Monday, December 31, 2007

A year in Grousing, redux

First off, I owe an apology to my few faithful readers, whom I left hanging on December 10th with the following tease:

At bedtime, Natalie, having gotten a jumpstart on 2008 with the January issue of Highlights, burst into Graham's room with some fresh comic material:
"What do April showers bring?" (she asks)
"Ummm.., May flowers" (me)
"And what do May flowers bring?"
I should have known this, but didn't. A trick question. The answer will come in tomorrow's edition.

Of course, the answer did not come, but here it is: "May flowers bring pilgrims." That's good stuff.

Nothing else to retract, though at times I think I'd just as soon retract the whole damned year. We're headed off this evening to a Hogmanay bonfire, into which one can write things one would like to forget from the soon to be done year and throw it into the fire. I may use a legal notepad and die of handcramps before I get there.

No but seriously, 2007 has been a year of much opportunity, capped by a number of high points: Graham's improving allergy numbers and one haircut, Natalie's intense reading and twin triumph over biking without training wheels and swimming, Clark's new bike, ultimate game and job, and Mary's general forebearance. Right here on the blog, we've seen growing traffic as we approach the triumphal 1000th post milestone. And, as many of you will attest, there has been an astonishing deepening of wisdom here in Grouseland, complemented by a certain stylistic grace and an overwhelming modesty that leads many educated observers to term this the greatest blog of all time. God, you gotta love that.

So yall come on back in 2008 and set a spell, y'hear?

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Rockford Files, from the beginning

Correction. The episode described below was not Episode 1. The discs are not well marked. I'm still confused about where he got the nice house. Mor on that later.

Some kind soul decided to purchase seasons 1 and 2 of the Rockford Files for me on DVD for Xmas, and last night he and I sat down to watch the initial episode. Jim was there, looking young and svelte and desperately overdressed for the Socal locale. Rocky was there too, with mugs of hot coffee for distraught sonny boy and suggestions of freshwater fishing. Dennis the cop was also on board from episode 1.

Generally speaking, the series starts out pretty melancholy. Jim walk on the beach alone, sighs, pouts. His sweetheart has been took and whacked by "the syndicate" for something she saw.

What I don't get is why Jim has a sweet if basic crib on a seemingly abandoned beach, a $5 mln house in 2007 terms, when later he's got a beat up trailer. He's already driving his Firebird, after all. Time will tell, perhaps. Maybe he's got money to lose at the beginning of the show, as opposed to later.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Return to the Trial, or, why Western Union sucks

For a recent project I had to make use of Western Union to send some money offshore. I had never used Western Union before, and never will again. For a business which is 100% about trust, it is abysmally run and organized. I'd have reps say they were going to call me back to confirm my home number and then not do it. So I assumed transactions weren't cleared, only to find out later that they were (OK, just one, which I pulled back). Fees were non-trivial, ca 8% for phone transactions, 4% for in-person (probably closer to reasonable).

I sent one transaction over the phone and never got a receipt. I called up and the first rep said she couldn't send an email receipt (why not?), that a snail mail one was on the way. OK. But it never got here. A month later I call back and give some slow French-sounding dude the primary key for the transaction and his system won't let him pull up any details on it. So he transfers me to another woman in West Virginia and she can't find the date it happened. Finally she pulls it all together and gets my email address, then has to forward my case to the
"correspondence desk."

One thing Western Union does do is authenticate thoroughly on the phone to guard against identity theft. That's all they do well. Otherwise the place is a mess.

Most of us need not concern ourselves with this. Western Union is a business for the underclass, a way to get money home easily. But what I saw gives a small window into the quality of financial services being offered to the lower-income set: pretty shabby. I suspect there's opportunity for market entry here for better wire-transfer services at lower fees, using an already existing network such as an ATM network.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Evil white boy

Got on the subway this evening at Wall St, wearing a baseball cap from one investment bank, reading a book about another, in a black trench coat and geeky glasses. So I guess I looked a little malevolent to some. I got a seat next to a 3-year black girl who was stretched out and fast asleep with her head in the lap of her mother, who was listening to an Ipod Nano . She was very cute, very sweet, and I looked over at her and thought how my kids could never sleep like that. I go back to reading.

All of a sudden I hear a voice from across the way. I look up and it's coming from an obese black woman with a classic Ipod and a bad attitude: "I see you lookin at her like you got a problem with it, like she oughta get up." Obviously she had no training as a mind reader "Actually, I was thinking that she looked rather sweet and I was reminded of my own kids." She muttered something to herself, trying to claim the high ground, and put her earphones back in. I resisted the temptation to argue with her more or say something denigrating on the way out.

Fucking imbecile.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some big surprises

Locked out of my office this morning, even the receptionists didn't come in here at the office hotel. Watching SquawkBox over breakfast. Everybody's psyched about the good consumer spending numbers, then somber about predictions that there might be as much as $100 bln in defaults in option ARM mortgages coming up 2008ff.

Hello! WTF do you expect? If consumers are taking their credit cards to the mall, you know darned good and well they're not servicing their all too-complex mortgages. Two years ago they were taking debit cards tied to HELOCs to the mall. Brilliant.

It's been prima facie evident for years that people have been borrowing too much. There are no surprises here. It's just another opportunity for actors with strong balance sheets to swoop in and grab assets. The problem is, the assets suck. Big-assed houses built off in the middle of fucking nowhere that are exactly the wrong thing for a society that needs to move away from driving big SUVs to malls. Unlike the excess of telecom capacity that we worked off from 2003 forward, this time the assets are just wrong, and should be torn down.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Why me?

Cursed fate today when I got on the wrong PATH train from Jersey City today and went to Hoboken instead of Newark. I mean, I really cursed. Had to retrace steps and then back to Newark and thence to Princeton, by then blowing what I had planned for the last bit of afternoon. I was downright Scroogy, almost even humbugged the smiley people with their suitcases ready to fly off to holiday climes. I'm sure the airport would have put me in good cheer.

Licking seasonal envelopes while listening to some yule motets is doing some good. As are the twinkling lights of the tree.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Racing fools

Bloomberg today ran a story about one J. Kyle Bass and his hedge fund Hayman Capital Partners. Bass is one of the truly smart guys who was ahead of the curve in sniffing out danger in the mortgage markets and took short positions in them in time to make lots of money from the current mayhem. The story tells of how -- as he did lots of hardcore due diligence on companies in the mortgage ecosystem -- Bass singled in on one mortgage lender he just knew had to mean trouble, Daniel Sadek of Quick Loan Funding of California. A key red flag for Bass was that Sadek funded a movie about car racing in which Porsches got busted up good.

The car racing connection took me back to the story of Centrix Financial of Denver, a subprime auto lender that took to sponsoring the Denver Grand Prix race before it ran afoul of regulators and subsequently imploded.

So is association with car racing Icarus-like behavior for the alpha set? Well, on the one hand, Paul Newman has yet to be singed by it. Then again, Jason Priestly messed himself up pretty good on a race track and Colin Powell, well, lets just say that his enthusiasm for the fast ones may or may not be correlated with his basically perjuring himself before the UN Security Council in 2003 with testimony that lent his then-considerable credibility to the Iraq escapade, which may prove to be the moment the United States ejected itself from the drivers seat of History.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Los grits

At a breakfast counter this morning at Chambers and Church Sts. this older hispanic construction worker sits down and orders fried eggs and then asks "tienes grits?" (do you have grits). And the counter guys says "no, we've got home fries and french fries, what do you want?" And the
older guy says "no potatoes." So I'm wondering if grits are popular in the Mexican community, with its corn-based diet. In the Northeast you've historically been able to get them only in African-American nabes, but there's a lot of overlap between them and hispanic ones.

Or the guy could have been diabetic, preferring the complex corn to the simple carb potato. He had whole wheat toast and Equal in his coffee. You never know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


This band is like the Sonic Youth of Russia: the elder statesmen of independent rock. Great live.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Glenn Gould at work

When I was still in college my uncle Ballard out of the blue gave me a copy of Glenn Gould's The Goldberg Variations, the 1981 revisitation of the piece that made him a big star back in 1955. I always thought the piece was deeply soulful, and that Bach must have been written on the occasion of the death or illness of some close buddy of his named Goldberg. Imagine my dismay to learn that it was -- according to legend at least -- a piece commissioned to ease the insomnia of some rich nobleman guy, who had a pianist named Goldberg. Go figure. So really it's just a piece of virtuosity.

Still, listening to Gould playing Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier is an altogether different experience. It doesn't even hint at the depth of the later Goldberg recording. Maybe that's just Gould sensing that his own days are numbered, as they indeed were at the time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Troitus interruptus

In a demonstration of our truly formidable will power, we have just stopped in the middle of the Bourne Ultimatum, Matt Damon having just kicked some asset. This series of films reminds me a lot of Bunuel's The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, in that nobody ever gets to eat. Or shower. They're too busy hopping on trains and motorcycles and killing people, the staples of good movies.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In praise of J Mascis

Working on my nasty painting project on the landing upstairs, took advantage of empty house to blast tunes. First Arcade Fire because, after all, it's New Jersey and, as I've said, the guy sounds a lot like Springsteen. But then I grabbed an old Dinosaur Jr. record, Without a Sound, a 1994 release of the "J Mascis Experience" period, after Barlow had left to form Sebadoh and J was playing basically all the instruments himself in the studio. This is not his best record, but still...

J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr mark a singular moment in the development of post-punk tunes, having the courage to step out from the phalanxes of Marshall Stacks and bar chords to sing from the heart and express a vision of self with fretboard and kick pedals. J was perhaps the first lyric punk, if not the last.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Moving along

Fast plowing through my pre-re-employment week of rest, when I've been supposed to be working on a painting project on the 2nd floor landing of the house, pulling off old telephone wires put there by generations of dial-up mad grad students, scraping, sanding, caulking, painting. Sadly, I am stuck at scraping and sanding. I took 45 minutes on Monday and sat in the comfortable chair in the corner of the living room and read. Should do more of that. We'll see.

For this week have resisted the call of Manhattan and the many fine people there, instead am concentrating on doing a "farewell tour" of lunches here in the heart of fair Mercer County.

Today took Mary antiquing in Lambertville, then had Graham ride his bike home from school, on which route we passed by a full panoply of Princeton Borough employees (maybe 7 of them) and trucks (perhaps 6), collecting leaves from the gutters with big vacuums, claws, rakes, what have you, the important principle being to use the equipment because, by god, it belongs to the municipality.

Nervously looking towards next week, when the commute into Manhattan kicks off. Will I have to catch a 6:07 train? Stay tuned. Whatever happens, the blog will live on, but it's gonna be harder to feed daily.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chew your Hallmark

This was the first year Graham really got transfixed by the tree. And he really did.

Meanwhile, down the hill at Craig and Karen's house, they were going a little bit over the top with a gingerbread house. Here's Natalie and Vivian with the tasty masterpiece.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Highlights of the day

Went to dentist. The good news is I need only one cavity. The bad news is that tooth's already so drilled out I need a frickin crown. Which will cost. Luckily will soon have dental insurance. In the dentist chair I was bombarded by bad Christmas country music.

Went to mall to beef up office casual side of closet. At mall was bombarded by bad Christmas music of all varieties. Reminds why I steer clear of mall.

Went to hardware store to pick up caulking and sandpaper brick for project on 2nd floor landing. In the parking lot, came face to face with road rage, Princeton style. A fellow WASP dad, apparently enraged at the lack of parking on one row, gunned the engine of his ca 2002 hunter green Accord and went the wrong way down a clearly marked one-way alley, thus impeding my forward progress. I lay fiercely into the mighty horn of my 2001 S40, but he was not afeared one whit.

At bedtime, Natalie, having gotten a jumpstart on 2008 with the January issue of Highlights, burst into Graham's room with some fresh comic material:
"What do April showers bring?" (she asks)
"Ummm.., May flowers" (me)
"And what do May flowers bring?"
I should have known this, but didn't. A trick question. The answer will come in tomorrow's edition.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Rule of Law

At a conference at Yale a couple of weeks ago on international stuff there was much chin-waddling and brow-furrowing on the importance of rule of law for having a country run smoothly and grow up to be polite. But, I ask, what do you really need for rule of law? Just laws and an independent judiciary, or a populace that internalizes the law? The letter -- which killeth, or the spirit -- which giveth life?

Immediately post Enron / Tyco etc. there was much hue and cry about how US GAAP accounting standards encouraged a literalist bent, which in turn fostered cheating, while the European IASC standards were more principles-based -- which gave us Parmalat and others. Now the same debate goes on between the SEC's rules orientation and the British FSA's principle-based approach. And Sarbanes-Oxley is demonized for pushing firms to list on foreign exchanges.

When is rule of law too much law? Go to Germanic Europe and people get all pissy if you so much as jaywalk. Fat lot of good is does them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What would Jesus Buy?

Everybody run out and see this new movie, about America's greatest Situationist Gospel choir, with musical direction by our own William Moses. About materialism and America and Christmas. As if people don't want the Peanuts special year in year out: "All it needs is a little love."

In fact, many if not quite all of the great Xmas movies down through the years to some extent satirize the holiday's commercial focus, don't they, from A Miracle on 34th St and It's a Wonderful Life to one of my personal faves, The Homecoming with Ed Asner. The holiday, we learn, all comes back to real human contact and caring.

In the end, I think, these movies are nothing more than palate cleansers after a rush to the mall, a way of saying: "Oh yeah, that's what I meant by the $1200 I put on my card today."

What would Jesus Buy? promises more. Real, hard-hitting, Yes Men like freak you out performance art at the mall. With real singin.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The 20th Hijacker?

It is, in fact, Shel Silverstein, author of children's classics. Coulda fooled me. Doesn't quite look the part, does he?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Parkour Jr.

This morning Graham running back and forth on the 2nd floor landing in sweatpants with his shirt off, twirling the shirt around his arm while shrieking reminded me of some of those Parkour guys I've checking out on YouTube. Fearless. Pearless. Fierce.

If only he could master the dark, fetid one. Or should I say "two"?

Meanwhile, I've been inspecting the Nancy Drew books Natalie inherited from Caroline, and from Leslie and Joan before her. The great thing about these mysteries is there's no messing about. The enigma is introduced in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence. Someone literally bursts in the door or up the front steps: "Nancy. You won't believe what a mystery I've stumbled onto." And they're off.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Par for the kour

Going through a stack of old New Yorkers today I saw an article about David Belle and Parkour, which is basically crazy skateboarder ninja shit without the boards, the kind of thing I used to speculate about when I was younger and, under the right (or the wrong) circumstances, actually nipped at. I watched some videos of Belle and, though he's incredibly impressive athletically, he's more swagger than grace most of the time. And a terrible moustache.

But this video, of nameless dudes the globe around doing parkour, is pretty infectious. This is fun stuff. Sadly, I am now too old for most of this stuff.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Graham, the formative years. Wellesley, Tgiving '07

Dictated to dad by Graham

A Bird Called Treelimber

Chapter 1 He had a tree. He made a house out of old tree trunks with his crane. Then it was done by Don. Then he had a big big supper: banana ice cream and zinger. He had dessert: Jon Bamberville Coggler.

Chapter 2 He went off for his other friends: Doggler, Gong, Jogger, and Daxxener. And they were other birdies too.

Chapter 3 He didn't do anything. He just went to bed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Where are the editors?

At my friend Danny's recommendation have been reading Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire. There is much to recommend this book. The guy is generally enthusiastic about his plants and has some interesting stuff to say.

However (and you knew it was coming), sometimes the Grouse just wishes the guy would pay attention to what he's doing. Check this out:

Actually, the apples and the man (Johnny Chapman "Appleseed") have suffered a similar fate in the years since they journeyed down the Ohio together in Chapman's hull. (ok. he's got us set up for his analogy). Both then had the tang of strangeness about them, and both have long since been sweetened beyond recognition. (point made) Figures of tart wildness, both have been thoroughly domesticated -- Chapman transformed into a benign Saint Francis of the American frontier, the apple into a blemish-free plastic-red saccharine orb. (point made again) "Sweetness without dimension" is how one pomologist described the Red Delicious; the same might be said of the Johnny Appleseed promulgated by Walt Disney and several generations of American children's book writers. (point made thrice). In both cases a cheap, fake sweetness has been substituted for the real thing, (point hammered home mercilessly)... blah blah blah at last he moves on.
Is that really a paragraph, I ask you, or just reps in a gruelling session of verbal aerobics?

Monday, November 26, 2007

MassPike November night. 1988 vs 2007

Have been hitting the Massachusetts Turnpike (or "MassPike") a lot recently. A few weeks back I headed up there for some conversations and, on a hypo-blustery November night, I recalled the time back in '88 when I had cruised this same road in on my way to Bowdoin for the Mayakovsky play we did, back and forth from Maine to Connecticut, from romance to romance. I was the frickin man, it seemed at the time, though I smelled and had not a kopeck to my name.

And as I cruised along a few weeks back it struck me how little had changed in some ways: then I had an Accord inherited from my mom, today a similarly sized Volvo passed down by my sister and brother in law. Tunes cranked mightily in each car (though now more cello than guitar), and soda flowed freely, though now it's diet. But now no smoke, no smoke. And I know not to eat ketchup in the car now.

In '88 I was a wildman, utterly clueless about career direction, save that it would be outrageous in some way. And now my cluelessness has diminished marginally, though questions persist. Time will tell. Real soon.

And from galavanting Eurotrash thrift-store playboy I've settled down into mighty dad, dutiful husband and slogging Metro area salaryman. Things are better now, though the lore is less riveting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Undervilification of NASCAR

In from the surprisingly gentle holiday road, had that rarest of all things, a thought.

In the gradual greening of American political discourse, SUVs have been pretty easy targets, they're big, unmaneuverable, and silly. Anecdotally at least, sales have been declining of and on from at least 2005 forward, moving roughly in opposite directions from the price of oil.

But there's still the problem of the overhorsepowering of cars in general and the surfeit of power that results. Everybody craves power and acceleration, even if they don't / can't use it, given how crowded the roads are. Everybody wants to drive like the legendary Billy Bobby.

So why don't green leaders attack NASCAR? The stock car racing circuit -- and indeed auto racing in general, is clearly a bad influence on the way people, probably mostly guys, drive and feel about their cars. The circuit encourages car fetishization, big-time emissions and probably contributes to highway mortality too. What are the externalities of NASCAR? Has anybody measured them?

So why don't the Democrats go to war with NASCAR? Cuz they're too busy sucking up to it. "NASCAR Democrats" were a prized Grail that John Edwards and his strategists cast from their homespun Teflon a few years back. So we understand their reticence, but bemoan it still.

So what about Leonardo di Caprio and George Clooney and other Hollywood do-goodniks, why don't they go toe-to-toe with the heirs of the great Darrell Waltrip? Probably because those who would go to a stock car race are amongst the few who can still stand how loud movies are in theaters. No seriously, NASCAR is a big biz with big demographics. But it's evil, and should be vilified.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Feeling better...

...after some delicious quiche, The Giving Tree, and some improved incoming email traffic.

Don't want to head into the holiday with a negative groove, particularly after so many of you regulars have stopped by to sip at the font of grousedom.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Best Buy, worst buy

Lets flashback to April 21, 2007 for a moment, shall we? At that time, our LG dishwasher went kaput and Best Buy embarked on a long and tortuous quest to further besmirch its brand. So the other night I start the dishwasher before going up to bed and I hear an odd sound and I think "Oh whatever", and in the morning the dishwasher is stopped and it's flashing an "LE" error signal, and we know from experience that that means the motor is hosed. And for some naive reason we think that Best Buy should know this too, since this is their business.

So Mary calls in and tells the woman on the phone that there's an "LE" error, assuming that she'll transmit that to the repair guy who'll know to bring a frickin motor. Tuesday comes, and of course he doesn't bring one. He comes in, sees water pooling in there and an "LE" signal and says: "Yup, it's the motor." And I think you see where this is going. He says he'll personally call in the order for the part that day, but...

Best Buy sucks. LG sucks.

Thank jah we're not cooking for the holiday. We're driving. Which should put us in Clark W. Griswold territory once more. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Money Shot

Watching the greatest hits of Antiques Roadshow this evening over soup with some kale in it (yes, we are pathetic old people), was struck by how quasi-pornographic the narrative of each item is. We learn some history, some provenance, but everybody's also waiting around for that estimate from the expert. When they cut to the dollars too quick, you feel cheated. Finally the big moment comes, and you watch the owners react: overwhelmed, underwhelmed, what? One woman actually cried tonight at the huge dollar figure she heard, which wasn't all that big, and she didn't even let peep the obligatory "but of course I'm not gonna sell it." She was off to Vegas, baby, where what happens there stays there.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Spielberg is pretty much the Teflon director, but this 2hour 40 minute piece of work shows he's going the way of all non-stick cookware. For some reason, the critics liked this movie about pissed off tough-but-with-a-heart-of-gold Jews busting out all over evil A-rabs in the 70s. Perhaps it was because it had all the good looks that a Spielberg-sized budget can get you: handsome cast, exotic settings, trenchcoats, sideburns, and lots of fashionable period cars (Lancias, Alphas, Citroens, Beemers and generic Euroclunkers). Or because the Israelis were so pious about duty and their Heimat and all that.

Or because they had a hot naked female corpse. Or a sex scene during which our hero (lil) Abner imagines the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich airport. I dunno. It struck me as an excuse for some action scenes and post 9/11 pieties both about both the need to kill off Muslim baddies and the Sisyphean futility of so doing. A truly great director would do better.

Settle down, now, little network

LinkedIn would appear to be having some issues figuring out how to use itself, as are so many people. Its Questions feature, which initially seemed so fruitful as a means of pinging and benchmarking, quickly got coopted by a bunch of perky self-promoters who answer questions on anything and everything just to raise their visibility, as if anybody has opinions on that diverse a range of topics worth pushing out to a large network (when they come to you, it's different).

Now LinkedIn serves me a full week of my network members informing me about questions answered, changes to profiles, additions of pictures, like I care. If I want frickin Flickr I'll go there. My splash page takes up my whole screen, so I have to scroll, and lord knows I hate scrolling.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Little Miss Serious

Natalie has turned into a fairly serious girl, much of the time. She's often reading, hitting, kicking, frowning, or otherwise putting on airs. Or making a mess. And she insists on closing the door when she puts on jammies. Clearly, she is becoming a big girl.

And then I start to tickle her, and she shrieks, twists and giggles at the top of her lungs just like she did when she was two, an almost cinematic regression. I wonder how long this will last.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


To listen to Zach Condon of Beirut is to love him, and to wonder how a 19-year old (when he launched) could both have and realize such a vision, even with a talented crew around him. And yet, to see his videos is at times to wish to kick his scrawny ass. On YouTube it's clear there's a cult of personality abrewin', and you can tell he knows darn good and well how talented he is.

For the same song there can be a video which is almost Mansonesque in its adoration.

And one that is shear beauty(are these his family movies? Is that him on the skateboard?)

The first two records hold up and are quite a contribution to pop. One wonders how the third will turn out.

One things certain, I'll go hear him and the band play, cult or no.

The Office Hotel

There is a place in Manhattan, OK many of them, where virtual enterprises thrive. The office hotel is a wierd netherworld, something like the gumshoe land of noire of yore, where corporate homunculi such as yours truly pass in the night of day. Businesses to be and becoming nest in this demimonde for a premium, sharing kitchen, whiteboard and receptionist. Gloria, who manned the desk at the one on the 20th floor of 14 Wall Street, said she answered the phone for at least 50 companies. And each one of them convincingly, from what I heard.

People in the office hotels are, oddly, mellower than in normal offices, as if they know they're not going to make it. There is a wierd transient anonymity to it all. You have to wonder if there's more office sex going on in the hotel than in the normal office.

I haven't seen any just yet. But I'll keep my eyes out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A desert of lunch

Midtown in the East 50s is becoming a less and less interesting place to pop out for lunch. It's all neo-burger this and hearty and hale soups that and salad tossers and Mongolian frickin bbq and chestnut chicken salad blah blah blah. The pizza is generally very lame.

You've got all these well-accessorized boys and girls sashaying about tickling their little crackberries. Today I saw a guy in a lime green jacket that set off all gaydars except he had the the sweetest little baby sleeping in his stroller. I guess he was just rich.

There is, however, a schwarma place outside the E train Lex Ave stop, which is pretty good and gives a fine portion. And there is, come to think of it, one dive Chinese steam table joint. And some lunch trucks up by Park Ave with falafel and whatnot, so the kid will pull through. But not without protest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Apologia 2.0

Dear Grousereaders,

In recent days and weeks, when reading my site visit stats, I have noted a sad trend towards a diminution of visits by returning visitors, offset only by a steady stream of needle-dicked rednecks googling "Grizzly Chew," and a mysteriously high number of random visitors googling "Hamilton baton competition." This is what I call cheap traffic. While I take some pride in attracting such an odd cocktail of web-surfers, I nonetheless view the decrease in recidivism amongst my usual readers as, well, a bummer.

I apologize for the occasional lameness of the posting, afflicted as I have been by a virtual Barton Finkery of idealessness, and as all too much of my attention has been diverted onto the pursuit of the mighty ducat. Henceforth I promise to write once more from the gut, from the nose, from the grouse, with renewed vrigor (that's the kind of word Bush might use).


Up and down they go. Who wins?

The markets sure are excitable these days. Up then down, mostly down for a while, if still not yet getting to the 10% retrenchment that would mean that we could technically call it a correction.

One things for sure, hedge funds have been bitching and moaning for a long time about how there's not enough volatility in the markets for them to make money. Because they're so smart, they gotst so much alpha.

So I'm looking forward to the end of 4th quarter numbers for the hedge fund industry as a whole. They should be instructive, and should tell us who's been earning their money.

The kid, that's who.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

In lieu of text

Honest I've been busy, keep meaning to write.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Of Balzac and money

Thinking about money recently, so I decided to re-read Balzac's totally killer Eugenie Grandet, with its portrait of her miserly father, clearly one of the greatest misers in world lit (right up with Frank Norris' Trina McTeague and Pushkin's delusional skinflint knight. And I was not disappointed, indeed, I'm shocked at how the guy's money obsession totally permeates the whole novel, not just the climactic scene when he revels in his golden loot.

Still reading, but one thing's clear: me and this rich French dude may each be cheap, but I ain't no sick fuck like that. In general a good read, worth coming back to it.

(prediction: some pun about my Balzac and enhancement products)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


It has been brought to the Grouse's attention that Josh Stein did not, in fact, bid for the hand of the fighting 16th district of the North Carolina State Senate, but is rather -- in the slow-cooking style of the South -- preparing for a primary tussle in May to be followed by a general election next November. By then his campaign will have the smoky essence of fatback and salt fully simmered in, and throngs of the curious will cluster round to sip raucously from its pot-liquor.

All of this is well, good and -- potentially -- delicious. What may trouble some voters and grousereaders, however, is Stein's grievous ethical lapse in failing to inform your humble blogger of his error, preferring instead to let his masterfully airbrushed family photo grace the present URL.

Mostly, however, we can all rejoice that Stein's candidacy will offer us another twelve months of satirical opportunities, for those slow blogging days when there's little else to write about.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Look out for the kid

All indications are that our boy Josh Stein will be lighting it up in the swingin 16th district this evening. After leaving all other contenders in the dust in the all important money collecting competition early in the race, Josh swung into full gear and lashed his boyish looks and considerably more handsome family to his web site, accompanied by a few choice bullet points which we are at present to tired to parody.

In other news, lets all wish a chew your grouse birthday to the one known as Zeke, one of our most inveterate readers, who has long since outlived most of his hair but whose handle and jumper live on.

Monday, November 05, 2007

100 things to do

And I did, like, 88 of them today, so I guess I'm doing OK. The question is, should I whittle it down to 50 so I can do 48? Sometimes I feel like I'm dangerously overdiversified, and there is, shall we say, evidence to support this hypothesis. But somehow I keep making it through the day.

One thing I did do, I'll have you know, is finish painting my front steps, which I was scandalized to see totally looked like shit in the Halloween picture I posted here a few days back on.... Halloween. I will post again on the metaphysics of house painting one day soon.

Since today's post is turning into a grab bag, lets just take a moment to celebrate the great anniversary of the October Revolution, which was celebrated today in Russia, as it is every year, in November. How 'bout them apples?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Deer bait

Call me a naive city slicker, but I had no idea there were companies out there selling licks and chews to attract wild animals to your backyard so you could shoot them. Us, we always go to considerable length to keep the tulip-eating buggers away. OK, Mary does. But there's all manner of stuff out there to attract em.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'Mon back and set a spell

I'd like to take a moment to say hello to all of you who are visiting from Felix Salmon's Market Movers over at and who have bothered to come to the root URL of the blog. Both of these actions make you curious, and therefore a likely reader for this blog, which could concern just about anything on any given day. Anything, that is, likely to come into the path or mind of a New Jersey dad who comes into the city with reasonable frequency, but scurries home with the masses to put his kids to bed. And it's always, always done in 15 minutes or less.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

From Derrida to Derivatives

It will be interesting to see if securitization becomes a bad word just like "theory" did at some point in time, while its tenets and practices continue to proliferate, even as they call forth literalist backlash. Indeed, I have to wonder if there's a genetic or causal relationship between the rise of theory and the subsequent universalization of securitization. Both really took off in the eighties, but securitization got more and more abstract as theory got sort of corraled and beat down into little ghettos, even as many of its thought patterns flowed out into the mainstream press via the relatively hip journalist crowd. Securitization and the various theory schools (deconstruction, feminism, new historicism) etc. are famously jargon-ridden, opaque, and slippery, but also draw out analogies you wouldn't think of and, once you ponder it, just plain old make sense. Sometimes.

But one commentator, Frank Partnoy of San Diego, has built a career on saying that what the Wall St. of the 90s forward has done is make things so complex that purchasers can't understand them, but buying them made them feel au courant. Retail consumers who bought complex and ill-suited mortgages also felt deucedly clever, until they got bit.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween intentions

Despite earlier rumors that he would appear as an "ampire," Graham has let it be known that he will once more boycott the trick-or-treat proceedings, or at least that he will skip the costume portion.

We'll have an update from Natalie, who is honing strategies for candy maximization, tomorrow as the festivities approach.

Neon Bible

All the advance press on The Arcade Fire's second record had me expecting greater experimentation than their first outing, Funeral. So at first listen, I was underwhelmed. I was driving, so I kept on listening. Turns out, it does indeed rock, even without any power chords.

The first record was, I thought, all about the Pixies. While that's not gone, it's now mixed in Springsteen and a hint of Pogues, but at the end of the day they've got their own sound, progressively layering and delayering horns, organs, accordions, what have you, while keeping a driving beat.

They're downright cinematic. At their best, each song is a short film.

They should make some money on this, particularly if they can get both the vaunted 18-34 demographic to snap it up as well as oldsters like me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kafka, 2.0

Our singer is called Josephine. Anyone who has not heard her does not know the power of song. There is no one but is carried away by her singing, a tribute all the greater as we are not in general a music-loving race. Tranquil peace is the music we love best; our life is hard, we are no longer able, even on occasions when we have tried to shake off the cares of daily life, to rise to anything so high and remote from our usual routine as music... Among intimates we admit freely to one another that Josephine's singing, as singing, is nothing out of the ordinary.

Is it in fact singing at all? Although we are unmusical we have a tradition of singing; in the old days our people did sing; this is mentioned in legends and some songs have actually survived, which, it is true, no one can now sing. Thus we have an inkling of what singing is, and Josephine’s art does not really correspond to it. So is it singing at all? Is it not perhaps just a piping? And piping is something we all know about, it is the real artistic accomplishment of our people, or rather no mere accomplishment but a characteristic expression of our life. We all pipe, but of course no one dreams of making out that our piping is an art, we pipe without thinking of it, indeed without noticing it, and there are even many among us who are quite unaware that piping is one of our characteristics. So if it were true that Josephine does not sing but only pipes and perhaps, as it seems to me at least, hardly rises above the level of our usual piping—yet, perhaps her strength is not even quite equal to our usual piping, whereas an ordinary farmhand can keep it up effortlessly all day long, besides doing his work—if that were all true, then indeed Josephine's alleged vocal skill might be disproved, but that would merely clear the ground for the real riddle which needs solving, the enormous influence she has.

Franz Kafka, "Josephine the Singer, or, the Mouse Folk"
If Borges and his Croatian doppelganger Danilo Kish are the intellectual visionaries of the unlimited scale of the internet and 2.0, Kafka is its true sage.

Reading this weekend of Tila Tequila and her 1.8 million Facebook buddies and her new reality show, it's hard not to reflect on 2.0 and reality TV and YouTube and YouPorn so on, much as I've restrained myself in the past. What does it mean that we're making so much content, so many pictures of ourselves? Does it make it easier for us to define and express ourselves, or are we just kidding ourselves waiting for the next hero? Does what is expressed matter, or does the act of expression suffice? Does it let us free ourselves, or does it complicate coordinated effort by making it more difficult to get on the same page?

And as soon as I invoke Borges -- prophet of infinitely extensive libraries and consciousness -- in this context, I hear Baudrillard tiptoeing in the back:
If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts - the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.
Where does the blogosphere -- this great collective soul -- stand vis-a-vis its referent?

The sports page

Morality tales: In recent NY Times PLAY magazine, we have Steve Nash, the intensely focused and driven eluder of obstacles, who glows and flows and does the right thing for charity and society and so on and so forth.

And then there's marathoner Alberto Salazar, the intensely focused and driven bust-througher of obstacles who burns out and crashes early, even dies prematurely from intensity/heart attack earlier this year, before getting fibrillated back to give born-again lectures to devout crowds.

Two sides of the same coin. How do you know which is which when they're 14, 16, 21? Is it random?

At one point in time Salazar tells the tale of seeing a drowned boy pulled from a pond near Boston. He reflects: "I guess another boy might have prayed that such a terrible thing would never happen to him. He would pray, in other words, that he would never die. But I didn't prary for that kind of mercy. I asked God that when my time came to die, I wouldn't be afraid. Well, my prayer was answered." Talk about competitive. He's trying to outpray imaginary adversaries. Way to go!

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Haven

It is somehow ironic that I should have such warm feelings for a place where, in retrospect, I must have been so unhappy. Around most very corner in the City of Elms is the memory of a longing, most of them routinely sated, no matter who said what. It is not unlike the way in which the approval of those who reject me is so important to me.

In so many ways, New Haven has flavor and texture, where Princeton is all sustenance and presentation.

Went to the Doodle, had cheeseburgers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


It's easy to watch TV and see fires burning in the California hills and just be like: "Well, that sucks". At least it's easy for me.

But it gets kind of different when you're talking to someone who's out there. A few minutes back I was on the phone with some guy in a seaside town right close to San Diego. This is a guy who is the mastermind of a 3-in-1 flashlight that has a bright light to blind someone 20 feet away, point a targeting laser at them, and blast them with some hardcore pepper spray so they're really blind and writhing in pain on the ground. Sounds like a bummer, but it beats being shot dead. And here's this longtime military and then postmilitary guy who's probably close to really retiring if he's not retired, with a sweet crib down by the sea which is on the point of total and utter destruction. Talking to someone right in the eye of the storm puts it all in perspective, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does the Universe Have a (Special) Purpose?

The John Templeton Foundation has inaugurated a series of "conversations" on "Big Questions" populated by a variety of high-end talking heads from science and other disciplines, but mostly from science because, as we all know, scientists are just smarter and can switch hit to the speculative domain of the humanities much more easily than we can science because, after all, their abstruse noodlings are empirically grounded.

Sadly, all too often these, the talkingest scientific heads of a generation, can scarcely surpass the presumed logic of one Navin R. Johnson, Steve Martin's Jerk, who might have answered the Templeton's question: "I too have a special purpose!"*

David Gelernter of Yale states resoundingly "yes", the universe has a purpose:
"Namely, to defeat and rise above our animal natures; to create goodness, beauty, and holiness
where only physics and animal life once existed; to create what might be (if we succeed) the only tiny pinprick of goodness in the universe–which is otherwise (so far as we know) morally null and void." OK yeah yeah. This is scientist taking license pretty bad, but it gets worse:

"Why seek goodness?

Because most humans desire goodness. For most (not all!) humans, this urge is easily ignored in the short term, but nearly impossible to uproot over the long haul."

This is all nicey nice, but it's not a strong argument for anything, and he's at least pretending to operate in an argumentative vein.

Now, we gotta give the guy credit not because he's Joe Scientist, but because he's one of the people who got seriously mauled by a package from the Unibomber, causing him serious damage to one hand, to which he alludes at the end of his little disquisition: "But as Job teaches us, we must play the hand we are dealt." So he's utterly admirable for his generosity of spirit, but really pretty lame on the depth of thought side of things.

Lots of others (Jane Goodall, Elie Wiesel) hold forth on the question of purpose with varying degrees of interest and sophistication, but in the end it just gets boring.

*I.e. a penis.

Friday, October 19, 2007


This movie, i.e. the one called Serenity, rocks. What else to say? Star Wars knock-off with a no-star cast and a kick-ass heroine. Gotta love it.

Though my life is certainly much improved with my own parking spot at Princeton Junction and the double-decker trains they got running in the morning. Seats for all, seemingly. It's like I've had an upgrade, save for the fact that I'm commuting to Manhattan. We'll see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


There are black walnut trees in our backyard, and they are toxic to all too many plants, as are their leaves and nuts and other spawn. So each year when that stuff comes down we rake and clean it up and haul it to the curb.

The walnuts aren't big on being raked, so we have to go after them with hands and receptacles. When a child is still young enough to be gullible, he/she may be duped into joining in. As it was with Natalie, so it is with Graham, giving us a mild "family togetherness" moment.

But Graham has proven lucky. This year the walnuts can be put into buckets, as compared with prior years when there were seemingly thousands and we had to put them in garbage cans and forcibly haul them to the curb. I remember clearly saying at the time that the massive production of nuts was a homeostatic response to draught or global warming, that the tree gave off all these nuts because it wanted to preserve the species by reproducing (foiled!). But this year is kind of a draught too, what gives?

We should perhaps do some research or ask an arborist. But what fun is there in that?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eyeballs and Chicken Pot Pie

There was an article in the Sunday Times Business Section about how there was an outbreak of MacNasty salmonella which befell people who had eaten undernuked chicken pot pies. There were, like, 150 instances of this nationwide. First off, let me say hats off to the CDC for aggregating that data and figuring out the common etiology of all this salmonella. This is truly an unironic instance of our tax dollars at work.

So the manufacturers (Conagra and others, methinks) clearly know that this is a problem of labelling and communication on pie boxes, letting consumers know about the different power ratings of microwaves and how much nuking it takes for each type to kill the little boogers.


The real problem isn't just getting the right text on the box, which would satisfy Legal. No, you've gotta be sure people will read the box. Product boxes are competing for eyeballs with all the other millions of ways marketers are trying to get to consumers. The same Business Section had an article on how Nike and others are veering further and further from traditional push marketing into all kinds of ways to build customer affinity. A little salmonella might get people to sit up and read, but for how long?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shoot Out the Lights

Released in 1982, this was to be Richard and Linda Thompson's last album as a pair, and one of their last acts as a married couple. Critics go back and forth as to whether the album is "about" the upcoming divorce, which is kind of irrelevant. The break was surely in the making, as these things don't typically pop up overnight, even if the affair that brings them to light may.

And so, the record, maker of numerous best ever lists. For me it's all encapsulated in the last minute of song two, "Walking on a Wire." With Linda in the lead, Richard steps in to sing a "harmonic" back up, and all of a sudden they're singing together but apart like nothing you've ever heard, two strong, expressive voices fighting for supremacy, warbling and weaving around each other like the Blue Angels on Oxycontin. And there's undoubtedly some foretaste of a marriage on the way out here, however comely and compelling the form, like a vocal shard of the early Andy Gill gliding into a ballad.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ron Paul on Nassau St.

Well, not exactly. Just saw a non High-Net Worth black woman and her probable teenage son (in beltless baggies and a sweatshirt, not prepped out like Obama-Cosby junior) carrying a big Ron Paul placard and passing out campaign lit. This was surprising to me. Ron Paul's political vision does not seem like one which would be huge amongst the lower-income of-color set. Were this woman and her younger companion in fact paid political operatives? That would be classic disruptive agitprop.

It makes me feel like Ron Paul is a conservative version of the creeping leftist infection of John Malkovich's The Dancer Upstairs. If you haven't seen this movie, RENT IT NOW, and then you'll know what I mean.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Trapped beneath a television blaring ESPN, surrounded by dudes with hair of note both facial and other. Hard to think.

Just left my laptop at security after the security fellows had to do an "exterior check" on my back, looking for what, explosive traces? Pretty scary. And it's not even Halloween yet. Gotta run.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tech 2007

Down at the Council on Entrepreneurial Development's Tech 2007 conference, it flew fast and furious. Over here Dayjet CEO Ed Iacobucci played George Bush on the aircraft carrier, declaring victory over a complex optimization problem after 52 live flights. Yeah yeah. Talk to me after 10,000. He also talked in detail about his personal history, which was really enlightening.

In the exhibition hall some dudes displayed some mushrooms they used to grow drugs. Mmmmhmmm. There was all manner of other boring medical crap, and my heart pined for some financial apps. They most slam-bam med app was this 360 degree modelling thing that looked like it targeted cosmetic surgery. Why am I not shocked? Magnus Health Portal is a sleeper. Good technology, but better business model and attitude.

The CTO of Nokia/Ericsson song and danced about the future of the cell phone. Soon, you'll be able to buy your sandwich, drag and drop files from one phone to another, and wipe your ass with it too. There were so many features have you wonder what use it could ever be to an aging population. No doubt, telecoms and devices generally need an Oxo, somebody to have a culture oriented towards building devices targeted at the boomers and older. He showed multiple videos of what were basically commercials, which was pretty weak.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In the zone

Just flew down from Philly to NC. You would think that some kind of excitement would happen. Did not.

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. Cheerwine. Next Dip's. Livin the life...

(4 hours later)
Actually, going to Dip's brought back a bunch of memories. Somehow this restaurant has gotten by for 20-odd years, but the service always sucks and tonight the food was basically no good too. The cornbread was tasty, but the barbeque was crappy and the chicken and dumplings, which I thought a signature dish, bit as well. And we waited 40 minutes for this, not because of the wait but because the cooks were having dinner. When I worked in a restaurant we ate before the shift. This place is shittily managed and would appear to basically coast on a reputation it somehow earned.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

At long last

It's raining outside and it's hard to focus on anything else. Everything is dry and brown and so on, though the grass on the front lawn died, we ripped it up and planted more and the little dudes are just burgeoning.

I can't help but to feel guilty because it's much nastier dry in Chapel Hill, though the chance of relief is set at 50% tonight.

I'll see tomorrow.

In other news check out Blogger Play, which lets you monitor in "real-time" images as they are uploaded to the Blogger server. It's 2.0 at its rawest, like a visual Twitter that you don't even have to go to.

Monday, October 08, 2007

This weekend's flix

Because of the holiday, we watched to movies, not one. Crazy.

This Indian film about pre-war Indian widows living together like untouchables in the olden way could have sucked, but did not. It hit some hard and honest notes without lingering on them, and the plot resisted the most pathetic of happy ending cliches, opting for some tragic / hopeful cliches instead. The white Indian chick was totally hot.

Year of the Dog
Call us suckers, with Molly Shannon at the wheel we thought this was gonna be funny. And we did laugh at times. But most of the time it was a quasi-clinical look at a descent into psychosis. With dogs. Don't watch it, even though some of the acting is flat out 'ler.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Marion Jones and UNC

I'm not in Chapel Hill, so I can't see what all the local talking heads (Chansky and whatnot) are saying, but if I were in the Athletics Department at UNC, I'd be a little concerned with my long-term track record this week. UNC has skated through years of hassling by the NCAA with no reprimands or serious cases being brought against it to my recollection. Somehow. We all know UNC isn't as pure as it likes to project, and we've seen and heard evidence.

But once the really big dawgs leave UNC, they tend to get involved in a scandal or too. Think about Lawrence Taylor and his caine, Michael Jordan and his wagering, James Worthy and them hookers. Now Marion comes along and tells us she was doing steroids at her peak moment.

Duke players, by comparison, just mess themselves up. Think Bobby Hurley and his pickup truck, Jason Richardson and his fly cycle, and Christian Laettner, Jay Bilas and the rest of the big white lunks with their generally useless selves. Grant Hill has a messed-up knee but is clean and ready to run for political office if he'll just get organized.

Something about UNC's untouchable status seems to make its big stars think they're above the law. Now lets wait to find out what they get Mia Hamm for.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The sly ones

Coming back from the phleb lab today, I tapped my brakes appropriately when I came around the bend and saw a Princeton Borough cruiser lurking there on the grass side of the street. But then, as I passed it, I could see there was no fuzz in there and it was just our tax dollars at work. The Princeton Police, with its infinite and well-rested staff and its surfeit of late-model cars, left a decoy on the side of the road.

Now, in and of itself, there's nothing really new to that, empty cop cars are often left on the side of the road as a deterrent. But usually they're visible from far away, so that they deter maximally. No no, Princeton is sneakier than that, it hides them so that -- instead of scaring drivers in a specific moment, it instills in them a general fear that there might be a cop lurking behind any corner or hedge. This is not unlike the practice of Stalin's secret police of randomly arresting and killing innocent people who had no idea what they'd done (nothing) just to instill fear in the populace at large. Admittedly, what the Princeton cops do is less fatal. OK. Fine.

But still.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A triumph!

Graham just after bedtime alerted me and then pooped in the potty for the 3rd time in a row, thereby earning himself the Thomas the Train Rock Crusher which he had been so coveting and which had been promised him. After we opened the crusher and he played for a bit, I put him in his bed again, and as I passed by his door a couple of times I heard him blowing copious kisses my way.

Now lets just see if he can keep it up.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Downtown. Not quite nostalgia.

  • 8:00 AM Diner on Bway in Tribeca – Wood panelling. Lots of grey and also old people. 60ish woman reads hardcover mystery from public library, pulls out NYC DOT employee badge on a shoelace at 8:30. Fidgets with lace to get it to lay right around her neck.
  • 10:30AM CafĂ© at W3rd and Bway – basement “stylish” bar, red paint, black toilet, smell of stale beer, not really far from He’s Not Here, just a different skin
  • 11:15AM Step-down Used book store North of Houston on Mercer
    • I don’t know the fiction authors
    • Lit crit authors, not surprisingly, I do know, have not changed
    • Sections for "Computers" and "Computers of the Past"
  • 11:25 DayGlo Orange Lamborghini on Mercer in Soho. No surprises there

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My loyal readers...

Will surely appreciate that I got a hit today from the following locale.

Tehran, Tehran, Iran, Islamic Republic Of,

The visitor had found me by googling "Jaguar Enhancement Cream"

Thanks, team, for helping me rope em in.

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It)

In this biopic we learn many things about Melvin Van Peebles:

  • He worked in many genres: jazz, film, fiction, television commentary, floor trading
  • He was smart and determined and disciplined
  • He had more lives than a cat, and more lovers than a dog
  • He was not bereft of ego
  • He influenced many
What this film does not demonstrate, however, is that he did anything particularly well, even speaking French. His masterpiece and true claim to fame (other than son Mario) Sweet Sweetback's Baaadaasssssssss Song is an important film, sure, a powerful film, sorta, but it's durned hard to watch, as I remember. Except for the sex scene. Hollywood may have cheapened and perverted it to cook up blaxploitation, but in so doing it made better movies. It's like America's version of Makaveyev's Sweet Movie or the Russian I Am Cuba or the earlier Vertov/Eisenstein days, one long stiff lecture, perhaps with sex.

The French gave made him a Knight of the Foreign Legion, but God knows what they did for Jerry Lewis, and they eat snails.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Stewart and the Phantom of Liberty

For those of you who missed it a couple of weeks back., John Stewart had Bolivian President Evo Morales on his show, with a translator, a first in my memory for a prime time show. It was pretty surreal, with echoes of Bunuel and perhaps even Woody Allen's Bananas. Morales gazes lovingly at Stewart, and speaks at once in the most delicate and high-falutin idealistic language, next in a down to earth way about accomplishments and Stewart fawns on him with his doe eyes and feeds him softballs.

It was a very odd bit of primetime TV -- , but one that could only happen on the John Stewart show, or, during Colbert's book review. Between the two of them, hosting lefties and righties alike, these two goofballs have raised the bar of popular political and intellectual discourse in ways we couldn't have dreamed of 15 years ago. Nobody puts simple farmer poet Bolivian politicians on TV. This gives us a taste of the rest of the world's political delusions, and a break from our own.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Lumberjack's Swan Song

Went to the mall today to return a summer shirt that Mary had vetoed and pick up a flannel shirt. There were no flannel shirts to be had, and chamois was right out.

What can we say about this. Clearly, the income gap and the internet and whatnot have changed things since we were in high school, when there was a smoky anti-glamor to the construction worker and the worker in general, the days when the likes of Burt Reynolds and John Voight went around slamming pickup truck doors with tall boys in their hands in movies from Silkwood to Smoky and the Bandit to the frickin Deerhunter. A time when Bob and Doug McKenzie could at least exist. Flannel ain't cool no more.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Passport photos

(This is the kind of topic that comes of sitting at a desk all the time)

At long last I got my new passport back from the Federal Government, so I can travel. I can travel! At least, I could travel, had I more ducats.

In any case, they sent me back my old passport too with a copy of the new picture across from the old one, which was taken in early '97 when I was gearing up to go to mother Russia for dissertation work, towards the outer edge of my Manhattan period.

So lets compare and contrast. From '97 to '07 I didn't put on much weight, though, as Mary might note, I didn't lose much either. The hairline stayed largely in place, moving much less than, say, the icecaps. Most notably, the eyelid that droops a little for the sake of character now droops a little bit more. And there is a general loss of freshfacedness, replaced by a gentle tincture of malevolence, which belies an uptick in actual good-naturedness brought on by the peace and harmony of the our Garden State.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tale of the Boogeyman

At a birthday party a couple of weeks ago for Sally, we saw some terrible shit. Her dad Fred's brother Johnny and his wife had apparently gotten in the habit of reigning in their elder boy during moments of wildness by telling him: "Your uncle Sonny is gonna get you." Now Sonny, it must be owned, reportedly broke all the bones in his face when he was younger in a bad car accident and so, in the kind words of his sister, "Isn't as handsome as he was before." But she was kind but not euphemizing, the guy looks fine, just a little different. But out of sheer laziness and stupidity, Johnny and wife turn Sonny into the boogeyman.

So here's the birthday party and here comes Johnny and his family and over there we got Sonny and.... the elder boy flips out when he sees him, and there he is, six years old wearing his soccer uniform, face planted in his mother's lap, sobbing and moaning, until they disappeared off to the bathroom or something. I cannot recall ever seeing a more reprehensible instance of parenting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A sign of our Times

Met an old reporter for the New York Times today at an intermittently fascinating conference on Securities Lending. Grey, paunchy and somewhat curmudgeonly, studiously underdressed, he was in all rather Lou Grantish.

But mostly the guy was an object lesson in the trajectory of the papers of record, and especially this institution that is delivered to our doorstep each day, which continually morphs and shrinks, as does its cousin the Journal, which in its most recent pre-Murdoch state was consciously inching away from news towards being an opinion broker. Will the Times and the Journal eventually be wires plus magazines? Who knows. But I think my recycling container is going to get lighter and lighter and time goes on.

And what if the New Yorker too succumbs to its senescent demographic (which would include us)? Then what will become of my household?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The tomatoes of Archangelsk

Thanks to Mark Izeman of the NRDC in Moscow for forwarding this BBC story.

The Russians aren't too stressed out about climate change: "We are not panicking. Global warming is not as catastrophic for us as it might be for some other countries," Rinat Gizatullin, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Ministry, says. "If anything, we'll be even better off: as the climate warms, more of Russia's territory will be freed up for agriculture and industry."

This is much like the Bush claim that we'll just use AC when it gets hotter; it's cynical and self-serving.

Meanwhile, Moscow's hope is that Western polluters will be queuing up to buy its carbon
emission quotas. The money they get will then go into improving infrastructure and
energy efficiency. Yeah right they will.

If they realize that energy efficiency is what they need (and they do), why don't they purpose some of their $130 billion in reserves from oil sales to infrastructure that hedge fund manager and Russian Senator Andrei Vavilov wants to privatize and invest in... alternative investments, mgolly. I think a chunk of that aimed at all Russia's leaky above ground heating pipes could be kind of helpful.

Our guy in Lowe Library

President Lee Bollinger, Columbia University's answer to Chuck Norris, is at it again. As we all see from the headlines, he invited Iranian President Ahmadinejad up to Columbia to talk and then shat all over him as he came in the door. All for the sake of intellectual freedom? ("He can think what he wants but I can fight with him about it").

Methinks not. Instead, Bollinger just wants to keep Columbia in the news, make it a "player", so he can keep raising funds and consciousness to further the Northward enhancement of the university into Harlem, and the establishment of a Columbia campus on each continent. Oh yes, he will be king.

I suppose that's the modern way to go. But do alums really want to give money to guys who invite delusional and dangerous heads of state and then pummel them on arrival? This one doesn't.

How did he know Ahmadinejad wouldn't pull a smooth one on stage and leave egg on Columbia's face? Can you be sure a guy is delusional and not just faking?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Graham poops in the potty

For those of you who are perhaps tiring of my abstruse theoretical and journalistic noodlings, let the news ring out across the land: Graham, the last holdout in our family for diapers, has pooped in the potty. We know well that there may yet be a rough road out ahead of us, but he has done the deed, and it was well-formed too. Soon we may be a truly happy family, pooping together in a diaper-free household.


As ever, Mark Hulbert's been scanning the newsletters for opinions on what's up with the market. There are those, he says, who see parallels with the August 1998 implosion of the Russian debt markets which brought low Long-Term Capital Management and (let us not forget) almost nailed DE Shaw and thereby the BofA-Nationsbank merger. Coming out of that, the markets had their big run-ups to the spring 2000 booyah peaks.

I'm reminded of 1998 in a different way. When the Russian debt markets blew up, there was a massive devaluation of the ruble, which made it hard for Russians to keep snapping up all the imports they had been favoring. This meant that the final years of Yeltsin's administration bolstered Russia's declining industrial base and laid the groundwork for a redevelopment of payrolls and confidence under Putin. Could a similar fate await Detroit and the rest of the industrial heartland as the dollar continues its slide? Will Bentonville look to Biloxi rather than Beijing for extruded goods?

If it works, there's a good chance a Democrat could ride a neo-populist wave. Perhaps a $400 wave.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Front row junkyard

On a forlorn earthen lot on Main St. in Somerville, New Jersey, just down the hill from the Washington Hotel -- "Oldest continually operating hotel in America" -- there is a used car dealer that jams the most cars onto his space I've ever seen. Not just cars, but classics and would be classics: Firebirds, Impalas, El Caminos, Beetles. Towards the front today was a circa 1986 Plymouth Reliant convertible. Also a 1997 truck that might actually be salable. And could actually be gotten off the lot.

This lot has been there since we came to Central NJ some 10 years ago. At that point in time it had some pretty cool old cars. I believe some of them are still there today. There is one Camaro nestled in tight next to some Olds about four rows back. 6 inches apart. Between them grows a sapling. Back towards the office at the back of the lot, there are cars with no engines and no windows. "I'll have one of those," I almost cried out.

It's a junkyard, really, on Main Street, clearly owned by some pathological hoarder of transmissions and frames. Keep on not truckin! That's what I say.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thick as Thieves

Email from Lee I learn that he "doesn't talk much to Yalies anymore " and from Sarah that she "doesn't talk on the phone much." And, indeed, it's harder to get even me excited to gab on the phone much.

It seemed like there was a time in our early 30s when people settled down and found something resembling a career and had kids and whenever I would see people there would be total joy and gabfest, even people I never used to like.

Does the power of shared experience diminish as we age? Does the succession of milestones: marriage, kids, graduation, deaths, divorce, financial crisis, medical trauma, job loss, do all these things become so prosaic themselves that it becomes more difficult to bond over them? Does it become harder to maintain strong relationships? Or just more labor-intensive. Seems like when you talk to em lots of people are like: "whatever, we're aging and we're all gonna die anyway, I'm going home to bed."

I know I know, I should get my butt back to NC and eat some Q. But I feel like there's I'm witnessing a general if gradual emotional pullback of sorts, if not necessarily from my intrepid readers.

Here's what I mean.

The Jam

The Jamm

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What is there to tell?

A fine day in Jersey. Went and got my hair cut. The barber guy started going off about OJ and some other criminal on the flat panel TV and the question of appropriate punishment. You can imagine. "Some guy comes in my house and is raping my daughter, I think I got a right to kill em." Indeed, the law provides for these situations. "And what about those guys who are having sex with babies and kids and stuff. I mean, what do they do? I can't imagine it." Apparently you can and do, buddy. And not infrequently.

We expect conversation and amusement from those who cut our hair. Like the Kosovar guy who cut my hair in Larchmont last month. He had a tale to tell.

I was going to say that's why we need gay men to cut our hair, but I would add to that immigrant men, who are engaging at least for the first cut. And it's always good to have ladies touching your head, though they can be as lame conversationally as their male colleagues.

Our maybe it's better to just let your hair grow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Natalie as Kurt

That unkempt hair, the wrinkly shirt... I know I've seen it somewhere... Has my beloved daughter turned into Kurt Cobain?

There is, truth be told, no musical evidence of it, though she does sing a lot. And, given that she can still get excited about buying herself some chicken nuggets for lunch, I'd say she's not too despondent. Thought she does lock herself in her room to read those books about that magic boy with glasses and other crazy, wierd stuff.

And she is still mighty ticklish.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Refreshing honesty

From Marketwatch:

Greenspan said he said he supported the removal of Saddam Hussein as Iraqi dictator. "Saddam Hussein was obviously seeking to get a chokehold on the Strait of Hormuz," Greenspan said, referring to the narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which oil-carrying vessels pass. That would have caused chaos, he said. Greenspan said he believes the Iraq war was about oil but that he wasn't saying that this was the principal motivation of the Bush administration in invading the nation in 2003.

OK. So he contradicts himself a little towards the end, but it's basically straight no chaser, in a very Ayn Randian way. And when you put it that way: "Take out the dictator so he'll cause less economic chaos" rather than "the government is in the pocket of big oil," it sounds a lot better. From a Green perspective Hussein@Hormuz would expedite peak oil and the adoption of altfuels.

But it's hard to see how he would have ever pulled it off, what with Iran and Saudi Arabia in the way.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why Russia?

One of the questions most often asked of me -- along with

"What do you want to do next?" and
"Where'd you get those two blonde blue-eyed kids, you swarthy one with a brown-haired brown-eyed wife?"

-- is "How did you get into Russia?" Although there's much truth in my stock answers that I grew up during the Cold War and that Russian literature, in particular the novel, represents an apogee of civilization comparable perhaps only to Elizabethan drama and classical music from Bach through Beethoven, but as so often, there's more to it.

Shuttling back and forth between New JerseYork and North Carolina recently suggests another possibility: from a young age, Russian literature struck a nerve in my perception of the relations between center and periphery, capital and province. All these Russian superfluous men, lying in bed and sitting on park benches pondering and dreaming of life in Petersburg or Moscow or, for those who were already there, Paris and London. Measuring themselves against the capitals, dreaming of conquest, and then, perhaps, time for dinner or a stroll with a ladyfriend, as the demands of the here and now made themselves heard. And, in the end, the Russian novel -- child of the periphery -- won, pushing aside the French and English in the battle for preeminence, everywhere, that is, but PBS. And the superfluous are remembered from the Volga to the Hollywood Hills, where they peek their heads up now and again and claim center stage at the hinges of epochs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Graham scared the shit out of me today at the library. I was checking out the books, and he and Natalie and Margaret were standing next to me. When I had checked them out I looked up and only Natalie and Margaret were standing next to me. I looked down at the end of the rows of books, in the cafe, the obvious and easy places. Anne Blenman walked in. "Have you seen Graham," I ask. "No." Outside to check that his scooter is where it was. It is.

Natalie and Margaret are planted in the cafe. To the third floor, he's not there. Nor on the second. I begin to spin childnapper scenarios, but do not show panic. I alert the library staff. Anne is looking too. I go past Natalie and Margaret in the cafe. "Have you seen Graham?" "No," says Natalie, "and I'm hungry."

Finally, I go outside to where the book signing party is going on. After alerting one more person
I turn around and there's Graham marching along, kicking his legs up, perfectly relaxed. I pick him up and chastise him. Three minutes have passed, maybe five.

Later, on a perfect autumn day, Graham pushes himself home on his hot pink scooter, displaying admirable control and judgment over bumps, a bit of the the crack of his little ass peaking through between T-shirt and shorts. Turns out he wasn't wearing underwear.

A big 10-4

All systems are go for Graham's birthday party tomorrow. The cupcakes are cupped, frosted, and squirrelled away. It was hard not to eat one when I was frosting them after going running, but somehow I managed. Mary had, after all, counted them.

We will convene at Rosedale Park, a place which like so much else around here comes from the largesse of the Johnson family. As in Johnson & Johnson, only there are more of them than 2. (As the word Johnson has occurred several times, please insert enhancement jokes here _________). But seriously, the Johnsons are huge. Sometimes it feels like we live on their estate, like that old Bongwater refrain: "It's Frank's world, the rest of us just living in Frank's world."

To return to the point. We have cupcakes. There will be a playground. The task from here on out is to keep it from expanding further.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ghosts of days past

Going through the Eurasianet website -- still the world's authoritative Anglophone source of information on the Caucasus and Central Asia -- I was pleased to see many chestnuts left over from the day I sat in the cockpit of that bitch.

For example: gaze upon the smooth stylings of the travelling East of Magnum exhibition.

Then there's also two themed pages on the Aral and Caspian Seas, at their time groundbreaking, by now decrepit and full of dead links but still standing.

Those were the days when information really wanted to be free.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Snake

When I came downstairs to get lunch, Mary had hooked the kids up with a video and gone for a walk. It was a Harry Potter video, and I came down right when there was a very scary looking monster serpent trying to put a hurt on Harry, who, in his turn, did smite the big snake with his sword.

But, as I said, the snake was pretty scary looking, and I asked the kids if they were a little scared. Natalie, the hip big kid, was not touched by the thing at all. Graham, on the other hand, was scarcely able to voice his fear, and started to cry a little. So I sat down on the couch with him, put my arm around him, and sat with him until the end of the scene, which had other scary shit in it even after the snake was fully smote. Fear of nasty cinematic creatures is a pretty strong emotion, as I myself was recently reminded in 28 Days. These are great moments in parenting, when you get to shelter and comfort the little guys. I used to love that shit when I was little.

Anyhoo, I decided it wasn't the right moment to give the kids the rubber snakes I brought them from Reddick's of Wrightsville Beach, long (I'm sure) a leading purveyor of flip flops, bikinis, and assorted bric a brac.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In the numbers

My mom and my dad were born two days and thirty miles apart in 1938. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that their social security numbers are within 1200 digits of one another. But it's still a little spooky, the deja vu when I heard dad's.

All of this just goes to show that proximity does not likeness make.

Peel the onion

Balzac, it is said, was averse to being photographed, feeling that each picture of him stole a little bit of his person, like the slow peeling of an onion.

In many ways, sending out resumes feels much the same. Tweaked and versioned, they leap into the ether from my browser, these verbal mini-mes, terse little chunks of self. I have to track which went where so I can be sure the right me shows up, should a need arise.

But if one page seems so little, it is much longer than the words on my future gravestone, with which it will share precious little text. I hope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sea you later

Dashed out of conference today to go swimming in the ocean, a nasty tide heading North along the shore. Once more felt childhood coming over me, but resisted the temptation to scamper and frolic.

Now must rush to the fabled RDU.

Monday, September 10, 2007


After almost twenty years of absence, of vacations spent in such Northeastern watering holes as Fire Island, Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, various rocky shores of Maine, the Finger Lakes, the friggin Hamptons, the Jersey Shore, with all of their fancy restaurants and cliffs and nature preserves and whatnot -- the Grouse returned to the North Carolina shore, home of Beach as Such.

Starting with the 70s-era motel blessed by Jimmy Buffett himself and the sea air thick with salt and moisture never heard of in the North, I knew I was back on familiar ground. Checked in, I headed off to the beach. Now, to be sure, there is sand where land meets water up North. Sometimes. But rarely in such quantities, and rarely stretching off into the distance, and never so damned soft.

And off along the beach, to a pier mysteriously made of concrete rather than treated pine, charging money just to go out on that bitch. Through the tidal pools we referred to as the puddles, to which Leslie and I would head on beach mornings before the heat of the day came accompanied by one parent or grandparent, in what I now recognize to be a classic child care pawn-off. To a convenience store staffed by some old dude who couldn't even tell me that the road I was on was right and would take me to my motel.

Memory after memory. Oh yes, we will bring the kids.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Our man for the Senate

The Grouse would like to take this opportunity to officially endorse Joshua Harold Stein in his bid to represent the 16th District in the North Carolina State Senate. It has long been apparent to members of the Greater Piedmont (encompassing New Jersey) that Mr. Stein is well-suited for discharging the duties of elective public office. Specific achievements supporting this hypothesis include:

  • Manifesting steely will in scoring the deciding goal for Chapel Hill High School in the shoot off against Raleigh Sanderson* in the semi-final of the 1983 North Carolina State High School Soccer Championships, catapulting his team on to eventual victory.
  • Displaying equally firm resolve when, head dripping with blood after banging against the concrete floor of his garage, Stein did stretch forth his hand for a penny on the ground even as his father carried him off to the ER.
  • As an adult he is a progressive thinker, just as in youth he outstripped his peer group in achieving many common goals.
For these and several other reasons, the Grouch beseeches its readership to dig down and support our man in his bid.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

At rest

The first day of school has passed.
From the backyard, a faint breeze.
From the front, the sound of churchbells a few blocks down.
Mary took the train to the city for Tanya's opening.
Graham's poop has been cleaned from his underwear, the smell is gone from my hands in relatively few washings.
Natalie had mango with Beethoven's late quartets, while Graham mashed frozen blueberries against his face.

By now my uncle Heywood has probably breathed his last, succumbing to a nasty aggressive cancer.

After dinner, Natalie drove forward with Harry Potter #4, and Graham took his first ride along the sidewalk on a salvage bike, its tires just inflated.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to the Apple

I avoided New York as much as possible this summer, for obvious reasons. It's a nasty, smelly place to be when it's hot, and anybody with any money gets the fuck out. So I, in an attempt to mimic the rich, I stayed out.

But summer comes to an end for everyone and every place, and today I was back in the apple saddle. Five degrees cooler and I'd call it glorious, but it was OK. And fashion week in Bryant Park, lots of people milled about hoping for something to ogle, and there was that cleavagy chick in the pink dress waiting for a limo, perhaps somebody. And as I walked down sixth there were many examples of leggy and skinny, but were they fashion week related? You just never know. It's just Manhattan.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Inflection points

The year was 1979, and Freddie Kiger had foolishly piled half the 8th grade of Guy B. Phillips Junior High into school buses and hauled us across state lines to the PA-VA-WV border, home to some truly awesome Civil War battles and equally good biscuits and fried chicken.

Somehow they forgot to enforce any kind of curfew for us, and we found ourselves watching Saturday Night Live, back in its heyday. And then the musical guests arrived, what did we feast our 13-year old eyes on. Sadly, not exactly the clip below (for once, YouTube disappoints), but it was the Specials, playing "Gangsters". Like visitors from another planet to the land of the Commodores and Christmas Rappin.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Exact copies

After discussing musical and delectable goings on at the Indian Fair out at the Mercer County Park, Craig told me about how an Indian in his crew at work had described the status of Indian performance in America. In India, within certain castes, all kids learn how to perform something: singing, tablas, other instrument, etc. The emphasis there is on breadth of repertoire, as in back in the day before TV and radio when somebody had to entertain. But it's very competitive.

In the States these days, it's all about learning one or two songs, and not just songs, specific classic performances by greats, which kids ape down to the quarter-trill (Craig's phrase). So you can have a competition where ten kids mimic the same canonical performance by some great. Thrilling. Like "American Idol" on steroids.

This is, of course, repulsive to the Grouse, and to anyone else reared in the "letter killeth spirit giveth life" tradition, or indeed in the post-Romantic vision of art as expression of individual self, or the post-punk do-it-yourself way of being, which are all bound up with one another. Shit, it ain't very 2.0, for that matter. But it's plenty corporate, in the old way.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why won't Google maps print the screen?

This is something the Sith Lords of Mountain View might think about working on. If I pull up a map in a browser, it's not unlikely that I want to print what I'm looking at. But Google Maps cuts off about a third of what I see in Firefox, at least. Maybe they're cozier with IE. But if they're serious about not doing evil, this is a great place to start.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Liquid relief

The markets eased into the holiday weekend on twin reasurrances from Bernanke and Bush. It's hard to think back to the time when the markets weren't pushing the government around with such ease, didn't have this tried and true call and response routine worked out with CNBC and, by extension, both the investing masses and the elites.

It's striking how quickly we've gone from general talk of "excess liquidity" driving up the prices of all sorts of assets from real estate to collectibles to equities to a liquidity shortage or "credit crunch." So on with the spigots! A direct injection here, a discount rate there (a symbolic gesture that did not in fact result in net added liquidity for the week in which it happened), a tweak to Federal Mortgage insurance there, keep it flowing. I think there's plenty of liquidity out there, it's just in private pools, stagnating and fostering mosquitos.

And, at the end of the day, when the dollar crumples, China eases out of Treasuries and the current account deficit hangover, we'll be left like Russia in '98: too poor to buy imports. So who could be the big winner: Detroit.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Campaign rhetoric

In answer to a question about the online fund-raising capacities of his campaign site, a common friend of ours wrote me:

"Most small campaigns are using paypal, I notice."

In view of our shared anxieties about size, I could only reply:

"If you feel your campaign is small perhaps you should dab a little ointment on it.
Using the clipped version of your first name can't help the size-perception situation."

Together, as we shall see, we can help make this young man's campaign large indeed!

The Team

This is a Research Triangle based investment team that shall go unnamed. I'm sure my old firm used to look clonish some of the time, but this is ridiculous. Did somebody decree blue-shirt day only to have a few white-shirt rebels turn up? I'm sure these guys have some fascinating yarns to tell, like: "... and I had an onion on my belt, which was the fashion at the time."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Home alone

Got home from Larchmont, checked the mail. From Citigroup (Citi?), I received cards for me and Mary with a new number. From another branch of Citi, I received a come on to use our newly enhanced cash advance power to borrow money at the old card number. Whoops. There will probably be fees to transfer the balance.

Then I went to the grocery store, where I noticed a sign over the ice machine claiming "crushed ice is food." I can just see it, a family at table and one of the kids says "mom, can I have another serving of the crushed ice, please." It must have been reclassified under Reagan, along with ketchup.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


When I was about to pull the burgers off the grill I dashed upstairs to push Mary Lee towards wrapping up her often lengthy process of putting down Natalie, who is, after all, her first grandchild. What I found, instead -- much to my dismay, was Natalie alone in bed with a Harry Potter novel, perhaps the third. She and I agreed she would read fifteen minutes more and then turn off the lights.

I forgot to check, and when I went back upstairs at 9:30, there she was, light on, many pages deeper into the novel. "I got carried away" she said, sheepishly, all too conscious of her guilt. We kicked the cat off the bed and turned off the light.

Since Mary doesn't read this blog, she'll never know.