Monday, August 29, 2011

Alan Krueger nominated for CEA chief

"Among economists Dr. Krueger is known as a voracious data hound..."
And this is really the best breed of econ dog. Excellent choice, Mr. President.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Serra at Stanford

Richard Serra's Sequence is now installed and open to the public at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center. Walking through it reminded me of hiking in one of those southwestern box canyons, glimpses of bright blue sky opening and closing above the curved rust-colored walls. But the human, industrial origins of the thing are unmistakable too... it could be the rusting hulk of an abandoned ocean freighter. It is evocative, fun, and beautiful. And heavy!

The Cantor Center is a Bay Area treasure. It is free and open to the public, and has an excellent and wide-ranging collection. It's small enough that you won't be overwhelmed, but big enough that you will find something new and rewarding on every visit. The Serra, which will be at the Cantor Center until 2016, has amazing company nearby: Rodin's Gates of Hell, and Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sad day for pop music

RIP Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford. Between the two of them they provided an awful lot of pleasure to an awful lot of music lovers...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Keeping things in perspective

Matthew Yglesias: "One [of] the oddities about the current economic doldrums afflicting the developed world is that if you look at the global average, this is almost certainly the best time to be alive in human history."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hardly a screech

Lying in bed last night at 2 a.m. after son the elder had landed from his evening's flight, I discovered that he was not the only night owl in the neighborhood... "The double note is a primary call although not as frequently heard. This is generally associated with an excited owl." (source) Palo Alto after midnight... excited about what, I wonder?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 1

It was certainly a perfect summer afternoon yesterday in downtown San Jose for the final sets of the San Jose Jazz Festival. On the salsa stage at 6 p.m., Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia sizzled in front of a beautiful San Jose rainbow crowd. Playing salsa Cuban style, the band is a well-oiled machine, and Reinoso is a charismatic front man. His baritone is so rich I kept wishing for a ballad, but the band and the dancers in the crowd would have none of that. The horns were tight, the timbales driving the rhythm without punishing your eardrums, the piano providing that propulsive montuno riff. The answer, in short, is yes.

Earlier we caught the first half hour of Miguel Zenón's quartet. The band seemed tentative and a bit disorganized at first, but by the time I left to check out some other stages, they were cooking, mastering tough chord changes and bizarre meters as if it were the 12-bar blues. Zenón plants his feet and wobbles around on bent knees while he solos on alto. I'm not sure I've heard a better saxophonist in some time.

We walked by the main stage twice, hearing a bit of Ramsey Lewis one way and then George Duke/ David Sanborn coming back. Is it funk jazz? Smooth jazz? Arena jazz? Whatever it is, it's popular, and it kind of sucks.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Michelle first, Ron second! If the past is a foreign country, the GOP must be a different planet. Feelin' bad for Tim, though...

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's all yours, chimps!

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" features your standard sci-fi plot No. 3, whereby science with the best of intentions goes awfully awry. The movie has its moments, but is generally ho-hum. The acting is uniformly middling. James Franco sleep-walks through the whole thing, substititing a kind of befuddled concern for Charlton Heston's angry burn in the original. Freida Pinto is here strictly for ornamentation, although she does get to deliver the obligatory "Some things are not meant to be changed" line.

Critics seem to love the performance-capture technology used to turn actors into chimps, but frankly I found the chimps even less inspiring than the humans. Our chimp hero Caesar (Andy Serkis) has a very narrow emotional range, usually somewhere between pouting and brooding. Give me Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter mugging through their layers of makeup any day.

Eventually our army of chimp rebels escape from their prisons and gallop across the Golden Gate, facing down the CHiPs and our nasty corporate antihero. Their objective? Muir Woods, where Caesar plans to make their new home. The Muir Woods are indeed lovely, but redwood forests are actually rather barren of vegetation, and I found myself wondering, "What will they eat?" But then I remembered that they are in Marin! If they get hungry they can swing over to Bradley Ogden's Tavern at Lark Creek for a bite... if they can get a reservation, that is...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Carson Pass country

The mountains surrounding Carson Pass are widely renowned for having the most beautiful wildflower display in the Sierra Nevada. Spring came late to the high country this year; even a week into August there was plenty of snow to traverse. Abundant moisture is perhaps compensating for the shortened growing season. To a great degree the flowers come in predictable combinations: on the sloping meadows, lupines, tall red paintbrush, and golden mule ears; in the swampy patches, blazing pink and yellow monkey-flowers and head-high corn lilies; the high rocky areas dotted with sulphur buckwheat and penstemon. But Nature is eager to experiment with the color palette, and especially along the margins between plant communities one finds the most striking and unexpected combinations. I took a few pictures.

Columbines among the boulders...

... that pink kind of monkey-flower...

... the corn lilies is as high as an elephant's eye...

... every garden benefits from a water feature...

... and don't take the rocks for granite...

Grrr... that damn Obama...

... nothing could make me vote for that clown again... oh... wait...

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Noblesse oblige... sans irony

Three cheers for Bloomberg and Soros. They say the devil is in the details, but jobs, and somebody actually giving a shit, have to be a good start. Especially when Washington is single-mindedly intent on making matters worse.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The employment crisis

Here's the employment-population ratio for prime-age (25-54) black men since 1994. Yes, down by ten percentage points in just three years. What is the debt plan doing for these folks?

Addendum: the longer view, black men 20 years and older... the lowest level since we have been collecting modern data...

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, seasonally adjusted