Annual Report

Posted in Somebody's birthday on May 31st, 2006 by bill

Now that a year has passed since I started clogging up the Internet with my words and pictures, I’ve been reviewing the work (if you want to call it that) I’ve done so far. For the record, that’s 183 entries (and 147 comments, only about a hundred of them from Cecil).

Some updates and corrections:

• Against all odds, Abe Vigoda remains alive. I know this because I have installed a Firefox status bar that keeps me continually abreast of Abe’s well-being (in the broadest possible sense, i.e. whether he is alive or dead). You can get it for yourself here: http://www.vesterman.com/FirefoxExtensions/AbeVigodaStatus.
Read more »

Better Know a Candidate

Posted in Whatever Else on May 29th, 2006 by bill

RonPyjamas500x350.png
Ron Oz, like The Man Who Fell to Earth
or Reverend Jim Ignatowski, is capable of
monitoring seven TV broadcasts at the same time.

We are currently having a mayoral election in Oakland, where of course the real election is the primary—the Republican candidate is about as relevant as facts to Fox news. Along with front-runners Congressman Ron Dellums and Ignacio de la Fuente, Jerry Brown’s chosen successor, we also have in the race a genuine eccentric—or is it visionary?—in Ron “Oz” Oznowicz.

I had been aware of Oz’s existence for some time, but he first really got my attention with a full-page ad in last week’s paper headlined “What would a Ron Oz mayor do?” Note the phrasing: not “What would Ron Oz do as mayor?” or even “What would a Mayor Ron Oz do?”, but “”What would a Ron Oz mayor do?” The ad itself was almost all text, crammed full of Ron Oz’s positions and philosophies and favorite quotes, none of which was, in and of itself, nutty; but the page as a whole was suggestive of someone who’s wired up a little strange.
Read more »

Selvin Watch

Posted in Dancing about architecture on May 25th, 2006 by bill

Like most of us, I was overjoyed when the Chronicle‘s Joel Selvin “retired” a few years back. And yet he keeps popping up with disturbing regularity. Recently, he wrote a profile of local music mogul Will Bronson where he managed to misspell the subject’s name every time it appeared.

Then yesterday he wrote a piece about T-Bone Burnett. I’m not sure what Selvin is calling himself these days, but “writer” is surely one of them, and yet the following sentence appears in his article, describing the difficulty that Reese Witherspoon had recording the soundtrack for Ring of Fire:

Burnett watched one afternoon as she literally exploded in frustration, pounding her way through doors out of the house.

That’s right: Reese Witherspoon literally exploded at T-Bone Burnett’s house in Brentwood. Selvin doesn’t address any of the questions raised by this revelation, such as: Was anyone showered with gristle when the lovely young actress spontaneously combusted? Why was it not reported in the mainstream press? And who was that collecting Witherspoon’s Oscar?

Verse 53

Posted in A few words from Lao Tzu (or someone like him) on May 21st, 2006 by bill

And now, a few words from Lao Tzu, as transmitted to me postally by Gentleman James Foley. Keep in mind that though the translation is modern, these words were written 2500 years ago.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 53
If I had the least wisdom
I could follow the Tao very well
My only fear would be going my own way
The great path is simple and direct
But people prefer byways
Look how magnificent civilization has become
The women in the finest fashion
The men with the slickest gadgets
Food and drink everywhere
Wealth and finery abound!
Yet in the shadow of this splendor,
The economy slows
Personal debt is very high
Possessions have accumulated in excess
This robber’s extravagance goes against the grain of the universe
It is not Tao
Indeed

Talkin’ Bout My Speciation

Posted in Whatever Else on May 18th, 2006 by bill

Read a very interesting article in the paper this morning about a study of the evolutionary split between humans and chimps.

“The study gave unexpected results about how we separated from our closest relatives, the chimpanzees,” Reich said in a statement. “We found that the population structure that existed around the time of human-chimpanzee speciation was unlike any modern ape population. Something very unusual happened at the time of speciation.”

The unusual happening was that once the two species began separating from their common ancestors, they might well have been repeatedly interbreeding with each other—at times producing sterile offspring but sometimes producing offspring that remained fertile and, in turn, created a short-lived mixed lineage—a kind of dead-end tribe combining both pre-human and pre-chimp genes.

It’s a somewhat lengthy and complex piece, so let me sum it up for you briefly, in layman’s terms:

“Hey skeeziks, I’ve got some news for you! You think you’re so great, but it was really not that long ago that your ancestors were screwing chimps.”

You learn something new every day

Posted in Whatever Else on May 15th, 2006 by bill

ttmbs1.jpg

For instance, I had always assumed that the title “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)” was devised by Brian Eno for his 1974 album of that name. (By the by, today is Eno’s 59th birthday. If you haven’t already, by all means please read last year’s Eno birthday tribute.)

But no; turns out he lifted the title from a “Maoist revolutionary opera” that was one of the “eight model works” promoted by Mao’s wife, Jiang Quing, during the Cultural Revolution. Eno apparently never saw the opera, but was inspired by a set of “Tiger Mountain” postcards, which you can view (along with a plot synopsis) here.

And just to bring things full circle back to rock’n'roll, Jiang Quing later became known as a member of the Gang of Four. I think she played bass.

The Difference Between the Sixties and Today

Posted in Whatever Else on May 13th, 2006 by bill

Back in the sixties, they used to say “Don’t trust anybody over 30.”

Nowadays, it’s more like “Don’t trust anybody.”

Sancho Panza Quote of the Day

Posted in Whatever Else on May 10th, 2006 by bill

“…from now until the day I appear before God I forgive all offenses that have been done or will be done to me, whether they were done, are being done, or will be done by a person high or low, rich or poor, noble or common, without exception, and regardless of rank or position.”

(Don Quixote, Grossman translation, p. 105)

Don Quixote Quote of the Day

Posted in Whatever Else on May 7th, 2006 by bill

The Don Quixote Deathmarch is having a rest week right now, so I’m going to go back to a couple of quotes I wrote down and never posted. Without further ado, a perfectly lovely sentence…

“It seems to me I can see her now, with that face of hers shining like the sun on one side and the moon on the other…”

(Grossman translation, p. 83)