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.