27 February 2010

A gigantic, two-pronged icicle hanging from my house just fell. The sound was really something. I imagine if Spring was riding a bulldozer and pushing the ailing body of Winter over a cliff, it would sound like what I heard.

20 February 2010

So, gays are incapable of reproduction? I think that's what he was trying to say. Tell that to President Lincoln, who fathered four sons, and Bishop Paul Moore, who fathered nine kids.

Glad to hear vocal opposition within the conference to this a--ewipe.

18 February 2010

I was going to transcribe a sermon by John Donne for the beginning of Lent, 1630. It is just too depressing, though, a hallmark of its depressing era. Instead, since Lent is partially about counting your blessings, I will list all the books on my master bookshelf. The intent is not to brag about my erudition.

Section A

King James Bible
Paradise Lost, Milton
Blood Meridian, Cormac Mccarthy
Collected Poems of A.E. Housman
The Master of Ballantrae, R.L. Stevenson

Section B

Building Jerusalem: the Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, Tristram Hunt
The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson
Bible and Sword, Barbara Tuchman

Section C

Iliad, Homer
Histories, Herodotus
Persian Expedition, Xenophon
History of the Peloponesian War, Thucydides
Annals, Tacitus
Twelve Caesars, Suetonius

Section D

Satyricon, Petronius
French Revolution, Thomas Carlyle (an ancient yellowing copy given by my dad)
Sartor Resartus, Carlyle
Gulliver's Travels, Swift
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Simon Armitage translator
All Points North, Simon Armitage
Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Vikram Chandra**
Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon
The Beautiful Struggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates

**Chandra's other novel, Sacred Games, lies heavy on its own in a shelf below. At 916 pages, with a blood-red cover, it could pass for a codex of sorcery.

15 February 2010

Some New York News.

Over the last ten years, the New York Post has called Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman a cheapskate, a tyrant, an illegal maid-payer, a friend to unsavory characters, a bad businessman, a racist, a friend of terrorism, a firer of pregnant women, a publisher who uses his editorial page for the his own real estate interests, a constructor of dangerous buildings, the provoker of staff suicides, as well as wild-eyed, mercurial, panicky, a cheater of readers, a scoffer at laws, a "horrible, nickel-and-diming boss," and the publisher of boring publications. And now, they want him as the Senator from New York. Yes! Today's Post editorial declares that "the emergence of real-estate magnate — and Daily News Publisher — Mortimer Zuckerman as a potential candidate for the United States Senate is an event all New Yorkers of good will can welcome….. without qualification… Zuckerman's entry into the race would — on Day One — markedly improve the quality of the candidate pool."

From Wikipedia:

Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators: 1) each senator must be at least 30 years old, 2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years, and 3) must be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state he or she seeks to represent. The age and citizenship qualifications for senators are more stringent than those for representatives. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison justified this arrangement by arguing that the "senatorial trust" called for a "greater extent of information and stability of character."

09 February 2010


red--Federated States of America
blue--Free United States
green--Provisional American Federation
gray--Kingdom of North Carolina and Free Republic of Alaska

March 1, 2030

Chief Minister Gregoire cast her eye over the map, still not really believing it had come to this, a splintering of her native United States. Half-remembered lessons from high school history were not much of a guide to dealing with this kind of world.
"Lord Hagan on line two, maam." An assistant reminded her of a call from the Foreign Minister of North Carolina.
"Good morning, Rob."
"Good day to you, Michelle. But it's been nonstop work here in Raleigh." She could hear murmured conversations in what must be a crowded Foreign Office. Someone had told her they didn't even have live chat set up there yet.
"I had a look at your communique on Virginia. You're very optimistic about the chances for detaching it from the Free States."
"With good reason, my dear. Thirty percent non-white population, education levels among the highest in the South. The referendum last year was aberrant--"
"OK, Rob, I wish I could share your hope, but this is the state that elected Taliban McDonnell. The mass graves of homosexuals are out there in public view."
Gregoire already looked forward to her afternoon jog along the Embarcadero, four blocks from work. It was touchy dealing with Carolinians; one grandiose plan after another belched out of Raleigh while the Free Staters steadily tightened their blockade of its ports. Her primary worry these days was the mushrooming refugee camps in New Mexico. Every week brought more "illegals" fleeing the gulags of Texas.

08 February 2010

I just finished reading Big Planet by Jack Vance (first published serially in 1952). A cleverly plotted mystery, with some quiet social commentary. WARNING: your wholesome enjoyment of the book may be marred by paragraphs such as these:

"The gully was choked with hot-eyed men and their horny black beasts. The steep slope was a mass of clawing legs, hulking shoulders."

07 February 2010

Claire Messud writes:

Here’s the deal: men, without thinking, will almost without fail select men. And women, without thinking, will too often select men. It’s a known fact that among children, girls will happily read stories with male protagonists, but boys refuse to read stories with female protagonists. J.K. Rowling was aware of this: if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter, none of us would know about her.

And we don’t change our spots when we grow up. Last year, I was one of nine judges awarding an international literary prize for a writer’s body of work. Each of us nominated a candidate, and five of us were women; but only one of our nominees—only one out of nine—was female. (I myself enthusiastically nominated a man.) Our cultural prejudices are so deeply engrained that we aren’t even aware of them: arguably, it’s not that we think men are better, it’s that we don’t think of women at all.

Four years ago I read The Golden Compass, which has a female protagonist, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I had ceased to be a 'boy' by that point. I admit that the vast majority of my fiction reading these days is written by men. And yet, at the age of 12 I absolutely loved Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's fantasy novels. Funny how that works.

03 February 2010

A Slightly Misogynist Poem

The young man drums the floor with his foot,
Here in the brewpub, sun streaming in.
He eats to feed his corporeal engine.

You are the motor of society, young man
Whether you father children or no
The drum of your foot holds power intense
That no lass's arm can match.

Would we all but keep drumming,
Grinding out matter with our bodily sparks,
Work not for appearances, but for things:
Strive for noble ends, not silken strings.
What (s)he said:

Like you, I am impatient about the ban on gays, and wish the President would just change the law with a stroke of a pen. But, on reflection (months of reflection and quite a bit of disappointment), I am beginning to come around to this approach. His approach, no matter how frustrating, is essentially good governance. It forces Congress to act, which is appropriate, since they passed “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the first place. It gives the military months of time to change policy, to educate and to operate, which is important when dealing with one of the largest bureaucracies in the world. Beyond that, it makes the process distinctly apolitical, which, when I think about it, is the only way to make it stick.

02 February 2010

A Political Poem in the Style of Milton

His orient face shines through the milky mists,
A round Padishah making his fixed rounds,
The snow streams downward as the heads of enemies slain.

Venerate, abase yourselves on this Saint Brigid's Day
My lords and ladies with employments endowed,
Our world-wise king in Washington sits today
Revolving his plans for the commonalty.

Bend your knees to the sun of knowledge
Arts and sciences, be triply fortified
Raise paeans to justice, truth, and charity

Attend to the parliament who bridles at his ways,
Consider their darkling, obstructive Nays,
Kyrie eleison for them, for you, for all our frays.