Still involved in some sprawlin' courtroom brawlin', so allow me please to tide us all over with yet another postful of online miscellanery, accumulated over the past month or so, in no particular order:

Sarah Polley, 17 years on, corresponds with Terry Gilliam on the perilous experience of having been the child lead in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (a film I persist in thinking more sinned against than sinning).  [Via Defamer]

The Guardian catches a fleeting glimpse of the first new Kate Bush album in a dozen years and declares her to be "still seething with strangeness and brilliance."   As if one would expect anything else.

  • There's No Mania Like Ro-Mania:

Matt Welch -- once hailed in this space as "The Next Davy Jones" -- really wants you to read his Reason magazine article, "The Second Romanian Revolution Will Be Televised", now available online.  And you should.  It resembles one of those good, long New Yorker pieces on faraway places with strange sounding politics, except that it omits the East Coast pomposity and such.

First, the mysterious tale of Jelly Roll Morton and the Voodoo Curse.  "As the self-styled inventor of jazz, [Morton] wore diamonds in his teeth and owned over two hundred tailor-made suits."   He burned them all:

In desperation Morton visited a voodoo woman who told him the only way to break the curse was to destroy all his clothing:

I always had a lot of clothes and the stack I made in my backyard was way over the top of my head.  I poured on the kerosene and struck a match.  It like to broke my heart to watch my suits burn.

In another item, Ms. Longmore considers the unfortunate post-War American symbiosis of Jazz and Heroin:

After the Second World War, the image of the happy-go lucky jazz musician undertook a horrific transformation.  No longer did the world associate jazz with jollity and Fats Waller-style wit.  By the late forties, the idea of a jazz player was that of a tortured heroin addict.  Headlines such as Hey Ho Billie Holiday Arrested Again on Narcotics Charge sprinkled the headlines of the daily newspapers.  One wonders what triggered this bleak state of affairs.

"[T]he sinister Miles Davis" is involved, naturally, albeit more as a carrier than a cause.

  • Bonus Opera Content!:  Elsewhere at the Social Affairs Unit, David Conway reviews the Covent Garden premiere of Maskarade, the little-performed-outside-of-Denmark 1906 comic opera from the great Danish symphonist (a personal favorite of mine), Carl Nielsen.  Mr. Conway is not favorably impressed and his accusatory finger points firmly at the composer:

The plot, which is so thin as to make Fledermaus appear like a work of Immanuel Kant, requires above all, if it is to sustain an evening, two qualities which Strauss J. (and R. for that matter) possessed in abundance but Nielsen totally lacked – wit and romance.

The sign language interpreter stage right apparently displeased him as well.

This Fool wishes a most cordial Happy Fifth to that constant doorway to wonderments, wood s lot.

If someone says that he’s planning to kill you, believe him.

If someone says he’s going to die, believe him.

Avoid navigable waterways.  Don’t let yourself be talked into going down by the wild rippling water, the wan water, the salt sea shore, the strand, the lowlands low, the Burning Thames, and any area where the grass grows green on the banks of some pool.  Cliffs overlooking navigable waterways aren’t safe either.

To which I might add: if a hideous crone of apparent supernatural abilities offers you raiment and riches if only you will Sit in Her Lap and Be Her Own True Love, take her up on it.  The alternative is even less pleasant.

[Link via Belle Waring at Crooked Timber.]

  • And in Conclusion . . . Something Kinky:

Whether you take the recommendation of native Texan Cowtown Pattie, or the recommendation of distant Schenectadeluvian David Jackalope Giacalone, y'all should amble to the Official Site of the Independent Texas Gubernatorial Campaign and Marching Society of musician, mystery writer, and action figure Kinky Friedman and view his proud and patriotic Kinkytoon.  It is the most amusing political ad since Arianna Huffington's [no longer available] Arnold-in-a-Hummer spot. 

No poker-playing dogs were harmed in the making of this picture.


Recurrent Obsession Edition -- in which this Fool revisits, with fresh links, subjects that just keep ... pulling him ... back ... in ....

  • At The Morning News, Robert Birnbaum, with a little help from his dog Rosie, produces one of the best, widest-ranging (and longest) of the many recent interviews with Camille Paglia, who is still talking about poetry, the process that resulted in her recent hot pink Break Blow Burn, what's wrong with these kids today, academia, politics, shopping, "and, of course, Camille Paglia."  (Link via The Elegant Variation.)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman Lester Bangs recounts a waking dream:

    I had been there for a while, half-listening and half-daydreaming, when something odd happened: I starting thinking about something that didn't exist.  I was quite clearly recalling a conversation I'd had with Charles Mingus, the room we were in at the time and the things he'd said to me, except that I had in reality never been there and the conversation had never taken place.  I realized immediately that I was dreaming, though I had no memory of falling asleep and had in fact passed over into the dream state as if it were an unrippled extension of conscious reality. So I just lay there for a while, watching myself talk to Mingus while one-handed keyboard bobbins pinged placidly in the background.  Suddenly I was jolted out of all of it by the ringing phone.  I stumbled in disorientatedly to answer it, and hearing my voice the called asked: 'Lester, did I wake you?'

And so begins a long lost -- no longer lost, actually, but still unequivocally long -- Bangs essay based on extensive interviews with Brian Eno ca. 1979.   A must for Eno-philes, especially valuable for its insights into Eno's drift in to, and out of, Roxy Music and the nature of his longtime working relationship with Robert Fripp.  (Link via Coolfer.)

  • Alan Williamson of the *sixeyes music/MP3 weblog (mentioned just below) has begun contributing semiregular "Mercredi mixtape" entries to Torontoist.
  • Torontoist also recently reported the fascinating rumor that Montreal-based fans'-and-critics'-darlings, The Arcade Fire (whose album actually does live up to most of the attendant hyperbole) will soon tour as the backing band for David Bowie.  As good a reason as any to point yet again to George Hunka's Superfluities weblog, which reproduces a photo of a bearded Bowie ca. 1982 when he played the title role in a BBC production of Bertholt Brecht's first play, Baal.  (Bearded Bowie is slightly less rare, and arguably less disturbing, than Bearded Spock.)
  • [Speaking of Montreal: in proper New World French style, its citizens recommend to aspiring hipsters intrigued by the city's burgeoning music scene that they should, please, just go away.]
  • More from *sixeyes:  Alan has also just posted an item on the music of Jim White.  Chris, the noted dissertation procrastinator, also made mention of Mr. White about a month ago at escapegrace, pointing to the documentary, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, in which the singer takes (per the description at the film's site) "a thought-provoking road trip through the American South -- a world of Churches; prisons; coalmines; truckstops; juke joints; swamps; and mountains" and "reflects upon what it is about this baffling place that inspires musicians and writers, whilst at the same time working through his own preoccupations with his muse -- or, as he puts it, 'trying to find the gold tooth in God's crooked smile.'"

    I am quite partial to White's last two CDs -- he is the nearest thing you will find to a country artist on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label and exemplars from those two records are included in that *sixeyes post -- and have been meaning to write about him myself, but I have never gotten beyond the first sentence of a post.  If I ever do write it, it will begin something like this:

If Flannery O'Connor had a brother, and if Flannery O'Connor's brother had a band, then Flannery O'Connor's brother and his band would probably sound something like Jim White.

For now, though, that's all there is.


The Long Weekend Looms, and that is as good an occasion as any to post yet another cavalcade of links pointing elsewhere, that recurring feature known in this part of the Forest as "TW3."   [Explanation in the footnote, here.]

  • Indecent Indices:

Earlier in June, paleoconservative types buzzed happily over a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.  Other than its choices of Marx/Engels, Mao and Mein Kampf, the list was, as are so many lists, basically Just Silly.  (#4, Kinsey?  #10, Keynes?  Honorable mentions to J.S. Mill [On Liberty, no less], Darwin [twice], Ralph Nader and Margaret Mead?  That's rather a broad definition of "harmful" you've got there, gentlemen....)

A more useful list is available at the Writing Fiction weblog, where Crawford Kilian [Capilano College, Vancouver, BC] nominates The Ten Most Harmful Novels, based on their baleful influence on other writers.  He's too hard on Raymond Chandler, but otherwise largely spot on (especially, says I, on Salinger and Hemingway and that Kerouac fellow).  Kilian's honorable mention candidates are credible as well:

Some novels are good but dangerous because they leave us dumbfounded.  After Ulysses, what more can we say about the mythic echoes in modern life?  Even Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t come up with a novel that could match The Great Gatsby, so how could we?  I re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude every few years.  Every time I find that the Maestro has broken still more of the rules we ordinary mortals must obey if we want to tell a story.

The bad novels give us at least this consolation: If those nincompoops could break into print, and even sell millions of copies, then we nincompoops ought to be able to do at least as well.

[Via This Is Not A Love Story.]

  • Holy Hogwarts!  Rome's Row with Rowling

While we are on the topic of harmful books, take note that Pope Benedict is not amused by Harry Potter.  Perhaps he objects to all the spurious Latin being bandied about in those spells and incantations.  [Via The Elegant Variation.]

  • This Offer Will Not Be Repeated:

Ted Frank reminds us that this weekend offers a last opportunity to snag some of the BBC's free Beethoven downloads.

  • Evidence of Things Not Seen:

Behold The Invisible Library, a compilation site devoted to "books that only appear in other books."

Endless hours of distraction can also be had, assuming one has a supply of such hours readily to hand, by scrolling down to the "Other Sites" list in the Invisible Library Office.  Links there lead to such treats as the mysterious Library of the Sphinx ("Things that are not real must, by definition, be endlessly fascinating, unbearably frightening, overwhelmingly important") and The Modern Word [aka The Libyrinth], with its wealth of materials on writers such as Beckett, Borges, Eco [those engaged in reading his latest will find a link to the Queen Loana Annotation Project], Pynchon, etc.

[Invisible Library link via bird on the moon.]

  • All's Well With Rockwell, et al.

What is going on with the few, the misguided, our most frequent readers and commenters?  Happy to fill you in:

  • Rick, meanwhile, leaves off for the weekend with his lovable, lop-eared Safe & Sane Canine

I will have some 4th of July thoughts of my own later.  Broadway is involved.


I will be off for a long-promised, computer-free family vacation in the Four Corners region over the next week.  Luck and last-minute preparations at work and at home permitting, I will pre-post this 'n' that before departure, so that this weblog will not languish too much in my absence.  For the moment, another of my irregular miscellanies of links to others' sites:

  • Pop a [mushroom] cap: There does not appear to be any resurgence of the local health authorities' urge to clamp down on wild mushrooms here in Los Angeles, but there is a fresh bloom of fungal regulation in New York.  [Link via Walter Olson and Overlawyered.  You should perhaps also follow the adventures of Walter's former Overlawyered compatriot Ted Frank on his tastily-named new personal weblog, Lagniappe.  Ted may or may not keep up on his posting there after he joins the American Enterprise Institute on July 1.]
  • What's Good in LifeAwwwww.  The floppy ear is a particularly nice touch, as is the subtle Dalmatian motif in the forelegs.
  • Literchur:  Chris enthuses over Umberto Eco's new, semi-graphic [in the sense of "partially illustrated," not "somewhat explicitly violent"] novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.   If you would like a taste before hunting up your own copy, I mentioned the novel and linked the New Yorker's publication of what proves to have been an unillustrated excerpt from it -- and a darned good stand-alone story in its own right -- in this post back in March.

Remember when pride was a sin and modesty a virtue?  There are a few things the Middle Ages got right after all.

  • Art/Empire/Industry:  Graham Lester points to a marvelous online exhibition from the UK National Archives: The Art of War, compiling work -- illustrations, paintings, propaganda pieces -- by dozens of British artists from World War II.  The exhibition can be browsed by category, by artist (look, it's Mervyn Peake!), and most likely in other ways I've not yet had the opportunity to discover.
    • Not included is anything by Sir Stanley Spencer -- my post about whom regularly draws misguided Google traffic here from people who only want to find their local Spencer Gifts store -- such as his great series of paintings, held by the Imperial War Museum, of Shipbuilding on the Clyde, some study drawings for which are collected here.


  • L.A.-centric -- Critical Theory Edition:

Perhaps no one cares anymore what the Los Angeles Times has to say on cultural issues.  Perhaps no one is much aware that the Times finally removed its pay-wall from its arts and entertainment coverage.  Whatever the reason, I am quietly surprised to find almost no weblog commentary on Sunday's article by Scott Timberg, "Critical Condition, or, The Critic Vanishes," bemoaning the diminution or disappearance of those "once almighty arbiters of American taste."

'You gets arts journalists together these days,' says Doug McLennan, editor of Arts and a longtime Seattle music writer, 'and it's what they talk about: their declining influence.  They say Frank Rich was the last critic who could close a show.'  Most remember when Time and Newsweek had full rosters of arts critics.

What happened?  Besides the Internet and its rash of blogs, suspected culprits include the culture of celebrity, anti-intellectual populism, stingy newspaper owners and what some critics say is a loss of vitality or visibility in their art forms.  While many lament the situation, some think the decentralization of authority means the arts — and the conversation around them — will flourish without these stern, doctrinaire figures.

But many newspaper and magazine critics pine for a golden age when giants walked the Earth: When the imposing Clement Greenberg was shaping modernism in painting, the biting H.L. Mencken was exhuming the reputation of Theodore Dreiser, and the impious Leslie Fiedler found unsettling Freudian meanings in the novels of Mark Twain.

It is an aggravating article in many ways, not least in the way that it meanders about in search of a credible, or at least consistent, thesis.  The piece winds up being less about a decline of Criticism in general and more about a decline of the outlets - newspapers, wide circulation magazines - that once housed it.  Some random thoughts:

  • Why cite "The Critic" -- an animated series that no one in particular actually watched and that is in any case ten years old -- as an example of the current low state of the critical field?
  • As is often the case, the best quote comes from Dave Hickey:

Dave Hickey, an art critic best known for the book 'Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy,' doesn't think the Internet is the problem. 'But I do think that we're over,' he says.  "Being an art critic was one of those jobs like nighttime disk jockey or sewing machine repairman: It was a one- or two-generation job.'

For Hickey, art criticism lost its luster and excitement the same time art did.  'There was a sense that things had a forward tilt,' he says of American art after World War II, when it seemed to be moving toward a consummation.  'Jackson Pollock changed the way the world looked, Andy Warhol changed the way the world looked.'

        * * *

'I'm like Wolfman Jack,' Hickey groans.  'The times have passed me by.'

  • The problem is that the newspapers are cutting back the space and number of critics devoted to arts coverage, except for those that are expanding it.  OR the problem is that there has been a great leveling, so that all of the traditional distinctions within an art (good/bad/better/best) are now necessarily invidious.  OR the problem is that the Cold War is over, so that there is no national priority to maintaining prestige in the cultural arena.  OR the problem is that any opinion is an expression of "bias," and we can't have that now can we?  OR the problem is that darned Internet, so that no one reads anything anymore.
  • OR the Internet will be the saving of us all.  The Critics haven't gone away altogether: they have migrated from the printed page to the pixelated one, and there is still a vital and vibrant conversation going on concerning matters cultural and artistic, all day and all of the night.  Of course, this being the Los Angeles Times, the article names several examples of worthy Web sites and weblogs, but does not link them or provide URLs for the curious in either the print or online versions.  Blasted Luddites.

  • I am also reminded of the Terry Teachout-inspired discussion here last year about weblogs and their potential to serve as an early 21st Century equivalent to the so-called "little" magazines of the early 20th Century.
  • L.A.-centric -- Happy Consumerism Edition:

    escapegrace runs a compare and contrast exercise on the relative virtues of her new home in Los Angeles and her former home in New York.  I can't argue with her judgments, though I am driven to ask:

"How can New Yorkers claim to be the center of the world when their nearest Trader Joe's store is in Connecticut?"

  • Musical Notes - NYC Edition:

    Still in New York himself, George Hunka is provoked to an iconoclastic outburst:

Let’s get one thing straight: Stephen Sondheim is a writer of Broadway musicals, and even if he’s good at what he does (which he’s not, particularly) it’s a limited talent.  His lyrics rarely express anything more than a self-pity filtered through crossword-puzzle-level Ogden-Nashian punnery and cleverness, his composition style is third-rate imitation Puccini and Prokofiev -- poetry and music for people who hate poetry and music.

  • Music Notes - Beyond the Infinite Edition:

    I secreted a reference to an old Donovan lyric in an earlier post.   [Careful with that link: Mr. Leitch's site comes with much music and no apparent "mute" function.]   Now, on the occasion of the reissue of several classic Donovan recordings, Professor Althouse offers an appreciation.

These many decades on, I suppose we ought to forgive and forget that in addition to such classics as "Mellow Yellow" and "Wear Your Love Like Heaven," Donovan also gave us "The Intergalactic Laxative."


  • Annals of Linguistic Surrender

The otherwise unstoppable A.C. Douglas - do not cross this man when it comes to all things Wagnerian - just gives up and consents to use that awful coinage, "blog."

  • Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Vinous

Thanks to Professor Bainbridge on Wine, now we know what Governor Schwarzenegger can serve when he invites recalcitrant legislators into his tent:

The wine industry's seduction of the American female consumer has begun.  Not to be outdone by Victoria's Secret, laundry detergent and countless other products, the "girlie" wine has dawned, dressed in gift bags resembling see-through organza negligees and bearing cosmetics-counter names like Seduction or hip-cute ones like Rosé the Riveter or Mad Housewife.

The quoted New York Times article has largely disappeared into the archives -- fortunately, Professor B incorporates a lengthy excerpt -- so those who are curious about this latest focus grouped abomination must look elsewhere, such as this Business Week interview with some of its perpetrators.

Will women really buy a wine just because of a "curly scripted label and 'wink-wink' marketing"?   The entire approach strikes me as more condescending and insulting than anything else, especially when it's all done in the cause of selling a wine that apparently isn't very good in the first place. *Sigh*

  • And while we are on the subject of wine

Don't try telling me that the Wikipedia is unreliable.  How could one not place the utmost faith in a project that sees fit to support its article on the Bronco Wine Company with a link to this impeccable source.  Ha!

  • "My Mind's Free of the Tyranny of Minutiae!"

The Revolution may not be televised, but it will be presented at a self-help seminar near you.  Valuable tips (really!) from Emma Goldman and Mikhail Bakunin in:

Time Management for Anarchists: The Movie

[Link via Lifehacker.  Now if only I could take these lessons to heart.]

  • Your Minimum Daily Requirement of Cuteness

Happy bouncy spiky things -- slithy toves, perhaps? -- bounce in happy spiky fashion in this animation for Felt Melt, a tune by the French electronic artist Laurent Girard, who records as melodium.  If you enjoy it, that track and another from M. Girard are downloadable at betterPropaganda.

  • And while we are on the subject of pleasant and unpretentious music

You might also heed Pattie's recommendation from mid-March and treat yourself to a download of the fragrantly-monikered Guano Boys' reggae-spiced cover of the World's Favorite Guitar Song, Santo and Johnny's Sleep Walk, available here.  Just when you think it's over . . . mmmmm, flugelhorn.

  • In Closing: Mandatory Los Angelocentric Content

A link in L.A. Observed leads to Los Angeles Time Machines, a site devoted to the still-standing exemplars of Los Angeles restaurants and bars from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s -- places the likes of Canter's, El Coyote and the HMS Bounty.   The Bounty was still the preferred lunchtime watering hole for Los Angeles' leading insurance attorneys when I was starting out in the law game.   Three stiff scotches and back before the jury.   O, they were giants in those days (or at least their livers were giants).


* Nomenclatural Explication: TW3 is the preferred shorthand for "That Was The Week That Was" -- get it?  TWTWTW=TW3? -- a current-events-based satirical program created for the BBC in 1962 then imported in an American version that ran on NBC (live, from New York) between 1963 and 1965.   Featuring such notables as David Frost (imported from the original), Buck Henry, Alan Alda and puppeteer Burr ("Kukla, Fran and Ollie") Tillstrom, the program is best remembered today for having incorporated the occasional song by Tom Lehrer, whose contributions were later compiled as That Was the Year That Was.   On this weblog, "TW3" refers to the somewhat less frequent than weekly posts compiling miscellany and ephemera found in my wanderings that haven't found a home in any other post.


Another amalgam of this 'n' that, stumbled upon whilst out and about:

  • O! O! O! That Cthulhuhuvian Rag! Dept.:

H. P. Lovecraft, of all people, parodies T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land in his own poem, Waste Paper.  Excerpts:

Out of the reaches of illimitable night
The blazing planet grew, and forc'd to life
Unending cycles of progressive strife
And strange mutations of undying light
And boresome books, than hell's own self more trite
And thoughts repeated and become a blight,
And cheap rum-hounds with moonshine hootch made tight,
And quite contrite to see the flight of fright so bright
I used to ride my bicycle in the night

* * *

Fry the fat, fat the fry
You'll be a drug-store by and by.
Get the hook!
Above the lines of brooding hills
Rose spires that reeked of nameless ills,
And ghastly shone upon the sight
In ev'ry flash of lurid light
To be continued.

[Found entirely by accident.  I can't rightly recall where.  Apologies to whoever I ought to be crediting here.]

  • Attention devotees of Hayao Miyazaki, world's master animator:

Links to the trailer for the American release of Howl's Moving Castle -- last mentioned here in February -- in nearly every size and format imaginable, are available through Ain't It Cool News, if you'll just step through the convenient hyperlink here.   Opening date, at least in the major markets, will be June 10 (exactly one year prior to the next Pixar release).   Disney has not yet launched an official site, but one can always rely on to keep one apprised of all things Miyazaki.

Illustrations for each and every page -- all 760 of them -- of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.  [Link via ::: wood s lot ::: .]

  • Attention connoisseurs of political speechifying, and cock-eyed optimists:

Linked and quoted in any number of places (might as well get it from Jeff Jarvis), former President of these United States William Jefferson Clinton speaking at the tenth anniversary observances of the Oklahoma City bombing:

It seems almost impossible that it's been a decade, doesn't it? The memories are still so clear.  Yet, by the grace of God, time takes its toll not only on youth and beauty, but also on tragedy.  The tomorrows come almost against our will.  And they bring healing and hope, new responsibilities and new possibilities.

It falls apart in the last sentence -- too generically late-20th-Century-inspirational/political/generic for my personal taste -- but the highlighted passage is near-Elizabethan in its succinct expression of the capital-"T" Tragic View of Life, which paradoxically is at the same time the Belligerently Optimistic View, to wit:  Life is frequently miserable, and we have no right as mortal creatures to expect otherwise, but Life is at the same time continual, grand, miraculous, and the best thing we could ever ask for, so let us cherish it and reel and marvel that we are here to perceive it at all.  I wonder where the erstwhile President's writers found that one.

  • Annals of Collectivist Kitsch Dept.:

Behold! Power Porcelain for the People.


Say, wasn't this touted as a weekly feature?   In any case, another hodgepodge of news and links from elsewhere:

  • Limerictionary Dept.:

Having only managed a single double dactyl since the beginning of the year, you can imagine how intimidated I am by the contributors to the OEDILF: The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

Among poetry webloggers, Henry Gould mentioned the project at the beginning of the month, but it first came to my attention some time back via Graham Lester's point2point weblog.  Graham has just posted his own ten most recent contributions to the Great Work.

  • "It's Raining, Time to Cover Up" Dept.

Los Angeles' remarkably wet winter/rainy season is at or near its end, and is widely reported to have been the "second wettest" on record, following the winter of 1883-1884.  The Pasadena Star-News, for example, reports as much here.  But is it true

At least two nay-sayers have begged to differ, arguing strongly that the real championship season in the Los Angeles rain stakes was the winter of 1861-62.  They have submitted opinion pieces to the Los Angeles Times, but the Times, which seemingly has some vested interest in backing 1883, has refused to print the truth.

L.A. Observed is all over this scandalous journalistic lapse and has provided a forum for the otherwise suppressed articles.  Here, journalist Frances Dinkelspiel provides a near-apocalyptic description of the damage wrought by 28 straight days of rain:

The surging waters from the Los Angeles River rushed through the small downtown, carrying driftwood, mud and sand as it enveloped the row of shops.  [Isaias W.] Hellman, who not long before had made his home in the store’s back room, rushed with his two cousins to salvage any goods they could.  As the three men started to grab shoes, books, tobacco and other goods, the saturated adobe walls started to crumble and they were forced to flee.

When the floodwaters receded, Los Angeles had been transformed.  The façade of the Church of Our Lady the Queen of Angeles, which had stood sentinel in the Plaza for 40 years, melted away, its straw and mud bricks unable to withstand the water’s onslaught.  The cascading river ripped out thousands of grapevines.  Sand lay a foot thick over once-fertile orchards. Roads became so impassable that Los Angeles went without mail for 5 consecutive weeks.

Here, you can read Professor Ralph Shaffer of Cal Poly Pomona to similar effect, complete with citations to the Times' own archives.  Professor Shaffer also takes the opportunity to mount his own particular hobby-horse, the silly idea that Los Angeles exists in "a desert":

Some day the Times will finally concede and print my oft-rejected op-ed about the myth promoted by the paper that LA is a desert.  Name another "desert" city in the world that has 34 inches of rain 4 times in 143 years, or has an average [rainfall] of 15 inches!

  • High Tech vs. High Culture Dept.:

Two articles this week emphasize the sorrows afflicting both consumers and producers of recorded classical music in this high-tech, highly litigious era:

  • Via Byzantium's Shores, I find that the Arizona Republic has republished this week's otherwise-unavailable-to-nonsubscribers Wall Street Journal article on the uneasy marriage between classical music and the age of the digital download:

Pity the classical-music fan.  While lovers of pop, rock, jazz, folk and rap can surf the Web and easily download everything from Iggy Pop to 50 Cent, the digital age has left consumers with a taste for portable Tchaikovsky more or less in the lurch.  Popular sites like Napster, Yahoo Inc.'s Musicmatch and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Music devote only 2 percent to 10 percent of their offerings to classical works, and the hunt for a specific track can be tough going, especially for classical fans with sophisticated tastes.

'It's like the budget bin at a record store,' says opera singer Susan Graham, who has searched sites like Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes for specific recordings of works such as Mahler's 'Songs of a Wayfarer' or his 'Ruckertlieder' but has come away empty-handed.  ITune's selection, she says, 'was very mainstream, with only the most popular or generic offerings.'

I spotted an oddity on display in the classical materials in Apple's iTunes Music Store myself: I was looking for a recording of Carl Nielsen's short orchestral piece Saga-Drom.  The piece is available as part of this Herbert Blomstedt-conducted collection of Nielsen's concertos and miscellaneous pieces, which is for sale in the iTunes store.  Saga-Drom itself is downloadable, however, if you download the entire album.  (If I want the entire album, which I might sometime, I'll buy it as a CD, thanks.)  More oddly, it appears that the only portions of the album that are for sale as individual tracks are excerpts (the first third of each of the two movements, but not the remaining two-thirds of either movement) of the Violin Concerto.  Peculiar.

  • This morning's Los Angeles Times spotlighted a copyright case now on appeal in the UK in which Lionel Sawkins, the musicologist-editor of the scores of French Baroque composer Michel-Richard de Lalande, has been awarded substantial damages for infringement against Hyperion, a smallish record company that used his edition for a well-received recording.  The issue is whether the "edition" has an existence and copyrightability separate from that of the preexisting, public domain compositions it contains.  The Times hides the story in its pay-only Calendar section, but PlaybillArts also provides a report:

    In an apparently unprecedented move, Sawkins demanded royalties from the label, claiming that the intense research involved in creating the edition entitled him to the same rights as the author of a work.  Hyperion agreed to pay a 'hire fee' for the use of Sawkins' version, but refused to pay royalties, arguing that 'an edition of existing musical work that is a faithful reproduction of Lalande's music cannot itself be an original music work.'

* * *

'I am not persuaded that one can reject a claim to copyright in a new musical work simply because the editorial composer has made no significant changes to the notes,' Justice Patten wrote.  'The question to ask in any case is whether the new work is sufficiently original in terms of the skill and labour used to produce it.'

* * *

'I am delighted with the outcome, which should fire a shot across the bows of record companies,' Sawkins said in a statement last year.  'Too often in the past editors have been prepared to sacrifice their rights in order to see their edition of a long-forgotten masterpiece recorded.'

A statement recently issued by Hyperion said, 'If the…decision is allowed to stand, the consequences for the recording industry will be far-reaching.  Publishers will be able to exert copyright on a whole swathe of editions which are currently in the public domain.'

(Italics added.)  If Hyperion's appeal is unsuccessful, the damage award is predicted to exceed one million pounds, which the company says will significantly cripple its business.

  • Favorite Symbols from American Literature Dept.:

Dr. Eckleberg, we presume.

  • "Why do the Wrong People Travel?" Dept.:

Naturally, this is the line on which I'll be booking my next cruise.
[Via ::: wood s lot ::: and Giornale Nuovo.]


Edition No. 4 of the accumulated what-have-you from The Week That [Most Recently] Was, in which we begin in the realm of high culture, gradually lower our standards as we proceed toward the end, then stop:

  • "What?  You, Will?" Dept.:

George Hunka points to a Guardian piece in which various contemporary writers set themselves to imagining William Shakespeare.  Dominic Dromgoole pictures him on one of his last evenings, drinking with Jonson and Drayton, a strange archaic has-been, and includes this:

The magnificent and elegant farewell of The Tempest has been compromised and compromised by comeback after comeback.  A little helping out with Thomas More, collaboration on Henry VIII no one can bring themselves to mention The Two Noble Kinsmen. . . .

I, for one, do not share their qualms about the Kinsmen

For contemporary fictional speculation on Will & Co., I recommend Robert Nye's The Late Mr. Shakespeare; I am less enthusiastic for Nye's Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works, which I found to be ultimately a one-joke item (and that joke unpersuasively perverse).  Nye first came to notice on this side of the Atlantic with his delicious fictional memoir of Sir John Falstaff back in 1976, and that book remains well worth searching up.  Anthony Burgess, I suppose, remains the gold standard in the fabulated-Bard field, with his Nothing Like the Sun.

  • A. Miller's Tale/The Night of the Hunter:

More in a theatrical vein: Professor Althouse compares and contrasts the reactions to the deaths of Hunter S. Thompson and of Arthur Miller:

Have you noticed the difference in how the press has covered the deaths of these two prominent writers?  When Arthur Miller died, the press did what was necessary to mark the passing of the man who was generally recognized as a major literary figure (and had the celebrity plus factor of having been married to a mega-celebrity).  But the outpouring of interest in Hunter S. Thompson doesn't seem to be an effort to give coverage equivalent to his literary standing.  It seems to be an expression of genuine, spontaneous love. That's my impression anyway.

That's my impression, too.  While both Thompson and Miller spent much of their time demanding that we pay attention to the nasty tentacled things that swim just beneath the seemingly placid surfaces of American lives, Miller was as much as anything else praised because his enthusiasts knew with certainty that he was Good For You.  He was the theatrical equivalent of spinach: healthful, perhaps even occasionally necessary, more than once genuinely enjoyable, but not what you want to have for dinner every night.  Thompson's every phrase rejected what was Good For You and all its works, at least on the surface, making him more like a really tasty, vitamin fortified breakfast cereal -- Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, perhaps.  Snap!  Crackle!  Pop!  Eat it by the handful, why don't you?

George Hunka (again) pointed out earlier in the month that Miller left more than a few stones in the passway of post-war American drama:

Unfortunately, high school students of that generation were therefore led to believe that serious drama had all the rather turgid, socially-relevant historical solemnity that The Crucible possesses in such abundance.  It's hard for me to consider Miller's work objectively, though I must say his popularity rather doomed a generation or so of American theater audiences to sub-Ibsenite naturalism, no matter how compassionate his politics, and therefore made it harder for American playwrights to stretch the boundaries of the form.  His influence is seen even now in such socially-relevant realists as Neil LaBute, not to mention hundreds of playwrights who seem to feel that their apparently clueless audiences need to be endlessly reminded of the Hypocrisy of the American Dream.  But Willy Loman remains an affecting figure for many of us, even if it's been years since the American sales force started behaving more like David Mamet's crew in Glengarry Glen Ross than Miller's idealistic drummers.

In connection with HST's self-inflicted demise, I have thus far successfully resisted the temptation to devise some macabre pun on the late Warren Zevon's song title, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner."

  • ZimmerBerry Dept.:

Apropos of Anton Chekhov, who drew some attention below (including a guest appearance in the comments by the elusive Aaron Haspel), here is an odd assertion reported by Luc Sante in his very interesting NYRB consideration of the memoirs of Bob Dylan:

He doesn't discuss such major works as Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde or the huge, only partly issued body of work known in aggregate as The Basement Tapes. He doesn't mention Blood on the Tracks, either, although when he writes, 'Eventually I would even record an entire album based on Chekhov short stories—critics thought it was autobiographical,' it would seem, by process of elimination, to be the record he is referring to. But is he serious?

Sante earns extra points for his several references to and quotations from recurring Fool Favorite John BerrymanGoogle leads to several unforeseen Berryman-Dylan connections, including this gallery of work by artist Karen Schwartz, who has created portraits of both men -- Berryman is shown during one of his beardless periods, in which he always looked particularly forlorn -- and the hitherto unsuspected, painfully earnest organ-driven dirge that is The Ballad of John Berryman as performed by Minneapolis singer-songwriter Barry Thomas Goldberg.  And here, writing in The Spectator, Grey Gowrie provides a glimpse of one man's opinions on the other:

Robert Zimmerman took his name from Dylan Thomas (which infuriated John Berryman, a greater songsmith for poetry, a musical non-starter).

Berryman was present -- in some reports he was the only person present -- at the hospital bedside of Dylan Thomas when Thomas died.  Hence, perhaps, his protectiveness toward the late poet's name.

  • Piratical Maid of All Writs Dept.:

Defenestrated recently?  I hate when that happens, myself.  I recommends ye should hire yerself an aggressive advocate such as this one so that justice may be done, matey.  [I found this through Walter Olson at Point of Law, but it seems to be circulating far and wide.]

  • "I Want to try to be nice to Everyone" Dept.:

    And in conclusion: via stereogum, here is a link to a streaming Quicktime version of the video for "Nature Anthem" by Fresno- (Modesto-?) based band Grandaddy.

It's just sweet and silly, that's all: a peppy little singin' 'round the campfire tune accompanied by what looks like a low-budget remake of Magical Mystery Tour filmed during the Easter egg hunt at a convention of high school sports mascots.  It fits neatly into my underutilized "Moose and Squirrel" archives, because there is a moose in it and there are as well at least two squirrels.  And, looking very relaxed, a big brown beaver on drums. 

Did I mention it's sweet and silly?  Yes, it is and I did.  That is all.


Yet another eclectic compilation of links.  Surely something more substantive will soon follow.  Until then:

Yes, blogs are oddly distant, alienated, anti-social. But then again, most people you meet in person these days are on the phone.

Bonus item: " Poe's last photo(?)"

  • "Oh to be in England" Dept., Vox Populi Edition:

Writing at Crooked Timber, Daniel Davies identifies the "[u]seful site of the year, and it’s only January".  Simply provide with your locale and it gives you the means to contact all of your elected officials, including MPs, members of the European Parliament, local Councilors, etc.   Here, for instance, is what you get if you enter a UK postcode for Basingstoke.   Is any enterprising American providing a similar service on this side of the pond?

  • Of course, one's relations with one's representatives may be comparable to that between Glendower and the spirits in Henry IV, Part I:

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep!

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

  • Speaking of elected officials, witness the weblog of the man whose signature is on my law degree: Mayor, former Governor and wanna-be Attorney General of California, Jerry Brown. (Via BuzzMachine/Jeff Jarvis.)
  • Wine Whine Dept.:

*Sigh*  From yesterday's Wall Street Journal (not available online to non-subscribers, and transcribed here from a sheet of newsprint), more on the impact of Sideways on the Santa Barbara County wine country: 

The movie, which is nominated for five Academy Awards at next week's Oscar[®] ceremony in Hollywood, has inspired a cult-like following in recent months, with out-of-town visitors flocking to the region's bars and restaurants.  The movie's combination of wine-country touring, comic camaraderie and late-night soul-searching has resonated with a discerning adult audience.  The most ardent fans are not just here visiting: they are also re-creating scenes from the script.

The craze is like a grown-up version of what grew out of the 1975 camp musical 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show,' which ever since has had moviegoers dressing and talking like the characters.

    * * *

By far the most frequently mimicked moment is one in which Mr. Giamatti's character, an incorrigible wine snob named Miles, declares: 'If anyone orders merlot, I'm leaving.  I am not drinking any f--- merlot.'  All day long, tourists traipse through local wineries and restaurants featured in the movie repeating Mr. Giamatti's colorful outburst and casting aspersions on one of the country's most popular varietals.

Rocky Horror fans at least have the courtesy to keep their fandom inside the movie theater, for the most part, and out of the tasting room.  (More merlot abuse is available here, in a remarkably scattershot item from Newsweek.)

In other Sideways news, there's this:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - And the Oscar for Hollywood's word of the year goes to 'pinot,' as in pinot noir, the wine variety of choice in 'Sideways,' one of the five films nominated this year for a best picture Academy Award.

The Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that monitors word use, said 'pinot' tops its annual list of show business words that influenced the English language last year.  The winner for 2003 was 'wardrobe malfunction.'

UPDATE [2/19/05]:  Yee-ha!  Yep, I'm still on this particular hobby horse!  Thanks to a link from AOL's Notebook Los Angeles to my original Sideways rant, I can point you to even more, such as:

  • "Oh to be in England" Dept., Noblesse Oblige Edition:

Alice Bachini, who incidentally harbors a healthy dislike of telephones (cf. Henry Gould, supra), has returned from Texas to her native land ("So, tuberculosis, homelessness, drug-dealers . . . I'm really starting to feel like a modern English person again!"), and is providing behavioral tips for royals:

It frankly amazes me that in all the discussions we have these days about the monarchy, nobody ever seems to suggest that perhaps if they just behaved with a bit more decorum they might actually be a perfectly decent asset to the country rather than a bunch of pick 'n' mix loons. Prince Charles' marital life is his own affair, but if he could just manage not to be photographed being groped by half-naked girly popstars for a few months, I personally would have slightly more respect for him. And if they all need to get drunk and yell at people, why can't they do it at private gatherings rather than in Irish pubs? Sorry, but I just find it strange.

  • On Photography:
  • Brian Micklethwaite demonstrates how certain clever Frenchmen have determined that when it comes to photos of the Eiffel Tower intellectual property is, like sex, a trick of the light.
  • And as always, I recommend that you follow the photo postings from my talented chum Rick Coencas at Futurballa.   Rick's in a bit of a wine country mode himself this week.  Last week, it was studies of Fallingwater falling water.  Kerplunk.
  • "Hang ten on the raft, Huck honey!"