the smell that caused Doctor Johnson to say that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

WCW on the need for poetry

Posted by David on Sunday, October 26, 2003 at 10:37 PM.

From the footer of today's A Word A Day mailing:

It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

-William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Gwendolyn Brooks kicks my ass every time

Posted by David on Saturday, October 25, 2003 at 8:54 AM.

This week's theme over at A Word A Day has been words from the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks (also here).

As I wrote to Anu, besides the normal entertainment his newsletter gives me, this week he's also reminded me how much I love Ms. Brooks' work.

Discovering to my dismay that we didn't have any of her books in our house (I suspect larceny!), I got down to Elliott Bay as soon as I could and picked up the slim but wonderful classic volume Selected Poems, first published in 1963.

And of course I have a couple of samples for you. The first was originally published in her first volume of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville.

kitchenette building

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. "Dream" makes a giddy sound, not strong
like "rent," feeding a wife," "satisfying a man."

But could a dream send up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

The second poem is from another book, about soldiers and war, called Gay Chaps at the Bar.

the white troops had their orders but the Negroes looked like men

They had supposed their formula was fixed.
They had obeyed instructions to devise
A type of cold, a type of hooded gaze.
But when the Negroes came they were perplexed.
These Negroes looked like men. Besides, it taxed
Time and the temper to remember those
Congenital iniquities that cause
Disfavor of the darkness. Such as boxed
Their feelings properly, complete to tags --
A box for dark men and a box for Other --
Would often find the contents had been scrambled.
Or even switched. Who really gave two figs?
Neither the earth nor heaven ever trembled.
And there was nothing startling in the weather.

Wow. You could tell, when I was reading the second one on the bus, that I was in love... I had that giddy, grinning look, and I was reading nearly aloud, just under my breath.

That's not a bad suggestion

Posted by David on Monday, October 6, 2003 at 3:38 PM.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds on how to end virus and worm attacks:

"When you have people who hook up these machines that weren't designed for the Internet, and they don't even want to know about all the intricacies of network security, what can you expect? We get what we have now: a system that can be brought down by a teenager with too much time on his hands. Should we blame the teenager? Sure, we can point the finger at him and say, 'Bad boy!' and slap him for it. Will that actually fix anything? No. The next geeky kid frustrated about not getting a date on Saturday night will come along and do the same thing without really understanding the consequences. So either we should make it a law that all geeks have dates -- I'd have supported such a law when I was a teenager -- or the blame is really on the companies who sell and install the systems that are quite that fragile."

From the New York Times, via RISKS.

(I do feel compelled to suggest that that line of reasoning -- not Torvald's alone, to be sure -- is akin to blaming the US Postal Service for kids playing mailbox baseball... Sure, the mailboxes could be built stronger, but fundamentally the kids are committing a crime...)

rfkj, on Tuesday, October 7, 2003 at 9:29 AM:

I certainly would have liked to have had a date in high school!

Obviously, Linus is taking a jab at Microsoft--but let's see what happens if Linus himself is sued for a kernel deficiency that allows an exploitable buffer overflow, or if the OpenSSL developers are sued for the recent spate of security holes there. I bet they'd change their tune pretty fast.

Sure, companies (and individuals) shouldn't develop exploitable software, but that's easier said than done, and they should patch as quickly as possible rather than hoping that nobody will notice, but it's also up to system administrators to patch their systems--Window, Unix, Linux, Mac, whatever--when patches are available.

AND OF COURSE WE SHOULD BLAME THE TEENAGER. Jeez--"It's not his fault, he was bored" is the worst excuse for anything ever. Black-hat activity requires malicious intent. It's not like open systems magically advertise themselves to you without any effort on your part.

Call me Ishmael

Posted by David on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 at 3:29 PM.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.

(Mr. Melville, of course. I'd add that I also like to listen to Coltrane obsessively, which of course Mr. Melville never had the benefit of.)

A good quote for these times

Posted by David on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at 10:20 PM.

The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defence against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.

-James Madison, 4th US president (1751-1836)

(Thanks to Anu)

Bill Moyers on the Environment

Posted by David on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at 2:33 PM.

There's a great interview with Bill Moyers over at Grist today. Some excerpts below. The last one made me smack my head against my desk.

Grist: Has the Bush administration been more effective at pushing their environmental agenda than the Reagan and Bush I administrations before it?

Moyers: Ronald Reagan came to power with the same agenda, but made a mistake when he appointed James Watt head of the wrecking crew at the Department of Interior. Watt made no attempt to disguise his fanaticism. He was outspokenly anti-environment and he inflamed the public against him with his flagrant remarks. But he took over a bureaucracy of civil servants who had come of age in the first great environmental wave of the l970s -- people who believed they had a public charge to do the right thing. When Watt stormed into office, these civil servants resisted. Now, 20 years later -- after eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush the First, and three years of Bush the Second -- that generation of civil servants is gone. The executive branch is a wholly owned subsidiary of the conservative/corporate coalition.

[ . . . ]

Grist: The irony is that despoliation doesn't just wipe out the verdant land, it makes it impossible to have a healthy, diverse economy.

Moyers: It stuns me that the people in power can't see that the source of our wealth is the Earth. I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a capitalist. I don't want to destroy the system on which my livelihood and my journalism rest. I am strongly on behalf of saving the environment [in no small part] because it is the source of our wealth. Destroy it and the pooh-bahs of Wall Street will have to book an expedition to Mars to enjoy their riches. I don't understand why they don't see it. I honestly don't. This absence of vision as to what happens when you foul your nest puzzles me.

[ . . . ]

Grist: Yes, it seems as though on some level Bush is lacking some kind of emotional intelligence on these matters -- as though he's sort of tone deaf to the environment.

Moyers: We had Devra Davis, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon, on the show recently. She described how Laura and George Bush designed their ranch at Crawford to be environmentally efficient, with solar paneling and lots of new technology. She pointed out that they seem to understand these issues somewhat on an individual level, and yet they don't understand that the personal is not enough. It takes policy to translate. There is a disconnect between how they live privately and how they act publicly.

Another good one from TJ

Posted by David on Monday, June 23, 2003 at 12:26 PM.

"When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny."

- Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. President, architect and author (1743-1826)

Choices, choices

Posted by David on Sunday, June 22, 2003 at 10:18 PM.

Nice quote in today's A Word A Day mailing:

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.

- Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)

Redefining the past

Posted by David on Sunday, June 22, 2003 at 8:51 AM.

So before you start thinking that Rushkoff is totally off base, read this quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and tell me that he's not talking about the same thing:

Nothing can hold you back -- not your childhood, not the history of a lifetime, not even the very last moment before now. In a moment you can abandon your past. And once abandoned, you can redefine it.

If the past was a ring of futility, let it become a wheel of yearning that drives you forward. If the past was a brick wall, let it become a dam to unleash your power.

The very first step of change is so powerful, the boundaries of time fall aside. In one bittersweet moment, the sting of the past is dissolved and its honey salvaged.

OK, it's not directly, logically applicable, but the spirit is the same.

Great lyric

Posted by David on Sunday, April 27, 2003 at 11:11 AM.

Just picked up a copy of 20 of Hank Williams' Greatest Hits, 'cos I was craving some Hankus and mysteriously didn't seem to have any in our extensive collection.

It's nice to be reminded of just how great a songwriter he was:

Well, why don't you love me like you used to do
How come you treat me like a worn out shoe
My hair's still curly and my eyes are still blue
Why don't you love me like you used to do?

Ain't had no lovin' like a huggin' and a kissin' in a long, long while
We don't get nearer or further or closer than a country mile

Why don't you spark me like you used to do
And say sweet nothin's like you used to coo
I'm the same old trouble that you've always been through
So, why don't you love me like you used to do.

That's my girl

Posted by David on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 at 12:12 AM.

An e-mail exchange from earlier today:

From: DAE
To: Miz Becky

...he's sending Sara my piece on bai cai to explain to her why he won't eat cabbage. :-)

From: Miz Becky

I never would have guessed that's how you would spell [bai cai].

From: DAE
To: Miz Becky

it's the pinyin romanization system. it's what I learned. Put that and wade-giles together and you'd have one good romanization system.

From: Miz Becky

or a country-western band's greatest hit: the Wade-Giles Band playing I'll Be Pinyin' for You 'Til You Get Home.

Compare and contrast

Posted by David on Thursday, April 17, 2003 at 10:36 AM.

Our Operations manager at yesterday's status meeting:

"Define a [thing we're discussing] here -- it's still apples and buicks we're comparing, as far as I'm concerned."

More free-floating surrealism

Posted by David on Wednesday, April 16, 2003 at 9:35 AM.

The scene: This morning, in the car. I've got some matzo in my bag that I'm taking to the office.

Me (affecting a hipster dealer voice): "Hey man, you want some matzo?"

Miz Becky: "unh-uh. It's all about the leavening for me."

Maybe you had to be there, but I was left helpless and shuddering in my seat. And people think she's the "normal" one.


Posted by David on Wednesday, April 9, 2003 at 4:19 PM.

Some wisdom of the sages, by way of Chabad.org:

A person should have two pockets in his coat. One should contain the Talmudic saying (Sanhedrin 37a), "A person is commanded to maintain: For my sake was the world created."

In the second pocket he should keep the verse (Genesis 18:17), "I am but dust and ashes." (Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa)


Posted by David on Wednesday, April 9, 2003 at 3:09 PM.

From the Daily Show, via Salon, via Beth:

What the creators of "The Daily Show" understand is that in times like ours -- the era of "freedom fries" -- a good humorist doesn't need to grandstand and sometimes barely needs to editorialize at all. "Our show is obviously at a disadvantage with any of the other news shows we're competing against," Stewart said at the beginning of one episode, shortly after the war began. "For one thing, we are fake. They are not. So in terms of credibility, we are ... well, oddly enough we're about even."

The Lamed-vovniks

Posted by David on Thursday, April 3, 2003 at 2:34 PM.

I was trying to explain to a friend who the Lamed-vovniks are, and came across this quote that explained it perfectly:

To understand this metamorphosis, one must be aware of the ancient Jewish tradition of the Lamed-Vov, a tradition that certain Talmudists trace back to the source of the centuries, to the mysterious time of the prophet Isaiah.

Rivers of blood have flowed, columns of smoke have obscured the sky, but surviving all these dooms, the tradition has remained inviolate down to our own time. According to it, the world reposes upon thirty-six Just Men, the Lamed-Vov, indistinguishable from simple mortals; often they are unaware of their station. But if just one of them were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.

Thousands of popular stories take note of them. Their presence is attested to everywhere. A very old text of the Haggadah tells us that the most pitiable are the Lamed-Vov who remain unknown to themselves. For those the spectacle of the world is an unspeakable hell.

In the seventh century, Andalusian Jews venerated a rock shaped like a teardrop, which they believed to be the soul, petrified by suffering, of an 'unknown' Lamed-Vovnik. Other Lamed-Vov, like Hecuba shrieking at the death of her sons, are said to have been transformed into dogs.

When an unknown Just rises to Heaven, a Hasidic story goes, he is so frozen that God must warm him for a thousand years between His fingers before his soul can open itself to Paradise. And it is known that some remain forever inconsolable at human woe, so that God Himself cannot warm them. So from time to time the Creator, blessed be His Name, sets forward the clock of the Last Judgment by one minute.

-- from The Last of the Just, by Andre Schwarz-Bart

John Brick, on Monday, October 13, 2003 at 1:52 PM:

There is now another word for the phenomena known as the Lamed-vov, those who absorb the suffering and pain of the world can also be called a "waste lock".

Susan Hoivik, on Sunday, April 24, 2005 at 8:11 PM:

The Argentinian writer-extraordinaire, Juan Luis Borges, describes them hauntingly in his El Libro de los Seres Imaginarios. In Spanish he writes the name Lamed Wufniks (or was it Wulfniks? sorry, I live in Nepal now)
In rough English translation from memory:
"There are in the world, and have always been, 37 righteous men whose mision is to justify the world to God. They are very poor, and do not know one another. If one of them reaches the realisation that he is a Lamed Wufnik, he dies immediately and is replaced by someone else, perhaps in another part of the world. They constitute the secret pillars of the universe. Were it not for them, the Lord would annihilate the human race. They are our saviours and they know it not.

Susan Hoivik, on Sunday, April 24, 2005 at 8:13 PM:

I was trying to write about Borges' description in El Libro de los Seres Imaginarios, but the computer keeps asking for a template....?

dan schimmel, on Monday, June 20, 2005 at 6:16 PM:

just reading this site for first time.

Susan, doi have any way to reach you by email?


The experience of reading

Posted by David on Tuesday, April 1, 2003 at 11:48 AM.

I've been reading Bachelard's The Poetics of Space lately. It's been a while since I've read philosophy, so it's tough going, but this resonated with me:

Paradoxically, in order to suggest the values of intimacy, we have to induce in the reader a state of suspended reading. For it is not until his eyes have left the page that recollections of my room can become a threshold of oneirism for him.

And further:

The values of intimacy are so absorbing that the reader has ceased to read your room: he sees his own again.

Salt-free water

Posted by David on Thursday, March 20, 2003 at 1:39 PM.

Another good story from Chabad.org:

Before Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov went public with his teachings and established the chassidic movement, he served as a shochet (ritual slaughterer) in a small village in the Ukraine. After he left his post, the village hired another shochet to slaughter their cattle and fowl.

One day, a villager sent his one of his non-Jewish laborers with a chicken to the shochet. But the messenger returned with the bird still very squawkingly alive. "This new fellow you got," he explained, "is no good."

"Why?" asked the villager.

"Oh no," said the peasant "From me he'll get no chickens to slaughter. He stands there with a pitcher, and uses ordinary water from the well to sharpen his knife! Yisrolik would sharpen the knife with his tears..."

Pardon me?

Posted by David on Wednesday, March 19, 2003 at 7:12 AM.

Becky, moments ago, Very Significantly: "CHEESE."


"It's CHEESE that's coming from California."

"Pardon me?"

[big sigh] "Those billboards. The ones that talk about California. The mystery is Cheese."

Some mornings I'm more lost than others.


Posted by David on Friday, August 31, 2001 at 1:22 PM.

Good quote came in this morning, courtesy of the footer on today's A Word A Day mailing:

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. -Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

Oh, Edna.

Posted by David on Thursday, August 30, 2001 at 4:16 PM.

Good article in the New York Times today about one of my favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Apparently there are a couple of biographies about to come out (why do these always seem to come out together?).

Hers was the story you already expect: Torrid love affairs with both sexes, alcohol and drug abuse, fading beauty and eventual accidental death.

The last two paragraphs of the article killed me, though:

In 1950 she fell from the top of the stairs at Steepletop, and died. Ms. Milford writes that when Millay was found, her head was resting on a page of her notebook that contained the penciled draft of one last poem. The final three lines had a ring drawn around them:

I will control myself, or go inside.
I will not flaw perfection with my grief.
Handsome, this day: no matter who has died.

Check out her work. It's great stuff.

A couple of quotes to start off

Posted by David on Tuesday, August 14, 2001 at 7:05 PM.

Let's start with a classic quote:

"When I first looked at Walker Evans' photographs, I thought of something Malraux wrote: 'To transform destiny into awareness.' One is embarassed to want so much for oneself. But how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?"

Robert Frank, A Statement. US Camera Annual, 1958, p.115.

(Thanks to John Brownlow for turning me on to this quote in the first place.)

And ...

"As a photographer I learn from my camera what I don't fully comprehend in reality."

Ralph Gibson

vaughan rachel, on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 at 10:54 AM:

Hi, Im looking for a quote by Walker Evans in which he likens a photograph to not poetry, or something like that, does anyone know what Im looking for? Thanks. VR