Wednesday, May 8, 2013

of happiness and hyperbole

This is very likely my favorite blog post of all time. Mostly because it is laugh-till-tears-run-down-your-face-and-you-have-to-blow-your-nose-ugh funny, but also because the Simple Dog and the Helper Dog resemble our two dogs in many important and frightening ways... which makes the story resonate with extra awesome.

(...I hope she won't send the Copyright Monster after me if I stick this drawing of the dogs in here. I need an illustration, and there's, you know, full attribution and stuff.)

Anyway, Allie went away for a while, like a year, because she needed to, but I did not lose faith. I kept Hyperbole and a Half in my feed list, and waited patiently.

And now she's back! Sqeeeeeeeeee! 

See, I can write about happy stuff, too. So there. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

presence of absence

... who would have thought that the simple act of deleting an RSS feed would be  fraught with poignant sorrow?

Reading his blog and columns and tweets always felt, to me, like the intellectual version of a "clean, well-lighted place." Even in his final days he never let his illness put boundaries on his world; his world was big, full of interesting people and ideas, expressed with clarity, gentleness and humility... so much more to the many beyond just his broad and deep knowledge of film. I learned a lot from him.

There aren't enough smart, compassionate, insightful people in the world. Now there's one fewer. I never had the privilege of meeting you IRL, but I'll miss you just the same, Mr Ebert.

P.S. Go read this. Read it right now.

(At some later time, perhaps, I shall try to figure out why, for a while now, I've been moved to post in this blog only by sadness or grief. Is it because those emotions are so simple and powerful? Or am I just entirely at the mercy of neurotic angst? Does it matter? Who knows?)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

You Bastards! You Killed Google Reader!

Why? Why? Why? 

Right, then. I've whined on a number of fora already. I'll whine here a bit, too, just to stay in practice, and then I suppose I'll have moved through denial and anger. What's next? Oh, right. Bargaining. 

The bargaining part, for all who are seriously discombobulated by the impending loss of Reader, consists of begging The Google in petitions and angry forum screeds to STAAAHP! 

But the Goog remains resolute, obdurate, indifferent to our suffering. Cruel, even. They're bringing out new products, for which read: new, derivative and marginally useful products, just to torment us. 

No more bargaining. I guess this is the depression stage. 

Soon, if I can get through this Slough of Despond, I shall begin to evaluate options. After all, just today, The Old Reader sent me a cheery email announcing that they had finally imported my feeds (this took over a week, but I can't blame them, really; if Feedly added 500,000 subscribers in a matter of days, one wonders how many TOR added). 

--And if any schmuck dares to try to comfort me with that fatuous bromide about how when one door shuts another one opens, I shall hurl him out the nearest open door window. Seriously. Don't say that. Have respect for my pain. I just want my goddamn RSS reader back. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


As of yesterday, a year has passed.

Love you, Mom.

In Memory Of My Mother
by Patrick Kavanagh
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday--
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle--'
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life--
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us -- eternally.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brubeck and Desmond--a footnote

--Just read a fine piece on Brubeck in the New Yorker, where I learned a remarkable thing about Paul Desmond: 

There were also ... collaborations with ... most especially, the inimitable saxophone of Paul Desmond. Too many of the appreciations I’ve heard or read omit Desmond entirely, or mention him only in passing. But like the partnership between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, theirs was a relationship of matched brilliance....
In the month post-Sandy, we should also remember that when Desmond died, in 1977, he bequeathed the royalties to “Take Five” to the American Red Cross, bringing the organization close to six million dollars. With that composition sure to receive a flurry of performances after Brubeck’s death, it will likely bring in tens of thousands of dollars more to disaster relief at a time when it is sorely needed. This is perhaps the most fitting tribute of Desmond and Brubeck’s shared legacy of musical innovation and social compassion.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

another master gone

Some months back I spent a good part of several days crying over the passing of Doc Watson. I couldn't write about it then, other than a long, maudlin and (metaphorically) tear-stained comment in the NY Times.. one of many such. 

And today, another musical master is gone. 

With sorrow I read of the passing of Dave Brubeck. The obits and articles do the usual workmanlike job of spelling out the man's musical greatness, the immense shadow he cast across the landscape of jazz... Those generalities are spread across the internet today, accompanied "below the fold" by the details of Brubeck's life and times, his music, family, friends and colleagues, ups and downs, accomplishments and quirks. It's all there, shallow, dry, factual...broad, but without depth. To get the depth, of course, you had to--have to--listen to him play.  

Monday, August 6, 2012


Gun-brandishing madmen seem to slaughter random innocents daily; the US government roils in utter strident discord; parched plains bake, while Ultima Thule, the end of the earth, melts... peace seems but a dream, and ugliness is all.

Things fall apart--the center isn't doing much of a job of holding, if you ask me.

Pity this busy monster manunkind, but still: there remain moments that stir the soul, moments of  achievement, things done not for profit or power, but simply to push back the boundaries of knowledge... moments that make me proud to be human-- busy monster or not.

Yes, they did it! Curiosity, the magnificent little robot rover, has landed on the surface of Mars.


As I write this, joy unbounded has broken out at JPL.  I'm in tears myself and the NASA scientists and technicians in the telemetry room are all applauding and crying and laughing and hugging, unashamedly weeping on camera and off and hugging some more.

It's elusive, precious, ephemeral and well-earned, what they're all feeling now. Dare we call it -- triumph?  

Almost at once (there is that 7-minute thing, give 'em a break, lightspeed is still a limit), the first couple of images fly back to Earth to show us that all's well. More cheers and applause erupt as the visual feed appears on the big screens... and I get to watch, too, my computer showing me pictures from JPL in Pasadena, where their computers are showing them images more or less in real time from Mars, frickin' Mars. 

... I'm old enough and geeky enough to have grown up devouring Clarke and Heinlein and Asimov while daydreaming of frontiers unimaginable... and I was one of the millions who were lucky enough to watch Neil Armstrong take a small step... I'll never forget that euphoric, liberating, expansive feeling that the sky was no limit: anything was possible.

This landing is another amazing thing humanity has done... a project so complex the technology of it has been described as being at the edge of human capability.

The first images that come through  from Mars' surface are monochrome and seemingly mundane--a bit of wheel, a blot of dust--but that doesn't dim the magnitude of this achievement. It's huge. "We're on Mars again." Let the science begin! 

So I can't help grinning too; in these intense, moving, happy, proud few minutes, Curiosity made a silly little girl-geek of me again. My heart is lighter tonight. In spite of my daily despair over the state of the species, this, too, is what it means to be human. This.