Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed, RIP

The noisy experimental stuff, the artsy Warhol scene, that was all lost on me. The jangly guitars and edgy songcraft never get old.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Obamacare woes

"Hopefully in the long run it won't matter, but there's a reason some of us expect our liberalism to be competent, especially when it's really just technocratic centrism advertised as liberalism."

Atrios is right... not the end of the world, but we expected better. After all, the guy in charge is the guy who used the web to build a coalition that elected our first African-American president... if you can do that, a health insurance exchange shouldn't be all that difficult.

Offspring report

My violin-playing offspring had a good week. Watch for him at a venue near you. Or listen to some samples here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Immersive movie experience

I thought Captain Phillips was just about as good as the critics said. Barkhad Abdi, as the Somali pirate "captain," is even better than advertised. When I go out to the movies, I like to sit well into the front half of the theatre to get the full big-screen experience. But being out at sea with Paul Greengrass's restless camera and claustrophobic action sequences, I might have preferred sitting back a few rows.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Yep, that's me...

... looking grim... feeling glum... about recent events at my University...

Our model California government

I voted for the nonpartisan redistricting commission, and I'm very happy if it is doing its job to reduce polarization and gridlock. Easing of term limits was a good idea too. But let's face it: California state government is working right now because we have one-party rule, and the one party consists of Democrats, led by the most grown-up Democrat of them all, Jerry Brown. Jerry is a sensible man who can get shit done because the idiot Republicans can't do a damn thing to stop him. Jerry can veto Dem stuff he thinks is too radical, or bad for the economy. Those of us to his left will shrug our shoulders and live with it, because frankly we love our Jerry!

The rest of the country could have this too. Grow up, kids.

Great American music in Menlo Park, of all places!

A couple Friday nights a month the Cafe Borrone All-Stars play at their namesake establishment in Menlo Park. The lineup varies a little, but is always superb, and usually includes Leon Oakley, among the best jazz cornetists I have ever heard anywhere. A real treat.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Best show on TV

You are suffering Breaking Bad withdrawal... aren't we all? I suppose you'll be watching The Americans, Homeland, or Game of Thrones. Entertaining. But none of them quite satisfies. You want genuine suspense, in the sense of unpredictability... action, real human drama... but leavened with humor, if possible. Where to find it? Food Network.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goose egg

Goose egg, nothing, we got nothing,” said Representative Thomas H. Massie, Republican of Kentucky.

Gee, I wouldn't say that Tom. Just three short months from now, you get another opportunity to act like a brat, wreak havoc on the economy, and cripple our political system. And your nut-job constituents may well reward you for your irresponsibility with reelection. What's not to like?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tennis, 1972

Stan Smith led the U.S. team to victory over Romania in the 1972 Davis Cup finals. This article in the Times tells the fascinating story. I like this picture because Stan is swinging a Wilson Jack Kramer, the racquet I was using as a 14-year-old at that very moment in time. I still have it in my garage, strings intact and ready for action (well, first I might wrap some tape around the moldy grip). Not long thereafter we all went metal, with the Wilson T2000, perhaps the ugliest tennis racquet ever made, leading the pack. (It even sounded ugly, with the sweet spot registering an unpleasant "clank" rather than a satisfying "thwok.") I ended up playing for a while with an aluminum and plastic job, made by an obscure company I can no longer recall the name of. Wish I'd hung onto that one too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Nobel in Economics

John Quiggin asks, "Why do we *still* have a Nobel Prize in economics?" Indeed. My heroes among living economics Nobelists, Arrow and Heckman, are both brilliant beyond belief, and have done much to help me and many others think about how the world works. But that doesn't make economics a science...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Steve Earle

He was in San Francisco for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival... I passed on the dusty crowds in Golden Gate Park and paid my hard-earned dime to hear him last night at a nice but crowded venue on Valencia in the Mission, The Chapel.

Aside from his album with Del McCoury, The Mountain, which is one of my all-time faves, I have not followed Earle closely, but he is a great singer and a wonderful storyteller. I mean a great singer not in the virtuosic Al Green or George Jones fashion, but an expressive pop interpreter in the Dylan or Willie vein. He is also a lefty redneck. I feel no guilt whatsoever enjoying Merle Haggard's jingoism, but if you do, and need an excuse to listen to some good ol' country, check out Steve Earle. He confessed that he could no longer imagine living in Nashville, in his native Tennessee, which is why he now calls Greenwich Village home, and would choose San Francisco if he had to move. Country and roots-rock are great American populist art forms, and why should the left be deprived of the good stuff? Why, populist and progressive used to go together... remember Woody Guthrie and Upton Sinclair?

The first half of Steve's performance was the better half. As the night wore on, he could not resist a little gratuitous Walmart bashing (not my cup of tea, but forgivable) and a little kumbaya (less so), and even worse, he swapped his beautiful 6-string acoustic for an overly jangling 12-string and then even a banjo, which he played badly, and finished with some kind of mando-guitar. But when he opened his mouth, all was forgiven.

The opening act was Steve's son, Justin Townes Earle. The guy plays a mean guitar and has a good strong folk voice. I found his songs and style precious, a bit like Rufus Wainwright channeling, who, maybe Steve Earle? His best song of the night was by Buck Owens. Boy got good taste, at least.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Maybe Boehner's actually a hero!

Here are the arguments, courtesy of James Fallows... and regardless, he sure has lovely eyes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Russians and mushrooms

Russians and their mushrooms:
“If you are normal, you search for mushrooms,” said Julia Schelkunova, a Moscow-based Russian translator and guide (and owner of a plant nursery), sounding as if she were shrugging her shoulders. “Calling yourself a mushroom hunter is like calling yourself a pizza eater. You just do it.”
 A slice of mushroom pizza would be tasty right about now...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The shutdown

They have been unable to gut or kill Obamacare through constitutional legislative channels, and have thus resorted to extortion. It's really as simple as that. Thankfully it appears that the president has finally taken enough of their crap. Too bad so many have to suffer. But I do hope Boehner is among the sufferers. For a while I felt sorry for him, but he is so deserving.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vulgar Marxist blogging

Simon Johnson finds the silence of the business elite (i.e. capitalist class) in the face of Republican madness "somewhat shocking." Is it possible that he is simply wrong about where their self-interest lies?
The silence of much of the business and financial elite on the debt ceiling — as well as on the sequester and the government shutdown — is somewhat shocking. This is a group that is usually quite vocal in promoting its self-interest. It benefited greatly from the expansion of the global economy after 1945, and that shifting perception of what business needs was part of the pressure that encouraged the Republican Party to become much more international in its orientation. The trajectory of current fiscal policy will hurt the pocketbooks of this elite.