Wednesday, April 29, 2015

And speaking of Foyle's War ...

... here's a picture of the actor who plays Foyle's son, who flies for the RAF, dressed up as The Young Wolf.

Further proof that there are only about fifty actors in Britain, and every one of them has appeared in either Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones.  Or, in the case of a woman named Rose Leslie, both.

Nice Wings

"Sonk you."

There was a guy in England named Geoffrey Raymond who painted Spads and Sopwith Camels back in the 50s.  Maybe a Hawker Hurricane or two.

I'd love to have this painting.

If you have a reputation for painting certain things -- I, for example, am rightly regarded as a portraitist -- you sometimes get the urge to branch out.  Me?  I think it would be cool to paint sailboats on stormy seas.  Or Spitfires flying over the English Channel.

There is a scene in an episode of Foyle's War (outstanding, absolutely recommended without reservation) in which Foyle's son, who flies for the RAF, is shown taking off in his Spit, cresting the chalk palisades of Dover and winging straight towards France and, like every RAF flyer of his day, a fairly high probability of death or injury.  I found the scene very moving.

Beautiful plane, the Spitfire.  Especially the wings, which were shaped unlike every other plane of its time.  Although this photo looks like it might be a model, or photoshopped in some way.

I'm reminded of that scene from Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder comments on the size of the knockers on the door of the castle and Terri Garr says something like, "Oooof, sonk you Doctor."

You're a sick man.
Sonk you.

If you talk to any Brit of a certain age there's a fair likelihood that the Spitfire is the salient iconic image in that person's mind.  Which is why the fact that Christie's is auctioning off one of the few perfectly restored Spitfires is kind of exciting.  Check it out here, and be sure to click on the "interactive documentary" link in the second paragraph.


If you're too lazy, here's a little promo to get you fired up ...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Willem de Kooning

This is from when he was 80 or so ...

This from his salad days ...

Makes getting old not seem so bad.

All I can think of is that line that goes, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."
Me too.

Nouché! Or: What The Hell Is Wrong With These People?

Nouché is pronounced New Shea.  Because I refuse to call it Citi Field, or whatever people would tell you the name is.  Too much bitterness about banks like Citi almost destroying the world and everything we hold dear.  If that's not too extreme.

I love New Shea.  Great place to watch a baseball game.  Much nicer than New Yankee Stadium, which has an alarming visual similarity to the stadium in which they held the 1932 Olympics.  And we all know how that turned out.

So when Thrillist (a New York-centric click-bait kind of a site, but a good one) sent me a note saying they'd ranked the major league stadiums, I clicked on it immediately.  And before I start carping about what I found, let me say that I appreciate the fact that Thrillist lists the contents of its listicles (articles that are basically lists) all on one page.  So instead of clicking to the next one, which even if you have a fast computer is frustratingly slow, you can just scroll down.

And speaking of which, imagine my anxiety when I scrolled down to find New Shea ranked 28th.  Out of 30!  What the fuck?

Yes, it’s an upgrade from Shea, sure. But that’s like saying Michael Cuddyer is an upgrade over 97-year-old Bobby Abreau; just replacing something that's worn out doesn’t make it great on its own. Which is definitely the case with Citi, where even a center field Shake Shack hasn’t done much to help the Mets -- who’ve got a losing record at home -- draw more than 64% of capacity.

Okay, the Cuddyer bit is amusing, but their basic premise holds no water.  Attendance doesn't make a stadium better or worse, it makes it fuller or emptier.  Fundamentally.

Yankee Stadium came in 27th, which is both a comfort and annoying.

Perhaps no ballpark better represents its city than the new-ish Yankee Stadium. Big, impressive, and talked about in the national media ad nauseum. Once you get there, though, you realize it's way too big, overpriced, and, well, not that much fun. While the Yanks have an impressive home winning percentage in their new park, unimpressive food options and a cavernous feel make this a... sorryboutthis... Bronx Bomb.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One more reason to live in New York ...

Taxidermy classes at the Morbid Museum.  The Times has this.

Apparently they sell out like nobody's business.  They have a squirrel class, a sparrow class and, best of all, a pigeon class.  There are, perhaps, more that aren't on my radar.  I'd look around on your behalf, but I'm too busy listening to Dwight Yoakam's new album "Second Hand Heart."  You'll have to do the work yourself.

Wow.  Who doesn't like Dwight Yoakam?  Granted, you have to be in the mood for country music, and I can certainly understand not being so.  But if you are, and you want a shot of the real shit, not some ashy-assed, watered-down, popped-up crap from bands with cute country-inspired names that have obviously been focus-grouped.

Back to the birds ...

Here.  Let's pull this guy apart and see how he's put together.

And speaking of hawks, I'm #2 on the Troy Library waiting list for the electronic version of "H is for Hawk," about which I can barely contain my excitement.  I went down to the local bookstore the other day and sat there for a while -- it's a damned nice bookstore and they encourage stuff like that -- and read the first chapter or so.  Thought about buying it on the spot then going around the corner and having a glass of wine but thought better of it.

Back to the birds, Part Two ...

And, of course, this ...

What?  You were expecting a Rickenbacker?  Well this is no Rick, friends.  This is David Crosby's Gibson ES-335 that he played whilst a Byrd.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

God Bless America

This is Rosie Mac, Emilia Clarke's body double in Game of Thrones ...

Zowie.  Very Guess Jeans.

Lovely that Ms. Clarke, of whom I'm fond (if for no other reason than I enjoyed watching her sing a bit of Fisherman's Blues in the movie Dom Hemingway), is now a big enough star to have one.  As opposed to the first year of her contract when they pretty much said: "Take off your clothes and stand over there."

Not in a mean way, but still.

This is Ms. Mac suited up for the part ...

Somebody notify the dragons.

We don't usually resort to cheesecake here at The Year of Magical Writing, but it's Wednesday and a man can only think of Mehmet Oz for a limited period of time.

Rosie Mac is a wonderful name, by the way.

Lessons from Woody Allen

So.  Ten doctors wrote to Columbia University and suggested that if Mehmet Oz, the famous Dr. Oz of television, was going to continue to spew quackery and quasi-science on television then they should kick him out of his prestigious post as Clinical Professor of Something or Other.

[From the Truth-In-Blogging Department:  Worth noting that several of the ten doctors have ties with companies like Monsanto and their primary beef was Oz's continued call for elimination/reduction/clearer-labeling of products with GMOs.]

My beef with Dr. Oz is wider ranging.  In the end, medicine and health are only so interesting, and with five hours a week of television to fill, one is pushed to the fringes of science to do stories like "This miracle food may help you lose twenty pounds."  Shit like that.

Dr. Oz, for his part, instead of actually rebutting what these people had to say, offered this ...

"This month, we celebrate my 1000th show," Oz says in the preview clip. "I know I've irritated some potential allies in our quest to make America healthy. No matter our disagreements, freedom of speech is the most fundamental right we have as Americans. And these 10 doctors are trying to silence that right."

Which is a load of crap.  The issue isn't free speech.  Dr. Oz is free to say, within reason, whatever he wants to.  The issue is whether Columbia University should continue its affiliation with a doctor who consistently spouts nonsense in the name of science.

And if the history of politics tells us just one thing, it's that the minute somebody starts railing about having their freedom of speech compromised, he's guilty as sin.

You could argue that Dr. Oz is the Jim Cramer of television medicine.  Meaning that he's a smart man with impressive credentials who spouts so much nonsense that the actual good stuff -- the wheat, if you will -- becomes impossible to separate from the chaff.

"I'm dead.  They're talking about wheat?"

I thought giving Cramer three nipples was a master stroke.
Thank you.  I'm very fond of that painting, not just for the nipples but for the zeal with which people wrote shit all over it.
Too bad somebody bought it.
Indeed.  Having somebody buy one of your paintings is the classic definition of good news/bad news.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Scenes from My Neighborhood

If you live in the Albany area (or anywhere up and down the East Coast, really), take five minutes and watch this scary freaking video from the NYTimes.

I know it's annoying having to click through, but the Times is pretty sensitive about holding tightly onto its proprietary shit.  Which is fine, I suppose.

Question:  At one point the narrator says that the flash-point of Bakken crude is 74 degrees (which, just for minimal peace of mind, I'll assume is Celsius).  I find this hard to believe, by the way.  And the term "flash-point" may be a technical one that doesn't mean what people such as you and I, dear reader, think it does.  But regardless of all that, if the damn stuff is so heat sensitive, why the hell do they transport it in cars that have been painted flat black?

How hot do you think those things get on a sunny August afternoon?

On a happier note, here's something by O. Winston Link ...

Also painted black.  Although the only thing that happens when one of these blows up is scalding water goes everywhere.  Which, if you're standing nearby, is a drag.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Great Gatsby

It would appear to be Scott Fitzgerald day as well.  Here's the Times' review by Edwin Clark dated April 19, 1925 -- a convenient 90 years ago exactly -- of The Great Gatsby ...

Kind of interesting.

The title, which I had to crop, went:  "Scott Fitzgerald Looks into Middle Age."  Which seems to have nothing to do with what I think the book is about, but hey--that's what 90 years of perspective will give you.

God Bless The Child That's Got His Own

Today is Allen Raymond day.  Best father ever, one man's opinion.  I actively miss the old bird on a regular basis and it's been eight years on the button.

That's why it's Allen Raymond day?
Yes it is.

I think the best portraits always have a hand in them.

By that do you mean the artist's hand at work?
No.  I mean a fucking hand.  Like the one holding his glasses.
The artist's hand is a condition of the portrait's existence.  They don't just appear out of thin air.
No.  I suppose they don't.

Anyway, I remember getting the call in the middle of the night.  The phone rang and, given the situation, I knew who was going to be on the other end of the line.  I woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, put some clothes on and drove the ten minutes to the nursing home.  They'd laid him out in a neat bed, sheets smooth, head on a pillow.  I remember putting my hand on his chest and how dense it felt, what with no breathing going on.  One dim light in the room, I sat in the chair next to his bed and waited for the undertakers, unless that's a word like stewardess, to come and take him away, reading on and off one of the books I found at his bedside (although I can't for the life of me remember what it was).  All things considered, it was a pretty nice hour or so.

I have no complaints, other than I wish he was still around.  I spent the last six months of Dad's life in close proximity to him (him in his nursing home and me in his healthy-geezer's condo, surrounded by 70-year-old women who were constantly dropping off food).  I visited three times a day, and when I wasn't visiting I painted a boffo portrait of Robert E. Lee.   In the evenings we'd watch television and chat.  His favorite show was that reality show about young women trying to make the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad.  Go figure.  When he was ready to go, he went.  One of the best six months of my life, oddly enough.

Adios Campagnolo.

Why do you always say that?  Don't you mean compañero?
I've always been partial to Bianchi bicycles with Campagnolo running gear.  So I like to substitute.
That being one of the self-absorbed linguistic flourishes that makes your blogs what they are?
Yes.  That and the ongoing joke about confusing homage and fromage.
I love that one.
Me too.  The urge to title this post "Giving Dad the cheese" was almost overpowering.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Justified, over

I refer, of course, to the television show Justified.  Best show ever!

Well, perhaps not.  Deadwood was better, just for starters.  But I truly loved Justified and I am sorry after six beautiful seasons to see it go.

Here's the official video of the theme song -- also one of the best.

I mention it because in Saigon: Too Big To Fail, Brian Jones eventually joins a band called the Whiteface Niggaz and they sing a bluegrass/rap fusion kind of a thing.

Aaron Hernandez Guilty, plus additional

As if there was a question.  First Degree Murder carries a mandatory life sentence.  I don't like murderers, so I say good riddance.

On an unrelated sports matter, Stephen Curry recent sank 77 consecutive three-pointers during a Golden State practice.  Which is a lot.  Read more here at ESPN's newly redesigned website.  I didn't like the new design at first, being change-averse, but now I'm getting used to it.

On an unrelated web redesign matter, the Mothership recently redesigned her mobile website as well.  I read a fair amount of the Times electronically, and some of that happens on my phone.  Which, once you get used to it, is actually surprisingly pleasant.  I mean, it's not like the print on newspapers is particularly large.

[Brief personal aside:  I continue to hold fast against watching television on my phone.  That seems a bridge too far.  By leagues.]

Anyway, I fired up the old Moto X the other day and the Times app was missing.  Gone.  Nothing in its place.

I immediately figured it was something I did.  Erased it by accident.  Didn't pay the bill.  So I went to the app store and downloaded it again.  Fired it up yesterday and, lo and behold, it's completely different.  Too early to give a letter grade, but I don't hate it as much as I hated the ESPN redesign.

On a related grammatical issue, a lot of people think 'website' is two words, but I just can't make myself type it that way.  What's the point?  One more keystroke for no purpose whatsoever.  Before you know it, people will be using the word decimate to indicate complete annihilation when, in fact, it means reduced by 10%.

They already are.
I hear you.
That's from the Latin, isn't it?
Decimate?  I'm sure it is.
Then this is just one more piece of evidence that the United States is, as is sometimes suggested, following in the steps of Ancient Rome, with rich people in togas eating grapes while the barbarians, poor people and those otherwise in tatters tear the place down.
That's a little extreme.
Maybe yes, maybe no.

All of which makes me think of this Jean-Michel Basquiat painting ...

And this Rolling Stones song ...

Kind of a fun montage of New York in the 70s. That was a tough time for the city. Not shattered, exactly, but certainly in tatters.  I arrived in 1979, but I wish it had been earlier.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I like mine with mustard

I'm fonder of Times restaurant critic Pete Wells after having read his reflections on the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich than I was before.  I tried cutting and pasting it below for your convenience, but the formatting got all weird.  Go here to read it.

Being the Times restaurant critic is a difficult job, a matter of setting yourself up for nasty comments on a weekly basis.  And it seems to me that people dislike Mr. Wells more than they did, say, Frank Bruni.  I'm not sure Sam Sifton (which would be a great name for a detective) was around long enough for anybody to form an opinion.  I'd give Wells a solid B as a letter grade.  So that's not bad.  And now, perhaps, a B+.

I say this because of a line that comes at the end of the seventh paragraph.

"This is one sandwich that is not necessarily improved by better cheese."  

In a world full of artisanal this-ing and that-ing, it's good to know that Pete Wells, a man with standing in the world of food, thinks plain old American cheese, the blood-brother of Velveeta, is the best thing to put on a BEC.

Me?  I like mine with mustard (which always makes the deli guy look at me oddly).  Plain old yellow mustard.  This is one sandwich that is not necessarily improved by better mustard.

Geoff's recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich:

-Melt some salted butter in a cast-iron skillet under medium heat.
-When it is melted, dredge one side of a piece of seeded rye bread in the butter and remove.
-Place the second piece of bread in the pan and, while it is heating, cover it with thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese.  Don't burn yourself on the side of the pan.
-On top of the cheddar sprinkle smallish chunks of bleu cheese.
-Top with the first piece of bread, butter side up.
-Turn the heat down and grill for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.


Get to the Choppa!

Helicopter fly-over for Mets home opener ...

Outstanding.  But who took this picture?  They never heard of autofocus?

And speaking of Ben Bernanke, here's this ...

What a great song.  Done by the same people that did the Sopranos theme song. Let's see if this works ...

The Sopranos Intro (With "Woke Up This Morning... by Speedy149

Monday, April 13, 2015

Wolf Hall

I'm enjoying it, two episodes in.  I've gone on record as saying the book was one of the most annoying things I've read in years -- purely as a function of the prose style and the author's unwillingness to tell you who is saying what -- and yet, months afterward I was still thinking about it.  So score one for Ms. Mantel.

Anyway, the show is going nicely.  Impossible to follow, just like the books, with so many secondary characters that the mind reels, just like the books.  But what should get special mention is how beautiful the thing is visually.  Candles are, for the most part, the primary source of illumination, and how the lighting people make that happen so perfectly is astonishing.

This isn't even close to what I'm talking about, but it gives you a sense.  As you watch it on the screen it's like the lighting director was Rembrandt van Rijn.

Friday, April 10, 2015

This whole Game of Thrones business

I'm one of those people who've read all the books.  But, it should be quickly noted, I'm not one of those fuss-budgets who invest a lot of energy in analyzing how the show differs from the book then complaining about it.  What a tiresome, pedantic way to spend your time.  Take a nap, man.  Refuel the brain.  Go read "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."

Revolutionary concept:  the show might be better than the books!  Which were both fabulous works of High Fantasy and, at the same time, cautionary tales on managing scope, focus and point-of-view.  Book One was great -- really outstanding.  Book Two (who can remember all those names) was better than good.  And from there, a call went out across the land ...

My kingdom for an editor!

Which, alas, went unheeded.  Books 3-5 would all have been better had they been 20% shorter.  And I'm a guy who likes to wallow in the stuff, so I don't mind long books.  But it felt, during the dark days of Book Four, that George R. R. Martin -- not to be confused with Geoffrey V. V. Raymond, author of The Keldish Song -- was writing in circles, looking for a way to move forward but going backwards instead.

One man's opinion.

The good news is that the books are now vigorously taking their own path.  So enough with the literary scolds.  The other good news is that the new season starts on Sunday.  Exciting.

By this time, everybody worth their weight in Valyrian steel knows who Jon Snow's mother and father are (and they are not, in reverse order, Ned Stark and some barmaid).   Perhaps if you invited him to dinner one night he'd tell you ...

The only question now worth asking is whether Syrio Forel, the First Sword of Braavos, is alive and kicking, one of the Faceless Men.

Which would be grand.  Unlikely, but grand.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Eau Revoir, Mr. Pickles

I'm changing the cat's name to Michael Schumacher.  But pronounced as one word, like the tiger Richard Parker in The Life of Pi.  Which was as overrated a book as I've read in a long time.

Funny the stuff that just comes to you in the middle of the night.

It should be noted that were Michael Schumacher a dog I would, under almost no circumstances, change his name.  Dogs give a shit about their names.  Cats?  Not so much.  Cats give a shit about food, and you can call them what you like so long as you give it to them.

Perhaps, were my dog (a white Lab, just to pick a breed at random) named Isis I would change it.  Because those dudes get enough ink without me helping.  And fuck them anyway.  So I guess in that situation I'd change his name, even though I know it would be hard on the dog.  Not as hard, one should say, as what the producers of Downton Abbey did to Lord Grantham's dog (a white lab named Isis, as chance would have it).  Hell, they killed the damned thing.  Fictionally, of course.  But still ... pretty harsh.  Gave the poor thing cancer and for episode after episode members of the Grantham clan would stare at poor Isis and wonder what was wrong with him.

So I'm changing the cat's name.

Many of you have read one or more of my "Saigon: Too Big To Fail" novellas.  Which, I would tell you if you haven't read them, are magical.  What you may not know is that under the nom de plume of Geoffrey V. V. Raymond (which makes me smile just typing it) I'm creating a second series of books.  High Fantasy.  Because, hey, my parents sent me to military school when I was twelve.  Don't ask, although it had something to do with a shed burning down, plus some other factors, none of which, other than the shed, were my fault.  At least not some of them.

Anyway, what do you do at military school when you're twelve?  First off, you try to survive.  Second, you get lucky and your roommate hands you a copy of The Lord of the Rings and you read it straight through like it was crack cocaine, then again like it was heroin, then again like it was LSD and then again until suddenly its the fall of 1970, you're going into the 11th grade, and you are doing so at no less a place than Fairfax High School.

"Free at last!" I remember thinking, followed quickly by "Shit -- look at these girls!"

The point being that the stuff you read at certain points in your life sticks to your brain.  The working title of the thing is "The Keldish Song," which I like, although it, like everything else at this point, is certainly subject to change.  And it involves the time-worn trick of certain people, including the hero, finding themselves transported from a world the reader recognizes (i.e. New York circa 2013) to someplace else.  Someplace medieval, but way nicer than it was during the actual middle ages.

Here's a bit where the hero meets somebody he suspects is also from New York.  He's just extended his hand in greeting -- something they don't do in what I'm currently calling Alternate World, although I feel certain that will change.

      “Nice to meet you,” she responded while shaking it.  “My, it’s been a long time since I’ve shaken somebody’s hand.  Barbreque Cumberbatch at your service.  Head Librarian.”
     “That’s a lovely name,” I said with a smile.
     “Thank you.  I made it up when I got here.”
     “You made it up?”
     “I came here from a very great distance – a very great distance indeed – and I thought if I was going to start over I’d rather do it with a fun name.”
     “If you don’t mind me asking, what did you change it from?”
     “Melissa Schwartz.”
     I wasn't sure what to say about that, so I left it alone.
     “It’s not like it’s such a bad name,” she said.  “But it’s not Barbreque Cumberbatch, is it?”
     For some reason I wanted to hug the woman.  

See?  Everybody's changing names.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Duck Fook

Troubling to see Duke as the national champions.  Good for the ACC, I suppose.  And since Virginia is the ACC champion I can only assume that makes us the best team in the country.

This is pretty cool.  I've used a grid any number of times to paint portraits.  My squares are usually larger, but still ...

Monday, April 6, 2015

"The most unlikely book ever written about the financial crisis"

"Saigon: Too Big To Fail" along with its sister volumes is now available on Kindle Unlimited.  Which is like a big library, if you can envision that.  I would urge you to check it out here ...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Somebody Notify Ashley Judd

With Duke making it to the NCAA finals I have no choice but to start rooting for Kentucky.  What a disaster this season has turned out to be.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Black Day for the Knicks Nation

LeBron James, the King himself, recently passed Patrick Ewing on the all-time scoring list, bumping Old #33 from twentieth to twenty-first position.  Which feels like quite a plunge, even though it's just one number.

The good news is that 21 is in my Lotto sequence, so maybe that will end up being a good thing.

There's been much editorial energy expended on Chris Mullen's new job as coach of the St. John's Red Storm and thus, predictably, constant reminders of what a magnificent basketball league the Big East was in the 80s, when Mullen and Ewing and Pinkney and a host of others roamed the earth in anger.

I was a St. John's guy at the time and didn't really like Ewing in college.  But I came to love the man.

This is from a Rolling Rock bottle, not a Celtics jersey ...

Thank God.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The "Saigon: Too Big To Fail" Mash-Up, Explained

What would bubble-era Wall Street look like were it dropped lock, stock and smoking barrel into the Saigon of the late 60s?

I write a series of novellas and short stories that explore the answers to this very question.  The first book in the series, titled "Saigon: Too Big To Fail," opens with the excerpt you see below.  It should tell you everything you need to know.  Except, of course, all the cool shit that happens next ...

Let’s begin by just accepting the fact that almost everything you ever heard about Saigon in the late ‘60s is wrong.
Yes, it started out as a bit of a shit hole, what with the war going on and all.  But around 1966 when a couple of geniuses from JPMorgan came up with the idea of securitizing Vietnamese real estate debt, packaging it amongst otherwise investment-grade products, then selling it like glassine packets of crack in the south Bronx … well, let’s just say the lid blew off the top of Vietnam.  
Saigon was the center of it, but the quantities of money flowing through all of French Indochina defied description.  Hue, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Mandalay and Hong Kong blew up too.  Hell, even Hanoi was exploding, although not quite in the way Washington wanted.  The war, by and large, was squeezed to the perimeter of the major cities by just what you'd imagine—irresistible amounts of cash.  Once the big banks moved in, with their ugly glass towers rising tens of stories above the French Colonial architecture that made Saigon such a beauty, the war moved out. 
Before long the bankers weren’t even bothering to hide the bad stuff.  So long as they could get a triple-A rating it didn’t matter.  They were selling it so fast there wasn’t time.  Wall Street quickly became a backwater.  Likewise London.  The place to make your fortune had become the dozen or so square blocks of Saigon just west of the Imperial Palace called the Banking District. 
Restaurants sprang up across the city.  Tu Do Street, possibly the sleaziest boulevard in all of Vietnam, turned into a cross between Madison Avenue and Carnaby Street.  Brooks Brothers arrived.  As did Paul Stuart, right across the street.  Van Cleef & Arpels.  La Perla.  A glossy Apple store.  Leo Castelli opened a huge gallery and was instrumental in moving Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc’ from its storage place in upstate New York to the middle of Ton Som Square, where it pissed off the Vietnamese almost as much as it had annoyed New Yorkers when it was in Federal Plaza.  
Crappy apartments were suddenly worth millions.  Vogue Magazine opened an editorial office in ’67 and within six months more beautiful women than you could imagine walked the streets, shaded from the sun by parasols, making faces at the pig carcasses hanging in the butchers’ windows.  
And yes, sometimes the war intruded.  The odd monk might set himself on fire.  A woman in black pajamas might walk into a Citibank branch, say in perfect English, “I’d like to make a deposit,” and blow the entire building to hell and gone.  Donald Trump made a big fuss about how he was going to be the first man to build a residential skyscraper in Indochina until a bomb blew up under his car one night while he was dining at La Caravelle.  He was unhurt but left the region shortly thereafter. Quick to take credit for the bomb were the CIA, the Viet Cong, Pol Pot, the North Vietnamese, the Treasury Department, the Chinese, and some crackpot Green Beret-gone-bad named Willard.   
Companies like Blackwater made millions providing quasi-military services to the banking industry until the banks caught on and realized it was more cost-effective to train their own special-ops people.  By the late 60s, the combined military forces of the three biggest banks – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and PierceMcKinley/Rothschild – comprised the ninth largest standing army in the world. 
At a certain point it became clear to the regulatory agencies – first the SEC, then the others – that they too would need strategic weaponized capabilities to maintain a vigorous enforcement presence in Saigon.  The initial fruit of this thinking were the SEC Enforcement Teams.  Captain J.E.B. Stuart III, great, great, great nephew of the famous Civil War cavalry officer, leads ET Chancellorsville.  He is, for lack of a better word, the hero of these stories.

My Amazon author's page is here.  Buy as many as you like -- they're digital!

Cue The Jefferson Airplane ...

I think the most interesting person in the world, other than me, is ...

... a young woman named Maddie Ziegler.

I loathe your insistence on using two sets of ellipses.
I wrestle with it, believe me.  But the jump from the title to the body copy seems to call for more than one.
Fine.  I'm just saying.

Anyway, Ms. Ziegler -- age 12, I'm guessing -- is a dancer who has become famous for starring in the videos of somebody named Sia.  Who is pretty interesting herself, in a sort of a Barry Manilow way, although that makes it sound like a bad thing when it's actually a good thing.

Anyway, this is the latest Sia/Ziegler collaboration ...

The question is this:  Whither Ms. Ziegler?  My understanding is that she sprang from obscurity because she was part of a dance-related reality show.  Dance Moms, maybe?  I've never seen it, although my daughter loves it.  But to watch her in these Sia videos makes you wonder what kind of career she's going to have.  She's a spectacular dancer, but she seems like a wonderful, intuitive actor as well.  That said, one wonders how much of what she's doing on screen is her idea or her director's?  The answer doesn't actually matter -- it's just worth considering. Either way, I think the whole thing is extraordinary.

Here's the video that made these people famous ...

What's your point about Barry Manilow?
Well, as I understand it, Manilow, having watched other people become stars performing his material, eventually asked himself: "How hard can this shit really be?"  Deciding that the answer was "Not very," he started performing his own songs and became a star himself.
Okay ...
So Sia, as I understand it, wrote a bunch of stuff for who knows -- people like Rhianna or Katie Perry or somebody -- then asked herself the same question Manilow did.  And now she's a recording star.

Update:  I just Wikipediaed (which is no less satisfactory a verb than "Googled," although I don't know how to spell it) Sia and it's possible I'm completely wrong.

A situation you are entirely comfortable with.
I wouldn't say that.  But it doesn't bug me as much as it might some people.

Rather than change all of the above, however, I'll just add this update.  Wikipedia tells us that Sia is the 97th richest person in Australia.  Which is lovely.  It's always good to be in the top 100, even if only by three.  You can read it here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Shit We Watch on Television

I refer, of course, to iZombie.  Which airs on Tuesday evenings on the CW.

Unless you're seventeen, I can't recommend it at all.  But a couple of weeks ago I read a good review and watched the first episode, then the second, and then, last night, the third.  So okay, I'm an idiot.  But I watch high-end stuff too.  Like Foyle's War, which is so excellent I despair at finishing my binge watching (I'm three episodes away from being done).

The point of iZombie is that it's set in Seattle.  Which is fine, in and of itself.  Grey's Anatomy, a vastly inferior show, is also set in Seattle.  So fine.  Except I was watching iZombie last night and the episode was all about a hit-man named Marvin Webster who had killed somebody named Wally Walker.

And then a light came on and I went whoa!  What, I wondered, were the chances of two characters in a CW show about zombies being named for famous Seattle Supersonics?  How big a coincidence is that, I was lying on the sofa asking myself when, all of a sudden, somebody mentioned a third character named Gus Williams.

Another Sonic.  So okay, something is obviously up with these people.  What it is I can't yet say, but I will continue watching, if out of no other reason than duty to you, dear reader, to see how all this unfolds.  And if a couple of characters named Dennis Johnson and Jack Sikma crop up ... well, I'm not sure what I'll do.

For the record, choosing the name Marvin Webster for a character who is a hit man is pretty high-concept stuff, since Webster's nickname was "The Human Eraser."  So extra points there.

Now look at this ...

Wally Walker, one of the greatest Cavaliers, is the third in from the right, face obscured.  Next to him, Mark Iavaroni is hugging, perhaps, Billy Langloh.  If you want to read the story about how I almost played a two on two game with these three guys, click here.  If you'd prefer to stay on this page (out of fear, perhaps, of viruses) then let me direct your eyes into the crowd, at around the ten-thirty/quarter-to-eleven position (were Mr. Walker's head a clock), where you can see my friends Jerry, Dave and Earl.  And of course me, wearing a kind of white-person's version of an afro.

Pretty nice seats.
They were, weren't they?  Try getting those now.

The caption tells you what you need to know, other than I once found myself in a pick-up game with Dave Koesters and blocked one of his shots so hard that, for the briefest of moments, I felt like The Human Eraser.

Why should I listen to anything Jane Brody has to say?

This is a woman who was stupid enough to get both her knees replaced at the same time.  So okay, we all make mistakes, but forewarned is forearmed.

I mention this because I was reading an article by her about the nutritional power of nuts in today's Times when I came across this nugget ...
Finally, in a 2013 study in The British Journal of Nutrition, Dr. Mattes and colleagues reported that consuming peanut butter or peanuts for breakfast helps to control hunger, stabilizing blood sugar and reducing the desire to eat for up to 8 to 12 hours. (My favorite breakfast: half a banana, sliced, with each slice topped by a half-teaspoon of crunchy peanut butter.)
Really?  A half a fucking banana and a teaspoon of peanut butter?  That's your breakfast?

This angers me.  It feels like dietary elitism of the worst kind.  I can see Ms. Brody staring over at me and saying something like "I can't believe you are eating that whole banana.  You're going to blow up like a whale."

I would be far less annoyed, perhaps not annoyed at all, if she'd just written "My favorite breakfast: slices of banana topped with peanut butter."  But she's giving me a recipe, complete with portions, then tarting it up on the back end, in the most calculated way, with the word "crunchy."

Who doesn't like crunchy peanut butter?

For the record, Google tells me that half a banana is about 60 calories.  A teaspoon of peanut butter is approximately 30 calories.  So that's 90.  Add some lovely hot tea (no milk or sugar) and you're still at 90.  And yes, I understand that food is vastly more complicated than just calories, but still?  A 90 calorie breakfast?  I think for lunch I'll have a tablespoon of peas and some cucumber water.  Three ounces of steamed fish for dinner, drizzled with 16th of a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and a leaf of raw kale.  Perhaps some more tea.

Lovely.  Fitness awaits.  And I know I won't be hungry because I had all that crunchy peanut butter for breakfast!

Back to the article about nuts.  Aside from shooting herself in the foot with her "favorite breakfast" comment, the rest of the piece is good.  Particularly interesting, although I'd already read about it elsewhere, is the notion of introducing peanuts to very small children with an eye towards reducing peanut allergies.

Ms. Brody's travails with bi-lateral knee replacement surgery can be read here.  There's a small, petty part of me -- perhaps two tablespoons -- that's glad it hurt like hell.