Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'm Dead and They're Talking about Wheat?

While we're on the topic, here's a picture of Leonard Nimoy as an Army sergeant in the mid-50s ...

Live long and prosper.

Anthony Mason, dead at 48

Rest in peace, old friend.  You and Starks were, for a while, my favorite Knicks.

What about Patrick?
Patrick is in a different category.

Anthony Mason, dead at 48 of a massive heart attack ...

Adios Campagnolo.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wrestling with Wayne

I was speaking with a friend the other day who sits on his town's city council.  Not local, just so we're clear.  And he spoke in a slightly disparaging manner about his neighbors.  I responded by saying they weren't neighbors, they were constituents.  And he should be thinking good things about them, generally speaking, since his job was to help guide their mutual community in a positive direction.

He had some good things to say in rebuttal of this, and it got me thinking about my painting of Wayne LaPierre.  Which looked like this about a week ago ...

I post this because I'm about to white out all the annotations and I thought a public record of Version 1 would be a good idea.

In the end, the whole thing speaks to a general disappointment in what people have to say when they write on my paintings.  This isn't a new thing -- long ago I started whiting out comments like "I Love New York" and crap of that ilk.  You think I'm doing this for my fucking health?  If you're going to write something, write something worthwhile.

So angered, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  It looks like this now ...

The change being that I found a website that listed the top 25 mass shootings in US history, I then researched the victims and added their names (red for fatalities; black for wounded) in a willy-nilly manner all about the painting plus, in bold type, if that's the right term, the locations and dates of the shootings.

The idea was a good one, but the execution was terrible.  I decided something as serious as this merited a better rendition of the names.  So, in about an hour, I will have whited-out the entire background, leaving just this ...

I will then re-enter the names of the victims in as orderly a manner as I am able, given that I'm writing on canvas with a sharpie, and printing has never been my strongest suit.  

I think it will be better that way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

195 years

195 years of weather data on record in Albany.  Currently standing second, we are flirting with the coldest February on record.  For, like, ever.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Twinkling of Toes

Were I enough of a celebrity, I'd totally join the cast of Dancing with the Stars, shave my chest, apply spray tan and do the nastiest tango ever with Cheryl Burke.  And she would like it, the way a woman likes it when a man can give her a really good tango.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

I'm less sure that Michael Sam doing it is such a good idea, however.  Mr. Sam, if you're totally out of the loop, is the former SEC defensive player of the year who couldn't quite stick with the NFL.  Some attribute this to institutional homophobia -- Sam having publicly "come out" prior to the draft and then (quelle horreur!) kissed his lover on national TV when they called his name.  But really it's because he's a tweener:  Too big for linebacker; too small for the defensive line.  And you can't blame that on being gay.  It just is what it is.

That said, I'm sure he's going to try again next year to make a team.  And so, in the meantime, I'm not sure Dancing with the Stars is the best career move.  Sure it's fun.  And Emmitt Smith won the thing.  But not all of us are Emmitt Smith, I can promise you.

Were I Sam, I'd have joined one of those cage boxing organizations instead.  The ones with initials like WWE or something.  Establish my bona fides in the Department of Perceived Toughness.  It almost goes without saying that the NFL is rife with homophobia, and it's going to be hard enough to crack into the league wearing Capezios.

I will say this about Michael Sam:  First, I admire him greatly.  Second, I have to believe he's good enough to play somewhere in the NFL.  I refuse to believe he's not as good as or better than the sea of rank and file second-string linebackers who populate the league's special teams.  So next season will be interesting to see if he can actually prove that correct.  I just would have preferred that he attempted it in a relative vacuum.

On further thought ...

Maybe this is all just part of the larger plan.  No excuses, no apologies, no explanations.  This is who I am, and I am now going to try and sack your quarterback.  See if you can keep me from doing so.

Which makes it seem all the more admirable.  Me?  I'm a pragmatist.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Times Magazine Reinvents Itself

I'm not completely convinced, but I've only read it online.  Which doesn't really give you a feel for a magazine, it just gives you a feel for the articles.

One fact sticks out, though.  In an article about Tusk, the Fleetwood Mac follow-up to Rumours (one of the most successful albums in history), it notes that Tusk, a double album, cost $15.98 at the time and that number, adjusted for inflation, is fifty-two dollars and change.


I'm listening to it now and, man, I'm totally not spending fifty bucks to download this thing.  Thank God I don't have to.  It's a new world, friends, and nobody owns anything.  We just rent access to the shit we want for five bucks a month.

Truth in Blogging Department:  I've actually found I'm perfectly happy with the free version of Spotify, so instead of paying anything I listen to the commercials instead.  Which is surprisingly okay.  Makes me feel like I'm part of the human species.

One complaint:  There's supposed to be a poem every week in the reinvented Magazine.  I couldn't find it.  I'll wander down to the library in the next day or so and see if I can find it there.

This, for you completists, is Stevie Nicks' high school yearbook picture ...

Witch in training, if you will.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Now We're Just Messing Around

This Strawberry-Fields-Forever-business may have some legs ...

Under The Category of Sometimes You Just Can't Win

I refer, of course, to the notion that I close my painting blog, open my writing blog, and now all I can think about these days is painting.

Some time ago there was a discussion about painting the most controversial players of the Arab Spring and having them annotated.  Guys like Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein and, somewhat more distantly, the Shah of Iran.  This was shelved for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the notion, recently reinforced by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, that some people don't have a sense of humor and it wasn't a great idea to paint these guys, let everybody write what they want on the paintings (which here in America was likely to be negative), and then wait around for the jihad to knock on the door.

Nothing good was going to come of that.

Nonetheless, while the original mulling was going on I took the idea for a spin and painted former Libyan strong-man Muammar Gaddafi.  Which I titled No One Writes to the Colonel.  Which I thought was strong.  But I didn't feel like I got a lot of traction with the annotations and so I kind of stepped away.

Waste not want not.

I've recently been thinking that the idea remains a good one, although a fundamental change of direction might be a good idea.  Thus, through the magic of Artrage, these two bad boys ...


One of the not-as-yet-fully-realized trains of thought is shooting for a 60s psychedelic throw-back vibe, and there's a Sergeant Peppery feel to the bottom one that fits that bill and makes me happy.  As for the top one, I'm trying to tap into a Japanese woodcut kind of a thing -- the Zen of which (completely wrong use of that word, although Zen is one of those words that everybody mis-uses) offers a nice counterpoint to the general nastiness of Colonel Gaddafi.

In the end, combining a painting with some Artraging (at least at the level of my computer talents) is an imperfect process.  The results are better as explorations of ideas than as works of art in and of themselves.  Obviously.  Nonetheless, I am a bit fired up about the whole thing.

I can't find a picture of it right now, but years ago I did a series of works involving an actual wedding dress attached to the canvas with a spray of flowers coming out of it.  You have to see it to believe it, but somewhere in there was something that ended up somewhere in all this.

Plus, I've been thinking about Kehinde Wiley, although this idea preceded my thinking about him.  I would, however, like to get to the Brooklyn Museum to see his big show.  Check out the review here.  I'm a fan.

This floats around in the mix as well ...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ahhh, Memory

I can't wait for Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel, The Buried Giant.  It's his first foray into high Fantasy, and since he and I are the same age, I can identify.

I also felt him a bit when I read this about him in the Times.  The full article is here ...

Despite his wandering appetite when it comes to genre, Mr. Ishiguro
has been remarkably consistent in his pared-down prose style and in the
themes he returns to obsessively. Time and the porous nature of memory
are long-running preoccupations of Mr. Ishiguro’s, and lately, they’ve
become more of a practical than a philosophical concern. At 60, he says he
feels his mental powers slipping. He points to revered authors like
Faulkner, Dickens and Hemingway who produced their best work in their
30s and worries about how he will age as a writer.

“Everything’s declining,” he said. “I used to be able to hold really
complicated things in my head at once, complicated worlds. Now if I have
an idea, I write it down.”

I peeled this off the Times website and I knew it 
would be screwed up, so there you are.

[bit of a pause]

Now I've managed to fix the excerpt but 
everything else is screwed up.  What the hell
am I doing way over here?  I wonder if this 
happens on Wordpress.
Anyway, the beauty of painting is that you don't have to remember anything, functionally speaking.  That is to say, while writing chapter ten you don't have to remember what happened in chapter four because it's all just sitting there in front of you.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Circus Maximus

One hesitates to apply words like wonderful to weapons of war, but really, check out this footage of a band of Fokker Dr. 1 triplanes.  We're talking World War One and Manfred von Richthofen here.


We live in a world filled with cars that apply the brakes for us and correct our direction if we shade a bit too far left or right in our lanes.  Which is probably fine on several levels while being a bit soul-sucking on another.

I look at these hundred-year old airplanes and it's the mechanicalness of the things that strikes me.  I remember once visiting the Air and Space Museum in Washington and inspecting, by way of a catwalk, the cockpit of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 (which in its day was almost as extraordinary as the Fokker).  The Messerschmitt was a vastly more sophisticated airplane than the Fokker, but I remember to this day being struck by what a barbaric collection of wires and pulleys and duck tape and such the damned thing was.

I suppose I should say that I speak as someone who thinks the Triumph TR3A is the zenith of automotive engineering.  So add salt to this particular recipe.

It is 14 degrees here in Iceland, which feels like a warm snap.  In reading about the Fokker (which I didn't set out to do, but rather stumbled across it the way one sometimes does things on the internet) I learned that its 110 horsepower engine could generate a top speed of 103 mph and the plane could reach an altitude of 20,000 feet.  Imagine doing the ton in one of these things at 20,000 feet.  Talk about cold.

On a parallel note, the TR3's engine generated 100 horsepower and could generate a top speed of 100 miles per hour.  So, on some level, the TR3 and the Dr. 1 were almost the same machine.  And I am here to tell you, friends, that going 100 in that car was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.  And in the winter it was stunningly cold.

I can say this with considerable confidence because I owned three of the damned things.  Although one was just a parts car, so maybe we say two and a half.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter is coming

This, of course, is the Stark family motto not a weather report.  The weather report, as everybody east of the Mississippi knows, says that winter is here.  The good news is that it will be behind us soon enough.

What is coming is the next season of Game of Thrones. I am enjoying the little bits and pieces of bread the producers toss on the path so we, pathetic creatures that we are, follow where we are told.  Case in point this deleted scene between Bronn (one of my favorite characters, so I'm sure somebody will kill him soon enough, just to fuck with me) and Shae (also one of my favorite characters; already dead).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Exile on Knicks Street

Busy day here at TYOMW, which isn't as cool an acronym as TYOMP, which was pronounced "Triumph."  Like the motorcycle, not the victory.

Interesting distinction.
Thank you.

Alas, Amar'e Stoudemire has been waived by the Knicks.  The general thinking is that he'll be picked up by the Mavericks to buttress their front line.  Live long and prosper, Amar'e.  On a sabermetrics note, Amar'e averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per 36 minutes played, which is actually pretty damned good.

He posted this poem on his Instagram account ...

NY NY what a beautiful city
A place where you can hang out with Anna, JayZ & Diddy
Its a place absent of excuses and patience
If your smart, you can meet leaders of every nation
NY NY big city of dreams
Everything in NY isnt always what it seems
In the land where the jungle is concrete
The money flows Dow Jones and Wall Street
Home of #STATcity and the #Knickstape Orginator,
Shalom to all my fans, Salute to all my haters.
Peace and Love
Amar’e Carsares Stoudemire Sr.
Me?  I was always fond of the guy, disfunction and all.  Shalom, big guy.

Lo, There do I see my Father ...

So.  On a positive note, it's almost eleven in the morning and it's still four degrees below zero.  Fahrenheit!  And thinking of cold and ice invariably casts the mind towards the Northlands.  To the Vikings!

You may not give a shit about Vikings.  But take it from me, Geoffrey V. V. Raymond.  Speaking as somebody following in the footsteps of George R. R. Martin and Jay R. R. Tolkein, these people are important.  So imagine my delight when, lo and behold, I read today that Ragnar Lothbrok has returned.  Ragnar, for those of you not fully in the loop, is the character played by Travis Fimmel in "The Vikings."  Which can be found on the History Channel, starting tonight.

The Times writes ...
It’s a well-acted, relatively lavish epic about Vikings, their lusts and their power struggles, a PG-13 “Game of Thrones” with a smattering of actual history. It focuses on Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), who is on quite a personal journey. He started the series as a farmer whose interest in exploring put him at odds with the local leader, who preferred the tried-and-true routes for pillaging. Now, as Season 3 begins, Ragnar is a king.
Fimmel is one of those actors -- Timothy Olyphant also jumps to mind -- that makes you look at him.  Which is saying something, since his wife on the show (now ex-wife, although I'm not sure actual Vikings used that term) is excruciatingly hot.

Consider this ...

And this ...

And it wouldn't be a post about Vikings without a clip from The 13th Warrior ...

What a fucking movie.  When Beowulf (actually his name is Buliwyf, but nobody's fooled) appears dragging his sword, having risen from his deathbed to lead his men in battle, you know:  a) the Vikings are going to kick some ass, and b) some of these dudes will be drinking mead with their fathers in the Halls of Valhalla before the end of day.

One Last Thing On David Carr

The past several days have been full of loving, funny appraisals and appreciations of David Carr, a good number generated by The Times itself.  Themselves?  I can never tell.

Anyway, this is a good one, and with it I mark the end of my David Carr mourning period.  Titled "David Carr's Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students," it digs a bit into his cut-short BU professorship designed to help mint "the next generation of journalists."  Don't forget to click through and read his syllabus (also here for your convenience).  It's enough to make me wish I had attended college in the age of the internet.

I was especially taken by the fact that much of the coursework was collaborative, and the vehicle for that collaboration was the writing website  While I was between blogs I used Medium as an intermittent outlet for saying whatever nonsense I needed to say, and I loved it.  Although I've moved away, I remain a big fan.

In closing, I suppose I should also say that if you ever get a chance to watch "Page One," a documentary about The Times wrestling, in part, with its place in the changing landscape of electronic journalism, I would urge you to do so.  Carr features heavily.

Adios Campagnolo.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Screencaps for Grampa

Who knew it was going to be this big a pain in the ass?  Anyway, herewith the obit ...

Dying In the Newsroom

The overlooked part of David Carr's death, to me, is the fact that he died in the newsroom, doing a job he clearly loved.

Me?  When my time comes, I'd like about two weeks notice.  But since wishes like that rarely come true, I could live with a quick exit.  Lady MacBeth, who knew some things about death and dying, shares this valuable nugget ...

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well.  It were done quickly.

Plus, of course, there's John Wooden's famous "Be quick but don't hurry."  Which is easier said than done, and only tangentially pertinent to the question of one's demise.

But dying in the Times newsroom?  I mean, we're not talking the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  We're talking The New York Times.  I would reproduce my grandfather's obit (he too was a Timesman of some note) in the Times below, but they make it almost impossible to do so.  Instead, you can, I believe, read it here.

I bring it up only because my father once said the most interesting thing to me.  It went something like "We knew that father loved us, but we also knew he loved his job more."

His job, during Dad's formative years, was being a newspaper man.  I wonder if David Carr loved it as much as Grandfather did.  I bet so.  And I bet they would both have been pissed to see a typo in their obit like the one that appears in the penultimate paragraph of Grandfather's.

I refer to the spelling of Herald.

UPDATE:  I tried accessing the obit as a Times nonsubscriber and experienced a bit of frustration.  I will renew my attempts to bring you my grandfather's obituary, as it is some fun reading.

What a bummer

One of my absolute favorite Timesmen, David Carr, the former drug addict and current media columnist for the New York Times died in the newsroom tonight around 9pm.  What a bummer.  He was one of those guys that made you say wow, you don't see guys like this every day.

And what a way to go.

Here's a tune to send you on your way, David, in lieu of flights of angels.

Adios Campagnolo.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Nom de Guerre

So I told you I'm working on this second series of books.  The ones that involve the peasant cooking?  In doing so I neglected to mention that, as a return to my roots, these will fall into what's loosely called the genre of High Fantasy.  Swords and fantastical creatures and the usual suspects.  The liberal substitution of "thou" for "you" and "art" for "are."  You've seen it a million times.

Anyway, I call this a return to my roots because my concentration in college was Medieval English.  And who doesn't like to go back and reread Sir Gawain and the Green Light every once in a while?

G'night.  Sleep tight.
No.  I mean it's knight not light.
I believe so.

Anyway, since this is so diametrically opposed to my Vietnam meets Wall Street thing, I've been thinking of adopting a nom de guerre under which to write the damned things.

No.  I mean it's nom de plume, not nom de guerre.
I believe so.
And you don't think writing is like war?
Not exactly.
Then you obviously don't write very much.

Anyway, I've come up with Geoffrey V. V. Raymond as my nom de guerre because, honestly, how much fun is that?

The thinking is:

a) it's kind of catchy
b) it's essentially my name, and
c) it's a riff off of George R. R. Martin and Jay R. R. Tolkein.

And who doesn't want to be like those guys?

Okay.  Then it's settled
No.  I mean it's the initial J, not Jay.
I believe so.
Hmmm.  I've only heard his name spoken -- never actually seen it spelled out.  I just assumed the guy's name was Jay.
Well, think again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gas and Tuna

If I had a mother like Lydia Bastianich I would have been Italian.

Don't get me wrong.  I loved my mother, but she was a nice Irish Catholic girl and I think the Italians have the Irish beat in the cooking department.

All by way of saying I'm working on a second series of short stories and novellas (completely unconnected with Saigon 2B2F) that feature French and Italian peasant cooking as a leitmotif and as research I have been making a habit of watching Lydia B's cooking show on Create TV, which is the second tier PBS channel here in the North Country.  And I am here to tell you, the way she just cooked some tuna steaks has me shaken to the core.  In a good way.  The same way as if you ever saw Julius Erving play in person and, having done so, knew you'd never be the same again?

And I'm not talking Sixers-era Erving.  I'm talking ABA, striped balls and all.

The gist of the thing is that you take a couple of beautiful, inch-thick tuna steaks, toss some salt and olive oil on them, and throw them into the frying pan.  Actually you should gently lay them in -- throw is really a term of art in this situation, not a suggestion.

All of which is fine.  I've traveled the same road many times whilst cooking tuna steaks.  Except that I, at a certain point, have invariably flipped the steaks and finished cooking them on their second side.

Who wouldn't do that?
Exactly my point.  The answer is Lydia Bastianich.  Who is now, totally, if she wasn't already, my hero.

Instead of flipping them, she just cooks them a little longer on the original side, then serves the damned things.  Boom!  The result is a tuna steak that's beautifully caramelized on one side and bright, vivid, tuna-red on the other.  Spectacular.  Like Christmas.

She then places a handful of frisee salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil on top of the steak and, honest to God, seeing this I think I am just going to burst into tears.  In a good way.

The basketball equivalent of this is dunking from the free-throw line.

What does any of this have to do with gas?

I've decided that if I ever find myself in the position of having to buy another stove, I'm not going to buy gas.  I'm going to buy electric, with a convection cook-top.  I am so sick of all the miscellaneous shit falling down in the little nooks and crannies of a gas range that I'm ready for one of those ones that appear to be nothing more than a sheet of black glass on the top.

Something along these lines, although this bad boy looks like it might be expensive ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Lyrics to Highway 61 Revisited

I post this because of the post that precedes it.  I like it when you have the full picture.

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What ?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done ?"
God says. "Out on Highway 61".

Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
Welfare Department they wouldn't give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard where can I go
Howard said there's only one place I know
Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
Ol' Howard just pointed with his gun
And said that way down on Highway 61.

Well Mack the finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get ride of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61.

Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
Told the first father that things weren't right
My complexion she said is much too white
He said come here and step into the light he says hmmm you're right
Let me tell second mother this has been done
But the second mother was with the seventh son
And they were both out on Highway 61.

Now the rowin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

You don't really have to go too much farther than the first verse to know something extraordinary is at work.

"Are we rolling, Bob?"

Since this is a blog about writing, nobody writes like Bob Dylan.  Consider this ...

If you’d had listened to Robert Johnston singing, "Better come in my kitchen, 'cause it's gonna be raining out doors," as many time as I listened to it, sometime later you just might write, "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall."

And this ...

Big Bill Broonzy had a song called "Key to the Highway." "I've got a key to the highway / I'm booked and I'm bound to go / Gonna leave here runnin' because walking is most too slow." I sang that a lot. If you sing that a lot, you just might write,

Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard where can I go
Howard said there’s only one place I know
Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
Howard just pointed with his gun
And said that way down on Highway 61

You'd have written that too if you'd sang "Key to the Highway" as much as me.

A couple of anecdotes about the inevitability of his songwriting taken from an acceptance speech he recently gave for some award.  Rolling Stone Magazine, God blessum, shares the entire speech here.  It is remarkable, if you have some time.  Absolutely remarkable.  I am amused and flattered by Dylan's suggestion that in a different world, if I had listened to "Key to the Highway" as much as he did I might have ended up writing "Highway 61 Revisited."  Instead of him.

Anyway, I was looking on U-Tube to see if I could find a tape of the thing.  I couldn't, but this popped up instead.  I wonder what Bob would say about a computer-generated voice giving us the news ...

I wonder what Brian Williams would say too.

Me?  I got to be going.  I'm going to put an egg in my shoe and beat it.

Revis is God

I once had this idea of massive, flat, assembled-junk sculptures -- bas-reliefs, almost -- that could be hung on a wall like a painting.  I called the would-be series American Shantytown.  It was to be my usual painterly grappling with issues related to the American economy, this time writ large.  Here is a study of the first, and only one ...

It's kind of a riff on that famous bit of 60s graffiti that read "Clapton is God".  In the end I wasn't sure of the viability of the project, plus I didn't really have the space, equipment (a pick-up truck being the most vital) and inclination to pursue it.

All by way of saying that I just finished reading "Collision Low Crossers," a book by some guy named Nicholas Dawidoff.  The gist of the thing is that he was an embedded journalist with the New York Jets for the duration of the 2011 season.   2011, if you don't remember, was the season immediately following the Jets' two forays into the AFC Championship games, and as the book began, hopes were high for another outstanding season.

Then it all turned to shit.  The offense, let by Mark Sanchez, sucked generally.  Wide receiver Santonio Holmes feuded first with the offensive line, then with Sanchez, and then pretty much called it in for the last quarter of the season.  The defense resented the offense's incompetence, and the locker room -- long thought to be a Rex Ryan strong-point -- shattered.

The take-away is this:

Santonio Holmes -- The man, as frequently noted, was pretty much of a shit.

Mark Sanchez -- Sanchez' unrealized potential (and, in fairness, that knucklehead John Idzik's unwillingness to purchase a decent cornerback -- although that's another story) was the iceberg that sank Ryan's Jets career and a lot of others as well.  You kind of wanted to take the kid and shake some sense into him.  The book is brutal in describing what a crappy quarterback he was, and the toll that took on the psyche of the entire team.

Darrelle Revis -- The only good thing about this most recent Superbowl is that Darrelle got a ring.  The book is one long valentine to an amazing athlete, one regarded by almost everybody in the Jets organization with well-deserved awe.  That they let him go still stuns me.

Rex Ryan -- Enough is enough.  Rex deserved to go this year and he did.  But I, like millions of Jets fans, never really held it against him.  The picture painted of him in the book is that of a great defensive coordinator perhaps not ideally suited to be a head coach.  But hey, we all have our faults.  I miss the guy already and he's barely been gone a month.

I'm telling you all this so you don't have to read the book.  I thought it was a bit long and not quite as good as I had hoped, but I had a bad taste in my mouth after the Jets season and thought it might be interesting.  Letter grade: C+.  I'd have graded higher but the author has an odd habit of glossing over some of the really interesting things and focusing on the arcana of the sport.  Of which there's plenty in football.  Specifically, I refer to an incident in the last game of the season when the offensive line told Holmes he wasn't allowed in the huddle and sent him back to the sideline.  Absolutely unheard of.  And all it got was a short paragraph.  A casual mention, where some depth would have been interesting.  It was later glossed over by the Jets with a bunch of coach-speak and subject-changing -- which automatically tells you that there's an untold story, and I would have loved to have heard the real skinny, fully explored.  What's the point of living with the team for a year if you can't scrape up some of the good stuff?  I could come up with other examples if pressed.

Anyway, it was interesting to read a sports book.  I almost never do.  I'm trying to think of the last one I read before this.  But I can't, unless "Seabiscuit" counts.  Which was a great book and when I finish typing this I'm wandering down to the library where, I've been informed via email, they are holding Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire.  Me?  I'm thinking ice.

I say this because the greater Troy region has received 28 inches of snow in the last two weeks.  And, since the temperature has rarely crested freezing during that period of time, the snow that has arrived has chosen to stay.  And if that wasn't enough, more is coming down as I type.

We're talking biblical levels of snow.  The pile of snow in front of my house is so high that when I shovel the walk and throw the snow on the pile, it falls back down on the sidewalk.  Like a little avalanche.

The good news is that I made a pot of really top-drawer chili, and it's nice to eat the chili and stare out the window at the snow.   On a related front, I just finished watching Snowpiercer, the super-bizarre futuristic dystopian saga by Korean director Joon-ho Bong about the entirety of entire human race stuck on a train circling an ice and snow-encrusted world.  Battlestar Galactica meets The Polar Express, if you will.  The back story has something to do with an experiment to end global warming that took things a bit too far the other direction.  Some people have to live in the back of the train and some live in the front.  Class warfare ensues.  I'm guessing New York City will look something like this in five years.

Anyway, I don't know what I was expecting.  But it wasn't what I got.

Four point two five stars.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

You My Bess

Did you happen to watch Cleveland play the Lakers this afternoon?  It was such a gathering of ex-Knicks as to make my heart pump hard against my ribs and tears well in my eyes.  The basketball version of an Entmoot, if that's not too obscure.

Jeremy Lin, for starters, although he's no longer starting for the Lakers.  It's always good to see him.  Linsanity, as brief as it was, was one of the few high points of the last Knick decade.

Then the recently exiled Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith.  Both were key players in the only decent Knicks season in recent history.  56 wins, if I remember correctly.  Beautiful to watch, even though we came apart against the Pacers in the playoffs.  Shumpert had that outstanding haircut and a keen defensive game.  And J.R., who won 6th Man of the Year that year, was one of the loveliest parts.  Like Ophelia -- a bit unhinged and difficult to understand, but beautiful to behold in her terrible majesty.  I love the man, in a sort of a way.

For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze
--Arthur Rimbaud

And finally Timofey Mozgov -- which is a fun way to spell Timothy.  He was part of the core group of engaging, talented young players that the Knicks owner, who we'll refer to as Voldemort, forced Donnie Walsh to give up to consummate the Carmelo Anthony trade.  Which you could perhaps forgive (because the NBA is a league of superstars, so you need some -- even ones as dysfunctional as Anthony),  except for the fact that Anthony was going to be a free agent in a few months and ready to come to New York for nothing.

That was a fun team to watch.  Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari, all spellings approximate, Wilson Chandler and that noble warrior, Amar'e Stoudmire.

That, friends, was a black day for basketball.

Today is a black one too, since it was sometime last night when Dean Smith died.  I never disliked Smith the way a lot of my friends did.

Adios Campagnolo.  Somewhere in heaven they're playing the four corners.

Me?  I'm licking my wounds and listening to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing Summertime from their version of Porgy and Bess.  Which is something, I can tell you.

Summertime and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Yo' daddy's rich and yo' mama's good lookin'
So hush little baby, don't you cry
One of these mornin's you gonna rise up singin'
You gonna spread your little wings and you'll take to the sky
But 'till that mornin' there ain't nothin' gonna harm you
With yo mama and daddy standin' bye
Now it's summertime and the livin' is easy
Them fish are jumpin' and the cotton's 'bout waist high
Yo' daddy's rich and, ya know yo' mama's good lookin'
Now hush little baby, don't you cry
Ah, said it's summertime

It's 13 degrees out, and snowing again.  No fish jumping here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Writing Process, plus a wee bit o Robert Burns. And who doesn't like that guy?

What's that whole business about schemes that "gang aft agley?"

If you're a George R. R. Martin fan, this recently-unearthed pitch letter to his agent is fascinating reading, if for no other reason than it's interesting to see where writers start and where they end.  Or go, in Martin's case, since the end is nowhere in sight.

Under the Truth in Blogging Act, I should say that I found all this in a recent post on Vulture, the online presence of New York Magazine.  Read their piece here, although the meat of the matter is the letter below ...

For you completists, here's the whole Burns poem...

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Ice and snow

I reckon the amount of snow that has fallen on Troy and vicinity in the last four weeks is best measured in feet rather than inches.  Lately it's been nice.  The temperature has not exceeded freezing for the past ten days or so, and that creates a dry, powdery snow that you can just as easily sweep off your steps as shovel.

Prior to that, though, we had some unseemly scenarios where light dustings of snow covered sheets of ice.  Which wasn't nice.  I went down once, then started paying attention.

The other day I passed the mailman on my way to the library.  Person.  Carrier.  And I wondered briefly if the USPS sends their letter carriers to some sort of academy the way the police and fire departments do.  Mostly, I suppose, for training on how to walk effectively in slippery situations.  Pigeon-toed is, I'm told, one of the essential techniques.  Leaning slightly forward rather than backwards has a certain wisdom as well.

On an only slightly related note, it's amazing the advances they've made in cat litter technology.  Amazing.

How is that related to snow and ice?
Because back in the old days, when cat litter consisted of big chunky granules of clay, it was recommended that you carry a bag of it in your trunk and scatter it on the slippery parts of the road if your tires got stuck in a snow bank or something.  Much better than sand for generating grip.
Hmmm.  In Greece we don't have this problem.
No.  I suppose you wouldn't.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dude ...

Today's humbling graphic ...

The Year of Magical Painting used to get ten thousand hits a month.  On February 2, I didn't get a single one.  I'm not complaining, I'm just saying.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Breakfast of Champions

The reason you don't read P.G.Wodehouse in the subway is that when you start laughing uncontrollably, people stare at you.  Some move away.

On a related note, I was in the library this morning reading the New York Magazine profile of Larry David and I realized that roughly the same thing was happening.  With some difficulty I manned up and stifled myself for the duration of the piece.  With success, for the most part.

Read it here.  Highly recommended.

And, for you completists, this was today's breakfast ...

I don't know why I don't style these photos a bit better before taking them.  The stray bits of food on the plate (at the 12:00 and 6:00 marks) really annoy me.  Likewise the chip in the rim.  I wish the fork was straighter too.  And I should have either put more milk in the coffee or none at all.

For the record, this is not a snowy owl.  It's just two eggs on a bed of chicken chili, rice, corned beef hash and sriracha sauce, with a side of whole wheat toast and some coffee.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Duck Fook

Yesterday was a Black Day for the Cavalier Nation.  Today too, because of the hangover.  And what with this being Sunday, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the old parable about not counting your chickens before they hatch.  Although it might not be a parable.  Might just be a saying.

In any case, at a certain point in the second half of the game last night, with the good guys up by eleven, I went out to the coop and started counting my chickens.

Big mistake.

I refer, of course, to the Duke Blue Devil's come-back victory over the team of my foster mother, the University of the State Named After an English Queen.

The key now is to travel to the University of the Northernmost State Named After Somebody Named Caroline and take care of business there.  As for Duke, we shall patiently await a rematch in the finals of the ACC Tournament.  And then we shall see.

Brief personal aside:  Perhaps ten years ago I found myself in Charlottesville attending a Virginia/Duke football game.  A number of Virginia students were wearing simple gray t-shirts with the words "Duck Fook" emblazoned on the front in black type.  It took me the longest time to figure out what the hell was going on.