Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

Frank Loesser wrote the song. Kacey makes it her own.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Larry Eisenberg, RIP

As an occasional writer of doggerel myself, I offer props to a prolific limerick master.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Walking the Dog

Warm up with JC and the organ trio...

Monday, December 17, 2018

Severin Borenstein on Uber and Lyft congestion

It really does seem like every other car you see in San Francisco these days is a Lyft or Uber (or both – multihoming!) on its way somewhere, or worse yet just cruising around waiting for an order. Adding to congestion on the streets? Taking riders away from more environmentally friendly alternatives? Severin Borenstein admits it may be so. So should we restrict these services? Nah. His solution is mine as well: Congestion pricing!

Many advantages come from pricing the congestion externality: Reduced congestion, of course, but also efficient allocation of the rides that do occur to their highest value, and revenue for the city that can reduce the burden of less efficient taxes or be spent on worthy projects, such as mass transit, services for the homeless, or cash transfers to low-income folks.

But here's a quiz question for you... What's the second-best solution if public officials can't or won't enact a sensible congestion pricing system? A question to ponder, Grasshopper, while you advocate for market-based solutions.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Nearness of You

One of my favorite songs. Hoagy Carmichael's simple melody could not be improved upon. Ned Washington's lyrics are more than serviceable. What is the best version? You can hear many of them on Spotify. A selection from best to worst...

And the winner is... Nancy Wilson!

[Postscript: I did not know she had died this very day, but perhaps her death pushed her rendition up the Spotify search list to where it caught my attention...]

Runners up... Of course Ella and Louie...

Dr. John pulls your leg with a little "Moonlight in Vermont" before turning to the pale moon that excites not...

Of course Frank, backed by the great great Nelson Riddle...

Norah Jones is lovely...

Rod Stewart? Why not?

Instrumental versions... there must be a billion... let's go with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, who made everything sound cool...

The worst? You might have supposed Sheena Easton, but she does a decent job...

Pretty bad... Babs! Love ya, girl, but no...

Ruben Studdard, dude, it's Hoagy, what were you thinking when you ignored the melody?

But the very worst... Annie Lennox, PLEASE just stop!

No planet but this one

John Quiggin on Voyager 2. Sad but true.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Reading roundup

From best to worst...

Bosh and Flapdoodle
A.R. Ammons
The last collection of poetry by Ammons, whom I hadn't previously read. The jacket blurb from Harold Bloom says, "With John Ashbery and James Merrill, Ammons was the Sublime of his generation of American poets." Bloom should know, but what I would say is that I devoured this little collection in one sitting, and then returned to several for a second helping. Funny, jazzy, touching, and a lot more accessible than Ashbery. His "Aubade" opens with this:
They say, lose weight, change your lifestyle:
that's, take the life out of your style and 
the style out of your life: give up fats,
give up sweets, chew rabbit greens, raw: and 
how about carrots: raw: also, wear your
hipbones out walking: we were designed for 
times when breakfast was not always there, and
you had to walk a mile, maybe, for your first 
berry or you had to chip off a flint before
you could dig up a root...

Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis
The mother of all academic satires, and every bit as good as they say. I found it less nasty than I expected– Amis is surprisingly sympathetic to his characters, even the ones he skewers. Jim himself is a kick, often fantasizing the most appalling behavior but exhibiting only the mildly unacceptable, in part because he hasn't the gumption, in part because he's a good fellow after all. Needless to say he gets the girl. It reminded me of one of my other favorite books, Wonder Boys, which turns the story around and focuses on the washed-up old fart rather than the neurotic youngster.

Jean-Patrick Manchette
A nasty piece of work about a nasty piece of work, it clocks in at 91 efficiently nasty and amusing pages. Good for a short plane ride.

The So Blue Marble
Dorothy B. Hughes
Her first novel. I've raved about a couple of her others, here and here. This one is an oddity, mostly an ode to Manhattan and a certain lifestyle. Despite the mounting body count, nobody seems terribly flustered. Readable, but clearly she improved with practice.

Dark Certainty
Dorothy B. Flanagan (Hughes)
Hughes's first published book (1931) was this volume of poetry, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. In my post about her awesome suspense novel In a Lonely Place, I implied that she must have been a pretty good poet. Wrong.