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July 2003
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September 2003

Outlast, Outplay, GetOuttheVote!

Who knew [well, I suppose I should have] that Flash animation was so handy for political cartooning? Via the wacky libertarians at Hit & Run comes this link the Village Voice cartoonist Mark Fiore's coming attractions trailer for John Ashcroft's Patriot Act Summer Tour.

Being a California, though, I know that I will be glued to the telly awaiting the premiere of the new season of Recall Island.

Don't Let the Dial Tone Hit You on Your Way Out

Here are the state by state stats on the numbers of people signing up for the National Do Not Call List. Over 5 Million in California alone, which has far and away the largest total.

At home at Chateau Fool we look forward to the day that we can finally stop screening calls. People we actually know and from whom want to hear seem to make up less than 10% of our call load.

If this List works, perhaps the next step can be a National Don't-Stand-In-The-Middle-Of-Places-People-Are-Trying-To-Walk-Through-Whilst-You-Loudly-Share-Intimate-Details-Of-Your-Life-On-The-Darned-Cell-Phone List. Don't laugh; it could happen.

Link to stats via CalPundit.

Seeking the Lost Quote in a Dark Wood

Down the page in my paean to poet Jack Gilbert, I complained of having mislaid a quotation from W. H. Auden. I've found it now, and discovered that it wasn't nearly so pithy and apropos as I had thought; it would have made an already longish post longer without adding much of substance. Still, I am taken with it and, because this post is not nearly so long, I can offer it up than I would have done had it actually been at hand when I originally wanted it:

Half the literature, highbrow and lowbrow, produced in the West during the past four hundred years has been based on the false assumption that what is an exceptional experience is or ought to be a universal one. Under its influence so many millions of persons have persuaded themselves that they were 'in love' when their experience could be fully and accurately described by the more brutal four-letter words, that one is sometimes tempted to doubt if the experience is ever genuine, even when, or especially when, it seems to have happened to oneself. However, it is impossible to read some of the documents, La Vita Nuova, for example, many of Shakespeare's sonnets or the Symposium and dismiss them as fakes. All accounts of the experience agree on the essentials. Like the Vision of Dame Kind, the Vision of Eros is a revelation of creaturely glory, but whereas in the former it is the glory of a multiplicity of non-human creatures, in the latter it is the glory of a single human being. Again, while in the vision of Nature, conscious sexuality is never present, in the erotic vision it always is -- it cannot be experienced by eunuchs (though it may occur before puberty) and no one ever fell in love with someone they found sexually unattractive -- but physical desire is always, and without any effort of will, subordinate to the feeling of awe and reverence in the presence of a sacred being: however great his desire, the lover feels unworthy of the beloved's notice.

I found the passage in the middle of my journey through an essay collection, The Poets' Dante: 20th Century Responses, picked up on the cheap from that treasure trove of tasty remainders, Daedalus Books. The book compiles some good lucid critical writing on Dante by 20th Century poets, living and dead: Pound, Eliot, Mandelstam, Heaney, and on and on. Recommended, of course.

P.S., My own Dante preferences run to La Vita Nuova in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation and to Laurence Binyon's translation of the Divina Commedia -- which gets a lengthy appreciation from Robert Fitzgerald in The Poets' Dante. Both were once conveniently available in the single volume Portable Dante, but it appears that the editors at Penguin have opted to change translators in recent years. The current Portable Dante bears little resemblance to my dog-eared college copy of too-many semesters past. *Sigh* The Binyon translation, a remarkably fluent imitation of Dante's own terza rima, seems now to be entirely out of print. Rossetti's run at The New Life, however, can still be had, and cheaply too.

Franks Invade London

Musician/blogger Dr. Frank -- whose ongoing series on the recording, etc., of his band's new album has been recommended to you before -- is currently somewhere outside London, where he has succumbed yet again to the heartbreak of anglophilia. Favorite passage follows:

Sometimes, particularly when it comes to those in the service industry and low-level figures of authority like bank managers or airline administrators, the wordy over-the-top faux-politeness and a well-developed skill with the subjunctive mood serve in combination to mask, rather ineffectively in my view, the truth that they, as they might say themselves, 'don't really give a toss' about you or any trouble you might be having. You know the kind of thing I mean: 'I'm afraid I must tell you that I'm most frightfully sorry, and I imagine the information might, at the very least, be rather unwelcome, not to say just a bit frustrating, and were I in such a position myself, I should, I imagine, feel most dreadfully, awfully, put out and all that, but as I say, it is my rather less than enjoyable duty as a representative of this institution to inform you that, as one might have imagined in the circumstances, yet clearly, though you might have done, in the event for some reason you have not, in fact, done-- as I say, I'm awfully, frightfully, most terribly sorry to have to tell you that, unfortunately, by the time I have finished this sentence, you will have missed your flight entirely, and there's not a thing you or I will be able to do about it. Ah, as I suspected, there it went. Hard luck. I'm sure I don't know to whom you might speak to "rectify the situation" as you put it: my job is passenger delay. In any event, good morning.' Tosser.

Just In Time for the Long Weekend

For intelligent fun, make a run to the always worthwhile Crooked Timber for Brian Weatherson's discussion of the ins and outs of Time Travel Movies, with particular emphasis on the metaphysical incoherence of Back to the Future. The reader comments are particularly good on this one as well.

And while we're on the subject of science fiction films, James Lileks reports:

It’s now official: according to the DVD box copy of every sci-fi movie made in the 50s, they are ALL allegories about the Red Menace - with the possible exception of “The Red Menace,” which used a plot about Soviet spies to play on the public’s fear of Martians.
(He also offers a sort of Bart-Simpson-prank approach to dealing with those pesky North Koreans and advice about customer follow-up that should be heeded by every marketing executive in America.)

Mr. McManus with Strings Attached

It often seems that rock'n'pop musicians, even musicians with the longevity of, say, the Rolling Stones, define themselves in part by their Refusal to Grow Up. Master songcrafter Declan McManus, better known to the world as Elvis Costello, is a notable exception. His output over the past decade or so has clearly been the work of An Adult, a person who even within the bounds of the 3-minute pop song has a fair dose of experience and maturity and is prepared to share it with the listener as an equal.

Through Blogcritics comes a link to an Australian interview with Costello concerning his upcoming album North (due September 23); in addition to the print interview, the page includes a streaming radio chat -- Costello is as interesting a conversationalist as he is a songwriter -- incorporating more or less complete versions of 4 of the new tracks.

The new album finds Costello again working the orchestral ballad field. The style is similar to that of his delicious 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted From Memory but with less melodramatic orchestration (what, no French horns?). Longtime collaborator Steve Nieve's piano features prominently, in a mood appropriate to a discrete late night venue, and the Costello croon -- a wonderfully imperfect thing that makes up in vibrato and expressiveness what it occasionally lacks in precise pitch -- is in full force. Sounds like a necessary addition to this Fool's collection.

The interview/preview is to be found right here.

Soul of Wit, and Criticism

A word in your ear, poetry lovers:

If you are such, or if you are not, I direct you to Aaron Haspel's discussion of his favorite poem, by Emily Dickinson ("As imperceptibly as grief"). As smooth, concise and convincing an explication as you are likely to find, devoted to a poem both very fine and unjustly neglected. Go.

Note particularly the brevity of both the poem and the discussion. A fitting rejoinder, I think, to A C Douglas' critique of the windiness of blog writing as a class.

I Know What I Like and I Like What I Know

In the introductory paragraphs of this post back on August 16, I pointed to a mite of a dustup between Aaron Haspel and Terry Teachout over what Aaron referred to as "visceral" criticism. Back to blogging this week after a brief respite, Terry responds here, offering a defense not unlike the one I already suggested on his behalf. Now that he is online again, I recommend him yet again for inclusion in your daily Web rounds.

Deep Disch Pizzazz

I mentioned Thomas Disch and his fine essay collection The Castle of Indolence backhandedly at the conclusion of this earlier entry about Dana Gioia. A further endorsement of Disch in his various genres of choice -- criticism, poetry and science fiction, to name only a few -- can be had in the third item down in this piece by Michael Blowhard. [Michael himself warns that you should not proceed to the fourth item, which concerns a certain blue pill, unless you wish to know more than you otherwise would about the workings below his belt.]

Michael includes a link to a Disch fansite which in turn reminded me that Disch is the author -- under the pseudonym "Leonie Hargrave" -- of the pseudo-Victorian Gothic novel, Clara Reeve. Regrettably, that book appears currently to be out of print. I advise you to track it down if you can: it is a full-on bodice ripper not incidentally featuring secret identities, inheritances, virtue defended from debauchery, mysterious deaths under lurid circumstances, an ascent of Vesuvius and (in an offstage supporting role) the late Lord Byron. Great fun!

[I've been unable to confirm by Googling my recollection that there was a real Leonie Hargrave, author of a history of the English novel, from whom Disch lifted his pseudonym. I did, however, stumble upon the real Clara Reeve, who was herself a Gothic novelist whose best known work (these things are relative) is The Old English Baron (1778).]

Gray Davis Bench Presses His Legacy

One way that a Governor can have a lingering impact long after the statehouse door strikes him in the backside is by appointing judges. (Presidents have even greater power to leave their mark, since the Constitution grants Federal judges tenure for life; hence the continuing fracas over Mr. Bush's judicial appointees.) Gray Davis has been slow to fill judicial vacancies, but something seems to have concentrated his mind wonderfully on that project.

The governor, after leaving vacancies unfilled earlier this year, has made numerous new court appointments since July 23, when the recall qualified for the ballot.

* * *
Aides say the stepped up pace of judicial appointments has nothing to do with the recall election.

Here is the San Francisco Chronicle's report on the subject (which I just quoted). A larger collection oflinks can be found at Denise Howell's Bag and Baggage.