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26 November 2004: Here's hoping that everybody has as nice a Thanksgiving Day as we did.

As you can see from these pictures, Kathleen is the better photographer. If I'd moved the glass in front of her, she wouldn't seem to be sitting in purdah. But she rolled her eyes when I suggested sitting next to her on the banquette and getting a waiter to snap the shot. So here we are.

A few years ago, cleaning up after one of our Thanksgiving feasts, Kathleen and I had a little heart-to-heart. We decided that there was nothing wrong with our recipes or our cooking techniques. We simply didn't like turkey. We didn't like it whether we made it ourselves or were eating somebody else's. Nor did we really care for anything else on the Thanksgiving menu, except for cranberries, which would be a summer dish in our house if we had room for a deep freeze and could stock the berries until temperatures climbed. After considerable meditation, Kathleen hustled us out of New York City last Thanksgiving, on an ostensible 'vacation' to Paris whose only purpose was to spare us the turkey and stuffing. This year, I convinced her that extreme measures weren't really necessary. In the event nobody pressed an invitation upon us, and all our nearest and dearest had other plans. Not that I waited. I booked a table for two at the Café Pierre in September - having called in June to find out when they'd be taking reservations for 25 November.

Because we were brought up on old-fashioned lines, Kathleen and I walk into an old-fashioned restaurant (even one as spruce as the Café Pierre, which, as I noted the other day, has been acquired by the Four Seasons chain) with feelings of comfort and relaxation. We don't feel that we have to behave in an unusual way or remember forgotten protocols. You could say that we get to be ourselves for a few hours, but that might make us out to be princely refugees from some ancien régime, which we're certainly not. I seem to recall an editorial in today's Times about suppressing desire on this day of thanks - a Puritan idea, thank you very much, that I couldn't disavow more heartily.

What did we have? There were few choices on the prix fixe menu, but we had no trouble finding good things to eat. An endive salad with blue cheese, a terrine of foie gras, truffled risotto and black sea bass on chanterelles, chocolate mousse with caramelized banana and pumpkin pie - it was all quite lovely, and not what we get at home. And to drink, a '99 Grgch Hills cabernet.

"Do you think that anybody else can tell that we're married," Kathleen asked after dessert. I omit the question mark because she wasn't really asking.

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Thanksgiving 2004:  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 has developed a screen saver that simulates the HAL 9000 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.

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24 November 2004: Amazon has published a top-fifty list for the year, and, scanning it, I found that I had read eight of them and owned two more. That seems about right. Anything greater than 20% would make me a slave to buzz. Looking a little harder, though, I see that two of the books that I've "read" are pictorial - Getmapping's New York City atlas, and the New Yorker cartoon omnibus. This hasn't been a good year, chez moi, for polishing off books.

I haven't said anything about the great Gilbert Stuart show at the Metropolitan Museum, although I've been to it twice. It's great in three different ways. First, by lining up various portraits of Washington that you might be forgiven for having thought of as copies of a single master, the exhibition breaks the iconic impermeability of these images and makes it possible to see them critically - to judge, for example, the different shades of the first President's character that each embodies. (I may be chauvinist, but there's no doubt in my mind that the Met owns the best of the right-facing three-quarter shots.)  Second, the abundance of first-class pictures puts Stuart squarely in league with Sir Joshua Reynolds; he is certainly no American provincial. Perhaps the most awesome is Stuart's 1823-4 portrait of John Adams. Finally, there is the picture of Bostonian Lydia Smith, who was not quite 25 when Stuart painted her in 1808-10. Lydia isn't the most beautiful girl ever to have her portrait painted, but the bright willing hopefulness of her slightly averted gaze has captured my heart, and the painting itself is terrifically fine. This picture, currently in a private collection, is not on-line, so you'll have to get to know Lydia in person, between now and the middle of January. She is a very good reason to visit New York.

The funniest thing at the show - also a Met "treasure" - is the portrait of Matilda de Jaudenes, a Philadelphia girl who got snapped up by a money-grubbing and very minor Spanish grandee. She is presented by the museum as an unwilling sitter, but I have always taken her to be quite pleased with her gaudy, goofy outfit. The doodad atop her head may make her the United States's first fashion victim.

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23 November 2004: Well, it's up. From now on, you can simply click on "Daily Blague," either directly above or on the Menu Bar, and you'll be whisked to Daily Blague: the Blog, powered with all of Movable Type's features. For the time being, the first DB entry on any day will appear both here and on DB:tB - except of course today; there is no need for this paragraph to appear there.

Red State, Blue State? I think I've hit on the perfect litmus test for determining which kind of state you belong in. Do you prefer Donald Duck to Daffy Duck? Pluto to Sylvester? Fantasia to "Hollywood Steps Out"? Then you're - not Blue. If you think you have no preference, it's been too long since you've watched our pop culture's seminal cartoons. I think you'll find that they're hugely different. Disney's cartoons are, well, just what you'd expect: sweet. They're 'family fare.' Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes, in stark contrast, are sarcastic, risqué, and  culturally sophisticated. Mel Blanc's vocal characterizations and Carl W. Stalling's music are as sharp and rude as Hell's Kitchen used to be - well, they've got the same tang. Kathleen noticed something else: while the Disney characters are normally gendered (Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse), the creatures at Looney Tunes fall into a rather different pair of bins: male and dim or doomed (Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, Wile E Coyote) or 'other,' neither masculine nor feminine. Bugs Bunny acts like a wise guy most of the time, but he's awfully prone to cross-dressing. Daffy Duck - well, now that we're more frank about these things, we can see that Daffy Duck is a drama queen.

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St Cecilia's Day, 2004: This will be very brief. I can hardly keep my eyes open. It has been a long day, hosting-wise.

When did the Pierre become a Four Seasons Hotel? I realize that that nobody really checks in and out; the billionaires have bought all the suites. But  still. That's where we'll be this Thanksgiving. That the hotel was elitist was okay. But part of a chain?

If you don't have a recording of today's Handel (yes, that  Handel), get one now. This is her day.

And let me say it once again. I'm glad to be hosted at Hosting Matters. En-slightly-fin.

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19 November 2004: Yesterday was a red-letter day for both of us. My site was unlocked at Earthlink and I was able to authorize a transfer to Hosting Matters. You will find this news boring and immaterial, but just you wait until it happens to you. Which, I have learned, was the meaningful nub of all my mother's curses.

As for Kathleen, the much more comprehensible news is that Gold went effective and started trading this morning on the NYSE. What's Gold? Only the latest ETF.

Bonne nuit/bonne journée.

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18 November 2004: Much as I like to believe that nihil humanum alienum est mihi, there are things here and there that I don't get. Sports, for one. I sort of see the point, but the effort knocks the wind out of me. (And yet I'll jump through any number of hoops in the kitchen, if all we're talking about is effort. In my calmer moments, I attribute my lack of interest in sports to unusually rocky hand-eye coordination. I never did manage to hit a golf ball in all those lessons that my father paid for - dont il y en avait exactement deux.) The Museum of Modern Art is another. The very idea is problematic. Does 'Modern' mean 'recent,' or 'in the Modernist style'? Either way, what are Matisse and Monet doing in there? Luckily for you, Édouard, at Sale Bête, belongs to New York's art world, and has already attended a chic reception, complete with camera. Take a look.

The terrible thing about my memory - and this would have happened when I was twenty - is that I can no longer recall the sound of Sondra Radvanovsky's voice. Little parts of it, yes, come back to me, largely because of the verbal tags that I put on them, in the form of references to other sopranos. I cannot wait to hear her again. Oh, really? Do I want to hear her badly enough to venture her performances next May of Franco Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac (an opera of 1936)? Yikes!

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17 November 2004: As I write, I am coming down from the best night at the Met that I've ever had. Indeed, I'd given up on the possibility of having such a thing. But I wanted to see Verdi's I vespri siciliani on stage once in my lifetime, because every time that I listen to James Levine's great recording of the opera, it's my favorite Verdi. What I'm coming down from, however, is not the Verdi, which was beautifully familiar, but from the magnificence of Sondra Radvanovsky's voice, which was a Big Surprise. My old friend Michael had told me that she 'wasn't bad,' which was all I needed to plunked down $170 for the ticket. All the better, really; because I sat through her singing with my mouth agape. If I may quote from the mash note that I just sent to her Web site, her voice has "Beautiful phrasing, an exquisite legato, and no problems. Your voice is simply beautiful, and it produces correct notes. That your acting and interpretation are superb simply make for an experience that has become totally unexpected." Sorry about saying 'beautiful' three times in two seconds, but it was a mash note. If you are interested in opera and close to New York, buy a ticket.

So much for last night. Night before, I took my daughter to Jules for her birthday. As the reviews suggest, Jules has its ups and downs, but I always like it, and in the back its possible for my old-fart ears to hear conversation over the general din. I went downtown early so that I could visit the St Mark's Bookshop. Earlier in the day, I had dropped into the Barnes & Noble across the street to pick up some Alice Munro. I've read her stories in The New Yorker for years but somehow not registered their greatness; Jonathan Franzen's rave in the latest NYT Book Review indicated a fresh look. But B&N's shelves were utterly innocent of the Canadian master, which Megan, when I told her,  found unsurprising. St Mark's, of course, had a good selection, including the latest, Runaway, which I must say I'm finding impressive. I also bought The Middle Mind, Curtis White's 2003 enlargement of his 2002 essay in Context. Important stuff, about which you'll be hearing more from me.

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16 November 2004:  So, Panamiste wasn't so crazy after all. Gothamist is looking for bilingual Parisians to start up a carnet on Gothamist lines. I won't be surprised if I've called the name; I can't quite see Parisiste - it sounds like a reason to call the doctor. For those of you whose French stopped in high school, Paname is one of the French capital's affectionate nicknames.




Will Portico be inaccessible for a day or two, or (gulp) more? I had always heard that transferring a site from one host to another could be problematic, and now I'm finding out why: the DNS nameserver doesn't turn on a dime. Also interesting to learn was the fact that, as of this morning, but with luck not for long, this site was 'locked' in Earthlink's 'wholesale portal.' It made me recall Bette Midler crying, "I've been kidnapped by K-Mart!"

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15 November 2004: Today's link, one appropriate to this day of the week, is to be tucked away in a handy place where it will be available when you need it. And you'll probably need it. The Owl is Purdue University's online Writing Lab; the link will take you to the Grammar and Punctuation branch of the site.

Who knew? Don't ask. It turns out that Movable Type won't function properly on an Earthlink-hosted site. So I'm in the middle of moving to Hosting Matters. That's to say that the site is up on two servers, Earthlink's and Hosting Matters's; as soon as the DNS registration becomes effective - and I've assured myself that the new location is accessible and so on, I'll take Portico off Earthlink. Do I know what I'm doing? How can Earthlink be making do with Perl 5.00404? What is Perl? Or, as Sally White asks in Radio Days, "Who is Pearl Harbor?"

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12 November 2004: Ai-yi-yi! My head. Want to know what I'm in the market for?  The new blogs are up - but I can't post to them. A crushing error message tells me that compilation has been aborted because BEGIN was unsafe! Well, I expected these little problems. I've written to the good people at MT three times so far, but before hitting this snag, I figured out the problems while waiting for responses. (That's why I paid for the software.) There's something about having nothing else to do until help arrives that licenses what at first seem to be pointless experiments. But compilation errors...

I'm far too frazzled to scout for links. Scavenging at a post-election doorprize from Crooked Timber, I did find a wacky set of pictures that illustrate Secretary Rumsfeld's ninja manner of speaking.

Last night, Kathleen and I sat down to dinner at - 11:50 PM. 23:50! I was a basket case then, too, because, working late (nothing new), she had failed to materialize well over an hour after calling to say that she was on her way. Here's why. (Of course it could have been worse - 65 people are now homeless. But then things could always be worse.) At 42nd Street, imagining my state of mind, she jumped the track and called from the street while hailing a cab. Tonight, Kathleen got home at a record-breaking 8:50. Chinese is on the way.

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11 November 2004: There will be those who will not be surprised to learn that I've done this, although not with 20,000 books. I'm sure they'll take pictures of the San Francisco installation, once Adobe Books's stock has been rearranged by color, but I hope that they document the arrangement. What a festival of serendipity for bookbuyers - who will have to wait, I suppose, before they can take their purchases home.

Nancy Franklin ends her review (in the current New Yorker) of TV journalism's election coverage with a sobering thought: the fourth estate may have joined the three branches of government in concluding that the interests of Blue voters are of no interest. For my part, I couldn't care less, because I haven't watched the news on TV (any station) in well over twenty-five years, with (seriously) only two or three exceptions, such as 9/11 (and then not for long). Indeed, I think that television and the nation alike would be vastly improved if the former were to abandon its sleek but mindless attempt to keep the latter informed.

Que faire? Watch the Blogosphere grow.

Happy Birthday to Genevieve Megan Miles Keefe - Many Happy Returns!

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10 November 2004: Coo'ull! Illustrated here you will find a cartogram of the late election that weighs counties, votes, and populations all in one handy picture. Looks rather like China, doesn't it. Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman, at the University of Michigan, have concocted a series of diagrams that would appear to rebut the Michelle Malkin nonsense that appeared in USA Today. But I can't imagine a conservative looking at this map without flinching at its deformation of the familiar and making comparisons to flag-burning. Click the link for more cartograms.

Last June, I wrote a page entitled "The Anxieties of Honor" that, given all the talk about 'morality' that we've heard since the election, strikes me as more au courant than it was when I wrote it. It's today's PdJ (Page du Jour)

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9 November 2004: The ist-as-in-Gothamist folks (see opposite) have launched a new site: Londonist. (Can Panamiste be far behind?) Those damned plinths in Trafalgar Square bring out the American in everybody over there. The latest proposal to be shot down calls for a nine-foot statue of Nelson Mandela. What's not to like? If he doesn't deserve a statue, who does?

Depressed about Southern voters? The returns-by-county map that the Times published last week showed a pretty little necklace of blue dots running (I believe) from Memphis to Atlanta, taking in Birmingham and some other urban areas on the way. It also showed that the only urban areas to vote for Bush lie well west of the Mississippi River. If you've given up on the South, this page by Ed Kilgore on New Donkey may put some color back in your cheeks. (Thanks to JMM at TPM).

Amazingly (to me), I finished the penultimate installment of my Corrections Reading Journal, and I've no doubt that I'll cover the final two-dozen pages on Wednesday. I don't mean to sound impatient or rushed, but I did promise myself that I'd complete this possibly ill-considered but really rather rewarding project before going to work on Daily Blague: the Blog. Today's PdJ is the latest entry, but a look at the Corrections Index (linked from the bottom of the page) is almost a chart of the illness that made me so ineffective for nearly all of 2003 and nearly half of this year.

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8 November 2004: Why, you ask, was my childhood so unhappy? One of the reasons, certainly, was the horror of becoming a teenager, which I dreaded for years. Neither young nor old, teens were simply ridiculous. They still are. The best thing that society could do for the poor dears would be to drop the concept, so that, at sixteen, you'd better start acting grown-up, while, until then, you'll eat with the children. To be a happy teenager requires either sweet cluelessness or plain psychosis; in either case, you're scarred for life. This superb example of late-50's teen joie de vivre to the right comes from Stone, a blog run by Marc Cenedella of the East Village and - Fredonia?.

The wonderful thing about Furniture Porn, in case you haven't seen it yet, is that it exposes the essence of video sex: power and violence. I doubt that anybody's going to be turned on by the very funny sight of two upholstered chairs humping on a Manhattan rooftop, but the fact that their animation never leaves the slightest doubt about the human behavior that's being simulated suggests (to put it mildly) that what we're seeing when we watch video sex is something less than human nature.

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Weekend Special III: Y'all are just not gonna believe this. Manhattan is just so depraved!

Weekend Special II: Hello? Hello? Why didn't you tell me about Pink Martini's new CD, Hang on Little Tomato? Do I have to do everything around here? The title song ought to have no trouble finding its way into the Hymnbook of the BabbleBushian Exile. (I just made that up; now, somebody go start a blog.)

Weekend Special I:  You will read Andy Borowitz, now. Then you will pack your bags. And buy a hockey stick at Paragon. Then, Penn Station...Oops! Not so fast! A fine lady who happens to be fighting in Iraq has a few words about sticking to one's guns.

5 November 2004: I hab a code. Writing is no fun when you're all stuffed up. Internautation makes for headaches. So does deciding whether Yassir Arafat is dead or 'no longer alive.' And as for 'The New Map,' two friends have already sent me links to two sites (thanks, Lauren, and thanks, Brian) featuring a proposed replay of the principal Civil War issue, which was not slavery, children. I have some thoughts about the 'new geography' that I look forward to developing once work on The Corrections (see below) is behind me and I've got the new Web log up and running. Get out the Vicks!

You can't imagine how slowly work is going on the final instalment of my 'reading journal' of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections because of my cold. Or maybe you can, seeing that I began this project just over two years ago! It's a big novel, but, sheesh! I'm not sure that I'll ever dare read the whole thing - my journal, that is. I will say that the periodic perusals that these journals transcribe has left me with no doubt that The Corrections is one of the great American novels. Beautifully written and generously expansive, its tale of the five Lamberts is intimate while you're reading it, and epic when you think about it. It is also utterly American without being at all provincial. Interestingly the only people whom I know to have disliked it have always been on good terms with their parents. That would be two people.

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4 November 2004: All I can say is: it hasn't hit me yet. I spent yesterday in a fury of blogging. To cap it off, I finally 'paid the two dollars' and acquired access to Movable Type. I even printed the fourteen-page mode d'emploi. Watch out, Blogosphere.

More on my reactions to the elections - trust me, I took it much better than I did Dubya's first victory - some other time. For now, il faut rire. Attached is a link to 9 Interviews, where actors and 'collaborators' simulate the interview racket at the annual MLA conventions. 'Tis a festival of academic nombrilisme. (On parle theory ici.)

I must thank the author of Douze Lunes, who has refocused his creativity on a new site, L'homme qui marche, for writing a heartwarming letter to me yesterday, affirming his love for and faith in the United States, notwithstanding recent developments.

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3 November 2004: Me? You've got to be kidding. Tonight, no minute comes to an end. I mean last night of course. Today, who knows. No hour comes to an end? No election?

My link today is French. It's so French, even I don't understand it. One of the great French bloggers has written contrapuntal guides  to (a) insulting Quebecois if you're French and (b) insulting the French if you're Canadian. Pathetic entertainment, given the day's gravity, but qu'est-ce-que c'est que je peux faire?

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Election Day Special: Florida Forever! (A few seconds' patience may be necessary.)

2 November 2004: Malcolm Gladwell writes about resilience in the current New Yorker. A good thing to read about this morning, because even if, as I pray, Mr Kerry wins the election soundly, this nation's internal disorders will probably continue to rage.

Does this mean that New Yorker's needn't fear another terrorist attack from Al Qaida? (I've added Obsidian Wings to my list of sites, under Affairs.) At Sale Bête, Édouard remembers seeing a posting about notable differences between various translations of Osama bin Laden's latest public address, but I'm not surprised that he's putting off going back to daily Kos to find it. dKos is terrifyingly TMI.

Nose runny? Post-nasal drip of gag-inducing, Niagaran proportions? Clear mucus, no allergies? Hmmm. Gosh. Oh! You're taking Altace! Let's try a drug holiday. (At least it's not Remicade!)

Good manners prohibit my letting go altogether. That's why there's The Poor Man.

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1 November 2004: The last panel in the following linked page of Get Your War On introduces to the Blogosphere a word, or pair of words, that I haven't seen until now, the eve of the election - not, at least, used with such casual, and to my eyes scary, deadpan.

Better late than never? I am never going to sympathize with the Bush Entourage or its supporters, but I wonder if I haven't been mistaken to put off trying to understand them. Reading Maureen Dowd's column in the Times today, I took the following passage and tried to translate its 'backward logic' into Neo-speak:

The Bushies' campaign pitch follows their usual backward logic: Because we have failed to make you safe, you should re-elect us to make you safer. Because we haven't caught Osama in three years, you need us to catch Osama in the next four years. Because we didn't bother to secure explosives in Iraq, you can count on us to make sure those explosives aren't used against you.

The situation in Neo-speak would be something like this: We have tried to hunt down Osama bin Laden, but the job is so difficult that only a team with our resolve could ever hope to succeed. We never offered a deadline for his capture, because we know how hard capturing him will be. We don't think that Kerry knows, and we don't think that he has the resolve to try. Ditto the explosives.

Maureen Dowd's a lot more fun to read, but her 'backward logic' is the kind of irritant that makes Bush supporters fume. What we want to do instead is to make them think again. A hopeless task? Perhaps, but unless we try we're on the road to civil war, and this time there is nothing like the horror of slavery to justify such a catastrophe. What I want Bush supporters to do is to demonstrate to me that the Administration has done everything in its power to prosecute the war against terror. The evidence that I've encountered - always beginning with Donald Rumsfield discarding the TPFDL during the planning of our Iraqi misadventure - suggests just the opposite.

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29 October 2004: The actor Jeff Bridges has one of the most hands-on Web sites that I've ever seen. All the links, as well as the navigational tools, are clever doodles, and even the text is handwritten. In addition to some fun links - be sure not to miss this one - there is also a gallery of photographs taken by Mr Bridges on the sets of various movies that he has been in. My favorite is the one of the racecourse stands from Seabiscuit. (The camera never lies? Depends on which camera you're talking about.

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28 October 2004: Idly curious, I was surprised to find that Seymour Hersh's prophetic, March 2003 account of Donald Rumsfeld's 'war' with the Pentagon is still on-line. Bless The New Yorker! Having read this when it first appeared, I was perfectly prepared for what subsequently happened in Iraq, and I don't know how many times I've bored friends silly with cries of "Tip-Fiddle! Tip-Fiddle!" even though I could never remember what TPFDL stands for. ("Time-phased forces-deployment list.") Why the Kerry campaign hasn't made any hay out of this is mildly mystifying, understandable only to political junkies. Re-read it and weep. Then talk to me about 'standing firm.'

Perhaps the most poignant quote in the piece is the remark of 'a former intelligence officer':

When you kill the tip-fiddle, you kill centralized military planning. The military is not like a corporation that can be streamlined. It is the most inefficient machine known to man. It’s the redundancy that saves lives.

The leading figures in the Bush Entourage have had little or no military experience, and lots and lots of corporate-executive experience (successful or otherwise). Their lack of respect for military wisdom is tantamount to a lack of respect for soldiers' lives. Disrespect is the salient characteristic of this Administration, but it's not quite as bad as the duplicity of the BA's insistence that we 'support the troops' by not criticizing its conduct of the war.

The rapper Eminem is not on my watch list, but everybody seems to be talking about a very dark video that he has produced with Guerilla News Network. It is also very - very - anti-Bush. How it will be sliced and diced to serve the ends Rovean propaganda it is not difficult to imagine; throughout the clip, Eminem appears to be urging Americans to rise up and take angry action against the President. Only at the last minute is the punch pulled, and the sacked palace revealed to be a - polling site. We're so inured to anger at the moment that we easily forget how scandalous the video would have been in the equally tempestuous, but better-behaved climate of the late 60's. I don't recommend watching "Mosh"; it's a disheartening experience. I'm beginning to pray for a solid victory next Tuesday, by either candidate. Anger gets ugly fast.

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27 October 2004: Today is our fair city's subway system's centennial. One hundred years ago today, there was only one line, running up the East Side from City Hall to 42nd Street, turning toward Times Square, and proceeding from there up the West Side (under Broadway) to 145th Street. About 150,000 riders tried it out on Opening Day. By Opening Day Plus One, everyone took it for granted.

The subways aren't better than ever, but they're certainly better than they've been at any point in my lifetime. Recovering from the Depression turned out to be a lengthy process. Read a brief history here and (with a great map at the bottom of the page) here. Take a ride in Brooklyn on some vintage subway cars. See the prize-winning suggestions for improving the subways at the Straphangers' site. Nominate someone for the revived post of Miss Subways - even if it does mean visiting the New York Post.  (I think it may be too late - at least for 2004.)  Make a reservation at Ellen's Stardust Diner, just off Times Square; it's owned by Miss Subways for March and April, 1959. Hmm... that sounds good.

The New Yorker has, to no one's surprise, endorsed John Kerry for President.

[Oops! We knew the magazine was pro-Kerry, but as it happens, The New Yorker has never endorsed a presidential candidate before - that would be since 1925. Thanks, Jason Kottke!]

But it's entire Comment section has been given over this week to a bill of particulars against the Bush Administration. To say that next Tuesday's election is going to change the future of America is both fatuous and misleading: it represents not a choice of policies but a decision about allowing an incompetent incumbent to continue damaging everything he touches (including 'and' and 'the'). To say that the election will determine whether America is going to have a future - a real, long-term future - would be more like it.

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26 October 2004: For those of you who have been mystified by friends laughing at the words 'loofah' and 'falafel,' I have provided a link straight to Count 78 of Andrea Mackris's complaint against Bill O'Reilly. The complaint itself is no longer news, so don't bother reading the rest of it. What's funny in an icky sort of way about Count 78 is imagining the, er, mounting excitement that induces Mr O'Reilly - allegedly, of course - to forget the first word and, even better, to replace it with the second. File under: Our Literary Journalists. (Read hilzoy's very intelligent analysis of the brouhaha at Obsidian Wings.)

There was a big fire in the neighborhood last night. I couldn't see the flames myself - and I wasn't sure that the fire wasn't in Queens until the resounding sirens made its greater proximity clear - but while it was filling the air with oily black clouds, I could find nothing about it on the Web. In this age of terror alerts, I find that - disappointing. I guess we're not as far along as I'd thought. This is, after all, the most densely-populated Congressional district in the United States, and the Vinegar Factory is surrounded by apartment buildings. Doubtless there's an open blog somewhere that I don't know about. Do you?

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25 October 2004: Gone fishing; meditating blog. But fun abounds. Four months ago, I didn't know Fafnir from Fafblog. Now I'm laughing like a sophomore at this newboy's comment. Doesn't matter if you didn't read Giblets' rant. Suffice it to say that it began:

In the nonstop panic attack that is the modern American national security climate, it is difficult to see who may best lead America... difficult for stupid people! For while many things may be unclear in the heady rhetoric of the campaign season, one thing is certain: Giblets will destroy you if you do not vote for him.

And went from there.

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22 October 2004: Have you seen the Mona Lisa? When we were at the Louvre last November, we didn't even bother. While far from the least of the museum's holdings, it is famous for being famous. Unfortunately, it happens to be quite small (77 x 53 cm) and rather dark, you can't get very close to it, and there is always trop de monde. So people come away disappointed. Word of disappointment, however, has done nothing to diminish the eagerness of the uninitiated.

Looking for something more pop cultural? There have been several Web animations attacking the Bush Administration's environmental record with satire, and this is not the best of them (as I recall), but there's something about the smirking line dancing midway through that catches me. Of course, I can remember when 'The Monster Mash' was a hit.

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21 October 2004: Don't miss Fafblog on the draft; not only does Fafnir rattle on like a Dixiecrat senator from the old days, but the Questioner's sane, sensible voice amps up the nonsense factor. While you're still chuckling, expand your knowledge of phone-sex possibilities.

Okay, fun's over. Public service time. On Monday, I ran a link to the transcript of Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. Today, I looked at the video clip. It is (as no lawyer would be surprised to hear) ten times more intelligible than the transcript. What's more, Mr Stewart - who seems to me to be channeling the Matthew McConaughey role in Contact - obviously commands the show. Could this be the end of Tucker Carlson? To be honest, who cares about him. Watch the clip if you can - it may very well turn out to have been historic.

As everyone knows by now, Kerry and Bush are distant cousins. Very distant, going back more generations than most of us can count. They both spring from old New England families - in some cases, the same old New England families. But you don't have to go back centuries to find Bush cousins who prefer Kerry. (Thanks, Édoard!) Meet the Houses.

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20 October 2004: So true, and it sounds better in French, too: "Si vous êtes réellement anti-américain, vous ne pouvez effectivement que souhaiter la victoire de George W. Bush." Laurent Gloaguen, at Embruns.

"Technorati's Top 100 Blogs List is out. I went over it four times, but still couldn't find Talking Points Memo, and that gave rise to questions about Technorati that the 'About Technorati' page doesn't answer.

A year ago, I tried inserting a genuine Web log in this column. What a fiasco! Of course, I wasn't reading any blogs in those days, so fiasco is just what I deserved. In July of this year, I thought I was very clever when I figured out how to simulate features of a blog, more or less, but I've since learned that appearance isn't everything; there are many tools and resources that effectively plug blogs into the blogosphere, and they are licensed by Movable Type, TypePad, and others. The easy thing to do would be to set up a real blog, duplicate the content between here and there, and find out how it all works. "Roger, pay the two dollars." Well, I would, but it's more than two dollars. Consider this a solicitation for suggestions.

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19 October: Who knows where Atrios got this lovely little satire on Rush Limbaugh? As so often happens, I got it from Édoard at Sale Bête. And for seriousness from an unexpected source, the transcript of Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire.

The last of David Orr's literary Web sites to get my attention is Moby Lives! It wasn't going to get any attention at all, because Mr Orr wrote that, while it was excellent, it was 'currently on hiatus.' But then I bumped into a link claiming that the hiatus had ended. Moby Lives! falls into the bookchat genre, but it is not without a genuinely literary aspect, and its coverage, while knowing, seems less resolutely insiderish. As a serious reader, you just might care to know what appears on this page.

In a conversation with Elvis Costello that appears in the current issue of Vanity Fair (which doesn't seem to have Web site), Joni Mitchell complains that everyone she knows claims to have Attention Deficit Disorder - and to be proud of it. This may explain why there aren't any (or many) literary Web sites. Nobody has taken the time to read the literature. As to undiagnosed ADD claims, they've got to be seen as the badges of smug laziness that they really are.

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18 October 2001: Here's a bumper sticker for intelligent people who still have bumpers:

The bumper sticker was made by Two Unemployed Democrats Co., which has a Web site at Paying attention has been the great American failing - throughout our history. That's the good-bad side of democracy. When things work well, you don't have to think about them. As this bumper sticker suggests, things haven't been working well.

Thanks to Ron Suskind for handing out a handy triage device: is your political outlook faith-based or reality-based? Thanks to Dubya, it can't be both!

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15 October 2004: Nuts. A fantastic and important article - and not online. That would be David Owen's "Green Manhattan," in the current (October 18) issue of The New Yorker. Studded with amazing factlets - Manhattan is 800 times more densely populated than the national average! A density of seven households per acre is sufficient to support public transportation - Mr Owen's piece argues that conventional environmental thinking is all wrong about the Big Apple. Our biggest environmental disasters today are cars, which New Yorkers don't need (and ought not to be allowed to park in the street!) and lawns. Yes, lawns. Of which Mr Owen writes: "The modern suburban yard is perfectly, perversely self-justifying: its purpose is to be taken care of." A trait that's typical of most vanity badges. Ever since Jefferson, Americans have been complaining about cities, but Mr Owen shows how wrong it is for the Sierra Club to describe suburban sprawl as 'urbanization.'

Faute de mieux, then, are links to something unusual: two articles in the same issue by the same writer. Anthony Lane writes with uncharacteristic calm and admiration about Ronald Reagan in the movies, but reverts to his Nathan-Lane-inflected 'natural' voice about new releases. Reading them might persuade you to buy the magazine.

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14 October 2004: The question about last night's debate, in my opinion, is simply this: did Dubya's smirky but sweaty last-minute channeling of Billy Graham, the Charles Durning character in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Ryan O'Neill work with the electorate? We will see. I think it was all a little too late.

What a fun day! I came to the computer this morning to find a message on the screen about Windows updates, which meant that the machine must have looping in limbo all night long. That was the first problem. The second was trying to install a new HP printer. According to the installation window, there was a failure to connect with 'the device,' but once all the software had been installed, everything worked fine. By then, however, I'd written down the serial number (which quite wonderfully appears on the printer's display panel) and gathered my receipt and a telephone number for support. When I restarted the machine (for the seventh or eighth time today, thanks to the first problem, I had no problems. How long will that last? Just par for the course in Microhell. Reading this in Jason Kottke's blog simply strengthened my resolve: the next machine will be an Apple!

Our ongoing consideration of David Orr's tour of the literary Web: I doubt that any Web site has roused the elitist in me faster than Fanfiction. 'Fanfic' is for people whose response to literature is to try to squeeze sequels out of their generally adolescent imaginations. Following in David Orr's footsteps, I looked into growths on the corpus of Jane Austen, and found nothing that wasn't jejune. Each one of the 'stories' that I looked at - and I confined myself to the 'Books' Directory - petered out quickly, often immediately, as if the author had tasted the emptiness of the enterprise. (I did, however, steer clear of Lord of the Rings derivatives, so I may have missed something. If I did, it can't have been literary.) There 'columns,' too, but according to the listings, the most recently updated column was last modified in May of this year. The proliferating spoor of short attention spans soon gave me a headache. Godawful Fan Fiction is supposed to be the antidote, but it's actually even more headache-making. Besides, if you don't have Internet poisoning, you don't need an antidote.

Phew: that almost wraps up this project.

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13 October 2004: I don't know what Publishers' Lunch is doing on a list of 'literary' sites. It is a purely commercial, subscription-oriented clearing house, hardly more literary than, say, a book distributor's invoices. Then again, everybody's a writer these days, even if nobody's a reader. If, as David Orr claims, Everyone Who's Anyone In Adult Trade Fiction Publishing "will tell you more about the book world than any five 'How-to-Publish' treatises combined" - and I see no reason to doubt him - then why he is taking up my time with such a site? As to The Literary Dick, I would say that it has fizzled out. I would not say that I understood its purpose, since much of the writing has nothing to do with mysteries of any kind. Your response to The Underground Literary Alliance may be gauged by the strength of your conviction that John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces was a masterpiece. And by your toleration for revolutionary hullabaloo.

So don't bother with any of those - sorry to put those links in your way! Go instead to the hilarious London News Review Book Diary. The link will take you to a posting that I found quite sidesplitting, if anything so deadpan can be thus described. The author, one Sean, visits a UK site that lists the books set for publication in Britain on any given day - and then he makes up thumbnails out of whole sail. Here, at last, is a truly literary site, and although it's humor tends toward the insiderish (at least from my perspective), I wish I were half as funny. (You probably didn't know that I try to be funny.)

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12 October 2004: For those who wonder, quite rightly, in my opinion, if our national security hasn't been handed over to a clod of specialists in directing the parking at football games, I suggest finding grim - funny grim, but mostly grim - confirmation in Kieran Healy's account of a disaster drill at the University of Arizona.

Getting back to our tour of 'literary' blogs, David Orr himself says that Web del Sol is confusing. It's definitely in need of Edward Tufte! Simply to say, as does the 'About' page, that "Web Del Sol cannot be classified as a literary publication or an Internet portal in the traditional sense (though it contains both subsets), but rather as a literary arts new media complex which pushes the envelope of both definitions" - well there's nothing simple about that, is there - doesn't excuse design overload. Helpless, I clicked the top left button, 'Columns,' and came across a list of enterprises, including a joint venture that caught my eye and took me to Rain Taxi, the online version of an alternative literary magazine. Where WDS is a volcano of information, Rain Taxi is neat as a pin. I read two reviews in the current (Fall 2004) issue, one of Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint, and another about a scholar's attempt to reconcile Emerson and Ellison, among others. Both were better than just interesting, and I look forward to visiting this site when I'm not on the prowl. Rain Taxi, in turn, led me to Frank, an ambitious and adventurous review published by an American in Paris. Like Words Without Borders, however, it published original material. That's not what's in short supply on the Web. What's in short supply is judgment and guidance.

Reading the Interview with Anthony Lane on Identity Theory, I suddenly realize that movies don't work if you haven't done a lot of reading. Without the resonance that familiarity with our great literature provides, Grand Illusion is simply a failed, boring Jerry Bruckheimer project. Robert Birnbaum's interviews, in any case, are intelligent, and there are lots of them. I've added a link on the left, so have a look at his roster and bookmark a few to visit later.

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11 October 2004: We'll take a little break from the literary blog problem in order to vent what may be our final expression of election fatigue. (Ha Ha Ha - or is it heh heh?) Yes, we're tired, but the election must go on, n'est-ce pas? If you have a drop of energy left, then click here for an archetypal confrontation. (We're so tired that we muffed the link late last night.)

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