Monday, November 28, 2011

Full Belly

Glorious organic artichokes from Full Belly Farm, braised with shallots in sauvignon blanc and a squeeze of lemon. Not bad.

$4 million for Ohio State football coach

Congrats to Coach Urban, but so what? Santa Clara U. just offered me $6.5 million per year to teach micro, plus a bonus of $50,000 for every student who can correctly identify the deadweight loss triangle in a sales-tax diagram.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ruth Stone, RIP

I have been reading her latest collection of new and selected poems, What Love Comes To, and just today learned of her death at 96. "New readers discovered a poet of varied and uncommon gifts, fierce and funny, by turns elegiac, scathing, lyric and colloquial." Yup. You can buy the book from Copper Canyon Press (link to left).

Paul Motian, RIP

I have been listening to jazz since I was a kid, and of course the music has changed a lot during that time, but nothing has undergone more change than jazz drumming: the techniques, the styles, and the role of percussion in the ensemble. Nobody was more responsible for these changes than Paul Motian, who has died at age 80. The NY Times obit quotes one of his many fine collaborators, Greg Osby: “He was an economist: every note and phrase and utterance counted. There was nothing disposable.” Well, that's a nice compliment to any economist!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The uses of enchantment

We watched My Neighbor Totoro again at about midnight on Thanksgiving... a contender for the most beautiful movie ever made. Maybe drinking wine for the preceding 9 hours straight had something to do with my assessment, but the first time I saw it with the kiddos I was stone cold sober, and I had the same reaction. Coincidentally, this showed up at Boing Boing today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Notorious George Eliot

I read Middlemarch some years ago and loved it. I was not listening to gangsta rap back then, so I did not think to compare George Eliot's style with Biggie's. Then again, who would? Ta-Nehisi Coates, of course, and damned if he doesn't pull it off.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Randy Newman

"Austin City Limits" gave Randy Newman an hour to sing a bunch of his songs. He could have gone on for another 4 hours, as far as I'm concerned. His songs are great, and really nobody sings them better than the man himself. He is a clever piano player too, who makes a virtue of his limitations.

An audience member requested "Rednecks," and he simply said, "No, I can't sing that." It's one of his best, but every other word is the N word, so it's a nonstarter for PBS. Too bad: The song is a spirited if not very subtle condemnation of racism and racial hypocrisy in the United States. No matter, he has plenty of fantastic politically charged songs where that one came from.

Watch Randy Newman "You've Got a Friend in Me" on PBS. See more from AUSTIN CITY LIMITS.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bil Keane, RIP

In "The Family Circus," Bil Keane had unfunny down to a science. There was an art to it, and sometimes there was a little social commentary to it as well.

GOP debate... again?!

Convinced that Romney will inevitably be the last man/woman standing, and that debates are at best bad political theater, I haven't been paying much attention. But from the reports, I give Cain a point for opposing going to war with Iran over nukes, at least not immediately. Reassuringly to the base, however, he supports torture, like pretty much everyone in his party, save Huntsman and Paul. Those guys are toast, obviously. The set for this debate, I must say, is quite pleasing, like Jasper Johns reimagined by Ikea.


This almost impossibly delicate and lovely fungus popped up around the new manzanitas. It would appear to be Coprinus plicatilis, a common variety of inky cap.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What a swell party this is!

Somehow the continuing sitcom that is the GOP presidential race reminded me of the greatest Cole Porter cover evah! It's... well... it's... swellegant!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Michiko rocks

Great critics are very rare. In the New York Times, which I peruse daily, there is only one whom I read without fail, and rarely with disappointment: Michiko Kakutani. It is not only because I agree with her taste in books; nor is it merely because she appears to be as smart as her dad, beloved of all economists of my generation for his fixed point theorem; it is also because she can write a turn of phrase like this, capturing the very essence of Bill Clinton in seven words: "freewheeling policy wonk and genial retail politician." Nifty.

Walmart, bank-slayer

Yes, lefty friends and allies, I know we don't generally shop there, but remind me again, why is it we don't like Walmart?


Charles Babbage may indeed have invented the first computer, but he was also not at all shabby as an economist. He quite sensibly suggested that one significant advantage of the division of labor, overlooked by Adam Smith, was that subdividing the tasks made it possible to save on labor costs by hiring low-skilled specialists who were very adept at only one thing, and thus cheap. This simple "deskilling" argument strikes many of us as more compelling than any of the advantages proposed by the Adam.

Heavy D, RIP

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who are the great jazz instrumentalists?

I don't mean the great composers (Ellington, Monk, Shorter) or great bandleaders (Ellington again, Basie, Blakey, Miles) or even the great revolutionaries (Ellington again, Miles again, Ornette). Miles and Ornette could blow your mind, and did so frequently, but they were not the guys who make me ask: Can a human being possibly produce sound so grand and beautiful? Armstrong, Hawkins, Holiday, Parker, Rollins, yes. Somewhat reluctantly, Art Tatum and Wynton, yes. Max Roach and Tony Williams. Eric Dolphy, in my book. Coltrane... hmm...

A question inspired by Rudresh Mahanthappa. A guy still in the running.

Garden plant of the year, at least in my garden

Solidago californica, one of our native goldenrods. Here it is November 7 and even the late-blooming California fuchsia are nearing their end. But the solidago has been in bloom for nearly three months now, with no sign of letting up. A little burst of sunshine on a gray November day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Planet Money

Every time I hear the "Planet Money" correspondents on "All Things Considered," I reach for the change channel button. The reports are invariably cutesy, trite, and somewhere between uninformative and misleading. Now we have Adam Davidson colonizing the NY Times, promising to "demystify complicated economic issues." His first installment? Creating jobs is "practically impossible in our current capitalist democracy." After the obligatory bow to "he said, she said," featuring one-line caricatures of archaic Keynesians and do-nothing Chicagoans, Davidson offers platitudes, urging us all to buck up and make the most of it. "An economic downturn is a great time to learn things." Yes, in your unexpected surfeit of leisure time you could learn to sell apples on the street corner, or turn tricks.