Monday, September 25, 2023

A Tenured Professor

That's the title of JK Galbraith's gently satiric novel, published in 1990. A Harvard economics professor strikes it rich by shorting irrational exuberance. The banksters are not pleased and do what must be done to put an end to this nonsense, and our hero must resign himself to life as a tenured professor and expert on the economics of consumer durables. With the exception of its gentleness and civility, the novel could have been written today. As a novelist, Galbraith was no David Lodge, but he wasn't terrible either.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Galls at Stulsaft Park, Redwood City, CA

I don't think I'd ever walked around Stulsaft Park, a decent-sized city park on both sides of the Arroyo Ojo de Agua creek in suburban Redwood City. It has several varieties of oaks growing together along the steep slopes. This time of year, oaks come with galls in various shapes, colors, and textures. Wonderful life!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 105

Very funny, very smart, very musical... and she sure rocks. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023


The New Yorker's great press critic, A.J. Liebling, observed during a New York newspaper strike in 1963 that "the employer, in strike stories, always 'offers,' and the union 'demands.'"
The stories never say that the employer "'demands' that the union men agree to work for a two-bit raise; the union never 'offers' to accept more." The reason, Liebling conjectured, is that "'demand,' in English, is an arrogant word; 'offer,' a large, generous one." 

America Betrays Its Children Again

Yup. Krugman

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 104

Nobody better than David Murray. And hang in there for Hamid Drake's solo... so awesome!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Reading roundup

I'm way behind.  

Brideshead Revisited
Evelyn Waugh

The novel is packed with melodrama, romance, humor, irony, and Catholicism... and very well written. So I suppose it is the masterpiece people say it is. 

Crook Manifesto
Colson Whitehead

This sequel to Harlem Shuffle is really three novellas set in 1970s Harlem, the first and third featuring our hero, the furniture store owner and sometime crook Ray Carney, along with Pepper, a thug with a conscience, if not a heart of gold. The middle novella is a plot diversion revolving around blaxploitation film-making. For the most part Whitehead uses the conventions of the crime novel to show rather than tell us about his main themes of racism, political corruption, and economic striving, although occasionally he succumbs to the temptation to do a little lecturing. The climactic scene ties things up a little too neatly for my taste, but the book is a good read, and I'll be happy to see what's next for Carney in the inevitable follow-up. Whitehead has E.L. Doctorow's sensibility and ambition, if not quite his chops. But who does? 

The Quick and the Dead
Joy Williams

Williams is best known as a writer of short stories, and this novel reads like a collection of loosely connected stories. She writes well, but overall it's too quirky and precious for me.  

The Steel Crocodile
D.G. Compton

Not Compton's best, but a decent sci fi novel covering many of his concerns, including religion, individual freedom, and the misuse of psychology. It's also interesting as a vision of AI dystopia, published in 1970.

Naomi Hirahara

A mystery set in postwar LA, featuring the community of Japanese-Americans formerly "interned" during the War. The plot moves along and seems to be historically well-informed, but the writing is pretty pedestrian.

Innocent Blood
P.D. James

James was generally misanthropic; the "usual suspects" in her murder mysteries were typically nasty or weak, or both, each fully capable of being the guilty party. Of course to have a mystery you need to have multiple characters who could have "dunnit." Hers is a grim picture of human nature and modern society, but in the Dalgliesh novels the bleakness was partly offset by the fundamental goodness and humanity of Inspector Dalgliesh himself and, later in the series, his colleague Kate Miskin. 

Innocent Blood, from roughly the middle of James's career, has no Dalgliesh, and every character is pretty twisted and unpleasant. Still, the book is wonderfully written and really keeps you turning the pages; and damned if some of the nasties don't start to redeem themselves just a little, by way of... what's this? Love? And then, in the overly contrived climactic scene, it all crashes down, only to be set right again in an unsatisfying and in some ways quite disturbing epilogue. This is at once one of James's best books and one of the most problematic. I'm glad she brought back Adam D.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 103

Perhaps someone asked Rhett Miller to write the perfect 2-minute love song. He failed: this clocks in 15 seconds too long. Aside from that, perfect it is.