Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sampling the Sam Adams Brewmaster's Collection

Two days ago I bought a twelve pack of the Samuel Adams "Brewmaster's Collection", in which you get a couple of bottles of the flagship Boston Lager, along with two each of five specialty brews (this collection is obviously a seasonal one, consisting entirely of dark, full-bodied brews thought especially suitable for cold weather consumption). Today I tried one of each of the five heavyweights, with these results:

Honey Porter: Typical rich porter flavor, with, as advertised, a hint of honey. This had spent several hours in the fridge, and might have been better served just slightly chilled.

Black Lager: Rich but bland; might also have benefited from less refrigeration.

Scotch Ale: According to the label, this is made with peat-roasted barley like that used to make Scotch Whisky. The smoky flavor comes through, but the hops are a bit strident.

Irish Red: Great hop/barley balance; a well-crafted ale.

Brown Ale: Fascinating counterplay of caramel and citrus. My favorite of the lot.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas eve thoughts of a wanna-believer.

Two Sundays ago, at a festive mass of lessons and carols, the Grace Church choir sang this:

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerkës finden written
In their book.
Nor had one apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Then had never Our Lady
A-been heaven's queen.
Blessed be the time
That apple taken was.
Therefore we may singen
Deo gratias!
This wasn't the first time I'd heard this Chaucerian-era song, but it was the first that I'd focused on its meaning: that Original Sin, the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, was an occasion for thanks to God, because it allowed for Mary to become queen of heaven. In other words, no Fall, no need for redemption, and consequently no need for Mary to give birth to God's son so that he might, by sacrifice on the cross, atone for humanity's sins.

So, what if Eve hadn't fallen for the serpent's persuasion? One of the punishments inflicted by God for her and Adam's transgression is, "Dust you are, and to dust you shall return." Were the primordial couple thus to be immortal so long as they refrained from this defiance of divine authority? Another punishment, inflicted on Eve, was painful childbirth. Does this mean that, absent the Fall, she would have been the beneficiary of a divine epidural? Or does it mean that the original intent was for her never to have children; indeed, for her to be Adam's helpmate, but not his bedmate? According to Genesis, after the Fall, they first were embarrassed by their nakedness before each other. This introduces a notion of sexual tension that hadn't existed before. Somehow, we seem to equate "original sin" with sex, but Genesis avers that it was the acquisition of knowledge; specifically, the knowledge of good and evil.

Later in Genesis, though, we get an explicit equation of knowledge with sex, in the statement, "Lot knew his wife." From this we get the nudge-and-a-wink expression, "know in the Biblical sense." "Carnal knowledge" is in fact an archaic legal euphemism for sexual intercourse (and also the title of a 1971 movie, starring Ann-Margret, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen and Jack Nicholson; written by Jules Feiffer and directed by Mike Nichols).

The connection between knowledge and sex is one to which I've alluded before here, and one that's been troubling my mind of late in connection with my fraught relationship with Christianity. I am ever mindful of the tension between belief and intellectuality, and of my resistance to accepting, in the words of the Holy Father (for me, an Episcopalian, a persuasive but not infallible authority), propositions that are not empirically falsifiable. My aversion to "faith" in the sense of unjustified belief, which carries with it as a corollary the spurning of those strands of inquiry which might cast doubt on such belief, is grounded on a visceral resistance to the circumscription of the pursuit of knowledge.

I refer to myself as a "wanna-believer" because I do wish I could believe, not in a Bible-as-literal-truth sense, but at least in a sense that could impart more meaningful content to the liturgy that I practice. With that, I wish you all a merry Christmas.

12/25 update: Did Ted Burke write this poem as an answer to my post? I'd like to think so. Even if, as seems more likely, he didn't, I still like it (as George Plimpton so mellifluously said in that Dry Dock Savings Bank ad in the 1970s) eNORmously.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Yes, I'm still alive.

I've survived my first attempt to teach a continuing legal education seminar to a class of other lawyers (got to be a tough audience); even got some applause at the end. The topic? Oh, yeah: "Ethical issues and the use of the internet." Any questions?

Meanwhile, my wife, the archivist, has given me the schedule for the lectures in the spring 2008 session of the Richardson History of Psychiatry Research Seminar at the Weill Cornell Medical College. They all look very interesting. For those of you in the New York area, these lectures are at 2:00 p.m. on the day indcated, in the Baker Tower Conference Room F-1200, 525 East 68th Street.

January 2, Bradley Collins, Ph.D., Parsons School of Design, "Dysfunctional Holy Families: Loss, Rage and Desire in Renaissance Images of the Virgin and Child."

February 6, Dana Rovang, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago, "Habeas Corpus: or, why John Haslam will never get his due."

February 20, Sabine Arnaud, Ph.D., Texas A&M, "An imaginary and fantastick sickness? The narrativization of hysteria in eighteenth century French and English medicine."

March 5, Rev. Curtis Hart, M.Div., Weill Cornell Medical College, "William James' 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' Revisited." (No mention of whether nitrous oxide will be provided.)

March 19 (my 62nd birthday!), Siovahn A. Walker, Doctoral Candidate, Stanford University, "Heaven and Hell as Places in the Mind: Three Twelfth Century Witnesses."

April 2, Sander Gilman, Ph.D., Emory University, "Jews and Alcohol: Genetic and Social Explanations for Jewish Immunity to Alcoholism." (This brings to mind a quip by Al Coblenz, erstwhile part owner of the late, great Lion's Head: "We get an interesting clientele: Jewish drunks, Italian intellectuals and Irish lovers.")

April 16, Barbara F. Leavy, Ph.D., Cornell Weill Medical College, "Did Laius Kill Oedipus? The Continuing Debate."

May 21, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Ph.D., Princeton University, "A Brief History of Common Sense." (It would have to be.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Bothy Band.

While I'm sure that my earlier post was enough to convince you of their greatness, here they are, circa 1977, doing one of those amazing, I-dare-you-to-sit-still tunes, this one called "Drunken Landlady":


And this is Michael O'Domhnaill singing "Tiocfaidh an Samhradh" ("Summer is Coming"), accompanied by Kevin Burke on fiddle and Donal Lunny on guitar. From the comments on YouTube, I get the sad news that Michael has died. Enjoy his voice, which lives on.


Update: More about Michael here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First snowfall of the season.

From the foot of Montague Street, looking westward to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the harbor and lower Manhattan.


From the Promenade, looking eastward along Montague Street.

Check out Brain Tracings

Every once in a while I find a blog I think rates special mention as well as a place on my blogroll. The latest is Brain Tracings (Saw This and Thought of....), the creation of an American woman living in London. Her blog is quirky and eclectic, and replete with the sort of off-the-wall connect-the-dots kind of observations I love. Besides, we have similar tastes in music.

Oh, yeah. She did me the honor of putting S-AB on her blogroll before I ever saw Brain Tracings. Trust me, though, this isn't just an instance of, "You scratch my back...."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Please be patient, my friends.

Real life is about to interfere with my blogging time, again. I'll try to post when I can, but it's likely to be a bit spotty until after December 12.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this view of the Manhattan skyline, as seen at dusk from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Near the left, with the pointed top, is Cass Gilbert's masterpiece, the Woolworth Building. Near the right, surmounted by the gilded statue Civic Fame, is McKim, Mead, and White's Municipal Building.


12/2 update: I've learned, via Technorati, that this post and my earlier one about my 10,000th visitor (as well as Louise Crawford's nice post in OTBKB about that), have been linked to in a blog called Gay Stars. As best I can tell, this is because GS aggregates lots of stuff that's not necessarily gay-oriented, including anything that includes the word "boomer." In any event, anything that improves my Technorati authority is greatly appreciated, so, thanks! (Some time back, I saw that my blog was linked to something called Voyeur Porn, and found this was because the author had done a search for "Judy Star" that led him to this post, evidently because of the mention of Fairport Convention's first woman singer, Judy Dyble and the use of the word "star" elsewhere in the post. Mr. Voyeur published the link with the note, "Frankly, not what I was looking for, but you might find it an interesting read.")

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A day on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Under a overcast sky, the rising sun illuminates lower Manhattan buildings.


Early in the afternoon, the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia's container vessel Saudi Abha, having just left Red Hook Container Port, turns in the East River to head out Governors Island Channel toward the ocean.


Governors Island and the Bayonne to Staten Island Bridge against the backdrop of a brilliant sunset.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Visitor number 10,000 is from Bexley, Kent, England.

You visited my blog at about 9:30 p.m. your time on 26 November. Your ISP is NTL Internet, your OS is Windows XP, and you browse with Internet Explorer 7.0. To claim your prize (a CD of vintage American R&B), please send me your snail-mail address either by comment to this post, or by e-mail (use the link on my blog profile). Congratulations!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Postscript to my screed on consequentialism.

I posted earlier on this topic here. Aaron tells why, if you're shot down over enemy-occupied territory, it's much better to take shelter among consequentialists than among deontologists here.

Aaron might similarly appreciate my post here.

Visit number 10,000 is rapidly approaching.

Even with slow traffic over the Thanksgiving weekend, S-AB is likely to reach the 10,000 visit mark in a few days. If I can identify my 10,000th visitor (I'll post location of origin and whatever other identifying details I can get from my Sitemeter, so that you can reply by comment to my post or by e-mail), I'll send you as a prize a practically virgin CD, Rang Tang Ding Dong, by the Cellos. They were a five man doo-wop group of the 1950s who produced a small but interesting body of work. Originally called the Marcals until someone, probably Charles Merenstein of Apollo Records, advised them that being named for a popular brand of toilet paper wasn't a great career move, they had one charted hit, "Rang Tang Ding Dong (I'm the Japanese Sandman)", but this CD collection also includes such unheralded gems as "Juicy Crocodile", "The Be-Bop Mouse", the dreamy ballad "You Took My Love" and two versions of the jumping "What's the Matter For You?"

My Sitemeter now (Tuesday, November 20, 4:00 p.m. EST), stands at 9,854. Visit early and often.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Values voting" in Australia?

According to this article in today's New York Sun, the Australian Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, holds a solid lead in the polls over the Coalition led by incumbent Prime Minister Howard, with only a few days left until the election. This lead, the article says, can be traced back to a surge of Labor support following a visit to New York by Mr. Rudd, in which he and Col Allan, the Australian Murdoch protege who edits the New York Post, went out for a night of heavy drinking, culminating in a visit to Scores, where bouncers threatened to eject Mr. Rudd for touching the dancers and other "inappropriate behavior."

There's a great animated comment on this by Nicholson in The Australian, here.

Evidently, "values voting" Down Under can have different implications than it does here.

The Bothy Band

The Bothy Band was one of my favorite traditional Irish groups. Here's an example to show why:


The Bothy Band lasted barely four years (1975-79), but made much marvelous music in their time together. After they broke up, Donal Lunny (bouzouki) returned to Planxty, and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (keyboards and vocals) and her brother, Micheal O'Domhnaill (guitar and vocals; spoken intro on the video above), emigrated to the U.S., where they have performed in several groups. Others in the group were: Paddy Keenan on uilleann pipes; Matt Molloy (later to join the Chieftains) on flute; and either Tommy Peoples or Kevin Burke, depending on when the video was made, on fiddle.

Update: More Bothy Band here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On quantification, and keeping score (not a sports post).

The week before last, the New York City Board of Education released "A" through "F" letter grades for almost all (some were deferred for more evaluation) of the City's public schools. While something like 60% of schools received an "A" or "B", some of what are thought of as very successful or greatly improved schools received lower grades. I've already weighed in on this subject in Brooklyn Heights Blog (see comment thread under this post); however, I felt the need to say something more considered and philosophical about this issue.

Unsurprisingly, Louise Crawford beat me to the punch in OTBKB , with these astute words:

Report cards are reductive things. As [is] ... reliance on quantitative ways of assessing things. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

How high did you score? How much did you sell? How much do you make? How much? How much?

It's the American way.
But why is it the American way? Brighter people than me, like Alexis de Tocqueville, David Reisman and Philip Slater, have addressed this question. I'll recount three commonplace observations that, like most conventional wisdom, are useful if not complete explanations. Perhaps most familiar is the notion that Americans are obsessed with scorekeeping because we don't have a rigid class or caste system that simply assigns social status at birth (though anyone who thinks class is unimportant here should consult Paul Fussell). The fact that we can be both economically and socially mobile makes us keen to measure where we are with respect to our fellows.

The second notion is that Americans are attracted to quantification because we distrust subjectivity. To most Americans, subjectivity means favoritism, whether that be the favoritism in-groups employ to perpetuate their power, or the favoritism out-groups get by using the political process to obtain what in-groups see as unfair advantages. Somehow, reducing things to numbers, or to letter grades supposedly based on quantitative measurements, dispels these suspicions.

The third is that life is just too damned complicated for us to deal with all the complexity of evaluating the choices available to us in any meaningful way, so we look for shortcuts. "Experts" are happy to provide directions that will shorten our decision-making journey. Despite our inclination to distrust others' subjective judgment, we can trust these experts because they dress their conclusions in supposedly "objective", quantitative garb.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Paul Tibbets and consequentialism.

A while back, I was planning a post on the topic of consequentialism; essentially, the belief that the ethical measure of an action or inaction is its consequences, at least as reasonably foreseen by the actor. My take on this was that we are all consequentialists in the last analysis. Those who claim to be deontologists; that is, those who believe that the ethical nature of an action depends upon whether it is in accordance with a duty incumbent upon the actor, whether that duty is believed to be ordained by divine command or, as with Kant, arising from our status as free and rational beings, are really saying that we are too shortsighted to evaluate fully the consequences of actions, and that, therefore, we must yield our judgment to hard and fast rules. In other words, deontology could be said to be consequentialism with a strong gloss of epistemological modesty.

For example, while a consequentialist may argue that destroying human embryos to harvest stem cells is ethically OK because it provides the means to alleviate great human suffering, while causing no pain to the pre-conscious embryos (this is a utilitarian argument, utilitarianism being perhaps the best-known form of consequentialism), a deontologist might argue that such an action violates an overarching duty to respect human life from the moment of conception. If pressed to give a reason for such a rule, however, the deontologist might invoke a "slippery slope" argument, that is, if we allow this, we are taking the first step on a downhill path that may lead to the cloning of malformed embryos with minimal brain function, to be raised in vitro simply to grow organs to be harvested for transplant, and, beyond that, to the use of viable humans with substandard mental function for the same purpose. Or, she might give a more far-reaching, "Burkean" answer: by calling into question a time-honored notion of what's good and proper, we are disturbing a complex system of societal mores, and this may have consequences well beyond what we have anticipated. Note, however, that both of these arguments appeal to consequences, and therefore are consequentialist. (I now know that John Stuart Mill anticipated this argument in his preface to Utilitarianism almost a century and a half ago.)

What inspired me to write this was the death of Paul Tibbets, and, in particular, this piece by Bob Greene about him. What struck me was the sheer consequentialism that sustained him after that fateful day over Hiroshima. His bio shows him to be a consummate warrior. Warriors seem to be archetypal deontologists. (I need only recall my last year of college, when my roommate and I had a deal: every time I made him suffer through a Dylan album, he could make me sit through his recording of the greatest speeches of General Douglas MacArthur. I can still hear in my mind the peroration of his farewell address to the Corps of Cadets at West Point: "Duty, honor, country, and the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.") Yet Greene's piece quotes Tibbets as explaining why he never lost sleep over the bombing as being, not "It was my duty", but

because "we stopped the killing." He was at peace, he said, because "I know how many people got to live full lives because of what we did."
Here, indeed, is Jeremy Bentham's felicitous calculus at its most stark. Dostoyevsky challenged this kind of reasoning by asking something to the effect: If a world of eternal happiness could be purchased by the suffering and death of one innocent child, would you buy the ticket?

Perhaps the thing about war is, it makes us all buy the ticket.

11/18 update: Dawn Coyote posted this comment on WikiFray, where I cross-posted the text above:
I don't know if war makes us buy the ticket, or if it just makes us starkly aware that we've bought the ticket. In the increasingly connected world, it takes a determined averting of the gaze to remain unaware of how many of the surpluses we enjoy come to us as a result of deficits elsewhere. Maybe we're all Paul Tibbets these days—if we're lucky, or powerfully motivated to quell our cognitive dissonance.
I'll confess to feeling a bit sheepish about my last sentence. When I wrote it, it was past midnight, I'd had my second snifter of Cognac (a third would have been disastrous, as I've learned through hard experience), and I was just looking for a way to wrap the thing up. It was almost as bad as following the advice Michael O'Donoghue gave to aspiring novelists in "How to Write Good", which was published in National Lampoon sometime in the 1970s. If your plot gets too complicated and you can't figure out how to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion, he wrote, simply type the words: "Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck."

Anyway, I had great plans to extend the argument to include the contemporary debate over the use of torture. At least I can direct you to a lively discussion here, with thanks to friend and neighbor "ts" of Instaputz for the link.

While I'm giving thanks (we're getting into that week), a great big hat tip to John McG for my first-ever (at least that I know of) "digg." John, I'm trying to figure out the Episcopalian analogue to making a Novena.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fog.


Brooklyn Bridge from northern entrance to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.


Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn Bridge Park.


Lower Manhattan from northern end of Brooklyn Heights Promenade.


Maple tree behind house on Columbia Heights, as seen from Promenade.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Today, I'm proud to be a lawyer.


I don't blog much about law. It's not that I find my profession uninteresting (far from it); it's just that I need a forum to express my half-baked opinions on other subjects. Every once in a while, though, something makes me want to get up on a soapbox and yell, "I'm a lawyer and, by God, I'm proud of it!" I had that feeling last week when I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times showing a roomful of Pakistani lawyers who had gathered to organize a protest against the government's suspension of constitutional rights and protections and the summary sacking of the Supreme Court. Almost all were men, dressed more conservatively than most male New York lawyers, i.e. in dark suits, white shirts and conservative ties. Two were women, in dark skirts, white blouses and with aqua colored shawls draped from their heads. I later learned that these lawyers, along with many judges, had been summarily jailed with no recourse to any authority capable of, or willing to, enforce any notion of due process.

On Thursday I received an e-mail from Barry Kamins, President of the New York City Bar Association, notifying me and all other members that today, Tuesday the 13th, there would be a rally in front of the Supreme Court, New York County courthouse, to show solidarity with Pakistani lawyers. Today I took the subway to lower Manhattan, dressed, as Mr. Kamins urged, in my most conservative duds, to join the protest. Walking the corridor toward the subway exit, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned, and was delighted to see two colleagues from the firm with which I have an affiliation, also headed to the rally. As we emerged from the station onto Foley Square, I was delighted to see a very large crowd on the courthouse steps (see photo above).


The highlight of the event was a brief talk by Ali Ahsan (see photo above), a Pakistan-born New York lawyer, whose father is president of the Pakistani Supreme Court Bar and has been imprisoned, and whose mother is subject to an arrest warrant. He said he was grateful that his parents' prominence would assure international attention to their cases, and expressed dismay that many others were not so fortunate. He said the turnout for the rally made him proud to be part of the New York legal community, and read an e-mail message from the University of Lahore Law School faculty and students expressing their gratitude for our support. Finally, he noted that the actions of the Pakistani government should not be countenanced as necessary to combat terrorism; indeed, they were more likely to foment it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blogitus interruptus.

It's been over a week since I've posted anything, and I can sense my vast fan base getting restless. For a few days, I was busy with other projects, including Brooklyn Heights Blog. Then my modem/router died. Verizon has promised me a new one in a few days; until then, I must either poach on the bandwidth of neighbors who haven't password-protected their wireless, or post from my office, which is where I am now on a Sunday evening.

Please be patient, folks. Good stuff is coming, including my philosophical musings prompted by the New York City Board of Education's attempt to "grade" public schools, and more paintings by Mark Crawford.

Until then, keep the faith.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Brooklyn Heights Halloween

All Saints' Eve is a very big deal in the Heights. People come from all over Brooklyn, even from other boroughs, to let their kids trick-or-treat here. Below are some scenes from last night's festivities.

Big kitty on Grace Court Alley.

Chef Martha hands out the goodies on Hicks Street.

A family offers bounty on Garden Place.

Skeleton on the stoop, Garden Place.

The firehouse provides candy and a chance to sit behind the wheel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not my long-promised Second Amendment post.



The HK-47 is the Hello Kitty version of the AK-47. For more details, go to Glamguns, where you can also shop for Lady Di handguns, Martha Stewart claymore mines, and more.

Thanks to Lauren Messiah, a blogger on AOL's StyleDash, for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hello, Daly City, CA.

You're my 1,000th visitor for the month of October. This is the first month that I've reached the 1K visits mark. Thanks.

Double your pleasure; double your fun!

The Red Sox have won. That doubles the number of their championships in the twenty-first century, and rates a double Li'l Macduff.

As an update to my last post, Twiff (Li'l Macduff's dad) rises to the bait I plunked in front of him and says the only good thing

about pitchers batting is getting to see them run with their jackets on. I agree, it's amusing. But I've stated one aesthetic reason for hating the DH rule. I'll now advance another: symmetry. Every player should contribute to both offense and defense.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Li'l Macduff keeps smiling.

OK, daddy Twiff. Tell me you still think it's stupid for pitchers to bat. Dice-K proves that even AL hurlers can get that oh-so-important hit.

Ellsbury and Pedroia continue to amaze.

Please, don't anybody mention the 2004 ALCS as precedent for a comeback from an 0-3 deficit.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Farewell to BCS dreams.

USF Bulls out of it with two losses, today's to Connecticut. Probably out of the picture for Big East title. How could things go so bad so fast? Yeah, I know, Cinderella teams ...

Florida loses to ur-rival Georgia for the first time in some years. Urban Meyer may not yet be scanning Monster.com, but his tailor may get some business.

Just about everything else is depressing, especially Ohio State over the Nittany Lions.

Could I learn to love the Jayhawks?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jeez, Louise,

... here we thought OTBKB was a family-friendly blog.

That being said, Risa Mickenberg, of this group, has to be the most delightfully salacious female vocalist since Sippie Wallace. Having listened to one of their songs (guess which), I may never be able to cross from the Hutch to the Merritt with a straight face again.

This baby's frown muscles may atrophy.

Sox take Game 2, this time a 2-1 squeaker. Probably good for their karma. Schilling, Okajima and Papelbon take care of business on the mound, while Lowell and Varitek provide the only needed RBIs. Off to mile-high land with a 2-0 lead.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sox win Game One.

It's a 13-1 blowout. My wife will consider this a bad omen, given her oft-expressed belief that the Sox only do well when they start badly. To which I offer the counter-example of their having won game one of the ALCS, then lost the next three before rebounding. In any event, Twiff's and Seph's li'l MacDuff is happy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some thoughts on order and normalcy.

Proof that college football teams are not elements of a well-ordered set:

October 6, 2007: LSU 28 - Florida 24
October 13, 2007: Kentucky 43 - LSU 37
October 20, 2007: Florida 45 - Kentucky 37

Pete Thamel, in the New York Times, has some interesting observations about "normalcy," which he sees as returning after a weekend in which only three top ten teams were upset (my beloved South Florida by Rutgers, Spurrier's South Carolina by lowly Vandy, and Kentucky by Florida, which would have been an easy favorite three weeks ago - see above). Perhaps the most dispiriting comment in his piece, for me, is this: "But nothing could signal a return to normalcy more than Ohio State and Michigan on a collision course to play for the Big Ten title." Spare us.

Thamel also reflects a bit on polls. I predicted South Florida would fall from the top ten after losing to Rutgers, despite other teams having kept top ten rankings after a single loss. Indeed, the Bulls fell to eleventh in the AP and twelfth in the USA Today poll; however, they are fifth in the aggregate of computer polls used by the BCS. Thamel points out that two of USF's victories (over Auburn and West Virginia) are more impressive than any of Southern Cal's, while the Bulls' loss on the road to Rutgers is less embarrassing than the Trojans' drubbing at home by Stanford. Nevertheless, USC is now ahead of USF in the "human" polls, while the reverse obtains in the computer rankings. That human voters are biased toward the familiar is Thamel's unsurprising conclusion.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Garden Charade

Without words, how could we tell?
With gestures we led, were led,
down the path, while our eyes spoke
in phrases fleeting as firefly flashes.
We did not dare to touch,
so could not grasp the answer.
No matter: there was no Sphinx
there by the gate.
Some riddles best remain unsolved.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Sox win the pennant!

A spectacular comeback, sparked in game seven by the unlikely heroes Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Sox also caught two pieces of good luck: Lofton called out in a close play at second after a great throw by Manny Ramirez, and the Indians' third base coach holding Lofton at third on a hit that caromed off the fence and which Manny could not have thrown in time for a play at home.

Twiffer's baby continues to smile.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Red Sox tie ALCS.

Schilling comes through in the clutch, and Drew sparks an offense that produced twelve runs. It's do or die for both teams tomorrow.

And it's at Fenway. Twiffer's baby is still smiling!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The curse of Exit Nine: USF falls to Rutgers.

Or is it just the curse of being ranked second?

I really thought it would be Cincy that did them in. Oh, well. A BCS appearance is still very much in reach.

Sox live!

Viva Beckett! Viva Youkilis! They've done it before; they can do it again. Schilling and Dice-K await their turns for glory.

Don't make me a liar, lads.

Update: Twiffer, as expected, comes up with the most eloquent case for Red Sox victory.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

For classical piano fans.

A couple of days ago, I got a comment on an earlier post from Nadya, a classical pianist in Rio de Janeiro. She has a blog, Nadya, Musica e Outras Artes, which features superb videos of various pianists performing works by Bach, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel, Scarlatti and others. The text is in Portuguese, but you don't need to read it (you could try your hand at Babel Fish) to enjoy the music.

Obrigado, Nadya!

Update: Here's Nadya's own composition, "Obsessao". played on two pianos (one presumably played by Nadya):



this is from Nadya's own YouTube channel, nadyarteira.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sox are slipping.

Since the Mets crashed and burned, and I declared my fealty to Red Sox Nation, at least for the duration of this post-season, the lads from Beantown made short work of Los Angeles de Anaheim, but now seem to have hit a speed bump in Cleveland.

My sweetie, a lifelong Fenway fanatic, was actually pleased by their loss on Saturday. She says that it's always better for them to lose early in a season or series; if they start too strong, they inevitably fade at the end. Last night she was less complacent. Tonight, I'm praying for an early Sox lead, followed by a swarm of gnats.

Update: Rats! No gnats. No early score by Sox (but plenty by Tribe). All I can do is force myself to think, "Remember the 2004 ALCS, down 0-3 ... ."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Holy cow! Bulls are ranked second in AP.

Two more huge upsets - Kentucky over LSU and the Beavers over the Dirty Golden Bear - cleared the way. South Florida's shellacking of eighty-miles-up-Interstate-4 rivals Central Florida (a little voice in my head suggests that running the score to 64-12 is bad for the Bulls' karma), along with Boston College's less calamitous victory over floundering Notre Dame (I never anticipated using those words together), convinced the sportswriters that USF should advance to the penultimate position (eleven of them voted the Bulls number one). The coaches who vote in the USA Today poll were, perhaps understandably, less impressed, making the Eagles second and the Bulls third.

The Fighting Illini fell to Iowa and from the top 25 in both polls, so ex-Gator coach Ron Zook goes from cheers to catcalls in Champaign.

For you poll hounds, they're here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mark Crawford: a conversation with the artist.

All images on this post are © 2007 by Mark Crawford and are posted here with his permission.


“I’m not an angry person,” Mark Crawford said, his pleasantly modulated voice revealing his Midwestern origin. He was responding to my observation that the untitled painting shown above seemed to me a visual expression of ire. Looking at that painting again, I saw that my eye had first been caught by the slashes of red and their contrast with the dark ground on which they are arranged, but had not focused on the broad swaths of white that overlay them, some with descending rivulets that “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”*

Complex, and energetic; we could agree on that. Energy also suffused a smaller painting, called Game Machine, that hung on the wall of Mark's studio to the left of the untitled painting (see image below).


With an eruption of light shading to dark green spreading across a red ground, and with traces of white, it brought to my mind the Dylan Thomas poem, "The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower."

The painting that hung below Game Machine, titled Success in College (see below), has a quieter dynamism, expressed through subtle variations of tone and texture.


Garden Charade, seen below, is, as its name suggests, playful, but its ground of magenta shading into deep purple suggests an undertow of romantic passion.


There is a yin as well as a yang to Mark’s art. Much of his work, including the paintings shown above, is within the abstract expressionist canon, although these works also seem suffused with the introspective quality of a Vuillard or Bonnard. However, in my visit to his studio, I saw other works that exemplified a different, more formal non-representational tradition. The most prominent of these was a large canvas on which was a lattice of green tendrils intertwined with yellow, on a field of white (see below), titled Living Uneasily. I said this reminded me of Islamic art. He said he had spent some time in the Middle East, where he traveled in Turkey and Egypt, and wouldn’t be surprised if that had affected his work.


A native of Chicago, Mark studied at that city’s renowned Art Institute, from which he received a Bachelor in Fine Arts. He later did graduate study at Yale, leading to an M.F.A., and after that moved to New York City. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Brooklyn Heights.

Update: You can find images of Mark's recent works on his blog here.

*The Merchant of Venice, IV, i.

Upset-o-rama continues.

Oh, it's beer, beer, beer,
That makes you wanna cheer,
On the Farm, on the Farm!
Oh it's beer, beer, beer,
that makes you wanna cheer,
On the Leland Stanford Junior Farm.


No doubt many a keg was tapped in Palo Alto this past Saturday night. The last time I can recall Stanford beating USC was in the fall of 1970 (they must have won at least one during the Elway era, but I can't remember). I was visiting a friend in San Francisco, and on Saturday afternoon we were doing a winery tour of Napa. On the road from one tasting to the next, we were listening to the game on the car radio, and Bruce was, to my surprise, rooting for his law school alma mater, Stanford, instead of his undergrad school, Southern Cal. By the time the final score was announced, we'd hit four or five wineries, and had enough of a buzz on to each let out a good yelp. Of course, that year Stanford had a QB named Jim Plunkett, and may even have been favored going into the game. This year, however, the Cardinal were a 41 point underdog, so this goes down as the big upset no one expected.

Other upsets included South Carolina over Kentucky, though beating the Wildcats is old hat for Spurrier, and Tennessee over Georgia, with the twice beaten Vols having fallen from the ranking and the twelfth ranked Dawgs having lost only one. but the other big surprise upset has to be once beaten but unranked Illinois over Wisconsin, previously unbeaten and ranked fifth. Thus have the Fighting Illini vaulted to eighteenth in the AP poll, one ahead of the Badgers, and ex-Gator coach Ron Zook has gone from groans in Gainesville to cheers in Champaign.

Then there was the big upset that didn't happen, the Gators' loss to LSU in the Swamp. In this crazy season, it's still possible to imagine a twice defeated Florida repeating as national champs, especially if they beat LSU on their second try in an SEC championship game.

The other big upset that almost happened involved my alma mater, South Florida. They nearly got toppled from their unprecedented number six ranking by unheralded Florida Atlantic. Despite their unimpressive showing, and with help from the losses by USC and Wisco, the Bulls advanced from sixth to fifth. Inconceivable!.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Aurora, the Goddess of Sparkle

This installation by the artist NATSU was part of Project Glow, in turn part of the Art Under the Bridge festival in DUMBO. As such, she was lit at night, her many prisms producing a multicolored display. But even catching the rays of the early morning sun she was sparkly and enticing (click on the image to enlarge and get the full effect).

Do I have a split personality?

Here's one reason why I like Paul Krugman.

Here's one reason why I like David Brooks.

QE 2 back in New York.

I thought my eyes deceived me when I looked across from Pier 17 at South Street Seaport to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal this afternoon, but Tom Turner of NYCMaritime confirms that it really was Queen Elizabeth 2.

Update: On my morning run on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, I saw QE 2 still at her berth. I got this photo of her, along with the masts of the German naval training barque Gorch Fock, through the fog.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A missing link found.

This one, Cerasinops hodgskissi, is between American and Asian dinosaurs.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

This blog takes a detour.

As I predicted two days ago (yeah, Maine's great pitching and the offensive explosion yesterday had me hoping I might get a chance to eat my words), the Mets are goners. So, for reasons I've alluded to before, this blog is now, for the duration of their survival in the playoffs, joining Red Sox Nation.

Sorry, Rundeep , sweetie-pie though you are. If I weren't married to a Bay Stater, I'd be backing the Phils. After all, I'm a Pennsylvania native, and they play in the Real Baseball League.

10/1 update: Topazz has the same fatalistic view about the Phils that I had about the Mets, and predicts their collapse. She also reminisces about Lenny Dykstra, which brings to my mind the rueful thought: How could the Mets have traded him for Juan Samuel?

USA Today poll out: USF cracks top ten.

The just-released USA Today coaches' poll reflects the many upsets of top ten teams this weekend. Southern Cal, which survived a scare but proved that, this time at least, Trojans don't burst under pressure, stays at number one, and LSU remains ranked second. Florida once again succumbed to their nemesis, Auburn, and fell from third to seventh. Losing to Auburn wasn't fatal to the Gators' drive to the national championship last year, but this year's squad looks unlikely to repeat. An impressive win over Oregon vaults the Dirty Golden Bear to third and makes Cal look like a national title contender for the first time in many years. Formerly fourth ranked Oklahoma, trampled by the Buffs, sinks to tenth. West Virginia falls from fifth to twelfth after losing to South Florida, which vaults from eighteenth to ninth, marking the Bulls' maiden appearance in the top ten of a major poll. Ohio State and Wisconsin, both still unbeaten, rise from eighth and ninth to fourth and fifth, respectively. Boston College cracks the top ten, advancing from eleventh to sixth despite a relatively narrow win over lightweight U. Mass. Finally, Kentucky advances from fifteenth to eighth, making its first top ten showing perhaps since the days of Babe Parrilli (some Wildcat fan correct me if I'm wrong).

Update: The AP poll is out now, and LSU is rated number one, Southern Cal second. South Florida makes it to sixth, and the Gators drop to ninth. The B.C. Eagles come in seventh, and all else is the same as in the USA today poll.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

DUMBO Saturday morning.

DUMBO is an acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass." It's a section of Brooklyn lying next to the East River, from just north of the Brooklyn Bridge to just north of the Manhattan Bridge, both of which are elevated above it. It was primarily industrial, including some outstanding nineteenth and early twentieth century factory and warehouse buildings. Many of these have been converted to residential use and to artists' studios. This weekend, DUMBO is the site of the eleventh annual Art Under the Bridge Festival, which I've described here.

Almondine is reputed to make the best baguettes west of Brest. We love them, along with their delicious almond and chocolate croissants.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The bitter and the sweet: Mets are done; USF Bulls prevail.

Mets blow it. Stick a fork in 'em, they're done. For the remainder of this season, and post-season, I have my choice of rooting for the Red Sox (my wife's choice, but they had their longed for championship a few years ago), the Phillies (from my native state, and perennial losers, which always draws my sympathy), or the Cubs (who haven't won a championship since the administration of William Howard Taft).

So much for baseball. On the college football front, my alma mater, South Florida, continues to amaze everyone, including me. Their upset of fifth ranked West Virginia may get them into the top ten. As a confirmed pessimist in sporting matters, I look for something down the road to derail them. Sort-of archrival Central Florida comes up in a couple of weeks, then there's Rutgers in New Brunswick. Stay tuned.

9/29 baseball update: A bit of pillow talk this morning resolves the issue for me: I will root for the Sox as long as they're in it. Meanwhile, Archaeopteryx, a lifelong Cards fan, declares for the Cubs.

9/29 football update: The Gray Lady's sports scribes just have to rain on the Bulls' parade. The teaser on page one of today's sports section says: "In ugly game, South Florida topples No. 5, West Virginia." The article, by Ray Glier, on page six, nowhere uses the word "ugly." It does say USF committed four turnovers, and was on the short end of the total yardage and time of possession stats. It also points out that the Mountaineers coughed up the ball through fumbles or interceptions six times. So the game was "ugly" if you consider rock-em sock-em DEE-fense ugly, or, I suppose, if you're upset by seeing an unfamiliar team gate-crashing a gathering of college football's elite

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I often disagree with Mike Celizic, ...

... but this time I want him to be right.

Visibility limited.

A few mornings ago, heavy fog covered the harbor as this Coast Guard buoy tender lay off the southern tip of Manhattan. The photo was taken from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Whither the South Florida Bulls?

Joey Johnston says they're the real deal, but John Tamanaha plays it safe and predicts a West Virginia victory Friday night.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I've been messin' with the blog.

I decided a long time ago that the links on the right-hand column of the blog had gotten to be a problem. Some were links to outdated URLs, and there were others I had been meaning to add for some time but hadn't gotten around to. Also, they weren't categorized in any sensible way. So, I figured out (at last) how to use the new Blogger tools to create categories, which you'll see if you scroll down. I thought up cutesy names for most categories, but by the time I got to artists, architects and sports, the muse of cuteness had deserted me.

My one big addition is the music section, which I've expanded enormously (and put near the top, for you folks with short attention spans). I've scoured the web for the best links, mostly live performances on YouTube, of some of my favorite musicians and groups. Think of it as my free, electronic video jukebox. I'll warrant everything here terrific, but I'll mention a few that may be unfamiliar to many of you and that I think deserve attention.

The Be Good Tanyas are a three woman group from Vancouver that I fell in love with about a year ago when I got their album Blue Horse. The Littlest Birds is one of the best songs from that album; here it's given a video treatment that includes scenes from pre-Katrina New Orleans.

Black 47 is a traditional Irish hip hop band led by my old drinking buddy Larry Kirwan. I have a link to their official website, which gives you streaming audio of "Funky Ceili," their thrash metal "Danny Boy," and "Downtown Baghdad Blues," as well as news about forthcoming appearances, etc. I also have a link to their video of 40 Shades of Blue, featuring Larry in his pudding-bowl haircut.

I had the pleasure of hearing, and afterwards meeting, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown at Blues Harbor in Atlanta about fifteen years ago. Here he is doing Dollar Got the Blues in Hamburg, Germany in 1983. Gate was home in New Orleans and seriously ill when Katrina hit; she undoubtedly hastened his death. Here's a link to some scenes from his jazz funeral.

The East Village Opera Company does arrangements of operatic arias to rock instrumentation. People who are very invested in how this music should sound are duly offended; others, knowledgeable in the operatic canon, praise them for faithfulness to the composers' intent. Here's their rendition of La Donna e Mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto.

I've long been a fan of the British folk-rock group Fairport Convention, and have included two videos of them on my list. One of these, Time Will Show the Wiser, is a real 1960s period piece (it's from either '67 or '68, depending on whether you believe the caption on YouTube or the graphic on the video itself), and features the band's lineup for their first (eponymous) album, with Ian Macdonald and Judy Dyble on lead vocals (both had left the band before Fairport's second album, What We Did on Our Holiday, was made). The other Fairport video I've linked to is Now Be Thankful, from an outdoor performance in 1970. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any good video of Fairport when the late Sandy Denny was their lead singer and pianist. However, I've included her doing a medley of three songs solo, starting with the awesome The North Star Grassman and the Ravens.

Newfoundland's Great Big Sea joined with Ireland's national treasure, the Chieftains, to produce a rousing performance of Lukey. Commentary on YouTube suggests that everyone involved in this video, with the possible exceptions of the schoolgirls and the guy driving the shooting brake, was several sheets to the wind when it was made. Maybe GBS brought a bottle or two of screech with them when they visited Ireland.

Mark Knopfler, best known as one of the founding members of Dire Straits, is a stone guitar genius. About a year ago, I saw something about his collaborating with country songbird Emmylou Harris, and thought this sounded intriguing. Here's a video of the two of them doing a song called This Is Us, in a concert in Brussels. I also have Knopfler jamming with another guitar legend, Eric Clapton, on Dire Straits' original hit, Sultans of Swing.

I wasn't able to find video of Marshall Chapman (see my earlier post on her here) in performance, but I've linked to her official website, Tallgirl.com. If you click on "To order CDs," you can play generous samples from some of her songs (no obligation to go on and buy, but I think you'll be strongly tempted).

Can I ever forgive Delbert McClinton for wearing a Yankee t-shirt (in Austin, no less)?

I'll close with an open-ended question: if Self-Absorbed Boomer was an open source blog, what would you change?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bulls advance; Gators slip

People keep hitting my blog from web searches for the latest AP college football top 25, so I'd better put the link up now. There you are.

My alma mater, South Florida, advances from 23rd to 18th in both the AP and USA Today polls on the strength of a convincing victory over a weak North Carolina team. Meanwhile, the Florida Gators fall back from third to fourth in the AP poll (though retaining third in the actually more important, since it counts for BCS rank, USA Today poll) after having a near-death experience in Oxford, Mississippi.

Everything in my bones tells me that South Florida's glory run will come to an end next Friday evening against West Virginia, but then I didn't think there was any way they could beat Auburn. I'm more confident that the death knell for the Gators will sound at Baton Rouge on October 6th. But then, I didn't think there was any way they could beat Ohio State.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Baseball whine time.

At last I've found someone who's as much of a fusspot Mets fan, and pathological Yankee hater, as I am. It's gratifying to see Braves and, especially, Yankees fans also represented there (scroll down).

I'm disappointed not to find the Phillies represented, though. Somebody should have called on Joe Queenan.

Shame and scandal in sweet New England

So far I've resisted commenting on Belichikgate (someone besides me must have called it that, I trust); its only effect on me being my concern over whether, with fall approaching, I'll be able, without attracting derision, to wear during my morning run on the Promenade the Pats hoodie sweatshirt my sweetie gave me for my birthday after they won Super Bowl XXXVI. Now, as so often happens, I find that Twiffer has done the job admirably, using as his springboard some hyperventilation by Gregg Easterbrook.

And the Easterbrook piece led me to this, which I can't resist sharing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sex Pistols redux.

Brixton's the place to party like it's 1977 this November 8th.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jaguar E type


When I was in my senior year of high school, the E type (or XK-E, as it was commonly known) was big news. Although first made in 1961, it had just begun to penetrate the American market in 1962-63. Its hefty six cylinder engine and monococque body were charismatic. I recall a trip to Sheppard's, Tampa's exotic car specialist, to retrieve my Sunbeam Alpine from one of its many visits to the service bay, when I encountered six mechanics working on one. They were squatting, three to a side of the engine (which had been lifted out of the car), and appeared to be engaged in some sort of religious ceremony (which they may well have confessed to have been their sense of the matter).

The. Worst. Baseball. Weekend. Ever.

First, my beloved Brooklyn Cyclones, having breezed past their archrivals, the Staten Island Yankees, in the semifinals, once again came a cropper in the championship series.

Then to the Mets. It seems now that whenever they play their only remaining serious rivals for the division pennant, the Phillies, Joe Btfsplk is in the stands wearing a Mets cap and holding a "Ya gotta believe!" sign. Yesterday was especially painful, as it looked like the Mets had traded their usual lineup for nine clones of Inspector Clouseau.

The only bright spot was the Red Sox' Saturday trouncing of the Yanks, unfortunately bracketed by two losses to the Beasts of the Bronx.

9/18 update: Arrrrrrrrgh! Yechhhhhh! Twiffer once accused me of sounding like a Cubs fan. Maybe I'd be happier if I were one.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

College football update: Bulls in top 25; Gators roll.

The South Florida Bulls, despite having an off week and despite their last week's upset victim, Auburn, being upset a second time by perennial SEC also-ran Mississippi State, have cracked the top 25 in both the AP and USA today polls (you can see them here). I'll stick with my theory that they'll have a lot of trouble next week with revenge-minded North Carolina, smarting from a loss this week to lightly-regarded Virginia.

Meanwhile, the Florida Gators continued their dominance over non-traditional rival Tennessee (I explained the "history" between these teams here). I expect the Gators to be a little flat against Ole Miss next week, but to prevail nevertheless. What happens after that against their traditional nemesis Auburn, now twice beaten, is an open question.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday morning, September 15, 2007


Sunday, September 09, 2007

It's official: USF football is big-time.

Her (rubbing eyes): Why so late last night?

Me (after a yawn and stretch): Big game. My alma mater beat Auburn with a TD in overtime.

Her: Beat who?

Me: Auburn. That's Auburn University, in Alabama, not the town in Massachusetts. They're a major football power in the SEC. Ranked seventeenth in the AP poll going into the game.

Her (turning over): Oh. How'd the Red Sox do?

So it goes. It now seems unlikely the Bulls will be able to pull off any more surprises. After an off week, they play North Carolina at home on the 22nd, and will undoubtedly be favored. The pessimist in me sees this as a classic scenario for a letdown; I suspect USF has just enough Gator DNA to fall flat coming off a big victory. If they can get past the Tarheels, they face their really big test on Friday the 28th, when they host the currently number three ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, who will be itching for revenge.

It seems I may have been wrong in thinking that dumping Michigan from the top 25 because of their loss to Appalachian State was an overreaction. Unfortunately, their drubbing by Oregon (which must have Lloyd Carr perusing Monster.com) may serve to dim ASU's accomplishment.

Update: South Florida didn't make the top 25 in the AP writers' poll (which doesn't count for BCS purposes) or the USA Today coaches' poll (which does), though it gets strong honorable mention in both (you can see the poll results here). It's interesting to note that Oklahoma is ranked third and Florida fifth in the AP poll, while those rankings are reversed in the USA Today poll, in which Florida received seven first place votes. I can only conclude that Urban Meyer is much better liked by his fellow coaches than is Bob Stoops.

Friday, September 07, 2007

S-AB enters the terrible twos.

I missed it: this blog had its second birthday on August 30th. My only excuse for failing to commemorate this as I did last year is that I was headed north on the Adirondack on that very day.

Anyway, birthdays are times to make promises. I promise that S-AB will be more controversial in the coming year. It befits its age.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

College football kickoff

No real surprises the first weekend of play, except for the One Big Surprise. In Monday's New York Times, Viv Bernstein had a front page story about how Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore assembled a team from players who were "on the recruiting bubble" but were "too short or too thin or, in some cases, too obscure to have been noticed by the major programs." In this respect, Bernstein makes Moore sound like college football's analogue to Billy Beane. The same Times had, in the sports section, an essay by ASU alum Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics. I expected Dubner to have some dismally scientific take on his old school's unexpected triumph; instead, he mostly reminisces about his student days in Boone, when the football team was lousy but the soccer team was great (sort of reminds me of my days at South Florida, except that our football team then was nonexistent). He also informs us that Appalachian "is pronounced app-uh-LATCH-un, not app-uh-LAYCH-un, and that goes for the mountains, too, not just the University." I believe this is true south, but not north, of the Mason-Dixon Line, but invite anyone to correct me.

Mike Celizic uses the upset as a platform to campaign for the abolition of pre-season rankings. His principal reason is that a high poll position at the outset of the season tends to be sticky, despite the team's actual performance. However, he wrote his column before Michigan was summarily dumped from the top 25 (an overreaction, in my view). In any event, it's a useless campaign. Even if AP gives up the game, all those publishers of pre-season preview books are going to continue doing theirs.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mets sweep Braves!

Yes, I know: Thursday night I could've posted, "Mets lose four straight to Phils." This year's Mets seem to have a kinship with Antaeus. Of course, being a fusspot Mets fan, that just makes me wonder when Hercules will get wise.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hilly Kristal, 1932-2007.

Last year I posted about the perhaps temporary demise of the famous new wave rock venue CBGB & OMFUG. At the time, I noted, there was a possibility that the club might reopen at a different location, although that location might be Las Vegas, not New York.

Yesterday, as I was sad to learn, lung cancer counted as its latest victim CBGB's founder and guiding spirit, Hilly Kristal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The economics of lobster rolls.

Matthew Yglesias presents this gem in the Atlantic (be sure to scroll down through the comments, too, for discussion of such worthy topics as why hot dogs taste better at the ballpark), with inspiration from Tyler Cowen.

Thanks to WikiFray companion John McG for the link.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Studebaker GT Hawk


The GT Hawk was a European style grand touring car made in South Bend, Indiana. Designer Brooks Stevens borrowed extensively from other makers, most noticeably in the Mercedes Benz style grille and the Lincoln Continental inspired taillights. Nevertheless, the overall effect was handsome and well-integrated. Studebaker even had some success selling it in European markets before shutting down production in 1964.

This specimen is not in the best of shape, and is missing some chrome trim strips (to my mind, addition by subtraction). Still, it's eye-catching.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Erie Canal delineated!

If you survived elementary school music, you can probably remember the line:

From Al-ba-nee to Buf-fa-lo-oh

(If you need your memory refreshed, more of the lyrics are here.)

Anyway, it's good to know that New York State's government, despite its present continued dysfunctional nature, can get something done. According to this AP story:

Ending a dispute over the location of the ends of the Erie Canal, Gov. Eliot Spitzer [NY] said yesterday that Albany and Buffalo are the official eastern and western ends of the historic waterway. Supporters believe the designation will help develop the areas, particularly Buffalo's inner harbor. When the canal was built in 1825 it stretched 363 miles from Albany to Buffalo; an expansion in 1905, which allowed the passage of larger vessels, moved the navigable ends to the Hudson River in Waterford and the Niagara River in Tonawanda.
Thus, the original end-points are established. Woe to you, Waterford. Tough luck, Tonawanda. (Thanks to Johanna Turner of NYCMaritime for the link to the article.)

Update: Twiffer sez: i bet this will help buffalo get, like, a pro football team or even a hockey team. (New dads get excused from having to hit the shift key.) I can't resist recounting my first hockey game, which was a Sabres-Bruins match in Buffalo in 1971. I got to see Bobby Orr set some record -- I think it may have been scoring in a single game by a defenseman.

Meanwhile, August proposes a contest to name the Albany hockey team. He suggests the Pork; I counter with the Impasse.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Red Hook revisited, and the Really Big Art Show.

Yesterday my wife, our friend Barbara and I drove to Red Hook to help another friend, the artist Kei Andersen, remove and take home her two paintings that had been displayed at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists' Coalition's annual Really Big Show, which is held in one of Red Hook's magnificent nineteenth century warehouses. Below is a photo of Kei and her paintings, Broken Whelk I (left) and II.


After looking over the show, and seeing among many things some fine displays of photography, I was drawn to the windows.


From the westward side, I had a view of the trolleys that were the subject of this post, but from the opposite end, so that the trolley that once served the King of Norway is nearest.


From the eastward side, I had a panoramic view of the ruins of a sugar refinery and the pier from which bulk sugar was once unloaded.




The area east of the sugar refinery was once occupied by a shipyard, and is now the site of an Ikea store under construction. A graving dock that was built in the mid-nineteenth century, and in which work was done on many ships, including the Civil War ironclad Monitor, has been filled in for a parking lot. I have nothing against Ikea (love the meatballs!) and am glad we will no longer have to drive to New Jersey to shop there, but wish they could have found a way to preserve this bit of history.

Addendum: On the subject of preservation of historic sites, Gowanus Lounge reports that several early nineteenth century buildings in downtown Brooklyn that played a part in the Underground Railroad are being taken by eminent domain for demolition to make way for (ironically) an underground parking garage. Read it and weep, here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

O Florida, venereal soil.*

Every time I think my former home state has done its utmost in the way of legal lunacy, something happens to confound me further. The latest Flori-DUH award must go to Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne and, in particular, State's Attorney Mike Satz, who should have had better sense, for mounting a successful prosecution and trial of one Terry Lee Alexander, age 20. Young Mr. Alexander's offense was that, being jailed on a ten year robbery sentence, he had, in the confines but not privacy of his cell, what in my high school lingo was called a hot date with Sally Five-slide.

As Fred Grimm observed in his July 26 Miami Herald article:

At the time of the offense, Alexander was punished with 30 days without TV, music, exercise time and other jail house perks. But obviously self-abuse demands a criminal charge and a full-blown jury trial, and two prosecutors, and a court-appointed taxpayer-paid defense lawyer and six jurors (and an alternate), and a judge, and a court reporter, and a couple bailiffs, and a pretrial deposition, and a daylong trial.
The upshot of all this was a guilty verdict and sixty extra days tacked onto Alexander's ten years.

Perhaps an aggravating circumstance was that Alexander was observed in the act of, as we said in my college dorm, making the beast with one back**, by a female jailer. Nevertheless, the jailer, Coryus Veal, was on notice of the prospect of such an observation. According to Grimm, she testified: "They had warned me about what goes on in there." Indeed, as Grimm commented:
In the course of the one-day trial, prosecutor Cynthia Lauriston and Veal managed to describe Alexander's offense in startling detail, eight times, once with Lauriston approximating the action with arm motions. It was hard to imagine the original act had a much more lascivious effect than the lurid stuff those poor women had to utter, over and over, in Courtroom 417 Wednesday.
It may be that resort to a "law and economics" approach would have been helpful here. A simple cost/benefit analysis would likely lead to the conclusion that allowing, or at least tolerating, prisoners' resort to a time-honored method of relieving certain tensions would have benefits, in the form of a more docile inmate population, that outweigh the cost of occasional discomfort to jailers.

Update: Nick asks, quite reasonably, just what was the crime of which Mr. Alexander was convicted? According to Grimm's article,
[t]echnically, Alexander faced charges of indecent exposure, with lots of lewd, lascivious, wicked, deviant, etc. tacked on. He also faced the prosecution's tortured contention that his jail cell qualified as a "public place."
This article by Debra Cassens Weiss in the ABA Journal gives additional interesting details. Veal testified that she observed Alexander doing the deed "from a master control room." Evidently, technology has enabled penology to realize Jeremy Bentham's vision of a panopticon with efficacy undreamed of in Bentham's time.***

Weiss's article also notes that, in attempting to convince the jury that her client's action was harmless, Alexander's attorney, Kathleen McHugh, asked Ms. Veal if other prisoners were thereby inspired to, as it were, take matters into their own hands. "Did you call in a SWAT team?", McHugh asked. Ms. Veal answered, "I wish I had."

Another ABA Journal piece, by Martha Neil, reports that during voir dire Ms. McHugh asked prospective jurors about their own history with respect to recourse to self-help. According to Ms. Neil, all nine men and eight out of ten women asked the question gave an affirmative reply.
_________________________

*With apologies to Wallace Stevens.
**Cf. Othello, Act I, Scene I; also see here.
***Of course, Bentham's consequentialism would argue for a hands-off policy concerning Mr. Alexander's hands-on practice, just as would a University of Chicago style law and economics analysis, which has consequentialist underpinnings.