May 27, 2008


For some reason, the new Daily Blague is out. It's not, for once, a server problem. I await a diagnosis, not in the best of humor.

Moments later, as if by magic, it's back in service... Can't wait to find out what happened; this one was a doozy.

August 31, 2007

The Last Entry

Why do I feel that I'm leaving something, when nothing is going anywhere? The only change, for me, will be no longer having to deal with MovableType, a blogging platform that I chose in 2004 precisely because it was said to be the most daunting. (And it was daunting. I discovered that I am a closet masochist.) Exchanging MovableType for WordPress is like taking off a very heavy backpack. Life is suddenly, startlingly easy. I have no regrets.

But it's true that I am leaving school. I started the Daily Blague at a strange time, right after George Bush's second victory. The Blogosphere had been hopping during the campaign and was still very lively, as the writers at political sites that I visited, such as Crooked Timber and Obsidian Wings, tried to make sense of the disaster. Eventually, I lost interest in political blogs. I lost interest in all single-issue blogs. And I really didn't know what to do with my own. For far too long, I filled it with reams of material that belonged in a different setting. I was like the bore who shows up at a cocktail party and wants to talk about the death sentence.

At some point or other, the old Daily Blague developed a serious comment-spam problem, and my Web host actually considered shutting it down, along with at least one other MoveableType site. That's when I decided to move, both to another host and to another platform. By now, I had a very clear idea of what The Daily Blague ought to look and feel like. Thanks to the heavy lifting of Searchlight Consulting, the look and feel has been realized. But as Steve Laico can tell you, I knew what I wanted.

What distinguishes a blog structurally from other Web site is, of course, its interactivity: the solicitation of comments. Most blogs don't get nearly as many comments as their creators would like, and The Daily Blague is one of them. But every comment is a lively acknowledgment that someone has been reading what I've written. I don't know why any writer doesn't keep a blog for that reason alone. (Writers who aren't celebrities, that is.) The comments that the Daily Blague has accumulated have given me a better idea of where I stand in the world than I had before blogging.

To all readers, but especially to those who were "in at the birth," I say Thank You!

August 16, 2007

My New Site

You can't imagine how difficult it is to run two sites concurrently. Problems that you've never imagined sprout like toadstools. And then, after laborious rewrites, copy is lost to mis-pushed buttons.

The whole thrust of this old-DB entry is to urge my regular readers (you know who you are) to start posting comments, in barrages if you wouldn't mind, at the new site, Don't worry about being witty or clever; the idea is public service, and and your shopping list will do. Just post!

Seriously, guys, we're on our way to a new transport. Pack your bottles!

August 06, 2007

Coming Attractions

Coming next month, The Daily Blague will have a new address. Don't worry about it just yet, because I'll be here for a while. But if you're interested in watching an out-of-the-box blog theme become personalized, you may find the new site amusing. I'll be posting concurrently for the rest of August. It's also part of my plan to host Portico at one server, and The Daily Blague at another. You'll always be able to reach me: aren't you lucky.

This is probably a good moment to applaud the man who is making everything happen:

Steve Laico

Searchlight Consulting

I know how difficult it is to be a friendly and/but effective professional. (I used to be a lawyer!) Steve not only delivers but he also makes it look easy. As the client from Hell, I'm not fooled.

July 30, 2007

Bush Can Read!


Like you, I am distressed to learn that The Weekly World News is folding. Now George will have nothing to read every week. Seriously, I loved the paper. Who else could deliver headlines such as "DINOSAURS - HONKED JUST LIKE BUICKS"? Do you remember the story about the overweight lady who was compelled to purchase two airplaine seats, because of her "titanic tush?" Oh, the laughs.

August begins early at the Daily Blague - it begins today! I spent so much energy on podcasting last week that I never got round to writing up a book. I never got round to reading one. Not until yesterday, anyway. So I offer no link, this morning, to Portico. You wouldn't follow it if I did. It's summertime!

Come September, there will be a new Daily Blague, complete (one hopes), with podcasts that you can actually hear without maxing the volume. "Sing out, Louise," as one friend wrote. Yesterday, Miss G gave me some thoughts about how to make podcasts downloadable (she also asked if I'd come along to a ball game in Coney Island! Bien sur!). The new site is already up. All I have to do is massage the style sheet - doesn't that sound like fun?

July 26, 2007

A New Era

Good morning. Welcome to my first podcast. I hope that you will provide plenty of feedback, about the production values if nothing else.

There is still a lot to learn, let me tell you.

¶  A New Look at the Cloisters.

UPDATE: Many, many thanks for the kind comments. When I tried to re-record the page at a higher volume, a host of bugs gummed up the works. I have been more or less tearing my hair out for the past twenty-four hours (with breaks for sleep and martinis), but at the moment, progress looks good. I'm aiming to have mastered podcasting by the end of August, when I'll be inaugurating the new Daily Blague.

July 17, 2007


Last night, I finished reading Alexander Chee's fine first novel, Edinburgh. Then I wrote to the author, who happens to be at the MacDowell colony at the moment. I had first come across his work in From Boys to Men. But it was someone's recently mentioning him at a blog that prompted me to order his book from Amazon. Who could that someone be? It didn't take long to identify the evilganome - although I can't for the life of me locate the particular entry.

Edinburgh starts off brightly, with a successful singing audition, and it holds this tone ever more tightly as the story very shortly takes a turn for the horrific. The writing is lyrical but firmly controlled. Attention is required: the terrible things are only mentioned once, in a flash, and if you're not careful you might skim over them.

Mr Chee has a new book, Queen of the Night, coming out soon*, and I am going to wait for it before writing up Edinburgh, which I may re-read after Queen. I do, however, want to share this magnificent paragraph.

Do you remember what it was like, to be young? You do. Was there any innocence there? No. Things were exactly what they looked like. If anyone tries for innocence, it's the adult, moving forward, forgetting. If innocence is ignorance of the capacity for evil, then it's what adults have when they forget what it's like to be a child. When they look at a child and think of innocence they are thinking of how they can't remember what that feels like. 

I recommend this book very highly.

* Autumn 2008.

July 02, 2007

In the Sandbox

That's where you'll find me this week, in the "sandbox" of the impending Daily Blague. There will be a new URL, a new Web host, and a look and feel that may or may not be different. The platform will be WordPress, not Moveable Type, and comments will , I hope, be less of a pain. The old Daily Blague will stay where it is, as I slowly shift its less ephemeral contents to Portico. (Very slowly.) The old DB taught me a lot. The new TDB will reflect what I've learned. Portico remains, as it was always supposed to be, the heart of the operation.

This calls for business cards. People ask, what do I do. That's what business cards are for - to spare the awkward writing-down of URLs in the middle of cocktails. I'm going to have cards for both sites. The Portico cards will look just like that site's front page, with a multicolored logo over a washed out, somewhat blurred scan of a print that we actually own, Joseph Pennell's Cumberland Gate

As for a Daily Blague card, though, I have no ideas at all. I want it to make people smile. I'm thinking of incorporating the "About me" line under the old photo at the top of the index page: "Who is this joker?" I ask the question often enough in the blog, if not in so many words. But is it a tag I'll be still be happy with when I'm handing out the five-hundredth card?

"Eheu Fugaces" has its charms - its dangerous charms. (Speaking of Latin, don't miss this review of Diabolum Pradae vestibus indui. [Thanks, Édouard.]) Input from the Peanut Gallery would not be unwelcome.

May 27, 2007

On Blogger Hill

UPDATE: I am immesely proud to be part of this picture. It's the first collective photograph that I've ever belonged to with my heart and soul.

For some time, I've had plans to get together with the Ganome when he came to New York for the GB:NYC4 meetup on Bear/Blogger Hill in Central Park. In other words, today. The Ganome called just before noon, from the Port Authority. We agreed to meet at the Met, which is, among other things, not too far from Central Park, being in it. He arrived with his boss, the Butter Monkey. The Monkey is a few years younger than the Ganome (ie our children's age), but smart as a whip and extremely pleasant to talk to.

When we'd finished our lunch, I asked my friends if there was anything that they wanted to see in the museum before heading out, because I could probably take them straight to it. I am so abominably conceited about my familiarity with the museum's layout. But I didn't get to show off today, because what they really wanted was directions to the Sheep's Meadow. I was only too happy to walk them there. I didn't yet know where Bear/Blogger Hill is, because I hadn't planned to attend one of Joe's weekly retreats. But I know how to get to the Sheep's Meadow, and we walked all the way round it - a complete circuit! - before finding that the Hill is very near the Naumberg Bandshell, which we'd passed earlier. But we did find it. I was privileged to introduce the Ganome and the Monkey to Joe. I met a few people and nodded to a few others whom I'd seen at other gatherings, but, having just met the Ganome and the Monkey and gotten to know something about them in person, I wasn't taking in much new information. One of the farmboyz took a picture of the group while I was there, and I'm in it, I suppose.

For the most part, I watched the rollerbladers at the base of the hill. There were very gifted dancers, such as Disco Grandma, who performed as if they were Olympians on the ice. There were character dancers, like Bladey, wearing loud costumes (I got to see Bladey's arrival on his clownish bicycle, announced by its throaty klaxon). There was a wonderfully chunky middle-aged woman who had no moves at all. She just huffed her way up the gentle slope and stood still on her skates coming down the other side. My favorite act was Bottle. Bottle is a very graceful and well-built black man who, in addition to his skates, wears only a pair of very exotic harem pants and two wristbands. He's called Bottle because he likes to glide along with a liter of bottled water standing on his head, but unattached to it in any way. If he could find a more artistic vessel, he would look like something out of the old Ballets-Russes. He and Bladey danced together a few times, side by side. I applauded a few times, although that generally wasn't done.

So there I was in Central Park on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by interesting guys and overlooking an appealing spectacle. The weather was perhaps a trifle warm, but there was a lovely breeze, and I was comfortable enough.

At about four-thirty, I said goodbye to all and went to catch the Third Avenue bus. As packed as the Park was, the Upper East Side was empty. Neutroned! We've entered the Hamptons season. 

April 19, 2007

Pleasanty surprise of groping

Do you think that it's possible to engage with the Internet in a reasonable manner? Or will we always surrender to pings and possibilities, no matter what we're in the middle of? Or will I, that is; I only care about you if you're doing better. Heaven knows, I'm a shambles. Once I have decided to write something, I'm all discipline, and only take breaks when it's useful to do so. But when I get the work done, I sit at the computer like a zombie, clicking on links without rhyme or reason. And if it's incoming email!

I don't get as much email as I'd like to get. Not nearly. This is not because I don't send email myself. I send plenty. That is the problem. Allowing for all the dumbing down of the Twentieth Century, I think that I can proclaim myself the Henry James of email. The late Henry James of email. I never met two sentences that I didn't prefer to join with a semicolon. I get "raising the bar" a lot from friends who want to excuse themselves from the burden of replying in kind. It appears that my correspondence is an infliction.

(On at least two occasions, one affable friend has actually checked out of Gmail in order to check my chat. I want to say to this friend that it's not necessary to take such drastic action, but then I think, why should this person trust me? I'm not sure that I have the gift of the gab, but I sure have the gab.)

I appear to be coming out of a period during which most of the people on my affinities list (doctors call it "the blogroll" - and does anyone out there still get the "doctors call it..." joke?) have had other things to do than write blog entries. Two of the Paris blogs, for instance, are showing signs of life after long hiatus*. Michael Smith has promised to write more. Ms NOLA is finding time to write, despite a harrowing schedule (M le Neveu moves his digs this weekend.) All of this is good, because I was beginning to feel like the only one.

When will I start following political blogs again? I haven't looked at a political blog in over a year. Part of me gave up on the politics of the United States in 2004, and even the Democratic recapture of Congress has done nothing to recapture me, probably because I am never going to believe in the Democratic Party again; the Democratic Party is like a philandering spouse whom I have forgiven for the last time and who has then philandered.

And when will the Virginia Tech story go away? I ask this abstractly; it's still pretty fresh and awful. But it will linger into staleness. Such stories always do. Such is the degraded state of the American spectatorate that reality horror is the preferred entertainment. It's frightening, but it's also inconsequential. There's nothing to do about what happened at Virginia Tech, except perhaps to reconsider gun control (the NRA would have liked the victims to be armed, so that they could shoot back - what a great idea!). Kathleen and I both believe that the most decent response to the massacre is to stop tuning into it. Talking about it is one thing; "reliving" the nightmare is ghoulish. Kathleen says that, if she had a child who had been killed at Virginia Tech, the last thing she'd want is protracted media exposure. As a parent, I have to agree. I would hate to see Ms G's photo plastered everywhere simply because she'd been unlucky.

You might be wondering what this entry's title means. It's taken from an ad that was reported in Tuesday's Times - an ad from China. What it's supposed to mean, according to a caption that translates the accompanying Chinese characters, is "Find something new and be pleasantly surprised," which, even though it makes literal sense, strikes me as pretty inscrutable. Why would anybody say such a thing? If the US and China are fated to be coadjutant superpowers, we're looking at a long future of linguistic disasters. Both nations - China for ancient reasons, the United States for novel ones - top the list for diplomacy failure when it comes to understanding other cultures.

Meanwhile, I stagger from blog to blog in a disordered haze that, even when no drinking is involved, must be called "alcoholic." Whipsawed every day by the unique offerings du jour, I waste countless hours playing FreeCell just to restore some sense of equilibrium. (I never play FreeCell for fun.) I was discussing soft-boiled eggs with a British friend not too long ago. We agreed that tapping the egg in a pretty little egg cup, opening it up, and then managing to eat it - as opposed to cracking the contents into a bowl - is something that one is "bred to." You grow up knowing how to do it, or you never learn the trick of it. I shudder to think that the same is true of the Blogosphere. Having grown up in a blogless world, I'll never develop a smart way of responding to the huge variety on offer - when it's on offer.

* Thank you, Wheelock. (É, are you reading?)

April 18, 2007


Father T over at Perge Modo is having a lot of fun with Benday dots. Go have a look at his Sol LeWitt!

April 17, 2007

Bad News

Reading about the shootings at Virginia Tech this morning generated two distinct waves of misery. The first, of course, was about the event itself. I'll have to own up to a certain Schadenfreude, though, given that Virginia's gun laws are a total disgrace. I was not as unhappy about the shootings as I might have been.

The second wave of misery was much worse, because I was the wounded party. Wounded by whom? How was it possible that I sat at my computer for a few hours yesterday and yet didn't see anything about the shootings? I received an RSS feed from Joe.My.God at 4:57, but I wasn't paying attention to feeds. I was having a "reading day" and staying away from the machine as much as possible. Fossil Darling knew all about the massacre, of course - traders always have the latest news. I was curt with him this morning because he hadn't called to tell me. But I don't really believe that I ought to be depending on him.

Is it ironic that I was telling M le Neveu, yesterday, that my plans for a new blog have been inspired not inconsiderably by the recognition that I am not cut out for journalism?

April 09, 2007

Code of Conduct

Blogs on the front page of the Times! What will they think of next?

"A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs," by Brad Stone, directs readers to O'Reilly Radar, where Tim O'Reilly has proposed a code of conduct for blog owners that, among other things, carries their responsibility for what appears on their sites so far as to include comments. The lawyer in me found the code hopelessly vague and ad hoc, but that's precisely what good manners always are.

There's no ambiguity, however, about Article 3 of Mr O'Reilly's code. "We connect privately before we respond publicly." All well-brought-up people know that it's best to give someone whose behavior or appearance may be out of line a quiet word on the side. If you see a guy whose fly is open, you don't (if you're well-mannered) expostulate and point. You tap him on the shoulder and whisper. The fewer people who notice an error, the better. That's in the real world. It ought to be the same in the Blogosphere, but for some reason the very opposite idea seems to have taken root. The more people who notice an error, this thinking runs, the healthier the Internet will be. Pointing out typos and offering factual corrections in comments, however, doesn't so much improve the reliability of blogs as it discredits erring bloggers - to the extent that it doesn't poison the atmosphere with self-righteous aggression.

I had to laugh, though, at the bit about Six Apart diva Mena Trott, whose talk on civility at a Paris conference was disrupted by real-time responses to her speech that were posted on a screen. Ms Trott "lost it." What's ironic here is that Six Apart has refused to equip its MovableType software with meaningful defenses against noxious comment spam. That's why I'll be abandoning the platform at some point later this year.

February 08, 2007

Mr Deity

Yesterday, Joe posted a link to the Mr Deity videos at YouTube. Brian Keith Dalton's hugely funny shorts, which the Mr Deity site tells us are sketches for a half-hour comedy show, seem on the face of it to poke fun at Judeo-Christian beliefs. But that's not how I see it. I turn the telescope around and peer through the other end. What if Creation were the undertaking of some American corporation?

What if "God" were played by a dithering project manager, so beset by delusions of grandeur that the idea of accountability never crossed his mind? What if the Holy Spirit - "Larry" here - were the impatient, stressed-out, but ultimately sycophantic deputy actually responsible for making things happen? What if "Jesus" were an aimiable, team-playing lug who looked great with football greasepaint under his eyes? And what if Satan - "Lucy" - were the hysterical female executive, butting her head against the glass ceiling?

Now, go watch the clips again.

All four actors are superb, but there's something about Mr Dalton's high-pitched wheeze that's truly divine.

January 10, 2007


The author of A Flickering Light has decided to take a break - and possibly permanent leave - from blogging. That's to be regretted, because few if any bloggers have his range of interests or can write so intensely about them. Sometimes, life takes big turns, and new people are involved. Or it may just be a new place - and W- is soon to be moving from Geneva to Singapore. Wasn't it about this time last year that the author of Journal d'un Vrai Parisien retired? He was quite open about his reason: he had fallen in love. Kids can fall in love in public. With older folks it's likely to be awkward, and you can take it from me that the new loved one is probably not going to be keen on the new crowd of virtual friends, all of whom know how you liked last night's dinner.

I often regret having started the Daily Blague at such an advanced age. But reflection and experience suggest that I may be just old enough.

December 25, 2006


This is to wish you a happy holiday, and to thank you for visiting the Daily Blague. It's also to remind you that my birthday falls on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and that what I really want this year is to hear from you about how you think the DB, Portico, and Good For You are - well, good for you, or not. You may comment on the DB or write to me privately, whichever suits you better.

There are days when I think that I know what I'm doing here (beyond simply writing a lot of stuff), and then there are days when I feel quite fatuous and dim for even imagining that I know what I'm doing. What I do know is that nobody has done this before. I also know that I've made, particularly in the past nine months, a lot of choices that have narrowed the scope of the project. Or you might say that it's more focused. Either way, I wonder if I have made good choices. Only you can tell me.

Thanks again for fitting me in to your busy life!

December 19, 2006


My Pittsburgh correspondent (She Who Never Comments) whiled away a long afternoon today by playing on the Internet. The appropriation of my image was involved. Kathleen finds the results "a bit scary," but I think it's jolly. It's rather sweet to be normal-sized for a moment. 

November 28, 2006

What Do You Think?

Before settling down to work this morning, I followed an interesting link from Joe.My.God, and the result is a new group of photoblogs on my roster. Have a look! But by all means don't miss this incredible shot from Travis Ruse's site. I just can't get over the two cops, leaning against the upright beam with a symmetry befitting Castor and Pollux.

Late last night and early this morning, I read the December issue of Vanity Fair, which of course went to bed before Election Day. Surprisingly, the wonder-who-will-win note struck in many of the articles doesn't seem benighted. We can only hope that Michael Wolff is right when, having written off Rummy, he predicts that Henry Kissinger will "urge" the President to get rid of his Extravagantly Unattractive Vice President and replace him with John McCain. Intéressant.

Anyway, now that the elections are over, we can take up more benign controversies, such as Jason Kottke's new glasses. Follow the link to Flick'r and see which camp you're in: are the frames edgy or girly? And would you say that Mr Kottke has a round face? I sure wouldn't. Don't miss the comment that advises him to grow a Mohawk and "pierce everything."

November 25, 2006

Role Playing

This wonderfully raunchy satire would be amusing even if it weren't for the drunkenly libinous "Oh, yeah..." right in the middle, but that one line lifts the whole piece to a higher level. Now turn over.

November 23, 2006



As it turns out, we did not escape Thanksgiving. It's a holiday in the US Virgin Islands as well. At the Mermaid, there was a "football menu" of finger food, and chairs were arranged in front of a big screen over in a corner. There was turkey at dinner, and Kathleen actually ordered it, even though she always says that she hates turkey, and especially on Thanksgiving.

After lunch, which we had on the early side in order to avoid the football, Kathleen melted into sleep. She had entered what we call Stage II of fatigue relief. In Stage I, which occurs every weekend, Kathleen naps but is otherwise alert as usual. Stage II is reached only after several days away from home, and it never lasts long enough to wind up naturally because Kathleen can't away from the office for more than a week. While Stage II lasts, though, Kathleen is so tired that she hasn't got the energy to be anxious about how tired she is. This is very different from, and infinitely preferable to, the dark exhaustion that can overwhelm her when everyday stress becomes chronically acute. It's too bad that our time in St Croix ends tomorrow.

I'm ready to go home, though; I've had my little reboot. At dinner (at which I was one of the few gents in jacket and tie), I tried to take the measure of how much I had changed in the past two years, not because I'd set out to change but because keeping the Daily Blague (and adding to Portico) has proven to be - what? The image that comes to me now, heaven knows why, is that of the pump and filter system in a fishtank. For the first time in my life, I can get up in the morning and expect that my mind will be aerated and fresh. I will work harder than I have ever worked in my life, day after day after day, but the effect will be the opposite of draining or exhausting. While I'm mostly grateful for having stumbled upon the knack of life at last, it is more than a little sobering to look back on decades of occupational confusion. So! No more looking back.

November 06, 2006

Betty on Teddy

It's been a while since my last visit, but Betty Bowers is still going strong as "America's Best Christian" at What Would Betty Do? Her take on the Haggard scandal is priceless.

(Thanks, Joe.)

November 02, 2006


Looking for something fun to do that costs only $25? Buy a book. (Jason sent me.)

October 28, 2006


For your weekend entertainment.

October 24, 2006

Brain Gym


Did anyone get one of these? Titled: Joy of Giving Something, Inc - Brain Gym #1 - the small booklet has the air of a small-museum exhibition program with a nice budget. Inside are (a) many photographs, almost all of them illustrating the carnage of war and (b) two very brief essays, one urging Americans to seek the advice of Europe when intervening in the Middle East (written by an American), the other denouncing Europe as appeasement-prone (written by a German). Both the American piece and the translation of the German piece date from last November. The German text itself dates from 2004. Along the bottom of the booklet's pages runs a list of history's major wars, from the Algerian War to the War of the Spanish Succession. Aside from a brief mission statement and a quote from Senator Clinton about Iran, that's it.

The mission statement invites one to visit the Brain Gym, a branch of the Joy of Giving Something.Inc Web site. I'm not going to characterize the Brain Gym, not, at least, until more people have had a chance to look it over. The site has a rudimentary feel, which only means that its creators are making things up as they go along. (I'm familiar with that!) The "Monthly Views" appear to be written by the pen of Bill Jay, a professor of photography. 

Joy of Giving Something.Inc is a charitable foundation that supports photography exhibits around the country. It operates out of an Upper East Side brownstone. Thanks to a link from an entry at Wikipedia, I gather that the foundation was endowed by Howard Stein, the financier who made $1.8 billion when he sold the Dreyfus Corporations (mutual funds) to Mellon Bank in 1994.

I have no idea how I wound up on the mailing list.

Did anybody else get one?

October 19, 2006

Death à la Gorey

Maybe it was the green hat. A fun, very short quiz that predicts which of the awful outcomes in Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies will be yours. (Thanks, Patricia!)

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

You will be sucked dry by a leech. I'd stay away from swimming holes, and stick to good old cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when your toe scrapes the bottom.
Take this quiz!

October 18, 2006

This just in!

An "old friend" ("Must EVERYONE know how you treat me") has been good enough to forward the following exciting release.

A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the densest element yet known to science.

The new element has been named "Bushcronium."

Bushcronium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it anatomic mass of 311.

These particles are held together by dark forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

The symbol for Bushcronium is "W". Bushcronium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons in a Bushcronium molecule, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Bushcronium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass".

When catalyzed with money, Bushcronium activates Foxnewsium, an element that radiates orders of magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has 1/2 as many peons but twice as many morons.

October 16, 2006

No dance-ing today

It was only a matter of time. My first YouTube link. The Scissors Sisters sing "I Don't Feel Like Dancing," while doing nothing but.

Having run into this fantastic video at two sites (Meanwhile, Marginalia), and having discovered that Kathleen is a fan, and having ordered both SS albums from Amazon, I found that I still had to do more. Chalkenteros rightly points to the BeeGees and to Roxy Music as influences, but Kathleen and I hear a lot of George Michael as well.

And you thought I was an old fart.

(Thanks, Aaron!)

October 13, 2006

I Musici

Afterward, I couldn't believe that I'd done it. We were at Carnegie Hall last night, at the first concert of the new Orpheus season. 

At intermission, two thirtysomethings who had been sitting four rows ahead of us were joined by a friend. He stood leaning on the back of the seat behind him, facing the rear of the hall, as he chatted. I was standing in the aisle, beside my seat, waiting for the other people in the row take their seats before sitting down myself. From snippets overheard, I hypothesized that the visitor might be pianist Jeremy Denk, who will be performing at Orpheus's next concert, and who also keeps a very intriguing Web log, Think Denk. Mr Denk has posted a snapshot of himself at the blog, something that hastened the identification process.

Qua pianist, he was safe from my attentions. Qua blogger, however - quite another matter. Still, I had to work up the nerve. When he left his friends, appearing to my mistaken ears to decline their offer to join them in an adjacent, empty seat, I let him pass right by. When I turned to see where he'd gone, I'd lost him. But, lo, suddenly there he was again, returning to his friends. I caught his eye, tried to look as harmless as possible, and asked him if he might be who I thought he was. He very affably said that he was, and he shook my outstretched hand as I told him that I was "R J Keefe, Daily Blague," effectively taking it for granted that he would know what that meant. He registered recognition, although it may have been simple politeness. I made a remark to show that I'd read his latest entry (indeed, I'd been thinking about it while hypothesizing), said that I was looking forward to hearing him in December, and then let him go. He couldn't have been nicer.

The encounter firmed up my resolve to make some additions to the main-page list of links to other sites. A recent exchange with Steve Smith, author of Night After Night, inspired me to make an exception to my general rule, which is that I don't link to monothematic blogs. Blogs exclusively devoted to music and concertgoing would seem to fall under the ban, but in fact it's impossible to write at any length about music without being very person, however inadvertently. If you're at all interested in serious music, I'm sure that you'll find the sites that I've listed under the rubric "I Musici" interesting.

As for the concert....

October 09, 2006

And then what have I?

A few years ago, I couldn't stand being the only kid in the crowd who didn't have a Filofax. Kathleen and my old roommate carried the leather-bound calendars, stuffed to bursting with all sorts of ad hoc addenda, the very height of organizational efficiency, c 1850. So I begged and whined, and eventually got one for my birthday. It wasn't long, though, before my Filofax was buried in a drawer. Filofaxes don't ding you with an alarm the day before you have to do something. No, you have to look at them first. If it were up to my Filofax, I'd miss half the plays and concerts that I had tickets for. Don't laugh - there was a bad season in which we missed far more than half! Outlook keeps me straight these days.

But a Filofax is still an objet de luxe - if you have one, you ought to use it. In a recent burst of fevered optimism, I made up a to-do list that included the following: "Filofax - other uses?" The answer to that question came to me this evening, and I'm still choking. Because what I propose to do with my Filofax is to run the Daily Blague with it. I am going to schedule entries and pages, instead of waiting until the spirit has moved me to write them. Every day, there will be certain things to do. The era of "What do I feel like doing now?" is over. It's killing me, frankly, because what I "feel like" is not having to make such decisions all the time.

So the management part of the blog will henceforth be conducted in pencil. That's the other crazy thing: I'm incapable of using the computer to "automate" my editorial duties. Outlook has a more or less useful task manager feature, but I've never been able to bring myself to look at it. The computer is for writing and looking things up, not for brainstorming. Planning is something that I do on paper. Typically, I then ignore the paper. But if it's folded into a Filofax, along with all my Daily Blague deadlines and Internet contacts, then maybe the small leather-bound bundle will insist upon being the start of my day.

You think that working for yourself is easy, until you have to do it.

September 26, 2006

Reorientation II

Little did I know that yesterday's Times would prolong the quandary that I spoke of in the previous entry. The front-page story was entitled "In Tiny Courts of New York, Abuses of Law and Power: Judges Without Legal Degrees or Oversight Rule in Arcane System Across State."

Does that sound, maybe, a little Iraqi to you? Let's not go into why it does. (If it doesn't, you're reading the wrong blog.) Let's just take a breath and sing "O Canada." Things are so much simpler there. There are so many fewer people, for one thing!

Why has no one written of the melodrama that yokes New York City, an international entrepôt that draws thousands of disaffected Americans-from-elsewhere to its bosom every year, to New York State, a red-meat outfit that, except for all of Ithaca and just the University of Syracuse, ought to be offloaded to Tasmania? Where are the witnesses to this atrocity? The non-New-York-City parts of New York State are just big enough to arm-wrestle the city to the ground. There ought to have been a "civil war" in New York, just to free the enslaved intellectuals.

The whole story about the baboon judges is great, but here is my favorite excerpt:

In an interview, Justice Pennington said the commission had treated him unfairly. But he may not have helped his case when he told the commission that "colored" was an acceptable description.

"I mean, to me," he testified, "colored doesn't preferably mean black. It could be an Indian, who's red. It could be Chinese, who's considered yellow."

There are probably lots of provincial Americans who think that "colored" is still a useful term. That's how we are. But we don't have to make them justices of the peace, capable of incarcerating strangers who don't gratify their expectations. And here is my question: if this is the state of things in New York State, why would we expect anything better in Guantánamo or Iraq? When on earth, people, are we going to clean up our own little mess? We're certainly not going to do any good abroad while "simple men, and their simple wisdom" are running the show in American localities.

September 24, 2006


It's late Sunday afternoon, and I'm about to sit down with an oppressive stack of magazines. I won't be looking at The New Yorker or The New York Review of Books, nor probably the London Review of Books, either. Or Harper's. Those are the periodicals that I look forward to reading. It's the homework mags that I've got to look at: The Nation, The Economist, the Wilson Quarterly, and Foreign Affairs. France-Amérique doesn't get the attention that it deserves, and I can't make up my mind about The Atlantic. Bookforum shows up from time to time, its continued existence always a faint surprise.

In a fantasy that I find increasingly beguiling, an efficient intellectual expert shows up one fine day and tells me how to do my job. Sometimes, the expert even tells me what my job is. I know what some of my duties are. I have to publish a fresh entry every day. I'm expected (by whom?) to review The New York Times Book Review - a weekly task. Ditto my trip to the movies every Friday. I used to read the blogs on my list every weekday, but I've lost that habit and must fight to regain it: this is a two-way street, buster. But a list of duties doesn't add up to a job. The one thing that the expert does every time that I indulge my fantasy is to persuade me that I don't really need to read The Nation, The Economist, or even The New York Times. Yippity yay!

Yes, that's the problem with fantasies.

It does occur to me quite regularly, however, that although I may want to run a daily Web log, writing about books, ideas, and the bits of New York's cultural life that I make time for - although this may be my desire, and although I may actually get it done, somehow, it does not follow that I know how to do it. But perhaps the very idea that I'm not doing the job very well is the first step to enlightenment. 

September 13, 2006


J'allais lire un chapitre de La télé - euh, I was going to read a chapter of La télévision when I discovered that JR has undertaken a new blogue, Mnémoglyphes. I like the playfulness of the name itself, and I refuse to translate it other than as Mnemoglyphes, dropping only the accent aigu. "Nemogliffs" - Greek for "marks of memory," or somesuch. Oh, crikey, there I've gone and translated the new blog's name into something that sounds out of a cemetery. Alors, that's why there's Greek!

Near the start, JR talks of the sentimental journey that he's taking, back to his first Blogger blog.

Mais c'est solide, autant que ça l'était quand j'ai débuté avec eux en 2001 et j'ai la nostalgie de ces premiers temps (un peu).

[But it's sturdy, just as it was when I began using it in 2001 - and I'm feeling nostalgic for those early days (a bit).]

It's yet another reminder that the world in which I spend my days did not exist ten years ago. There were rudimentary precursors of blogs, but even HTML was still in flux.

Although it is not taught anymore, "Reading French" - or "German" or "Chinese" - used to be a respectable academic course. It was designed to equip scholars to read literature written in a language that they would never speak. This was particularly useful to Americans, so many of whom never leave the country. It still would be. Learning to read a language fluently is infinitely easier than learning how to speak it - just as it's much easier to learn to read than it is to learn to write (how soon we forget). Let this entry be a small encouragement to anyone who regrets having let her high-school French fade away. With the help of a nice, fat dico - one that lays out a lot of idioms and prepositional phrases - immense and satisfying progress can be made.

Does anyone know of any good Italian blogs? Mnemoglifi, per esempio?

September 11, 2006

Tune In

You probably already knew this, but BBC's Mark Savage recently interviewed La petite anglaise and Zoe in Brussels. Complete with Quarsan! Don't miss the chance to hear the Blogosphere's two most celebrated Anglophone expats talk!

August 25, 2006

I'm the Internet, We're the Internet

(Thanks to Joe.My.God.)

July 31, 2006

"Why I blog"

Take a few minutes to listen to the apologia that Cipriano, the Canadian author of Bookpuddle, has recorded to celebrate his first anniversary as a blogger. He's quite right about one thing: because blogging and reading blogs are purely voluntary, everyone involved is predisposed to think the best of everyone else. Amazingly - in my concededly limited experience - this good feeling carries over into personal encounters. Never before has it been possible to meet people on the basis of shared sensibility. (Thanks to Patricia Storms at Booklust.)

July 25, 2006


As a frequent visitor at, I was quick to read Stacy Schiff's "Know It All," in the current New Yorker. Not surprisingly, the crux of the story is the tension between users' desire for a reliable product and contributors' insistence upon equal standing. Vandalism and pranksters aside, Wikipedia confronts very thorny problems of accuracy. "Was Copernicus Polish, German, or Prussian?" Ms Schiff reports that

Even Eric Raymond, the open-source pioneer whose work inspired [Wikipedia founder Jimmy] Wales, argues that "'disaster'" is not too strong a word" for Wikipedia.

Kathleen is of much the same view. But when I rely on Wikipedia, I'm rarely placing very much weight on what I find. I'll be checking a birth date, or the BWV number of a Bach composition. In many cases, I'm looking for things that I could find somewhere in this room, if I were willing to get off my seat. When I come across something really new and interesting, something about which I knew little or nothing before finding out about it at Wikipedia, I seek out a second source before getting carried. away.

I have never edited a page of the encyclopedia, even when I've come across small, obviously typographical, errors. This is partly because I don't want to take the time to learn how to do it (even if it takes "no time at all"), but more because I'm afraid that I'll come back to a page and not recognize the work as my own. I've had this very unnerving experience several times on the Internet, reading an interesting quotation and really agreeing with it - wondering why I didn't say that - only to find that it was indeed I who said that. The experience leaves an agreeable afterglow, certainly, but it is creepy at first. I have a nightmare from time to time, which always ends with the realization that I am writing the text that I'm reading. I wake up shuddering, as the ink on the dreamed-of page fades to invisibility. That's what consulting myself in a reference work would be like.

For the time being, I can say that I've never encountered anything at the online encyclopedia that roused my suspicions. Given the sober subjects that I'm usually exploring, this is not surprising. I'll continue to trust my instincts when it comes to judging Wikipedia entries. Which is by way of counseling you, the gentle reader, not to put too much weight on what you may learn here!

June 19, 2006

How I am passing the morning today

Welcome to modern times. What I am doing this morning is reading the blogs and Web sites of people who will be interviewed later today as prospective housemates of a friend of mine in Brooklyn. I ask you: how weird is that?

How weirdly wonderful?

June 01, 2006


Jason Kottke posted a link to a blog called, which appears to be authored by a Web designer. In a late entry, Peter realizes that he's felt either left out or disengaged at the various conferences and group meetings that he has been showing up at. He still loves the people, but he's no longer terribly interested in what they're talking about. I have absolutely no idea what any of the associations or groups that he lists actually do - or rather, what their members do - but I sense the same "tribelessness" going on everywhere in the Blogosphere that I turn these days. If you publish a Web log, do you feel that it's a kind of blog, of which there are many other exemplars? Or do you feel unpleasantly unique? If you simply read blogs, what, if anything, do the blogs that you regularly read have in common?

It used to be called "growing pains."

May 23, 2006


In a recent entry, Mig at Metamorphosism used a word that was new to me: apocaplectic. I commented enthusiastically about this combination of "apoplectic" (which has rather gone out of fashion, unfortunately) and "apocalyptic" (which, even more unfortunately, hasn't). Mig wrote back to direct me to a jolly entry dating from 2003, and I'll do the same to you. Mig's coinage works so well because we've all forgotten that "apocalypse" means "revelation," not "the end of the world."

May 03, 2006

The future revealed

I beg to call your attention to a bit of reorganization. At long last, I got round to transforming the Daily Blague entries that I posted from Istanbul in January 2005 into a single page at Portico. It has long been my plan to shift material that is not entirely ephemeral to a more permanent home. Regular readers will have noted that, aside from the weekly Book Review reviews, "continue reading" links take them straight to Portico, where complete pages are in place. In the case of a week of travel, the transfer has the additional virtue - really rather important - of placing the most recent events at the end, where they belong.

The original entries have all been re-edited down to one-sentence links. Transferring comments was a drag, I must say, because most comments don't make use of HTML. (I expect I'll get smoother at this over time.) Not every comment got transferred; I particularly left my own where they were. All comments still appear at the newly-vacated blog entries, which is sort of dumb. But I'm wary of throwing anything away.

The next project will be to do the same with the two breaks at Dorado Beach that Kathleen and I have enjoyed since the Daily Blague's inauguration. They will be ideal for printing out and reading in bed: they'll put you right to sleep. Then, with my limited travels out of the way, I'll attack the blog entries archived as "Reading Matter." Ideally, the DB itself won't contain any entries over a year old, but accomplishing the ideal is probably not going to happen anytime soon.

Until fairly recently, I've felt like a one-man newsroom, swinging from manic to meta-bored in seconds and spending very little time doing anything that might be called "work." Now that I've found a pace that agrees with me, however, I can step back and think about what I'm doing. And what I'm doing is building up Portico. That is the job at the top of my description. Portico is hypertext collection of prose works (and one piece of fiction) by one Robert John Keefe, self-publisher.

This is the place for modest disavowals, but I'm not making any. I do assure you, however, that the DB will offer at least one fresh entry every day. I thank you for reading.

April 13, 2006

Book List

Here's a list of book titles that I found at Patricia Storms's Booklust. And here's the code: books that I've read, books on my shelves, books that I might read, and books that I won't read. Finally, (books that I don't know anything about).

The DaVinci Code. It was awful, and I got rid of it.

The Catcher in the Rye. But I haven't read this as an adult.

To Kill A Mockingbird. But not as an adult.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Never.

The Great Gatsby. The perfect novella.

(The Time Traveler's Wife).

His Dark Materials. I'm much too old.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Ditto. 

The Life of Pi. Kathleen loved it.

Animal Farm. I doubt that I'll read this, but not enough to strike it out.

Catch 22. Ditto. There was something about the way guys in high school talked about this book that put me off it.

The Hobbit. I did read the trilogy, at much the same time that I discovered Wagner. I kept the Wagner and lost the Tolkien.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. A lovely book, with a desperately exciting adventure at the end.

Lord of the Flies. I don't think I've read this, but I may be wrong.

Pride and Prejudice. This will never be my favorite Austen, but I do love it.

1984. The consensus seems to be that Huxley was right, not Orwell. But I don't think I'd read Brave New World either.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Who organized this list?

One Hundred Years of Solitude. I hate magic realism.

Memoirs of a Geisha. A good read. But for the real experience, try to catch Kenji Mizoguchi's Gion Bayashi (A Geisha).

The Kite Runner. I liked this more than I thought I would.

The Lovely Bones. The negative reviews that this bit of bogusness received in respectable periodicals got to be quite funny.

Slaughterhouse 5. See Catch 22.

The Secret History. I've read this twice. It's super.

Wuthering Heights. I had to read this for school. I found it rather dull.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I'm probably too old for this, too.

Middlesex. I read the early part of this book in a magazine.

Cloud Atlas. My radar says, "Don't," but it's not shrieking.

Jane Eyre. Unlikely but possible.

Atonement. And everything else by Ian McEwan.

(The Shadow of the Wind).

The Old Man and the Sea. This is bad Hemingway. Or so I'm told.

The Handmaid's Tale. I am committed to doing everything that I can to keep what I understand the scenario of this book to be from being realized. I don't need its details clunking around in my head.

The Bell Jar. Probably not, but maybe.

Dune. I love David Lynch's film, though. Herbert's prose style makes me giggle. For about thirty seconds.


Cold Mountain. This was a good, old-fashioned gripper.

(The Alchemist).

White Teeth. The first, and probably the last, thing that I read by Zadie Smith was On Beauty. It was full of powerful scenes and affecting passages, but it completely failed to hang together as a novel.

The House of Mirth. Of course! Where's Henry James?

And, just for the hell of it, I'm going to add a fortieth title: The Corrections.

That enables me to claim a quarter of the titles. Which sounds just about right for a non-professional reader. My being me, there are more books that I won't read than books that I have read, and only a few tempters. (I don't believe that the Tolkien and Rowling books belong on a list like this, by the way.) I suppose I ought to print this up and nail it to the wall. 

April 11, 2006

Markos Explains His Book

You probably watch Comedy Central and The Colbert Report and know this anyway, but if you don't, here's a nice chance to hear Markos Moulitsas Zúniga explain Crashing the Gate to his delightfully clewless host. Put a face - and a voice - on that daily blog. 

April 06, 2006

What I See When I Blog


Hey guys, I don't know about you, but when I'm blogging, this is my view. You fellows must be daydreaming a lot, about what I just wonder.

Please welcome Perge Modo, which I've finally worked up the daring to add to my affinities list. T is a great writer, but please note: even though his visuals are decidedly chaste, the prose is totally Not Safe For Work. Wait until you get home.

March 22, 2006


The other night, while Kathleen was having a long nap, I went surfing. I seem to spend most of my days surfing the Blogosphere, but at that moment on Sunday, I was very relaxed. Dinner was as good as made.

I opened the bookmark folder marked "AAA." The blogs linked from here are the ones that, at the moment, interest me - and the ones that I've already listed on my blog roster. Lots of sites look interesting but don't hold my attention, or lose it altogether with infrequent entries. It's much easier and less embarrassing to remove them from the privacy of the AAA folder than it is to delete them from the published roster.

Conversational Reading is a service blog that I don't know enough about yet to list it among the Utilities, but I check it often and usually get something out of what Scott Esposito has to say. On Sunday, I scrolled down to this very brief entry and bit. I read the piece about William H Gass's The Temple of Texts, and was convinced that this was a book that I'd have to read. I kept reading down the blog, taking time out to learn something about Michael Smith, the owner of CultureSpace. Eventually, I reached the entry about a cut from Herbie Hancock's Inventions and Dimensions (1963). Mr Smith heard the number at a record store and was immediately taken by it.

The tune that caught my ears was "Succotash"; it begins with a 6/8 melody that makes you feel as if you're standing on a precipice. The sense of abandon, especially in the song's structure, is the result of Hancock's eager, if somewhat conservative, foray into the jazz avant garde. He assembled the great bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Willie Bobo, and percussionist Osvaldo Martinez and told them they could play whatever they wanted within the very basic boundaries he set for each song, none of which, save one, were written beforehand. "I didn't tell Paul what chords to use," Hancock said of "Succotash" (in the original liner notes), "because I didn't know what they were to be myself. All he and the musicians knew was the time signature. The melody and the form of the piece developed spontaneously." Hancock employed this off-the-cuff approach to music after working with free-jazz experimentalist Eric Dolphy just a year before. And like the playing, listening itself becomes an exploratory experience. "There's no telling what's going to happen," Hancock said. "In music, all things are possible."

Several years ago, I was standing by the stereo at a cocktail party. Prominent among the litter of jewel boxes was a boxed set: Herbie Hancock: The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions. (It appears to be out of print.) Lust and ignorance convinced me that I must own this six-disc set, even though I only knew of only one of the albums therein collected, Maiden Voyage. One of Kathleen's LPs, and not one that I'd listened to much. But the Blue Note package was exactly what a magisterial jazz album would look like if such an article were wanted. I had to have it.

It was much more Hancock than I could chew. I listened to one of the discs in the set for a while and then put the set aside. It was never hidden away, and it often reproached me. In vain. Until Sunday.

It occurred to me that "Succotash" might be on Sixties Sessions, and indeed it is. It's the seventh of nine cuts on Disc 2. I prepared to stand on a precipice.

But instead, I wondered if I'd lost my left speaker. The racket coming out of it sounded somewhere between typing in another room and mashing up plastic wrap. It is produced by Mr Martinez's guiro. It was so novel that I really didn't pay much attention to the rest of the performance. I found the piece interesting, but not interesting enough to play again. I let the disc play on while I continued with FreeCell.

FreeCell is an ideal device for capturing interesting music, because it lets me continue to hear what's playinig without paying attention. Good hooks will reach out and recapture that attention. Somewhere in the middle of "Triangle," the eighth cut on Disc 2 of Sixties Sessions, my ears perked up enough to note that Mr Hancock was really rolling, displaying enormous and well-honed technique. "Triangle" comes in three parts, and the beat of the second and third parts obsessively highlights the piano virtuosity. Happily, I can play FreeCell without paying attention. "Triangle" mesmerized me.

And "Mimosa," the final cut on the disc, came through as a deluxe bonbon of Latin jazz, svelte and cut on the bias.

I was immensely grateful to Mr Smith for the prodding me to listen to this music, even though I assessed "Succotash" rather differently and even though I preferred the two following songs. And, for once, the narcissism of small differences wasn't working. I had no desire to say anything but "thank you" to Mr Smith. There was no pressure to launch a super-persuasive version of my response in an attempt to convert Mr Smith to my point of view. Was I really that relaxed?

Talking about the experience after dinner last night, I hit on what underlies my relaxation. The Blogosphere has begun to teach me that I don't have to fight to have certain discussions. I've known very few people, in person, who share my interests (I've known very few people, period), and the effort to turn a conversation in my direction used to be so much trouble that on the few occasions when I succeeded I'd be talking, by the time I had the floor, at full throttle, a boiler of self-assertion no matter how politely masked. I genuinely wanted to know what other people thought, but I was too worked up to listen, and any discord triggered debate. I still get worked up from time to time, but the occasions are becoming rarer. Blogging has taught me, I think, to listen. I don't have to fight to get interesting discussions going. I can listen in on others'.

Thank you, CultureSpace. 

March 16, 2006


If I were gay, I could probably explain why the bathing suit that you will see if you "continue reading" has not already been featured at Towleroad or Joe.My.God. I have another picture of what it looks like down the back, if anyone's interested. The picture was taken "near Tampa." It comes to me courtesy of my great sister, Carol. Carol's book of American Kitsch would be pretty encyclopedic.

Continue reading "NSFW!" »

March 15, 2006

Field Day, Kegelcisor Division

Jenn Mattern, at Breed 'em and Weep, is thinking doing something special for her mother's birthday. She's thinking of "something special" as in a device called the Kegelcisor. Seasoned readers will not be surprised to find Jenn and The Mater having a field day with the euphemisms with which the Kegelcisor is marketed.

March 09, 2006


Hey, you. Yes, you. WTF! You didn't tell me about Office Pirates. I had to read about the site in the Times. Okay, it only started up late last month. But reading the blog entries and watching the videos that have accrued since then is going to send me to the emergency room with Laughter Fatigue and Tear Duct Abrasion.

There is so much to link to on this site that I'll just have to settle on the last one that I read. It's a collection of faux "urban office legends" that you can try out on your colleagues. Eg, "frozen glass cannot be broken."

You shoulda told me!

February 28, 2006

New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell has begun to keep a blog that may prove to be fascinating. Entries so far note rough-and-ready amplifications and corrective tweakings of material published ever so orderly in the magazine. For those of you who have been reading the Washington Monthly "debate" that I mentioned yesterday, between Mr Gladwell and his colleague, Adam Gopnik, about the merits of different health-care systems, please note that the discussion is six years old and that Mr Gladwell has completely changed his mind. Now he agrees with Mr Gopnik that the generous French and Canadian systems are far better than ours.

February 24, 2006


As I often feel creepily ancient here in the Blogosphere, I was heartened to discover the Elder Wisdom Circle, a collective of Bay Area seniors aged from sixty to ninety-seven that answers requests for advice. I wish that it had been around when a distant cousin, long since passed away, began to have serious incontinence problems. The elders whom I consulted all took a rather unhelpful approach, best summarized by a disclaimer: "If I ever do that, just shoot me."

How nice to have questions that older people can help out with. That has never been my good fortune. I've almost always been convinced that nobody older than I was had a clue about anything, and that's a conviction that has ebbed only as I've moved into old age myself. It still seems clear to me that we baby boomers grew up in a world that the parents didn't understand, a world, in fact, that was in many ways their rejection of what they had grown up understanding. They were very slow to realize, for example, that television was going to work very differently from radio.

In some wacky way, I knew that computers were going to change everything in general and my life in particular. I certainly knew this as a freshman in college, when I spent hours in the basement of the Computer Building typing punch cards for the student radio station. (Don't ask.) The computer of the day - there was just one in the building, an array of refrigerator-sized boxes with tape reels that hummed beyond a plate-glass wall - was obviously not up to "programming" the radio station's playlist, but I was fascinated by the possibility, and, had I been a generation younger, I might have tackled the problem seriously. Now I learn from younger people. I have a few things to teach, I suppose, and I'm very fond of quite a few really old people, but I don't ask them for advice, and they don't offer it.

In two years, I'll be old enough to apply for membership in the Circle. I doubt that I'd be accepted; my preference for the interesting, unusual solution to everyday problems marks me as the likely source of dodgy advice. But it's always nice to be asked.

February 23, 2006


A few weeks ago, I read somewhere that Jason Kottke was written up in The New Yorker in 2000. Wow, I thought, how'd I miss that? Then I realized that I hadn't missed it. Finding Rebecca Mead's "You've Got Blog," in the issue for November 13, 2000, was no trouble at all, thanks to The Complete New Yorker. Reading the article a second time was an experience loaded with dramatic irony.

Although I no longer have any proof with which to support the claim, I date my Web site, Portico, to the beginning of 2000. (I'm still using some of the code that Miss G wrote for me.) No sooner was the site up than I was oppressed by my ignorance of the care and feeding of a Web site. I knew that I had to keep it "fresh," but what did that mean? Years later, I would conclude that "fresh" means "daily additions," but in the beginning I spent a lot of time assuring myself that writing every day would not be necessary. Who could expect such a thing? What on earth would there be to write about? And then, before the year was out, I read "You've Got Blog." (I think I still had an AOL account.)

As I recalled, the article made blogging sound adolescent and ephemeral, an amusement, barely superior to video games, for geeky singles. And that was pretty much the last bit of thought that I gave to it until October 2003, when my nephew told me that I ought to have a blog. He couldn't say why; he couldn't really explain to me how a Web log differs from a Web site. So it took a while for me to see his point. If I fought doing so every step of the way, however, it was thanks largely to Rebecca Mead. Reading her piece again, I'm amazed by its infantilizing tone.

Most of the new blogs are, like Megnut, intimate narratives rather than digests of links and commentary; to read them is to enter a world in which the personal lives of participants have become part of the public domain. Because the main audience for blogs is other bloggers - blogging etiquette requires that, if someone blogs your blog, you blog his blog back - reading blogs can feel a lot like listening in an a conversation among a group of friends who all know each other really well. Blogging, it turns out, is the CB radio of the Dave Eggers generation. And that is how, when Meg Hourihan followed up her French-boyfriend-depression posting with a stream-of-consciousness blog entry a few weeks later saying that she had developed a crush on someone but was afraid to act on it - "Maybe I've become very good at eluding love but that's not a complaint I just want to get it all out of my head and put it somewhere else," she wrote - her love life became not just her business but the business of bloggers everywhere.

If I've learned anything in the last two years, it's that Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan are truly serious people who have devoted their adult lives to developing the World Wide Web as a social space. Their intelligence and maturity, however, are glossed over in The New Yorker. Although Ms Mead does note that Mr Kottke "is widely admired admired among bloggers as a thoughtful critic of Web culture," this is the only statement in the entire essay that does not contribute to the suffocating atmosphere of cute solipsism that is conjured by the author's fixation with romance. In fact, the narrative arc of the piece is, rather vulgarly now that I think about it, the approaching consummation of of a budding relationship.

Sentences such as the one invoking Dave Eggers, moreover, create the impression that blogging is for kids. Interestingly, Ms Mead does not include the detail that no such article today would omit: the address of a site for finding out more about blogs, and perhaps for setting one up. It is clear that she thinks that blogging will remain cool and viable as a subject for New Yorker articles only so long as they're the property of the cool kids (to whom she tacitly compares her subjects at every turn). Fifty-two when I read the piece for the first time, I was leery of taking up youth-stamped pursuits and looking ridiculous. Kathleen and I had just celebrated our nineteenth wedding anniversary, and the part of our lives that wasn't too boring to write about was, given Kathleen's profession, too confidential. It's no surprise then, that I came away from "You've Got Blog" both anxious about a mystifying challenge - would anybody read my site if it weren't a blog? - and resentful about having been dismissed from the lunch room.

Yesterday, Mr Kottke announced that he is not going to continue to regard as his principal project. A year ago, he raised nearly $40,000 in a fund drive pitched to visitors to the site. As long as six months ago, he began to doubt the viability of the project. In part, he wasn't giving it the attention that he thought that it needed, largely because of undisclosed but positive changes in his life (so much for indiscretion). Also, however,

I haven't grown traffic enough or developed a sufficient cult of personality to make the subscription model a sustainable one for things just aren't interesting to me.

It seems that I'm to be a mystified by this as I was by "You've Got Blog." If traffic or personal branding weren't objectives, what was Mr Kottke out to accomplish? That's what I started wondering about when Mr Kottke began to have his doubts, and it explains my moving the link to from the personal "affinities" roster to the list of useful sites. A year after becoming one of Mr Kottke's micropatrons, I haven't learned much about his life, beyond a knack for packing light and a taste for travel to exotic places. I certainly have never learned anything at all about his relationship with Ms Hourihan, which is funny in light of "You've Got Blog."

I'm not complaining. My purpose here is to note how wildly unpredictive the New Yorker article has turned out to be. Ms Mead all but promised us children; in the alternative universe that she foresaw, the happy couple would have documented pregnancy and delivered a bouncing media product. (Think of the naming rights!) It is evident that Mr Kottke would regard such publicity as a nightmare. Only deeply uninteresting people can afford to be Internet ingenues; anyone with a profession or a spouse will have to develop a robust persona and inhabit it as intimately as an actor inhabits a role. Blogging turns out to be a lot more serious than CB radio.

February 22, 2006

In the Mail

Yesterday's mail brought treats from Amazon here and abroad. I've got The Blind Boys of Alabama's Higher Ground in the tray, and I've got my dico at the ready, the better to read Philippe Garnier's Caractères: Moindres Lumières à Hollywood. No way I can wait for it to be translated; I'll just have brave M Garnier's robust vocabulary and make the most of things when the dictionary is silent (sans-grade, greluche). The opening chapter, "La Confrérie de la Redingote" ("The Brotherhood of the Tailcoats" - as in butlers and majordomos) is devoted to such greats as Eric Blore (who to my mind must be spending his afterlife in the Susquehanna Street Jail) and Franklin Pangborn. I have already learned that Blore was a songwriter who enjoyed West End successes before heading to New York - after a stint in a military balloon toward the end of World War I. I've long regarded myself as a connoisseur of character acting, but M Garnier's Introduction promptly disabused me of my right to such grandiose claims. He has seen everything. Caractères is going to be one of those books that really expand my grasp of the movies. James Harvey's 1987 treatise on screwball, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood, was such a book.


The mail also brought the new issue of The New Yorker, with Mark Ulriksen's parody of the Brokeback Mountain poster. The Vice President has figured in a few of these already; who knew he'd shoot his way into earning one? It still surprises me to see such topical covers on The New Yorker. Topicality was just what the magazine shunned when I was young. I don't mind the change, but I do miss the beautiful drawings of Arthur Getz and Abe Birnbaum.

And the mail finally brought my Times-Picayunes - a week's worth. Nothing could be more quixotic than this subscription, because I haven't got the time to read news that's days old and focused on New Orleans, but I took it anyway as a way of supporting one of the city's premier institutions. There - aren't I good. And what d'you know but that the brown wrappers in which the newspapers are rolled up remind me quite a lot of how The New Yorker used to arrive, a very long time ago. It's funny to think: there was no Internet then. It's funny to think because it's simply unimaginable.

You may recall that I was invited to join the hosts of Joe.My.God and Perge Modo on a "blarg hop" a few weeks ago - the night of the blizzard in fact. Accounts of the evening's antics have been piling up at participants' blogs. Aaron, at Meanwhile, got round to writing about it the other day, far more guardedly than most, and even then as a tangent to the larger context of the anonymous, often meth-fueled sex that the Internet has made so accessible. Ease of access has a price: it makes it less necessary to get to know people. On the whole, Aaron does not regret blogging.

What's the connection between blogging and the way I live? And the way you live? Does this experiment make our lives better or worse? I think my life is better for it.

I know that mine is, and that not least of the wonderful things that keeping a Web log has made possible is the chance to meet people whose writing I've come to like. I foresee a time when I will no longer feel the slightest bit nervous about such encounters. That's not to predict that there won't be disappointments. But I'm as ready to meet fellow writers as any business person is to make new contacts. Please remember me when you come to New York.

And, as long as you're at the keyboard: Those who appreciate moral conundrums will relish the unpleasant situation detailed at Lost Camera, a site that I came upon via Breed 'em and Weep.

February 16, 2006

Momentarily Cryptic

Message to any Boston attorney who hasn't heard of Dianna Abdala: Nobody likes you!

February 15, 2006

Les soeurs floridiennes


Kathleen and I spent the closing hours of St Valentine's Day talking about this photograph. The women in the picture are sisters. Once you start looking, a family resemblance stands out. But that's not what occupied us. Most people, including the lady on the right, would say that, while the sister in the pink top is gorgeous, her companion is - nice-looking. She does not have her sister's dazzling American smile, and her eyes are not half-masted by the pleasure of being young and lovely and free. Most important, the lady on the right leads with her forehead, not her chin.

If you wander through the Louvre or the Met in search of pretty faces, you won't find anything like the very American girl on the left. Her expression, if it existed at all before modern photography, was of no interest to the Old Masters. For example - speaking of Old Masters - consider Rubens's picture of his sister-in-law (here represented on postage stamps). The lady, Susanne Fourment (hmm!) smiles with her lips pressed together, but she holds her head down, just like the sister on the right. In the context of the photograph, there is something self-deprecating about that downward tilt vis-à-vis the upward thrust to the left. But if you consider Ms Right's picture by itself, an astonishing self-assurance emerges. The sort of assurance that allows one to resettle (just like all good Americans!) across an ocean. 

Stare at the photograph long enough, and you'll be bedeviled by two very pretty young ladies, each lovely in her own way. It's entirely possible, of course, that "long enough" is something that only an old clochard like me would devote to the picture. All I hope is that they had a great time partying last night in Gainesville.

February 01, 2006


Benjamin Randow - Le Vrai Parisien a tombé amoureux - has fallen in love. Perspicaciously, he has decided to stop blogging. Or perhaps his chérie has urged discretion. I can't imagine anything stickier than being over thirty and trying to keep a blog while building a new relationship. Yikes.

My first thought was to replace the link to Journal d'un Vrai Parisien with another francophone blog, and I may yet do that, but for the time being, the slot has been given to MindSpinner. I don't know anything about the author of this site except that she's a single mother of teenagers who teaches at a high school. She is thus doubly yoked to the problematics of adolescence while being by no means an old phooey herself. In short, she's out to teach/show young people how to enjoy life without destroying themselves. MindSpinner has been on my shortlist since late last year; it was in the course of running through the list this evening that I discovered MindSpinner's link to this blog. Er.Go!

January 27, 2006

Catching Up Not Required

With well over a year of solid blogging behind me, I'm finding that the experience has taken a few unexpected turns. For one thing, I'm no longer so interested in the links to impish or naughty pages; in fact, I'm not really interested in links per se. I've discovered that, with a moment's thought, I can get to whatever's being talked about via Google. For another, I've all but eliminated single-purpose blogs from my rosters. Blogs that are always and only satirical, political, self-absorbed or preoccupied with any one thing might be useful from time to time, but I can't bring myself to check them out every day. The time that I would devote to Go Fug Yourself - a very funny blog that invariably reduces me to tears by the fourth entry - goes instead to exploring the Blogosphere in search of sites that resemble my own. And there isn't much of such time. Trying to keep up with my the many blogs that I've "bookmarked" since June 2004 would be a full-time job if I were diligent about it.

Which I'm not. I've only just taken a first look at Jasper Emmering's eminently sensible and progressive blog, Hollandaise since September, when Mr Emmering posted some amazingly insightful entries comparing New Orleans to the Netherlands as to flood-prevention and preparation. The author is a physician whose English is just about native, and I don't know where he finds the time to read as widely as he does. (I'm not doing anything besides this, much less tending to the sick.) Nor have I noticed that Ronnie Cordova is writing a lot less these days at Sublethal, where, to be sure, the prose style often suggests slo-mo self-flagellation. Just as self-punishing, bar bouncer Rob, of Club Life, is somehow getting his book written for - Harper, was it? And I'd forgotten the existence of Mr Sun altogether!    

The other day, JR, at L'homme qui marche, proffered a bunch of cool photographic links. JR has been experimenting with "faux lo-mo," Photoshopping his digital images to give them the undernourished look of pictures taken with old Soviet cameras. Turns out that a lot of Flickr patrons are doing the same. Hours fly by! Then Amy, at The Biscuit Report, announces that she's being plugged by a site called King of Zembla. So I visit King of Zembla and have a look at the other plugged sites. One of these, Daai Tou Laam Diary - kept by an American expat in Hong Kong - links in turn to a site that I haven't visited in a very long time, Jesus' General. Scrolling down at JG, I find the General having some fun with a Mr Andrew Longman, born-again contributor to Renew America who is very unhappy about Brokeback Mountain. Mr Longman is, indeed, fun - if unintentionally.

Has it occurred to the great bulk of our people that we need to quit tolerating the forces of internal destruction which work night and day to deconstruct our manliness at a time when our nation faces an absolute need for valor, ferocity, the force of arms, and the defense of the innocent pregnant woman and her children at home? Has it occurred to anyone, anyone at all, that it is immoral to assault masculinity? In a time of war?

The writer wins this week's Mr Patriarch award.

It goes on and on. There's one thing I've learned. It came to me when I was talking about this to Kathleen and she told me about a former colleague who likes the site but who, like Kathleen herself, doesn't always have the time to check in. "I'm a bit behind with The Daily Blague," she said. I told Kathleen to tell her, "Don't worry about catching up!" I used to say - at Portico, and with profound wrongheadedness - "this is not a blog." Now, I say, "this is not a book." You don't have to catch up.

January 19, 2006

It Never Stops

A few days ago, I responded to a storm of comment spam by requiring commenters to acquire and use TypeKey Identities. As of this morning, however, the attempt to sign in meets with the following:

Comment Submission Error

Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

The sign-in validation failed.

Peachy, huh? While I wait for advice from Six Apart support, I've removed the TypeKey Identity, and rolled up my sleeves to repel more spam. PS: It's already back.

Update: The storm resumed immediately; in a few hours, I've brushed off well over a hundred comments. TypeKey sign-ins appear to work again; I can only assume that there was a glitch at the server. In any case, I'm requiring authentication once more, as you'll see.

January 16, 2006

Comments Redux

Comments have been enabled, but commenters must be authenticated. This means that, in order to post a comment, you must have a TypeKey identity. If you don't have a TypeKey identity, you can create one very handily by clicking on the "Sign In" link (I agree that it's fairly pale) at the bottom of the comments page. Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any difficulty with the new régime. Your comments are extremely important to me, and I've resisted the hurdle of TypeKey authentication for over a year just to keep the posting of comments simple. Until the wizards of comment spam have been banished from the Blogosphere, however, authentication will be my best defense against a very demoralizing intrusion.

January 15, 2006

No Comment

We're midway through the long Martin Luther King weekend. Sleeping in seems to have been the order of the day this winter, especially on weekends. I can't decide whether the comfort is outweighed by the loss of daylight. It will be dark in a couple of hours, and I've only just finished reading about half of the weekend's Timeses. It was heartening to see that two of the newspaper's three film critics "nominated" Romain Duris, of De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté, for the Best Actor Oscar. I doubt that M Duris has a chance, though, given the fact that his film is in French.

Owing to a storm of comment spam that began shortly before Christmas, I have temporarily disabled the comments feature on this site. As of yesterday, I was receiving over three hundred pieces of crap a day. They're easy to delete, thanks to a handy plug-in, but the rising tide was demoralizing. I am considering the option that Six Apart, the makers of MovableType, recommend: limiting comment access to TypeKey identities. This oughtn't to pose a real problem, because the identities are free and easily acquired. But in practice, I know that it will chill many commenters. It's possible that simply turning comments off for a while will send some kind of message to the bastards behind the bombardment - I'm not on top of the technology. (I'd be supremely grateful, and even willing to make a small cash prize, for any effective help in dealing with this intrusion.) I do beg you to write to me directly for the duration, about anything that strikes your fancy, making clear whether or not your remarks are intended for publication.

And now for my wonted Sunday pastime, reviewing the Book Review.

December 28, 2005

Meme of Four

Having followed the recent rash of "Meme of Four" postings with avid interest, and finding myself in the middle of several pages with nothing quite ready for publication, I have decided to jump on for a free ride - with commentary. The number four poses interesting problems of scarcity and superfluity.

¶ Four jobs that I have had: I have not had four jobs. I was a summer clerk at the Bank of New York in the Sixties, a radio announcer and music programmer in the Seventies, and a paralegal and a lawyer in the Eighties. None of them meant nearly as much to me as the current uncompensated position whose job description I'm making up as I go along.

¶ Four movies that I could watch over and over: This is a tough one. There are dozens of movies that I do watch over and over. Every once in a while, in the kitchen, I watch a movie again right away. I'm going to give two sets, funny and not funny. Funny: Something's Gotta Give, Le Divorce, What's Up, Doc? and The Awful Truth. Not funny: Dolores Claiborne, The Gift, Runaway Jury, and The Road to Perdition.

¶ Four places I have lived: Once again, I don't quite meet the mark. I grew up in Bronxville, New York, which is a suburb sixteen miles from Times Square. Is that so different from living in Manhattan? Yes and no. Whenever I traveled as a youth, I would say that I was from New York, and my interlocutor would say, "But you don't sound like you come from Noo Yawk." In between Bronxville and Yorkville, I've lived in Notre Dame, Indiana (it has its own Zip code) and Houston, Texas.

¶ Four TV Shows that I love to watch. Not applicable.

¶ Four places that I've visited on vacation: The most recent hits, all of which I'd like to revisit, are London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Istanbul, but now that I think of it, Kathleen wasn't on vacation in three of them. I'm looking forward to Dorado Beach in a couple of months. That's in Puerto Rico. But the important thing to know, since it's not where you travel but how you travel, is that staying home is my idea of roughing it. What I really want from travel is a little bit of the ancien régime.

¶ Four Web sites that I visit daily. Now that would be a great way to get into trouble. See the list of eighteen blogs to the left. I visit all of them every weekday.

¶ Four places I'd rather be. See above.

¶ Four of my favorite foods: Fried chicken, spaghetti alla carbonara, spring rolls, and just about any cheese.

¶ Four places I would rather be. I am too old for this question; I am simply glad to be alive.

December 26, 2005

And the First Annual Daily Blah-Blah Blah...

If there's one thing I'm tired of, it's contents that nobody has nominated me for. So I am going to bypass the nomination and voting procedures entirely and simply award the First Annual Daily Blague Christmas Photograph Award to David Olivier, a/ka/a Slimbo, for this picture-worth-thousand-character shot of his post-Katrina, post-mold hearth.

December 22, 2005

Scènes de la vie de bohomo

As I was getting dressed this morning, it crossed my mind that a gifted composer and a gifted librettist could take the serial stories that Joe Jervis tells at Joe.My.God and weave an opera of his tales. Joe has just concluded his latest, "The Mommy Box," and it's as strong as any of them.

December 06, 2005

A New Affinity

Permit me to call attention to a new addition to my Affinities list. Laura Garcia, who signs herself LTG, keeps a thoughtful blog at Embracing Chaos. Writing in central Massachusetts, Laura came upon the Daily Blague via the shout-out conferred by Joe.My.God in October. She has been posting at Embracing Chaos with ever-increasing frequency, and her entry about Google Earth the other day made it clear to me that a kindred soul belonged on my list.

When I launched this site a year ago, I kept the usual blog roster - a few personal sites that interested me, and a few national brands, such as Fafblog and Obsidian Wings. It ended up looking something like this. What I didn't understand until well into 2005 was the deforming effect of starting a blog during an election cycle. As the dust settled, the national brands seemed less vital, and sometimes a great deal less healthy. I do not wish to be a monument to the failure - which I hope will prove temporary or even curable - of my country's electoral system (the actual one, skewed by campaign financing and de facto disenfranchisement, and not so much the one ordained by the Constitution). Issues are important, certainly, but I believe that they ought to be refracted through the texture of a lived life. Theorists and academics strike me as deeply out of touch with, and frankly not interested in, the thought of the "ordinary" people in their lives. 

We need to temper the practice of professionalism. While we can't take our specialties seriously enough, we need to do more to make sure that they're open to intelligent comment by laymen. I know from experience that lawyers have a lot of bizarre and not terribly humane ways of doing things, some of them quite literally medieval. Doctors are beginning to learn that failure to be frank and cordial with patients is the surest predictor of malpractice litigation. Research scientists have failed miserably at maintaining a literate public. It is their responsibility to make what they're doing interesting and comprehensible to nonscientists. Blaming the general public, or even the educational system, as Nicholas D Kristof does in today's Times, is a waste of time. There's probably not a profession or line of work in the world that couldn't be "taught" by a clever video game.

Because I'm positively neurotic about  giving offense, and would feel terrible about taking anyone off my Affinities list, I've grown somewhat cautious about additions. I visit the sites on the list every weekday, and comment as frequently as anything intelligent pops into my head. I also visit the sites on a list that I began keeping privately about two months ago. Embracing Chaos is the first to make the jump.

Because Mr Kristof's Op-Ed piece is available only to TimesSelect subscribers, I have not provided a link.

November 30, 2005

The Daily Blagueurs on Frappr!

(PS: I'm going to nudge this entry toward the top of the page for a few days.)

Hot on the heels of Joe.My.God, I have set up The Daily Blagueurs Frappr! Map. I hope that you will stick your pushpin in it.

November 21, 2005

On the Radio

Patricia Storms, of Booklust, was invited to participate in a CBC radio program that aired yesterday. Hosted by Rex Murphy, it's called Cross Country Checkup. Patricia talks about two books dear to her heart (one of which is very dear to Kathleen's as well), and she explains what a Web log is as well as anybody has ever done. Patricia's segment, which lasts about ten minutes, begins at about 56 minutes into the show, so push the ball along the Real Audio line to there to hear one of my favorite bloggers. 

November 19, 2005

Saturday Afternoon Opera

To anybody who's interested in writing an opera about blogs, I propose the following rough scenario, the first act of which is drawn from fellow blogger's personal experience, as disclosed in private correspondence with yours truly. All names have been omitted.

The Bloggers Betrayed (This will sound better in Italian, as, indeed, the whole opera will, if anybody writes it. As Tom Meglioranza complained the other day, there are really only three moods in Italian music: happy, sad and angry. I think that I might add a fourth, pleading.)

Act I: Forty-something keeps racy Web log. By means of Google, the blogger's Mom discovers the blog and is shocked. Mom and Blogger swear eternal oaths, Mom never to read the blog again, and Blogger to refrain from publishing the fact that Mom knows anything about the blog.


Act II: Reading in Blogger's blog that she has discovered it, Mom posts a comment, furiously denying that she even knows what a blog is.


Act III: Mom starts up a blog, describing marital relations with Blogger's Dad, Blogger's toilet training, &c. The finale ought to be bloody, with Blogger dying of poison after having stabbed Mom. 

PS: Tom Meglioranza's Tomness is NOT the source of my inspiration.


November 12, 2005

"This Life"

Anyone who follows JR's blog, L'homme qui marche, knows that its author is a brilliant amateur photographer. He has taken some of the most startling botanical photographs that I have ever seen, and there are two shots of a still green pond that I would like to have on my walls, even though that would mean taking down something that I love, just to make room. But it seems that there isn't anything that JR can't capture. The other day, JR collected about two dozen pictures of people, mostly in Paris but not with any particularly Parisian flavor, and mounted them at flick', under the rubric "This Life." That's exactly what you'll see, too: this life that you are leading, or at least its ordinary public moments. In almost every picture, you will see people going about their errands or taking a break from doing so. Nobody is rich, and nobody looks very poor. There is an unselfconsciousness that would be sloppy if JR didn't frame the shots so well. By that I don't mean that he has put form over substance. It's rather that the lens is always directed at or just below a head. Almost everyone wears the peculiarly modern combination of slightly stressed thoughtfulness and relaxed posture. We're on the lookout for something new, but we don't expect to see it.

My favorite is the one of the three girls chatting by the reflection pool, but I'm also nuts about the little tyke tearing away on his training-wheeled bicycle. 

November 07, 2005


Every morning, I have a little routine that I call "walking the dog." I check out all of the entries on my "Affinities" list, which, whether you're on the DB's homepage or not, you ought to be be able to see to the left. Partly because I walked the dog last night, after dinner, as a quiet way of unwinding from the weekend's obsession with such expressive prose as

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and partly because I could hardly walk myself to the bathroom (so to speak), I skipped it this morning, zeroing right in, instead, on Opinionistas. Opinionistas - one of the most compelling sites on the Web, if you happen to be an American attorney - is written by a 27 year-old associate at a big Midtown law firm. In it, "O" recreates the soul-crushing atmosphere that makes powerhouse firms so unpleasant to work in. You've heard it all before - the long hours, the suited savagery, the ultimate pointlessness of most of the work - and you've probably responded as one or another of Opinionistas's many commenters has. I don't read the site every day, but I visit once a week, usually to gauge how much worse things are today than they were when Kathleen started out on Wall Street. (In many ways - the work-related ones - not much. In others - psychotic outbursts - rather much.) Lately, "O" has been writing as though it's only a matter of time before she's outed as the author of her widely-read site, and promptly shown the door by her firm. In the Times on Sunday, she went even further, telling reporter Paul Berger that she has received numerous email threats from people who know who she is, "threatening to unmask her."

In the summer of 2004, when I was just beginning to follow blogs, I came across an observation that I've seen borne out time and again. Interestingly, the observation was made in the late Nineties, long before blogging as we know it was common. Here it is: if you're keeping an anonymous blog, assume from the start that everybody is going to find out who you are. The catch, as "O" is finding out, is that when you start keeping a blog, for whatever reason, you hardly expect to be well-known. You may, as "O" was doing, write for the therapeutic benefits of self-expression. Making your journal public increases the therapeutic effect. But it's not a big deal, and you naturally tell a friend or two. Because, if you don't, who's going to read your blog? Or so you think; you don't know that the surest way to find readers is to comment profusely at sites that you like. Even if you did know this, it wouldn't register, because you're just getting some stuff off your chest, not conducting a marketing blitz. You're happy with your circle of ten loyal readers, all whom ring changes on "Hang in there! We love you!"

As it happens, however, Producers-style, you write pretty well. You cover a humiliating episode with suspense and verve, and your ten friends link to ten of their friends. Very quickly, everyone in a situation similar to yours - and, if you're a third-year associate at a big law firm, you've got a potential readership of thousands of similarly-situated miserable but literate young lawyers - everyone in your boat is reading your site. You find yourself, as "O" recently did, overhearing your colleagues speculate about who "you" really are. 

You start thinking of writing a novel, at least partly because you fear that you're going to need a new line of work in the near future. But it needn't come to that. You may have to take a pay cut, and work at a smaller, less hysteria-driven firm, where the partners get along with each other (for the most part) and genuinely foster their associates. You may have to take a job that allows you to like the practice of law, perhaps even to love it. You can tell your new bosses about the Web log on the way in. The only problem is that you may not have anything very exciting to blog about.

November 02, 2005


If the Daily Blague vanishes from your computer in the next couple of days, that's because I've signed up for an upgrade. The gifted technical folks at MovableType will take care of it - provided that I can understand their requests. MovableType is afflicted with multiple personalities. The tech support is super; I have been bailed out of every problem I've encountered by patient, good-humored women (I don't recall dealing with a gent). But the latest go-round has made me wonder if the reason I've needed tech support in the first place isn't the grimly uncommunicative prose of its manuals and bulletins. These make grammatical sense but convey nothing to the uninitiated. Whoever's in charge of writing English at MovableType ought to be fired, yesterday. MovableType already has a great product; now it ought to work on its partnership with its customers.

October 24, 2005


As the Daily Blague approaches its first anniversary, and I consider the different kinds of Web logs that different people maintain, I wonder whether the future holds more variety or less. How many bloggers have passed the "let's see what this thing is all about" stage? How many will continue to post once they do? When will the blogosphere cease to be dominated by IT workers?

That blogging began as a way of keeping friends up to date about new developments on the Internet makes perfect sense, but it's just as obvious that this robust format would proliferate in every direction. I detect a note among some veterans, Jason Kottke among them, of rededication to Foundational Blogging (my term), of distaste for long written entries, which seem to be associated with punditry. Mr Kottke remarked the other day that something he'd just come across reminded him of an article about blogging written by Julian Dibbell and published at Feed (an online magazine) in 2000. The article is still worth reading.

A Web log really, then, is a Wunderkammer. That is to say, the genealogy of Web logs points not to the world of letters but to the early history of museums -- to the "cabinet of wonders," or Wunderkammer, that marked the scientific landscape of Renaissance modernity: a random collection of strange, compelling objects, typically compiled and owned by a learned, well-off gentleman. A set of ostrich feathers, a few rare shells, a South Pacific coral carving, a mummified mermaid -- the Wunderkammer mingled fact and legend promiscuously, reflecting European civilization’s dazed and wondering attempts to assimilate the glut of physical data that science and exploration were then unleashing.

This is very apt, and I'm glad to have it. But I've found that the Wunderkammer opened up by the Daily Blague has been a network of associations running from things happening in the world through my brain and out to other things that I'm reminded of. Only some of those externalities are situated on the Internet.

October 19, 2005


Jason Kottke writes today about - not writing. Well, writing less. "The further away from punditry I can get, the better it will be for all of us," he concludes, having already revealed that writing does not rank very high on his list of pleasures. What he proposes to do instead is to steer in the direction of "tumblelogs." To see what one of these looks like, visit Anarchaia. We will not, I think, be heading in that direction here in the Porticomplex.

But who wants to sound like a pundit - besides pundits? I try very hard not to sound like one, but to some extent, I'm sure, in vain. What I've discovered is that the Web log does not have to be a hurry-up what's-new medium. I still recommend readers to print the longer entries and read them at leisure, but I've also done what I can to keep the look of Portico, where everything on the blogs is destined to wind up, as crisp and uncluttered as possible. I've also cut back on what I call self-evident links. There's no reason for me to interrupt my text - and every link is a bit of an interruption - with a link to Amazon or Google that you, gentle reader, can easily fashion for yourself simply by copying, say, the title of a book into the search window.

As I write, I'm hearing a previously unopened 1973 recording of Radu Lupu, with the London Symphony Orchestra under André Previn, performing the wonderful slow movement of Grieg's Piano Concerto in a. I once told a music teacher that I hoped, some day, to have an entire summer like this music; it seemed a sophisticated thing to say and I meant it. I also mean this: it's nice to have arrived at a point where blogging is no longer cool. All right, not cool, but coolio.

October 04, 2005

Through the roof

To any of you who visited this site yesterday (or today) on Joe Jervis's recommendation, a hearty thanks. No matter how brief your visit, it pushed my blog stats through the roof. As of right now, I've had more than half of last week's hits within a twenty-four hour period. And, from now on, I have two anniversaries to celebrate on the same day.

It was strange timing. Shortly after I'd posted my anniversary entry, showing Kathleen and myself tripping down the steps at St Thomas More, I got curious about the traffic and checked my referrals. Everyone was coming from Joe.My.God. What a laugh! In an earlier post yesterday, I'd written that  

I know that, if and when this blog ever takes off - and it very well may never take off, but just inch its way up, capturing one permanent new reader for every hundred visitors (I'm being optimistic) - that I'll have luck to thank. That the right person will have visited on the right day and been in a position to tell all the right people. My job is to prepare for that visit every day without expecting it.

Well, even though Joe sent me a heads-up in the morning, I didn't expect what happened to happen.

And I'm not counting on it to happen again. But if you will take a moment to tell me what you thought, I'll be very grateful. Comment, anonymously if you like, or write to me.

September 15, 2005

C'mon, Mr President

This just in from the ether. I've no idea of the provenance, but it does sound like Bill Maher, and I don't see why he wouldn't want to take credit for it.

C'mon, Mr. President, it's time for you to quit while you're behind.

By:  Bill Maher

America must recall the president.  That's what this country needs: a good old-fashioned California-style recall election complete with petitions, finger-pointing and a ridiculous cast of replacement candidates.

Just like Gray Davis had to do here in California, George W. Bush must now defend his job against...Russell Crowe!  Because at this point, I want a leader who will throw a phone at somebody.   Naomi Campbell can be vice president - only phone throwers, people!

Come on, Mr. President, this can't be fun for you anymore. You can't spend more of our money, because you used it all up. And you can't start another war, because you've used up the troops. And when it comes to reacting to hurricanes, you made your old man look like St. Francis of Assisi.

Your job has turned into the Bush family nightmare:  helping poor black people. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out and no one's speaking to you --- mission accomplished!

Now it's time to do what you do best:  lose interest and walk away, like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team.  Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?

Oh, I know what you're saying:  "Hey, I've got three more years, and there's so many other things I want to.....touch."  Please don't.

I know. I know.  There's so much left to do:  war with Venezuela, eliminating the sales tax on yachts and diamonds, turning the space program over to the church, handing  healthcare over to Halliburton and Social Security to Fannie Mae, giving embryos the vote.

But none of that's going to happen now.  Why?  Because you're the first American president to lose a whole city.  Jimmy Carter never lost a city.  Herbert Hoover was a lousy president, but he didn't concede an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.

You've performed so poorly you should give yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.  On your watch we've lost almost all of our allies, the budget surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the city of New Orleans.  Maybe you're just not lucky.

I'm not saying you don't love this country.  I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. Yes, God does speak to you.  And he's saying:  "Take a hint."

September 05, 2005


Be sure to stay in touch with David Olivier at Slimbolala. David and his family are well out of harm's way, having evacuated over the weekend. But he is writing very well about gradually grasping the enormity of the catastrophe.

August 30, 2005

The World's First Blogger - c'est moi!


Among the piles of unearthed paper that passed before my eyes late last month during Team Vacation was a stack of KLEF Program Guides. I don't have very many, certainly nothing like the sixty that I produced while I was Music Director at what was then Houston's commercial classical station. (It is no longer broadcasting as such, thanks to deregulation.) About a week after I glanced through the old issues, it hit me:

I am the world's first blogger. I began blogging without MovableType, without browsers, without the Internet even. It did involve typing, though.

A lot of typing. Anybody old enough to have used a proportionally-spaced IBM typewriter can imagine the curses that working with such a machine elicited from me. Proportionally-spaced typefaces consist of letters of unequal width: "m" is five times as wide as "l." The typewriter that you had in college (ahem) would have been a evenly-spaced machine, with each letter of the alphabet occupying an imaginary box of the same size, like the characters in Chinese calligraphy. Proportional spacing produces copy that looks more like typeset printing.

Eventually, I got a Selectric typewriter, with its even spaces and itschangeable daisy-wheels (Italics!), and life became simpler. I had taken on the job of typing the Program Guide in order to increase my paltry take-home. The work had been done by a professional typist who typed directly onto huge sheets of paper that were subsequently photographed and offset. I had the bright idea of typing on rolls of adding-machine paper, and then pasting these onto the unwieldy sheets. The flexibility of cutting and pasting was familiar to me long before I got my Peanut in 1985. But so it was to anyone working with offset printing. What's uniquely mine, in the example to the left, are the two extemporaneous comments appending to listings of music by Saint-Saëns and Chopin for the early afternoon of 8 October 1974. Yes, the image is a little small - although it can be read with a magnifying glass - but it's not important that you read it. What's important is this proof that I was consigning my impromptu thoughts to publicity as I went along, and at whatever length felt right, over thirty years ago.

Some of the comments weren't so impromptu. I have been encouraged by a few kind people who have read the long ones to republish them at Portico. Easier done than considered. My thinking about the subjects of these essays has shifted in countless ways, and of course there are mistakes to clean up. If I could just upload the material, I would, but I have to retype it first, and, trust me, I'm not a passive typist. (The inability to leave things alone is a failing, I've learned, common to lawyers who take pleasure in writing.)

Almost every day, I feel a little more completely that I was born to keep a Web log, that it is the literary form for me. Lucky for me, then, that it came into existence at some point during my time here below! Looking back at the Program Guides, I can see how I was longing for it!

August 27, 2005

Vanity Googling

In Something's Gotta Give, Harry surprises Erica with the information that there are a few thousand Web sites that mention her. When you do this using your own name, it's called "vanity Googling." But trying it out the other night did little to boost my ego. Almost without exception, the returned links ran to comments that I have posted on other sites. Oh well.

I hadn't been to some of the sites in a very, very long time. I had completely forgotten a few. Revisiting them this time, I was clever enough to list them in my ever-expanding index of Favorites - in two different categories, if possible. I'm relying on this index more and more to keep up with the Blogosphere. I try to run through at least one category a day. In any case, my idle bit of Googling turned out to be constructive.

There was one link that mentioned me. "I love you, R J Keefe," wrote one Katie. That's always nice to hear, but I wondered why Katie had been moved to say so. It turned out to have to do with a favorite line from Radio Days: "Hark, the cannons roar! Is it the king approaching?" (If you know this Woody Allen classic, you will now find yourself helplessly practicing "roah, roah, roah.")

There were nine hundred hits in all, of which about a hundred and fifty were actually different. For some reason or other, when Kathleen tried it at the office, she got - a few thousand. 

August 19, 2005

True Romance

A modern love story that I'm sure will tickle you may be found at Lost In Transit.

August 06, 2005

A Helpful Pamphlet

JR, at L'homme qui marche, made a fantastic discovery last week. It's a link to a magnificent Fifties-style parody of the Helpful Hints booklets that were ubiquitous before television. "What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression." It spoofs the self-importance that it's hard for any blogger to avoid entirely. After all, blogging is in part a performance, especially for those of us who post at least one substantial entry a day. Nobody but Jason Kottke is getting paid to blog, and that only makes warm appreciation more important. I deserve warm appreciation, don't I?

The pamphlet reminds one over and over again that blogging is "an undertaking which was totally voluntary and which does not directly contribute to his or her continued survival on this, our plant earth." This is true only in the narrowest, most technical sense. Most bloggers really need to blog, or they give it up. Some bloggers really need to a good job, because readers are important to their continued survival on this, our planet earth. Believe me!

But of course this neediness is never supposed to show; it queers the pleasure on both sides.....

Continue reading about "Blog Depression" at Miss Gostrey's Guide.

¶ The Loose Links feature has migrated permanently to Miss Gostrey's Guide. Checkez-y.

July 12, 2005

Holy Hotcakes!

What the blazes is this doing in Newsweek?

So if you think your nutritional concerns can be rightfully addressed with food alone, think again. When the real-life requirements of the eight sacred metabolizers are not met, the body withers and weakens, loses integrity, and invites disease upon itself, calling forth whatever symptoms are necessary to alert us to the soul lesson that is hungering for nourishment and attention. We can no longer look exclusively in the biological realm to solve health problems that are but downstream effects of the affairs and tides of the soul.


July 07, 2005


The news from London has wrenched what was going to be a peaceful day into shards. My sympathies to everyone in London, victims and others alike, for having to live with the awful uncertainty that terrorism leaves in its wake.

It's ironic that the bombings occurred during the G8 summit in Scotland. Tony Blair says that the timing was intentional, and perhaps he's right - but that would not be ironic. What's ironic is that the time for G8 meetings has passed. It is time to start serious talks with Islamic leaders, serious open talks, so that all of us, we helpless playthings of the powerful, can see for ourselves what demands can and cannot be met.

Why do leaders who speak of refusing to capitulate to terrorism believe and expect that proud people will capitulate to foreign occupation? What are they thinking?

Decline and Fall

Today's entry, about Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, begins over at Good For You. When it was ready to post, I sat down to watch a movie. That's not something that I ordinarily do doing daylight, but here's what happened. On Saturday, my dear Kathleen went to the Video Room, to pick up a movie. She found one, and then she found another, and when Kathleen is about to rent two movies, she remembers that the VR has a deal that lets you borrow a fourth movie for free if you rent three. This sounds great, but especially on a holiday weekend we don't watch that many movies in three days.

The rental expired last night, but we forgot to call for pickup, meaning that in addition to wasting money we were going to be charged even more. We had watched two of the four videos, Spellbound (not the Hitchcock but the one about the spelling bee) and My Brilliant Career, which, we realized the other day, neither of us had ever seen. Kathleen also hadn't seen Miss Firecracker, but I wasn't in the mood. And In July turned out to be Im Juli, a German film made by Fatih Akin. I thought that, as long as we were paying today's rental, I might as well give it a try. Because I still haven't seen Run, Lola, Run, I hadn't seen Moritz Bleibtreu before. Herr Bleibtrau has been in front of cameras since he was six, and it just may take an actor with as much experience to play the hapless and recessive Daniel Bannier, a teacher-in-training who has always run from adventure. But he runs into Juli, a vagabond beauty (Christiane Paul) and, the next thing you know, he's on his way to Istanbul - which is why Kathleen rented the movie - and to self-discovery. Im Juli has moments of magic realism, and is unembarrassed about unlikely coincidences, but the story has such an optimistic pull that we somehow know that Daniel is always going to survive the latest disaster. I recommend it to anyone whose eyes aren't tired (the subtitles are in a garish yellow) and who's up for a gamine romp. 

June 29, 2005

Call me Prince Henry

At some point yesterday, my NewsGator feeds stopped coming in - and I was too preoccupied with my own stuff to notice. I rely on NewsGator to tell me when certain favorite sites have been updated (when new entries have been posted, that is), and I ought to have been suspicious about everybody's being so quiet, but, hey, it's summer. In fact, almost everybody had posted something "while I was out." Speedy commenter that I try to be, I felt that I'd been very rude.

And what was I doing? Exploring the Blogosphere. It's certainly not Web surfing, and it's not fun, although it can be very interesting. I am working on a taxonomy of the kinds of blogs that interest me. Parenting blogs, expat blogs, satirical blogs. Political blogs of course, even though I don't spend much time visiting them these days. Taxonomy is always somewhat arbitrary, I know. Are blogs written by openly gay people, for example, "gay blogs"? I'm not even sure that there is such a thing as a gay community, anymore than there is a straight community. But I want to get a grip on the virtual geography; all too human, I can't allow the chaos to swirl untended. My method is to run through all of the links on an interesting blog's roster of presumably interesting links. Some sites don't hold my attention for very long, but a surprising (and taxing) number do. I don't believe that it has ever before been possible to witness the variety of human existence that a voyage among blogs makes manifest. If you don't look closely, everybody looks more or less the same - everybody is, after all, writing. But get closer and the uniqueness becomes palpable. Everywhere and all the time, there are people living, feeling, and expressing themselves. Of course we know this, but to see it is fearful, just as having a momentary sense of the size of the universe can be overwhelming.

What's this? NewsGator just popped: something new at Sale Bête.

June 28, 2005

What I am up to.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

At Silt 3.0, a Web log written by an American in Amsterdam, I encountered a variant of the button above, which I encourage all bloggers to press. The link is to an interestingly complex survey about the relation between blogging and more venerable forms of human interaction.

Eight months into proper blogging, I feel more committed to writing for this site than I have ever felt about anything, even paying jobs. I know that blogging has been around for a while, but from the perspective of someone close to sixty, it doesn't make much difference whether I discovered blogging in 2004 or 2002. Almost immediately, I saw that it was the answer to a question that I hadn't known how to ask. I've only just begun to feel that my little vessel is sailing a smooth course; I no longer begin the day wondering what I'm going to do next.

And I've gotten used to the quiet atmosphere, which is sometimes, dishearteningly, quite SETI-like. I'd prefer to have a bit more traffic, and I don't think that I'll ever garner too many comments, but I'm learning not to count. I'm discovering that quality and quantity are on many levels inversely related. Sunday's entry alone elicited three well thought-out comments, one of them an entry manqué for his own blog by Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God. Très cool, in my not-very-humble opinion. Mine is not a blog for jumping in and out of, and I assume that there are few ADD-sufferers among my readers. Nor does this blog have what you might call an area of concentration. I am always reminded of my friend Rob, who said one night at dinner that the Daily Blague is a forum for my "philosophy," a remark that stunned me at the time but that may really be quite accurate. The site is that general.

I have yet to encounter a blog that reminds me of mine. That's disappointing, because I don't have anyone to measure up against. This isn't to say that there aren't a lot thoughtful, well-written blogs out there. But the primacy of blogging in the hierarchy of things that I do makes for a difference. The only other blogger who doesn't have a day job (that I'm aware of) is Jason Kottke, and I write a great deal more about a broader range of things than Mr Kottke does. (This is not to say that I keep a better blog.) I am also not a computer engineer, and have nothing to say about the technology of blogging. My command of that technology is very limited, and it was painfully acquired. The last thing I want to write about is how I'm dealing with, say, comment spam. This - what you're reading - is how I talk about blogging.  

One of the MIT survey questions asked how long I'm planning to maintain and update my blog. The response options ranged from "I have already stopped it." to "5 years or more." I chose the latter and moved on, wondering however if it isn't a bit lazy to assume that blogging will still be what I want to do in 2010. I don't assume that I'll still be around in five years (I do hope to be), but I'm pretty certain that blogging, or its assigns and successors, will be occupying the foreground of my life if I am. 

(What a crushing thought: five years of this torrential verbiage!)

June 16, 2005

Alphonse le grand, roi des gazons

I'm sorry, but there is such a thing as the best photograph of a cat ever. And it is here. Taken by JR of L'homme qui marche  - trouvable à droite.

June 07, 2005


The other day, I discovered something about this blog that resonates more deeply by the hour. A visitor lodged a complaint in a comment to a totally unrelated entry. There was a reason for this and the commenter and I have since worked things out through a calm exchange of emails. But a handful of the Daily Blague's regular visitors were very put off by the comment, and they told me so - via email. They did not post their objections. One friend went so far as to call the comment a "comment-killer."

Comment killer? There's such a thing as a comment killer? Not on most of the blogs that I read regularly. I'd have thought that the only thing that could kill comments was an inert entry, so boring or inane or arcane or otherwise unappealing that readers wouldn't even reach the "Comments" link. It has always been my understanding that comments generate comments, and I am quite sure that had the complaint been posted at La petite anglaise, say, or, other readers would have piled atop it in a chorus of excoriation. Why did my friends take another route altogether? They stepped around the offending comment as if it were too disagreeable to acknowledge publicly.

I had already noticed that comments posted to The Daily Blague are longer, sometimes much longer, than comments elsewhere. You could argue that commenters here are only trying to keep up to the standards of the entries. In fact, I have heard that argument several times. But it creates a distinction between this blog and other equally literate and intelligent blogs, where the writer's proficiency does not discourage the posting of clunky, sometimes not very intelligibe, comments.

Am I doing something wrong, or am I doing something that I don't understand? Something new, in other words - or something that will be new when I figure it out. My dear Kathleen insists that I am doing something new, but we can't seem to say what it is except in terms of comparative adjectives. But the fact that what would easily have been expressed as public comments at another site came out as private messages here suggests one thing very forcibly: this is a quiet blog. This is a well-behaved blog. This is perhaps the blog where you can take a break from taking a break - from rushing, that is, the rapids of clicking from one site to another and then quickly to yet another. This blog is the opposite of a video game.

As M le Neveu says, "You're old and interested in old-people things." Indeed, and no regrets, either. Except, of course, that there aren't many old people in the Blogosphere. Many, I said, not any.

On most days, running this blog is, for me, a matter of composing entries and then uploading them through Movable Type software. I don't really have to think much about operations - and I like it that way. Every now and then, a bit of a design change is nice, but last year saw three global overhauls, with another this spring, and if you pore over a random bunch of pages at Portico, you're sure to come across traces of each one. It will be a while before I'm tempted to rethink. Meanwhile, relations between Web log and Web site have given rise to more organizational projects than I care to think about, much less take on, but these projects are only tangentially "technical." I can live without technical challenges. That's why I've been so maddened by the rash of comment-spam attacks that all three of my blogs have withstood in the past couple of months. My latest response - if an attack begins while I'm at the computer - is to head straight to my Web Host control panel and change permissions on the Comments file. I still don't know how effective that is. But something new did happen this morning: an attack of trackback spam! This required me to change the permissions on a different file, and I don't know what's going to happen when I change them back. I could live without comment spam. It's odious. You never see it, because it's always posted to older entries, and thanks to a plugin by Chad Everett, they're all clumped together pending approval, and they can be deleted in a flash. One would really prefer not to have to bother, one would.

May 26, 2005


This will be one of my anonymous entries, in that others will go nameless.

The first thing to say is that my life is so completely uneventful that there's nothing for anonymity to hide. I also write long paragraphs with big words - there's a sort of barrier in that alone. I'm far to old to be thinking about myself anymore: if there's anything that I've learned in the Blogosphere, it's that whether we ever do figure ourselves out or not, a comfortable accommodation is eventually reached. Furthermore, the older you get, the more interesting things you discover, and there comes a day when you yourself are not one of them. You might be interesting to other people, you might even be really unusual. But you're more interested in other stuff. We're all born with immense egos that, with luck, evaporate over time. A cynic might well say that our egotism simply becomes unconscious. In either case, it's nothing to write about.

But what's this? I am always writing about my ideas. To me, these ideas are not about me. To you, that might not be the case. "Oh, there he goes again; it's so totally RJ. If he says one word about television, I'm outta here." But I doubt that there's anything embarrassingly personal about what I have to say about what I'm thinking. (Perhaps I'm obtuse.) I'm still prone to hog the conversation, but not to talk about myself.

It occurs to me that my candor may be the product of having grown up in privilege. It didn't particularly feel like privilege at the time, but it undoubtedly was. But it was a precarious privilege. I recall with no small horror the time my father came home in the middle of the afternoon and, weeping, told us that he'd been fired. He went back to work the next day, but as he happened to be employed by a monster of caprice (whom he in due course of time replaced) there was always a feeling that the bottom could drop out. And my mother and I did not get along. She wanted me to be someone else, someone a lot more athletic and a lot less intellectual. I think of childhood as the worst part of my life. And maybe that's why I'm forward now: I've been through the worst. (Touch wood.)

I can think of a not-anonymous blog whose author is so discreet that it is impossible to draw inferences about his romantic life. That's fine, and if I'm curious I'm not distracted by curiosity. I know his name and something about his circumstances - which is more or less how I know anybody. But if his blog were anonymous, it would be different. This is the curious thing about anonymous blogs: they magnify their secrets. They drape them in neon colors. Anonymity itself suggests that there is a reason, above and beyond ordinary discretion, for anonymity. So! What's the secret? One blogger has told me that he regards details about his background as distractions. I beg to differ. The act of withholding them is arresting, a parallel to sensory deprivation. Tell me your age and where you live, and I've got enough to go on. Conceal these details, and for me at least your blog will be about anonymity - probably not your intention.

In an exchange about a well-known anonymous blogger who has recently written about transferring her affections, a friend told me that she is reluctant to post very much about her boyfriend for exactly this reason. Exactly what reason? My friend's blog is also anonymous. (Not to me, of course.) The well-known blogger is an exception to my rule: she writes lucidly about very personal matters, and in such a way that satisfies instead of arousing noseyness. In her case, there really is a reason for anonymity. (And even then, anonymity is qualified by her participation in blogmeets.) 

There is always, certainly, the delicacy of writing about one's job to consider, but hardly anybody does this well. The one exception that I can think of, wouldn't you know, is the man who wants to avoid "distractions." It is hard to imagine that the very exciting things that he says about life at his office could be published under his actual name. That's part of what makes them breathtaking. So he, too, has a reason to be anonymous. I just think he carries discretion a little too far - to where it becomes just what he was trying to avoid: distracting.

May 24, 2005

Beautiful Bots

Good Morning. While you're enjoying your coffee or tea, why not see something you've never imagined? Real earthly creatures with fabulous Latin names, patrolling Nederlander beaches. I wish I could give you a straighter link to Animaris Currens Ventosa Walking. Oh boy, the things I don't know about.

May 18, 2005

Might Jason Kottke be the New (Hints by) Heloise?

It doesn't seem to me that I've ever had the problem discussed in Jason Kottke's humorous roundup of pop-science approaches to coping with unfamiliar menus. But I will say that the Blink method works for me when it comes to choosing a DVD to watch. I have found this out the hard way, totting up the minutes wasted looking for "something else, maybe" but always coming back to the spine that first caught my eye.

Upside Down

Musing on the Times's announcement the other day, that it is going to charge $49.95 a year to non-subscribers for access to opinion pieces, and chewing on the complaints of Kevin Drum (via The Biscuit Report), I suffered a moment of vertigo. What does it say about Our Modern World that the nation's most arduous newspaper plans to give away its principal product - the news - while charging for access to an accessory - the bloviation? It is hard to resist the implication that news reports aren't worth very much without interpretation by the punditry. Can we rotate 180º?

As a subscriber, I'm happy that I'll be getting access to the newspaper's archives. What a wonderful world life would be without clippings.

May 10, 2005


Barely recovered from bronchitis, Kathleen is on a plane to Chicago, flying out to attend a wake and the funeral of a very dear friend. The death had been anticipated for some time, but the victim made many brilliant rallies. Finally, after a short spell on palliative care, she succumbed.

Friends of ours will know whom I'm talking about, but Kathleen has asked me not to identify her late friend - and certainly not to upload a lovely picture of the two of them sitting on a lawn in the season of their graduation from college - because she would not have wanted her health or her death discussed in public, before strangers. That she had less to hide than almost anyone I've ever met had nothing to do with this reserve, which was deeply constitutional. It was often mistaken for shyness, or for mere shyness. Most of the world was kept, discreetly and not unsmilingly, at arm's length. No Web log appearances for Kathleen's friend.

This has set me to musing on anonymous blogging. When I began Portico at the beginning of the century (what pretentious fun to say!), the site was not about me at all, but about books and music and New York and all that sort of thing. "My philosophy," as somebody put it. I was committed to identifying myself from the start, and it was only with the addition of this blog that questions of privacy and discretion became routine. In my posts from Istanbul in January, for example, I did not say what it was that had brought us there until the product that Kathleen was working on (the DJIST) was launched, halfway through the sojourn. One fairly recent entry was rewritten, at the prudent suggestion of Ms NOLA (who wasn't personally involved in the subject), and a misleading clutter of details was withdrawn. But the fact is that lots of interesting things happen that I can't write about very directly. Could I do so anonymously?

I'm rather inclined to think that I could not. My hunch is that every anonymous blogger, or at least every interesting anonymous blogger, will inevitably be identified. But that's a minor issue next to the question of bad taste, of invading privacy, of speculative tittle-tattle. This has nothing to do with anonymity. Spilling the beans is spilling the beans, and blacking out the names doesn't make it less unattractive. And when I look round at the good anonymous blogs that I like to follow, I find very little - nothing, in most cases - that would have to be changed if the author identified himself and provided a photograph.

I daresay that anonymous bloggers have other reasons for keeping their identities to themselves. It is perhaps not the safest course in the world to reveal your particulars on the Internet. But I am always heartened to see people sharing some of them. I am also refreshed, because, frankly, it is not always easy to read anonymous blogs. Maybe you're different, but I'm consumed by elemental curiosities. Because I believe that history shapes us more than any other influence, I want above all to know how old a writer is. It's almost impossible for to weigh and consider what anyone says if I don't know the age of the speaking mind. This is obviously a matter that becomes more salient with age.

Nonetheless, I tip my hat to the author of Outer Life. That's some damned great entry today.

April 27, 2005

On a Sodden Day in Spring

All that talk about TypeKey Identity yesterday? Well, as Max brought to my attention, it didn't work. I hadn't connected all the necessary dots. It took quite a while to figure out where some of the necessary dots were. Now I think I've got it straightened out.

Technical stuff does not really interest me, especially when it gets in the way of what I want to do, which is, of course, to take it for granted while writing page after page. This morning, thanks to my news aggregator (want to know what a news aggregator is?), I heard for the first time of something called Ajax. It's enough for the time being to say that Ajax is a hulking monster advancing inexorably toward my horizon. It is going to force me to learn all sorts of new technical stuff - maybe. It is going to do away with the concept of the Web page, I think. As I am very comfortable with the concept of the Web page, this is not good news. Someday I may drink to the health of Ajax, and bless its creators. But not today.

It would be nice to know how many bloggers are technical people with some professional investment in knowing their bits from their bytes. Fifty percent? More, I should think. Nine-eight percent? Sometimes it feels that way, just as I sometimes feel like a demented quinquegenarian who keeps showing up at sock hops. It's not that I've ever been made to feel unwelcome - not at all. It's the response of my face-to-face acquaintance. Most smile blandly when I tell them what I'm doing, almost visibly lumping blogging together with, say, model railroading. A hobby. They do not read blogs (yet), and tend to think that blogging is for self-absorbed twentysomethings. Such thinking persists even after the last presidential campaign.

Here's a thought: I might be overlooking someone, but while I know (face to face) a few contemporaries who have Web sites, I don't know a single blogger over thirty. In fact, I know (face to face) only one blogger in the entire world, and months of coaxing from me is a small part of why her blog exists. There's a disconnect, in short, between life at the computer and life away from it. There are two sets of priorities to consider. They overlap, but they're not identical. Several local communities of bloggers have arranged meetings, such as La petite anglaise did earlier this year in Paris, for anglophone Parisian bloggers. But much as I'd like to meet (face to face) some of the people I've gotten to know in the Blogosphere, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about knowing a lot of people (face to face) who have little or no interest in what I'm spending my days on.

Not the technical stuff, but what I do while I'm taking it for granted.

April 26, 2005

Tweaks and Baskets

As a result of recent comment-spam attacks, I have made a few slight changes. Expect no real inconvenience. Even if you have posted here before, your next comment will bring up a little message about comment moderation, begging your patience pending approval. Thereafter, you won't see the message again, but will be able to comment as in the past.*

Yesterday's attack - there was one on Sunday, too (just what I needed) - led my Web host, Hosting Matters, to disable the posting of further comments to the Daily Blague, Miss Gostrey's Guide, and Good For You. This was brought to my attention by a would-be commenter. I was nonplussed at the unilateral, no-notice action, and I think it would have been nice to receive a little message from whatever bot it was that fiddled with my site, but I quickly saw the wisdom of the operation. If you ever find that trying to post a comment brings up a 404 message - "Page Cannot Be Found" - you'll know that I'm being attacked and am closing down for the moment. (I will try to post a temporary message to this effect.) Open up Notebook - it comes on all PCs (is there a Mac counterpart?) - write your comment, and when comments open up again, you can simply cut and paste what you wanted to say. This is as good a time as any to remind you that comments involving thought and numerous sentences ought always to be written out and saved not in the Comment box but somewhere else on your machine.

The spam attacks consist of hailstorms of various spam messages, all peddling the usual things: painkillers, erectile dysfunction remedies, porn sites of every hue, and better mortgage deals. I have been attacked on a very small scale by an online casino spammer, but this party does not participate in the bulk mailings. Who, I wonder, who responds to this junk? It reminds me of a paleoconservative joke. Ten years after public education was made universal in Britain - for some reason, the year 1880 comes to mind  for the anniversary - a prominent Tory lord was asked if he had discerned any effects of the new institution. Indeed he had, he said: dirty words were now appearing a foot lower on public walls. I resist it stoutly, but I am often besieged by the idea that universal literacy is a mistake.

Jason Kottke linked the other day to a photograph on Flickr that, aside from being evidence of Life Before Elevators, brought back a refrigerator-sized memory. Until I was seven, we lived in an apartment building on Palmer Road just over the Bronx River from Bronxville proper. Upstairs, there lived the very Irish and very stout widow of a policeman; I daresay he must have been an officer. Aunt Peg, as we called her, took a tremendous shine to me, and I think might literally have smothered me with affection if I hadn't been a restless kid. Whether it happened once only or several times, I don't recall; what does come back to me sharply is the thrilled of watching the little green basket make its somewhat jerky way down from Aunt Peg's window to the back yard. I don't remember what was in the basket - disappointment, probably - but the pleasure of wondering what it might be was immense.

Of course, our building had elevators. This was a stunt, I should think, perhaps conceived by Aunt Peg as a wee bit of transgression against the building's respectable, mod-con proprieties. I do know that my mother did not at all approve of Aunt Peg, both on grounds and because she was jealous of alternative fountains of love (even, to some extent, her own mother, who adored me rather wildly, and who inadvertently tipped me off about adoption before I knew anything about it with perpectual "reminders" that I got my red hair from her). My grandmother was also stout. Perhaps it was the affection of these two ladies that has made me stout.

Continue reading "Tweaks and Baskets" »

April 13, 2005

Shocked, shocked - No, really shocked

Jim Wiandt writes from Spain,

I thought of you and your site when I saw this the other day.  I'm aghast that such a thing can even be legal.  And by one of the largest U.S. companies.

I know you're very technically focused and international, so thought you'd appreciate it.  I've run into this firsthand, as one of my coworkers just mysteriously stopped receiving email from me in December...costing us a month of missed billing/invoicing.

It's just really beyond belief.  And the fact that they have remained glib even about this speaks to 1) their enormous stupidity and 2) the weight of their confidence in the legal draw fund.

I'm completely flabbergasted by this. I got not even a rejection message to all the emails I'd sent. No warning no nothing...just cut off from the U.S. And the ban is STILL on. From December through yesterday, I've been unable to get anything to Verizon customers in the U.S. from Europe. In addition to being highly annoying and wrong, it has the vague ring of something more insidious to it...were I a conspiracist.

Why am I hearing about this outrage first from Jim?

March 30, 2005

Yes, but can we set it to "Dragostea Din Tei"?

"Gluehands of the world, I salute you," hails Jason Kottke, revealing a secret childhood vice (Elmer's Glue is expensive!) All right, I'm dramatizing. But does Mr Kottke understand that full-time blogging is a career that rules out funseeking? Of course, if he and his friend were spreading Elmer's all over their palms and then peeling it off while taking pictures, and - eew, are you eating that? - just to have something to post, well, then it's okay. As a micropatron, I'm keeping tabs!

March 25, 2005


And guess who else has a blog? You won't, so I'll tell you. Todd in Brussels. That would be the son of prizewinning Zoe, rédacteur of My Boyfriend is a Twat. In case you don't follow Zoe, she is of English ancestry (and therefore Anglophone), and she lives in Greater Brussels with her boyfriend and her three children by a previous marriage, teenaged twin daughters and a younger son. Todd is - what? - eleven. He is also Belgian, which means that he must learn his country's other language, Nederlands. That makes three tongues for Todd, Guess what? You won't, so I'll tell you. He doesn't like the mevrouw (madam) who teaches "nerlandais" [sic]. His site lacks permalinks at the moment, so I'll quote:

mevrouw est la pire prof du monde sa on peut le dire toujours avec ses chouchous(ce n'est pas moi ne vous inquieters pas)et elle parle toujours d'elle comme une petite fille parfaite , ses phrases commence tout le temps par ''dans mon temps moi je...'' quel imbecile celle la.

et ceux qu'elle n'aime pas (moi et d'autres)elle trouvent des surnom,sylvaine c'etais sylvaine la vilaine et moi c'etais t.t.t.(Todd tais-toi).

As Zoe herself says, Todd's French isn't the best, but you get the picture. It has ever been thus between the little students and the big teachers. But it has never been thus with the little students and the little blogs.

Mevrouw, I hope, is too busy studying the proposed European Constitution to check up on her tween press agents, but, hey, has anybody else heard of eleven year-old bloggers? I have mused more than once that my life would have been different if there had been blogs when I was young - but not that young. That young, and I'd have been put away for real, and not just threatened with being put away. You will note that Todd has left no doubt whatsoever about which Belgian Todd is the author of this teacher evaluation. Are there any American parents out there who feel an immediate discomfort with the possibility that their little darlings might, like Todd, be calling their teacher "the worst in the world"? "Imbecile"? (Admittedly, it just means "stupid," but still.) We're probably not talking libel here, but - well, maybe European teachers have more sense of humor than American teachers. They could hardly have less. 

Ms NOLA has a Web log

Well, Ms NOLA has a blog. She's sharing it with the friend who actually did the setting up. It's all I can do to keep from posting a gorgeous picture of the lovely young lady, looking her best at a recent wedding, but discretion stays my hand. (I will be happy to send her the file, in case she'd like to use it as her profile photo.) And to think she was here only a couple of hours ago, stopping by on her not the way home, to pick up some of the odds and ends that I am perpetually casting off. In the event, my supply of the desired odds and ends was short, and I'm afraid my conversation wasn't very bright, but I was much cheered to hear about Crazy Eights, and no sooner had I washed the dishes than there was a ding in my mailbox. I made my first martini of the evening (it's nearly eleven) and sat down at the piano. (Metamorphosism readers: piano~computer :: truss~cello. Très musical.)

If I didn't have this Web log, and all of the chores that surround it, to occupy my intelligence, I'd plunge flaming into the East River. Having begun this project during an Era of Good Feelings, meaning health, I am loath to break the spell with reports of my eruptive maladies, but they do weigh upon me, particularly because it is never clear whether they are serious or just irritating. I am certainly very tired of playing Stump the Doctor, not a game often played by patients at New York Hospital.

Édouard at Sale Bête has been the source of innumerable links over the years - well, it feels like years - but Joe.My.God is in a different class. Why Joe Jervis isn't being paid but plenty for his work (and with a little practice, he could do rueful autobiographical stand-up with the best of them) is beyond me. He is an immensely talented storyteller. But he's also a clear thinker. The following excerpt from a recent post has me thinking hard.

I've often considered the point of enabling comments at all. I never know if it's just a shamelessly transparent vehicle for continuous validation, an effective means of judging what works and what doesn't, or a simple way to engender a sense of community among my readers. Probably a little of all three, of course. But still I wonder if it's no small coincidence that some of the writers I admire most do not allow comments.

I happen to believe that comments are the heart of any blog. We've done the book thing. Which was always sort of an Ozymandias thing, don't you think? The difference between writer and reader was comparably adamantine but brittle. I know of only one blog that would fit the last sentence of Mr Jervis's observation, and that's, of course, and even then the prohibition is intermittent. And understandable; if I've fought the impulse to ask Jason Kottke for help on a dozen perplexities, I'll bet there are dozens who have lost the battle. As I say, though, I'm thinking hard.

The sabbatical so far has yielded somewhat subpar results. I have not begun the very serious work on my blog roster that really must be done right away. (Memo to Movable Type: develop a plugin that treats blog rosters as image files, so that the roster can be changed without opening the Template of Horror.) I did upgrade the Audience branch of Portico, although, as always, my capacities evolved as I went along, and much remains to be re-done about menus and target frames. I am looking for a graphic to use as the branch's background; like the Pennell etching that haunts Portico's index page, it must be hanging on some wall or other here. Perhaps I might explain why the Pennell is so blurred - an effect that I don't think I should ever have managed to coax from PhotoShop. The etching is in a frame, and the depth of the frame spaced the graphic at a distance from the scanner plate. Serendipity for Dummies.

March 15, 2005

In one Swell Foop

For the first time, I've just read through someone's entire blog, from inception to now (in reverse, of course). I'll tell you more about it in tomorrow's Loose Links. That the blog's entries center on music and cooking must have had something to do with the charm. (And no politics, which certainly makes for a change.) But truly good writing is the secret. I'd commented on four or five posts - I only discovered the blog this afternoon -  when I began to feel that I'd better stop, lest my interest seem creepy. Then I wrote the author an interminable email. (Well, he'd written to me first.) That sent, I ought to have gone on to something else, but all I wanted to do was go back and read some more of the new blog.

By the time I'd read the first post, I had built up a little list of the many things that the author does not discuss, and that's an odd sensation, given the inevitable illusion, after reading an entire blog, of knowing someone well. If it weren't for this illusion, we'd never read fiction. And, as with a piece of fiction, I wonder why the author excluded this and that. But I'm not in the habit of interrogating novelists about such things; the same goes here. And yet I can't help feeling that one half, at least, of a friendship has been laid down. It's a good thing that my natural exuberance has been tempered by age and experience.

You'll have to wait tomorrow for the link, and a clearer statement of what the new-to-me blog is like. This entry is about me, and something I want to keep to myself for a little bit.

February 23, 2005

Real News

Sure, the Gannon/Guckert story is amusing in itself. In its sick little way. But beneath this tale of the hustler-fluffer (that was Gannon's role at the White House, wasn't it?) there is a very serious story, and it has nothing to do with national security. Well, not directly. The New Yorker kicked off this week's Talk section with a pithy summary of the affair and the opinion that it be dubbed "Nothinggate," because, with both houses of Congress controlled by legislators still loyal to the White House, official hearings are unlikely, and we may never learn just how Mr Guckert got those credentials. Meanwhile, however, the more serious story concerns the reluctance of the mainstream media to cover the cascade of embarrassing revelations about Mr Guckert's various Web sites. We all know that the Rove White House has perfected the art of cowing the contemporary press corp, but how in tarnation did the press corps ever become so cowable?

Continue reading "Real News" »

February 21, 2005

Presidents' Day


Omigod, literally. A really quite perfect souvenir of Presidents' Day 2005. (Look carefully at the First Person of the Trinity.) The Gannon/Guckert story has gone baroque. (Thanks, Andy.)

Continue reading "Presidents' Day" »

February 18, 2005

Polish Joke


To see why Spandex cycling shorts should always be black, keep reading.

Continue reading "Polish Joke" »

February 11, 2005

Have you got the time?

Please take a moment to tell me at what time of day you usually visit the Daily Blague. Morning? Evening? Every ten minutes? (yah: croissants? martinis? sedatives?) In the interest of anonymity - I don't want to know who doesn't "usually visit" - post a comment stating the time and the local time zone, and then, as a sort of backup, put the name of the place where you live where your own name ought to go. And please pardon this attempt to Make Marketing Fun. It isn't. If I had the tools I'd like, I wouldn't to ask you - I'd know. Aren't you glad I don't?

February 08, 2005


What an awful surprise, yesterday, to read that Édouard is stopping Sale Bête. His parting was magnificent: a review of what he has done, why he did it, and then, au revoir. He never even said that he was stopping! Sale Bête - there's a link on the sidebar that may still be working - has been part of my life for over six months, or in other words my entire blogging life; very few days have gone by without my visits. And I shall think about Édouard for the rest of my life, I expect, because I could never quite figure him out. Let me be clear: to "figure someone out" is not the same as "to understand someone." It is probably the opposite. I have "figured out" Andy Towle, at Towleroad, and that's probably because Andy has developed a finely-wrought public persona just for the Web. I don't know Andy any better than I know Vladimir Putin. But I've got him placed. We fancy that we have figured people out long before we know anything like enough to make such a claim. But Édouard eluded such presumption, and that alone makes him fascinating.

Continue reading "Tristesse" »

February 07, 2005

Henry James at Good For You

Before the week is out, I hope, we'll have started reading The Ambassadors at the Daily Blague's sister site, Good For You. If you're not sure about the author in question, this reading is probably not for you. Henry James's trio of three late novels are famously difficult to read, not because of big words or deep thoughts but because of very long sentences with lots of clauses; to say that they "bristle with discriminations" is, if I don't mind saying so myself, a fine example of Jamesian understatement. (The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl are not James's last novels, as is usually asserted; everyone overlooks (perhaps rightly) his novelization of The Outcry, yet another one of his doomed plays, this one forestalled by the closing of the theatres in 1911 in respect of the death of Edward VII.) The secret to reading late James is to remember that it was dictated, not written. Read it aloud for a while, and the rhythms will make it quite intelligible.

Tackling three difficult novels is an odd way of trying out a new kind of book club, and I will probably regret it if I live.

February 04, 2005

Too Literary?

Are you reading this at work? Don't worry, I won't tell. But I suspect that you are. I've nothing in the way of firm evidence, mind you. But the impression gets stronger every day. The only people who don't do their Web log reading and writing at work appear to be people who don't have any work to go to.

Is Dilbert the Holy Ghost of the Blogosphere? You know, the wise one.

[We interrupt: Is Anglophone anti-intellectualism - as pervasive in the UK as it is in the United States - the cause or the effect of such linguistic tics as the one that morphed Sanctus Spiritus into Holy Ghost? "Spirit," in the other  European languages, connotes wit, intelligence, and wisdom as well as a certain insubstantiality; "Ghost" is just a dumb spook. It couldn't be further from the Greek original: Hagia Sophia, "Holy Wisdom." Did you find this interruption pedantic and annoying or curious and provocative?]

Is the Blogosphere bustling because employees seek distraction? Am I contributing to a decrease of productivity?

Not bloody likely. I have begun to wonder if my writing isn't a little too literary to be savored in the workplace. No, that's not true. I haven't begun to wonder. I've begun to take my wondering seriously. I leave it to you to guess why; I would never mention anything so vulgar as ... hits.

When I launched Portico in 2000 (not that I ever said "launched" at the time), I pictured its readers as people who had just finished the Sunday Times (perhaps on Saturday) and who were absentmindedly following up a reference to something interesting on the Web. That's how I would read this site, if I weren't writing it. But in this as in most ways I am an oddball. The last thing that people who read (and write) Web logs at work want to do on the weekend is more of same.

So I'm thinking of modeling my prose on sports writing - a genre not without its highly literate admirers. (Will the recent chorus of praise for A J Liebling induce me to read about boxing? I haven't even opened David Remnick's anthology.) Since I don't, to put it mildly, actually follow sports, I may have to plagiarize.

If I won't tell on you, don't you tell on me. 

January 31, 2005


Technical Difficulties, emerging over the weekend, have taken the wind out of the sails. I want to go back to bed.

First, the service the tracks visits to the site appears to have an idiosyncratic understanding the of the word "Unique," because the list of "Unique Visitors" on any given day shows multiple listings for some addresses, worst of all, my own. It's as though I'm loading the site to inflate my stats! This is the very last thing that I would do (seriously), because I want the numbers to mean something. I could, presumably, write down all the IPs of daily visitors, scratch out the duplicates, and so arrive at a an accurate total, but I can't be the only one to regard this as the tracking service's job, not mine.

Second, there seem to be some problems in the Comments department. A visitor wrote to tell me that, when he clicked to post a comment, he was confronted by an admonitory screen that scolded him for having given offense in the past and that refused to accept further comments from him. This was nonsense; the comment went through. I believe that I know of one prior incident of this, but now I have to look into it. Time to open a ticket at MT. And, while we're talking about comments, I understand that the "Preview" option isn't WYSIWYG.

January 27, 2005


Web log awards contests are demanding. They make a Booker panelist out of everybody.

It was fun, at first, to run through the "Satin Pajama Awards" for best European blogs, at Fistful of Euros, because I recognized a few of the sites and was - d'oh - happy as a puppy to vote for them. Then it occurred to me that I was screwing up big time. The point of this exercise couldn't, after all, be to ratify my inexperience. By the time I "woke up," I was looking at the "Best Personal Weblog" category, definitely one that I'd want to take seriously. Oh, the hours! I still haven't been through all of the candidates.

Maybe people who haven't been blogging for six months ought to be disqualified.

But how to distinguish among the best personal bloggers? Let's start with Veuve Tarquine, of De bric et de blog. Mme Tarquine is a thirty-six year-old widow whose husband died of a brain tumor, leaving her with a couple of children and a massive loss of grand amour. How to compare this site with My Boyfriend is a Twat? The author here, Zoe, is fortyish child of diplomats who was born in Saigon and who has never been able to stand her "native" Britain. Her former husband lives within hailing distance of Brussels, Zoe's current domicile, so the three dhildren go back and forth, but always at home is "Quarsan," the boyfriend-who's-a-twat. Zoe looks rather like Helen Mirren, and seems to have many Tennysonian issues to match. Who's ahead here? More to the point, what are the criteria? Surely it can't be the throb-value of one's personal story; that would favor sensationalism. In fact, I would give top marks to the diarist who, without doing anything really remarkable, produced a steady flow of compelling entries. But what am I expecting here, great writing?

Then consider Mig at Metamorphosisim. Mig is an American guy currently living in Austria - he left the United States at about the age of twenty - and he appears to have an Austrian wife and two daughters, whom he calls Beta and Gamma. I have read what feels like a great deal of this site, both recent and dating back to its inception, but I still don't know quite what Mig's relationship with his wife is like (he rarely mentions her lately), and I don't know what Mig does for a living, although he is clearly musical and the pursuit of a musical career in Austria makes tremendous sense. Perhaps I simply haven't hit upon the posting that explains it all. That is always a problem with anonymous blogs. I doubt that their writers intend to mystify, but mystification is inevitable in a two year old blog that never names names. I wish Mr Mig every success in finding a French harp for Beta and a good cello for himself.

My vote, if it mattered, would go to Londonmark, a site that is not up for election in any category. I learned about it from the blogroster of My Boyfriend....; Zoe singled it out for its writing. The writing is very fine indeed, although perhaps a tad too studied. It is also ruefully funny. There seems to be a line in fictional sketches that may prove interesting to follow. But following these sites will require a certain investment in time, a diligence in keeping up - and a willingness to have all of one's first impressions junked. I still remember the shock of learning that Édouard, at Sale Bête, is not French at all.

Actually, I have learned many things from Édouard, among them the importance of crisp, uncluttered presentation. I always know exactly where I am when I visit Sale Bête, and I know what to look for. That's why, in the end, I cast my vote for La Coquette, the journal of a twenty-four year old American girl who is really French and who has returned to the land of her father(s). She lives across the hall from her cousin, Jeanne, in a flat in the Quartier latin, and in this post she has Jeanne sum up the new TV shows. In English.

And now that I've voted, I discover, without surprise, that Veuve Tarquine has a very strong lead and will probably win the award.

January 26, 2005

No to Gonzalez

Armando at Daily Kos has launched a petition opposing the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General. It is hard to believe that the Bush Administration could come up with someone worse than John Ashcroft, but it is nonetheless true. If Mr Ashcroft was thickheadedly silly, Mr Gonzalez has shown himself to be mercurially sinister. Having accommodated his boss with SCOTUS-disapproved waffling about the meaning of the Geneva Convention, Mr Gonzalez, more than any other individual aside from the President himself, made the horrors of Abu Ghraib possible and perhaps inevitable.

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

In addition to rejection by the Senate, Mr Gonzalez ought to suffer disbarment. 

January 22, 2005

Exit Smiling

Found on Legal Fiction and traced back to its source - yesterday's edition of The Australian - Greg Sheridan's exit interview with Richard Armitage yields a nugget of candor that may give Lawrence Summers a rest:

Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

Liberals will seize this remark as proof that the Administration is on the wrong track and knows it. (You bet!) Pubs will denounce Mr Armitage, who, after all, is a career diplomat, not an ideologue, even if he was Colin Powell's No 2 at the State Department (or perhaps because of that). Eric (at Legal Fiction) has prepared an exhaustive list of Pub responses to the Armitage Acknowledgment. Hey, this might be fun to watch. Does anybody suspect that Mr Armitage was frank with a reporter from The Australian because he doesn't grasp what the Blogosphere has done to the concept of the Antipodes?

January 21, 2005

Mode d'emploi

Everyone seems to agree that 2004 was the Year of the Web Log, or (you knew this?) the "Blog." 2005, therefore, will be the Year of How to Use a Blog. This means you. You think that you can come and go at will, read what you like while ignoring the rest, and forget to say "please" and "thank you." Well, think again. With my terrifyingly accurate tracking software, I can follow your every move -  or I could if I knew how the damn thing works. Ahem! In the spirit of the Second Bush Administration, I have created democratically-developed step-by-step instructions for interacting with this blog. Feel free to print them and tape them to your medicine cabinet, for daily consultation. In fact, don't feel free: just memorize and swallow.

I  Permalinks

Begin by writing an enthusiastic courriel about this blog to a friend, preferably a friend over forty. Don't send it just yet, though! Review it for grammar and spelling, and make sure that you have mentioned the Daily Blague by name. Set the courriel aside and open your browser. If your browser's default settings do not automatically open the Daily Blague, adjust them.

When the rush of admiration for my clever writing subsides, choose a post that your elderly friend would like to read. It doesn't really matter which one you select; they're all great, IMHO.

A "post" is a paragraph, or a more-or-less coherent series of paragraphs, appearing between a bold-faced header, such as "Loose Links," and the small-print line that begins with "Posted by..."

The first underlined item on the small-print line is a Permalink. There! I've just tinkered with the chassis and now it says so! See the "Permalink" in parentheses? This means that the "(Permalink)" is a Permalink. Your elderly correspondent may not know what a Permalink is, and it's possible that you don't know what a Permalink is, either, so I am going to tell you what a Permalink is, using the word (Permalink) in every clause of every sentence so that it will be impossible for anyone with a triple-digit IQ (yes, that means you, even if you're Permalink-challenged) not to learn exactly what a Permalink is. But before you can grasp what a Permalink is, you have to know something about Blogs. (There is always a Permalink catch.)

A Web log is a collection of posts that is organized as archives. The slightly confusing detail to seize on here is that Blog posts are archived immediately, not when they're a week old or something. What you see when you visit a blog  is its most recent archives - generally those posted during the past seven or fourteen days. The blogging software reviews the archives and presents the latest ones in an attractive setting. Every post is an independent Web page, and, like any Web page, it has its own URL, or address. In the Blogosphere, we call the URL of a post a "Permalink," because it is always the same. When a post becomes "too old" to appear in the Blog's "attractive setting," it doesn't go anywhere, it just doesn't show up. But it can be summoned by visitors. (This is all rather like the Jefferson Institute in Coma, if you know that film.) If you scroll down on the column to the left, you will eventually come to two lists, "Categories" and "Archives." The Archives, clearly enough, arrange posts by date, and Categories, equally clearly, I hope, arrange them by subject matter. Why don't you explore these lists for a few minutes while I see how breakfast is coming along.

Let's go back to the post that you've chosen to tell your friend about. Are we there? Good. Now, move your cursor to the Permalink. Yes - that's the underlined bit that states the time at which I wrote the post and, now, the actual word itself, "Permalink," in parentheses ["()"]. When you have made sure that the cursor is positioned over the Permalink, lift your eyes to the browser's Address box (marked "Address" on MSIE 6, but not on FireFox). See what it says there? "" Now, now, click the Permalink. Et voilà. If the post that you selected wasn't at the top of the Daily Blague page before, it is now. And check out the contents of the Address box. It is the Permalink for this post.

Optional observation for extra credit (do not read this if your brain is at all fogged): Blogs have not been around long enough for serious philosophical debate to consider whether a Permalink is (a) the underlined bit that you clicked on a minute ago or (b) the Blog post's individual URL. For our purposes today, it is both.

Now return to the courriel - which, by now, you will have understood to be an email; but we are not going to use that nasty word anymore, at least to describe what used to be called letters; we are going to adopt the recent French coinage, without italics, because it is quite easy to say in English - and find the spot where you've written "Daily Blague." Highlight these words and click whatever you have to click to insert a hyperlink. If you have never inserted a hyperlink in a letter, insert a pair of parentheses after "Daily Blague." Returning to your browser, select and copy the Permalink - the URL in the Address box. Back at the courriel, paste the Permalink either in the appropriate hyperlink box or between the parentheses (and perhaps within quotation marks). Your letter will look either like this:

Dear John,

I've found a great picture of Istanbul, and you can see it at the Daily Blague.



or like this:

Dear John,

I've found a great picture of Istanbul, and you can see it at the Daily Blague ("").



It is only when you send this letter that the purpose of the Permalink will have been achieved. Indeed, the very purpose of the blog format itself. The whole point of a blog is to make it easy for you to direct your friends to pages that you think will interest them. Eventually, even distracted bond traders willl know this. At the moment, it still requires some spelling out.

II  Comments

The mechanics of posting comments on a blog are relatively self-evident. You need to give a name, not necessarily your own (right, PPOQ?); your email address and URL are optional. You will find that when other another commenter's name appears with an underline, it functions as a link, either to your email editor or to the commenter's own Web site or log. I need only remind you that the "Preview" button can be very handy. (If you don't know what using HTML tags for style means, don't worry - we'll get to that some other time.) Posting comments is easy. So do it.

You need not be witty, clever, profound, or in any way memorable. If you want to be those things, you ought to set up a blog of your own. You may, of course, infuse your comments with esprit and profondeur, but if you don't, nobody's going to mind. That's because the point of commenting is (a) to put in your own two cents and (b) to give the post on which you're commenting that lived-in look that we all find so inviting. Comments breed more comments.

But you are feeling shy; you have never commented and you want to make a good first impression. With that in mind, I have developed a foolproof drill or trial run. Click "Comments," below, and write "Thank you!" in the big comment box. (Then click on "Post") The virtue of this "Thank you!" is that it can be either sincere or ironic; it is sure to capture your feelings about this post.

Go ahead, comment! Come on, Judy, this means you, too!

January 14, 2005

Loose Ends, Live, from Istanbul

Fafblog tells a divine parable about, er, overconsumption. Make of it what you will, and try not to eat the table legs. And, speaking of overcomsumption, David Drezner looks into the Thickburger; don't miss the link to the "Fist Girl" spot!

This would be all I need. eXTReME Tracking is bad enough; with Geoloc, I'd sit mesmerized in front of the screen, and there would be NO visitors from TURKEY or anywhere else. Well, maybe later...

Feeling that your vocabulary needs a little edging? Here's last year's roster of winners of the American Dialect Society's awards. Watch out for the unexpected variant of "ridiculous; you may find that it unlocks your powers of invention. Jesse Sheidlower writes about this year's awards.

January 13, 2005

One-Way Blogging

The contents of this page can be found at "A Week in Istanbul" at Portico.

January 07, 2005

You'll Always Look Like That


I've been so grownup and serious for a while that you may have tuned out. Here I am, about to go to Byzantium for a week of yakking nonstop about mosaics - it's pukathetic, really. Happily, the Blogosphere has not let me down. The ongoing freak show never sleeps.

I can't decide which is the worst of the four photographs from which I chose the one here. It's an innocent, Sixties era ski mask, and, like so many Sixties artefacts, it's totally horrific. What might seem colorful to Betty Crocker's fans has, to a more discerning eye, the gasp of taboo transgressed. Exploded brains, for example. But if you think that an artful mask might keep you warm during the kind of serious blizzard that we haven't had in a while - or perhaps we have; I never get out - then here is your Lorelei.

If you think that that's bad, then don't check out my next canapé. It's truly gross, in conception if not execution, and anyone who has ever played the piano will assure you that there is a real limit to - well, they simply can't be doing what it looks like. Or can they? Male anxiety knows no end. This is a British splash if ever there was one. 

January 05, 2005

If You Can't Read This, Contact Me!


It's hard to believe how bad I felt a half an hour or so ago, when this site was down along with its Web host, Hosting Matters. (I have no idea how long the blackout lasted, other than that it was fewer than four hours.) It was much worse than any prior interruption of service or inability to collect email. It was a signal of how seriously I'm taking this project. It's my career. How did that happen?

But enough about me. I direct your attention to a piece in today's Times by Graham Browley headlined "In British Popular Press, Folly's Home Is Brussels." It will probably seem very funny at first, but presently you will recognize discomfiting parallels with the media situation here. No major newspaper or broad/cable service would behave quite like the writers at the Sun, or whichever tabloid it was, that took an EU edict about beautifying highway bridges and ran with it - they ran with it all the way to surmising that henceforth a bust of then-President Jacques Delors would have to grace every new span in Europe. Whether British readers believe such nonsense is beside the point; we know that American readers believe it. And we know that American readers who believe it have done what the British writers are taking for granted, by conflating their own utter provincialism with patriotism. They have shrunk the latter to the dimensions of the former. This gives them the right, nay, the obligation, to cry out against cosmopolitan diversity.

The European Union has raised, and not begun to settle, important questions of sovereignty. What will be the future of its constituent nations as independent sovereigns? It is my hope that the big states, such as Germany, France and Spain, will dissolve into their larger provinces, such as Brittany, Bavaria, and Catalonia, and that these regions will be free to decide local social issues while larger economic and international issues (including defense) are run from a mobile capital. (I believe that information technology will make this work, provided that nobody hurries its developments.) Here in the United States, where the only arrangement that is even under discussion is the Electoral College, we have a system of government that gives grossly undue influence to rural areas. I share Jane Jacobs's view (set forth in Cities and the Wealth of Nations), that hinterlands ought to be subjected to the metropolitan areas that touch their borders. (My response to expansive property owners in the watersheds of New Yorker City's reservoirs is: Drop Dead.) But there are hinterlands in the United States so remote from any metropolitan area that might be allowed substantial autonomy. They would just have to get by without our subsidies.

Was I dreaming, or did I see a statistic suggesting that more eligible voters (some 72 million) didn't vote at all than voted for either candidate. I don't believe that voting ought to be made mandatory, but I do believe in shunning, ostracizing, and in general turning one's back on non-voters without very good excuses. It's unlikely that I'll have to put this policy to the test, and I'm not one of those impassioned people who prays to be tested, but I think I mean it. I may be wrong about the statistic, but I'm right about the policy. Yes I am.

Contact me anyway!

January 03, 2005

I Promise


Happy New Year! We finally got to the caviar. Kathleen bought several ounces of sevruga on Friday afternoon, but we didn't get to it until nine o'clock this evening, as a snack before dinner. (For dinner we had mushroom and Brie omelettes, cranberries, and Durkee's French's onion rings. We were watching Letter to Three Wives, about which more later.) That's the kind of year we've had - 2004 still isn't over!

Here's an idea: let's concoct a chemical spray that drives enemy soldiers to rape one another! It's obviously a lot of fun to do weapons R & D, dreaming up truly kinky scenarios and then typing them up all-official-like, and it's hard to believe that the author(s) of subparagraph (3) at the top of page 2 consider(s) this "example" entirely distasteful. (Thanks to Andy Towle.)

And under the "Reckless and Incompetent" rubric, we can add this.

If I may make the occasional curmudgeonly request, can somebody please sequester the music download posts and sites? They are altogether too... precious. I'd say, "You have no idea how ridiculous these posts are going to look X years from now" if I didn't know that the blogs themselves aren't going to exist X years from now. But, still.

I have decided to appropriate the medical school term, Grand Rounds, for blogging, as my one New Year's Resolution. It means having a look at each and every one of the blogs on your roster. I will do Grand Rounds... tomorrow.

December 31, 2004

Extreme Makeover!

Thanks to a link from Lance Arthur at glassdog, I came across an inspiring Web site! A firm called CivicPlus, "the leader in e-government web solutions," is having a little contest. You fill out an entry form, send it to the Sales Manager, and if you're the lucky winner (beyond filling in your name and address, all you have to do is to answer the question, "Why do you think your organization deserves a new website?"), your official site will get a makeover worth $40,000! The thing is, CivicPlus's own Web site doesn't promise anything very interesting. I could come up with something better myself. But you'll have to take my word for it! Send in your name and address, and I'll give you - free! - a Web log makeover worth $10,000,000! Simply click this little link, and you may be the lucky winner.


When I picked up the Times this morning and saw the latest casualty figures from the Christmas Tsunami, all I could think of was the Wizbang post that I couldn't quite bring myself to write about yesterday; I thought I could get away with mentioning the site and faulting its English. The faultiness of the English is not interesting enough to warrant gawking, and I'm sorry to have suggested (if not in so many words) that reading it would be like listening to Florence Foster Jenkins. What I ought to have remarked upon was the stupidity of Paul-Whoever's post, the gist of which scolded blogs of the left for not "covering" the disaster as broadly as the blogs of the right have, allegedly, done.

I've been writing some, and thinking even more, about the importance of getting to know how the right thinks and why it does so. So I visit a site such as Wizbang with the idea of getting inside another person's mind. How naive! I come away fairly retching, having gotten instead inside the laundry bag full of his old socks.

Here goes: according to one of today's posts at Wizbang, liberals are "blind to irony." They fail to see the hypocrisy of lambasting the President for taking days to make a statement about the CT while failing to fill their own blogs with links to this or that disaster-related site.

This is so perplexing to me that I'm tongue-tied. For my part, I don't think much of lambasting the President for his silence. Every day that he holes up at Crawford is a good day for America. Insofar as "liberals" have used the disaster to point up yet again the President's callousness, I think they've taken a cheap shot. Far better would it be to ignore the man altogether. Complain about the things that he does, but let a glaring halo of silence surround his many lapses. Quietly knit them into a scarf, for a hopeful day at The Hague.

But I still can't reason with Wizbang. To pick up his statements is to be seized by the urge to drop them. By all means, read the stuff for yourself, if you can stand the note of chirpy childishness.

This is what we're up against. Yikes.

December 30, 2004

Gee Wizbang

Is ours a "Christian nation" or not? A concise post followed by some very interesting comments appeared on Majikthise the other day. I find myself in accord with the commenter Tristero, who argues that the United States is actually two countries, one overlapping the other, and that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land in only one of them. He also laments the fact that liberals have spent no time studying fundamentalists. Understandable, no doubt, but such ignorance has become an unaffordable luxury.

I had a look at the opposition, today, thanks to a link to Wizbang, Nicely peaceable logo, eh? And I soon noticed, going through some of the comments, that grammar-and-spelling standards somewhat sub-par. But what par would that be?

Something new on Portico: a consideration of Curtis White's The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves. The book has been around for a while but I found it in the "New Paperbacks" section at St Mark's Books not long ago, and picked it up. Flipping through it, I remembered the essay of the same name that was reprinted in Harper's in 2002. The Middle Mind proved to be an exasperating read, because Mr White is, not to put too fine a point on it, righteously pissed off. 

December 27, 2004

Good For You

Tying up loose ends, I realized that a page for Portico about Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park really didn't need any more fussing. Now that I've got it off my desk, perhaps I can figure out how to set up new Web log, Good For You. Perhaps I can even delay publishing this post until I have figured out how to set up &c. Why a new blog, you ask? Why another blog? Good For You is my own little cultural literacy project. Starting off with the film adaptation of one of Jane Austen's novel couldn't, possibly, make for a quirkier beginning, but that's where we are. Good For You is not much to look at yet, but here she goes!

Catching Up

In the run-up to Christmas, I fell behind on most of the blogs that I follow, most egregiously missing Fafblog's Time Magazine POTY parody. If you did, too, fix that now. Obsidian Wings ran a little contest to see who could write the funniest fake biography of recalcitrant collaborator Sebastian Holsclaw; voting on a winner ends tomorrow. Diane at Nobody Knows Anything ran a link to this uxoriously naughty page at Citizen Skein. I apologize for having failed to notice until today that Winning Argument has been shut down. Its author pleads other commitments, but, frankly, after the election, who could have had the heart to continue the mission?

I don't think that I've said a good word about Patricia Storms of BookLust. Her recent post on discussing The Fortress of Solitude with her brother qualifies her as the author of an at least partially literary Web log. I wish I'd known about it last fall, when I was surveying a list of alleged such sites. Patricia also has a great sense of humor when she draws (and perhaps at other times, too): you must not miss Tart. (Researching this paragraph, I discovered that the "Blogosphere" Department of the DB has all the laughs.)

More seriously, Andy Towle of Towleroad linked to a harrowing CNN account of surviving the tsunami in Sri Lanka. Why do I say "harrowing"? How could it be anything but harrowing?

December 25, 2004

Christmas Greetings


Back when I had hair on the top of my head... How old are we here? Six and five at the oldest, because in 1955 we moved from this apartment to our first house. (At Christmas, my sister, Carol, and I are just a year apart in age, although that ends twelve days later.) I look pretty clueless, don't I.

I hope that you're enjoying a warm and festive holiday weekend, catching up on your rest or your reading.

December 23, 2004


One of the first delights that I savored in the Blogosphere was a reminiscence, by JR, author of Douze Lunes (then) and L'homme qui marche (now), of the American air base outside of his home town. JR is a serious Yankophile - I will claim him for my part of the country, although he is partial to the open expanses of the West and Southwest - and although he does not post as often or as plentifully as I would like, his is one of the most distinctive personas on the Web. I urge everyone with even a smidgeon of French to have a go at this very affectionate picture of two cultures, living side by side. The punchline is knowing that, although the base was demolished, the officers' housing was not, so that there is an American suburb of the Fifties sitting somewhere in L'Hexagone. Happily, a TV show reminded JR of his reminiscence, and he published its permalink, saving me no end of searching.

December 22, 2004

Uh Oh

Don't read this unless you are totally strapped for time and facing non-negotiable deadlines. Jason Kottke has published a list of favorite sites.

There goes the rest of the week. Even if you don't check out the list, you must visit Mr Sun.

Or how about Thailand or Maylasia? For a cosmetic surgery spa treat. Why not take a group of the girls? I'll tell you one thing: this may be the solution to tort reform. Outsource medicine!

I found our next item on my own. Having placed a third order with CaféPress in a month (Giulio, I've found my eBay) - for a Fafblog sweatshirt (when did I last wear a sweatshirt?) - I thought I'd survey the store's other pages. And look what I found: surely there's somebody in your family who will wear a WWJD thong with pride - pride and piety!

Send your friends to the Daily Blague: "unique visitors" are now being counted.

December 21, 2004

No, This Is Not Spam

Read "An Excerpt from Bill O’Reilly’s Upcoming Book, How to Have Hot Sex Using a Falafel: For Kids" (by Christopher Monks, at YPR.) Or don't read it, just let the cover mock-up juice your synapses. For those of you who came in late, "falafel" was a slip in Mr O'Reilly's alleged attempt at telephone sex. He apparently meant to say "loofah," but he was apparently (and allegedly) too worked up to master the more exotic fringes of his vocabulary.

December 15, 2004

Paris Syndrome?

I've stumbled on a new site, via Fafblog: Reload. Here's something mordant but marrant.

December 14, 2004

Oysters Rarely Lymph

The Washington Post runs, it seems, an annual contest, in which participants are invited to redefine words in a humorous way. My favorites among this year's winners (which, while all over the Web, are not to be found on the Post site) are "Oyster," which really ought to be adopted here in New York, and "Lymph," the absurdity of which is worthy of Lewis Carroll, even if he would never have stooped. PS: Annoying music alert. (Thanks to Randy Lindel)

December 13, 2004

Much To Be Learned

When I was setting up the Daily Blague, I made what turned out to be an incorrect decision regarding archives. It took two weeks for the mistake to cause trouble. Thanks to Kymberlie and Shelley at Movable Type for locating the problem and correcting it. (And thanks to Kymberlie for her comments!) There remains much to be learned...

Since launching Portico in 2000, I have often felt that I'm wandering in a vast desert between two highly-populated coasts - an interesting situation for any liberal New Yorker. On one coast, everyone understands everything that Jason Kottke is talking about. On the other, nobody has ever even heard of Jason Kottke. Almost everyone on the first coast is under forty, and almost everyone on the other is over thirty. The young people on the Kottke-coast, moreover, all have lots of friends to help them out with Web logging problems. I have not personally met anyone, in my five years of publishing Portico, who operates a regular Web site, much less a Web log. Well, a slight exaggeration - but very slight. I've met three people. In five years.

Not that I'm the only dummy in town. There are fourteen million stories in the Naked City, and Janet Schoenberg's is one of them. Ms Schoenberg thought it would be cute to vent her spleen on eBay, by offering to "sell" the Housing Court judge whom she believed had "shafted" her. Right now, she doesn't turn up in a Google search, not at least on the first page, but I'll bet she will, sooner or later, because she has almost certainly bought herself a benchmark libel suit. This is a woman who has just been evicted from her studio apartment. But she will doubtless not be the only defendant in the case. The prospective plaintiff  has his eye on the ball: '"Judges are ill equipped to fight eBay," he said, clearly frustrated yesterday afternoon, before the advertisement had been pulled. "How do I fight eBay?"'

December 10, 2004

Civil Action against Loud Portablistes

With cell phones about to be permitted on airliners, let Society for Handheld Hushing come to your rescue.

There seems to be a bug with the Blague at the moment: I have to rebuild the site every time a new comment is posted. Because I'm advised of that by email, comments won't languish invisibly for very long. But I do sleep late on the weekends. MT is providing its customary wonderful service.

December 09, 2004

Christmas Shopping

Thanks to Susan, who got it from Marky: One Stop Christmas Shopping with Betty Bowers! Get some good Christian advice first, though. This is satire on, or perhaps a little beyond, the level of The Onion. The graphics are particularly entertaining. But don't miss the store, where you can buy buttons, shirts, totes, mugs, and even Christmas cards! Has anybody out there read Mrs Bowers's book, What Would Betty Do? I ordered mine today!

The site has been going for several years, and you may very well know all about it. Mean of you, if so, not to tell me.

December 08, 2004

My New Mascot - Not


Breezing through Nobody Knows Anything this afternoon, I became the umpteen-millionth person to discover the enigmatic Kozo. Wherefore Kozo? If this site is any indication, Kozo is a Mariana Trench of Webbery.

Meanwhile, back at Portico, I began to make the site look more like the blog. This called for learning lots from the Movable Type templates, even though there are key aspects of the blog that appear as if by magic, without support from the style sheet. This year will definitely be "2004: The Year of Revamping Portico. Again and Again." Those of you who never liked the right-aligned paragraphs (everybody I've ever spoken to, certainly) will be pleased, I hope with the new reign of justification. For my part, I'm just glad to be getting rid of scrollbars.

To have a look at Portico's latest look, have a look at the newest page.

December 04, 2004

My Hero


Andy Towle is having an auction at eBay, to unload over thirteen hundred of his CDs - in one lot, and to anybody who, in addition to paying the winning bid, agrees to drop by Andy's house to pick them up. That would be in West Hollywood, I believe. Good luck, Andy! As for the picture, which Andy himself calls "cheesy," I don't know how he pulls it off. What ought to be mortifyingly tween is a chuckle instead. He has the air of a kid who can break up the entire classroom without doing anything exactly wrong.

Towleroad was the first Web log to suggest to me that blogs could be well-designed and fun. I stumbled on it when I tried to find out more about a strangely named publication, Arena Homme Plus, that was reviewed in a roundup of 'lad' magazines in the LRB. Andy wrote that he was going through the latest issue "so that you won't have to." His summary made it clear that I wouldn't want to. Andy often writes about things that don't particularly interest me - more often than not, in fact - but he writes with a clear-eyed verve that holds my attention anyway. Of all the blogs that I've been following since late last spring, his has been the strongest template, and I thank him for the inspiration. 

December 03, 2004

Old Fartosphere

Dear friend Michael, whose status as 'dear friend' is actually on hold until he posts a comment here, has sent me a link that I'm sure he thinks speaks for himself as well. Joseph Epstein complains that he hasn't got enough mental RAM to take on the Blogosphere. In reply, I say simply, Turn off the TV! (And GQ requires no RAM). This link will fail in seven days, so hurry up and sniff the latest Old Fart while it's still fresh.

Who's going to claim that he attended the première of Rodelinda at the Met last night, even though he left at the interval? Names will be named!

November 26, 2004

Marines Belly Dance


This is really all the holidays needed. "They want the ale that won for Yale, rah, rah, rah." Aerobics for Marines! Some of whom don't really need the exercise, as you can tell from the rippling washboards at the end. (All right, they're only Navy.) Are we supposed to believe that this is 'real'? (Yes, it really happened, but is it really Annapolis?) Well, if you're old enough, you remember what Baltimore used to be like. Still. I do like the girl. She is really out on a limb, but she looks like somebody's sweetheart-on-a-dare. As for the guys...  How Andy Towle got the still shot, I can't figure out; this isn't the image I would have chosen. I'd have gone with the hero in the white T-shirt, looking goofy and glorious. Or I'd have gone with the girl. You've got to love her. Although I don't think Kathleen will. 

Oh, tell 'em to go to Harvard.

November 25, 2004

Quote of the Day?

From Fafblog:

"What are you thankful for, Giblets?" says me.
"Giblets is thankful for this food," says Giblets, "which is a testament to the dominance of our hunter-warrior spirits over the contents of our local supermarket."

November 24, 2004

HAL 9000


Although I haven't practised law in nearly twenty years, I still rely on my legal training to keep me out of trouble. For six months or so, I've been wondering why nobody ever developed a screen saver to simulate the HAL 9000. HAL, as you must know, was the computer that really ran the USS Discovery in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was about to write words to this effect for posting here when a dim recollection of what lawyers call 'Shepherdizing' prevented my making a fool of myself. Lawyers 'Shepherdize' a case by consulting what in blogging terms would be called the comments posted to a given entry, to see what later rulings had to say about it; this is very important, because from time to time a higher court posts a comment that reads 'Overruled.' Before expatiating on the pressing need for a HAL 9000 screen saver, I turned to Google.

So you don't have to. Get your own HAL 9000 screen saver today.

In 1968, we thought that the screens were cool, even though we didn't know what they meant. Now that we have computers, they're still cool, perhaps even cooler, but we know that they're meaningless. There is no point in feeding information to a screen unless someone is expected to act on it; a genuine computer reports situations requiring response as they arrive. Still, as anybody who's worried about 'hanging' knows, it's nice to know that something is really going on inside the CPU, that it's not stuck or running in loops. That's why completion bars are so comforting (although Microsoft has, of course, screwed things up by littering their installation programs with a profusion of completion bars that renders them pointless).

There is still something to be said about a computer's thinking out loud, which is pretty much what HAL did until it got deadly. Windows used to put on a full-screen show whenever the defragmentation utility was doing its thing, and that could be fun to watch. There was nothing for you to do, but the blinking colored squares - it was squares, wasn't it - had a sort of low-grade fascination. More recently, I've found that I can stare at Cute FTP's screen whenever I'm uploading a clutch of files from my computer to the hosting server - as I had to do two weeks ago when I moved to Hosting Matters. That's what got me thinking about HAL again.

Now the only problem is that I can't sit still long enough for the thing to kick in.

November 23, 2004

Family Size

Good old Fiat Lux (at Cable/Card). Look what she found in the cupboard!