Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Deluded by Jazz

Still time for one more fragment-- this from Those Who Walk Away, by the amazing Patricia Highsmith:

He listened-- with more pleasure than he usually listened to jazz, which in Mallorca had nearly driven him mad-- to the free and easy expertise coming from the boy's transistor, music that the plump barber cutting his hair now, and the other two barbers and the men in the chairs, seemed not to hear at all, and Ray felt that anything in the world that he wished might be possible. It was, theoretically, possible and true. Yet he also realized that he lacked the dash to make any of it come true, and that the thought had come to him because of the jazz and because of his fever.

Danger Zone

Because the word for "dangerous" in Polish is more like "not undangerous," the word for safe being something along the lines of "undangerous," I often get confused by the double negation and end up advising something because it's "more dangerous."

Another interesting Polish twist is the translation of the title of the film National Treasure as "Skarb narodów," or Treasure of Nations, one letter divorced from a more accurate translation ("Skarb narodowy"); if you've seen the film, however, there's a certain cleverness to that.

Once again, this time thanks to the fiendish incompetence of the psychotic termagant who runs this school, I've been typing against a background of loud conversation, jokes, etc. as the graduating class of the economics department were forced to take refuge here while waiting for something, heaven knows what or why not in some other room besides the library. They and I must now vacate the premises, as the library is closing.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Weird Sundays

Not that the 80s weren't at least as embarrassing as the 60s, and moreso. (I resent any attempt to dismiss or to glorify either decade.) I just saw Weird Science (on TV) for the first time, and the main thing that occurred to me was the resemblance between trite, puerile, chaotic 80s celluloid pseudo-hipness (as seen in this and a dozen other teen movies of the era, including certain scenes in the great John Hughes tetralogy) and trite, puerile, chaotic 60s celluloid pseudo-hipness (i.e. Blake Edwards's The Party, certain scenes in Two for the Road, the finale of Zazie dans le Metro... and many more). On the other hand I was briefly charmed by how the Unconscious manifests itself in the boys' goofy science in different ways. Just like how another embarrassing, trite and mediocre 80s-inspired fantasy about the dangers of geeky middle schoolers playing god, The Indian in the Cupboard, which I also caught on Polish TV of a Sunday (probably on the same channel, "tvn" or "tey-fau-en"), a month or so ago, charmed me in spite of itself just by positing the idea that things have an independent and unknown life of their own.

Another side of Noel Coward

Another of the few great poems of the last century:

Poem: "Nothing is Lost" by Noel Coward, from Collected
Verse, edited by Graham Payn & Martin Tickner Š
Graywolf Press. Reprinted with permission.

Nothing is Lost

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Without a Book

Here's another poem I found going through my e-mail, written by my favorite contemporary American poet:

Riding Metro without a book

by Faith Williams

a mistake of course, like
going naked. No
magic cape to make
me invisible, to save
me from the gray,
the noise, the shoves,
the sighs. No secret
spyglass to reveal
a subtler, deeper
world, where I glide
with distant grace.
No, I had to be there,
Easy Spirit grounded,
hip to fat hip, them
and me. To be amazed
at how well we cross
without strife, muslim,
jew, lout, boss, child,
and crone, be and let be.

I identify strongly with the opening sentiment, and also have sometimes marveled at the general paucity of bellicosity on the (in my case NYC) subway.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Perry Wesley-- Man of the World

I couldn't resist posting another glorious spam cavalcade of whimsy, this one addressed from Frances Daley to Perry Wesley. Once again I've highlighted the, er, highlights. Note, as noted by Sutton, the curiously refreshing mixture of banality and actual insight:

Boredom: the desire for desires.
He who labors diligently need never despair for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.
I love you, not for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.
A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's.
Hope of ill gain is the beginning of loss.
Art is the final cunning of the human soul which would rather do anything than face the gods.
Laughter kills fear, and without fear there can be no faith. For without fear of the devil there is no need for God.
The gods sell all things at a fair price.
Who with a little cannot be content, endures an everlasting punishment.
Outer space is no place for a person of breeding.
Delicate humor is the crowning virtue of the saints.
To have a great idea, have a lot of them.
To be happy we must not be too concerned with others.
Conscience is the dog that can't bite, but never stops barking.
Ideas are the factors that lift civilization. They create revolutions. There is more dynamite in an idea than in many bombs.
In a balanced organization, working towards a common objective, there is success.

Derick Pelletier-- My Part in His Downfall

I'm in the midst of several daunting tasks of revision and selection-- working on a screenplay with/for Jim, going on a mad deleting rampage through my e-mail, and annotating the list of my favorite films posted recently (I've decide to allot one sentence to each film, which of course does not preclude logorrheic deliriums a la Faulkner or Tolstoy).

So before deleting this urgent message (titled "Best offer of this year ;)") from "Brady Winslow" ( to "Derick Pelletier"(me), I want to post it for your consideration-- I always thought that spam just meant penis enlargement scams and requests for transfers of bank accounts to Nigeria, but this kind of spam (which I only started receiving about two years ago, bizarrely enough) asks for nothing in return, while providing much food for thought and/or laughter. I've highlighted my personal faves.

Your attitude determines your altitude.
The supply of government exceeds demand.
A faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.
There is no waste of time in life like that of making explanations.

Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors.
Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.
The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything or nothing.
A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may
think aloud.
Art raises its head where creeds relax.
One pain is lessened by another's anguish.
A nation is not in danger of financial disaster merely because it owes itself money.
But who would rush at a benighted man, and give him two black eyes for being blind?
The 1980s are to debt what the 1960s were to sex. The 1960s left a
hangover. So will the 1980s.
Great causes and little men go ill together.
You look rather rash my dear your colors don't quite match your face.
Paris, a city of gaieties and pleasures, where four-fifths of the inhabitants die of grief. [About Paris]

For more fun with spam, see Sutton's post on the subject.

If It Were Played Upon a Stage...

My friend Tadek has this great line he uses to describe minor mishaps or pratfalls such as slipping on the ice and hurting his posterior-- "If they had caught it on film, I would have won an Oscar." The remark invites multiple readings, but definitely reveals a fascinating truth: the line between art and life is always blurry.

On that note, this screwball comedy has a different ending than most, but it's nonetheless brilliant.


I don't "dig" much poetry written in English after 1870, but I like this one, written in July 2000, and curiously appropriate to what was going on in my life at that time.


This present tragedy will eventually
turn into myth, and in the mist
of that later telling the bell tolling
now will be a symbol, or, at least,
a sign of something long since lost.

This will be another one of those
loose changes, the rearrangement of
hearts, just parts of old lives
patched together, gathered into
a dim constellation, small consolation.

Look, we will say, you can almost see
the outline there: her fingertips
touching his, the faint fusion
of two bodies breaking into light.

Joyce Sutphen

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Signifier Strikes Again

Dadburn signifier done it again! A Dog's Dinner correspondent in the Bay Area unearthed the following tale of woe at

"So I was new to California

Along with a blonde hair cut & convertible, I decide to get some personalized plates.

I could not believe my luck, when I found out that my initials "NV" (ph. "envy") are available. Not that I think anyone would be envious of me in my Miata, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

You are probably thinking that custom plates are like bug lights to The Man. Not as far as I can tell. I got pulled over just as infrequently considering how I drive, but my accent and impeccable record kept me in the good books.

So then, I start to get random parking tickets from Los Angeles. Where my car has never been. For every type of car. Except a Mazda. Which is what I drive. No problem, right? Just call them up, deal with a healthy level of skepticism when I tell them the ticket isn't mine... no really. I would ask them what make & color the ticket is for. I would ask them what make & color my car is. Even a highly skeptical city clerk can't argue with that.

Then the notices of unpaid violations slowly start to come in from all over California. Because when the license plate is Not Visible, the charming traffic wardens enter "NV" as the license plate. So I figure they will soon fix the training issue and stop bugging me with tickets.

Then the city of Oakland has some computer upgrade. The first day I get five tickets. The next day... three. And they kept on sending them. For every type of car imaginable including BMW's and Porsches, every car imaginable, except for a white two door Mazda.

Now I know what you are thinking, BMW's don�t park in Oakland. I was surprised too. But more than that, I was tired of sitting on hold for twenty minutes, waiting to talk to a skeptical city employee. So I returned the custom plates to the DMV, and someone at Oakland told me that all fifty tickets would be put under administrative review.

Problem solved? Not even. First, the DMV refused to issue me my registration, until I got a piece of paper saying I was not guilty. Then I received a notice that the Franchise Tax Board wanted to garnish my wages. Not with cilantro either. Now I have a notice stating that any tax refund I get will be going to the City of Oakland.

So now i am feeling a little irate.

And a little wiser. I tried calling my local police department, to see if there is a bench warrant out for my arrest. The friendly officer told me that I would have to come to the office... in person. And I swear, she said this with what sounded like a straight face.

As a last resort, I decided to post here. You never know. Someone might want a collection of over fifty parking violations from seven different counties for all different makes and models. $3000, and they are all yours. Call it abstract art or something.

The only thing that makes me feel a little better, is that the lovely folks at Oakland tell me someone driving a BMW now has the license plates "NV". Give him a wave if you see him. Tell him you work for the City of Oakland in the traffic violations department. See if he goes green. You know, from envy.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Sorry, Honey, It's Fat Thursday, or: "Taters or Fries?"

Today is what they call "Fat Thursday" in Poland (alternate translation: "Greasy Thursday," or, if translating from Bavarian or Swiss German dialects, "Dirty Thursday"), kind of like what we call "Fat Tuesday" in the West, but without quite the same connotations of bacchanalia and bachelor-party style baroque excess-- it's just a day when you're supposed to eat several doughnuts, not your last chance to commit every sin in the book. After all, Lent doesn't start until next Wednesday-- so when we have our Fat Tuesday, they have what's called The Night of the Herring, which often involves alcohol and other devilment as well as the fish of great and deserved renown.

I'm not planning to eat any doughnuts today-- I've had enough Fat Thursdays lately to last me a while. Every time I go to the Viennese Bar to have a cutlet or a filet o' fish and a soup and salad, they ask "Taters or fries?" Not in the intonation that allows for a third possibility (i.e., nothing). The fact that the soup itself, no matter what soup it is, contains several large lumps of potato somehow doesn't change their view that one has to have a few more, fatter lumps, fried or drenched in butter of course, on the side.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Message for the Blunderer

The Judge says there's something wrong with your email account. Is it full?

Son of Food of Love

Nat King Cole's "Wild Is Love", written by Dorothy Wayne and Ray Rauch, is the first song on the concept album of that name, possibly the greatest concept album ever, excluding Tammi Terrell's Irresistible. I once was bitterly annoyed with R. Burdik of The Wine Cart for dismissing Sinatra (and, more understandably, Tony Bennett) as vastly inferior to Nat King Cole. I had thought of Nat and Frank as equals. Now, looking back, I'm not so sure. [February 8-- Having listened to a couple of Frank tracks the other night, I am now sure. Chairman of the Board wins hands-down. Cole's voice has more warmth, but to me it simply isn't as expressive or as versatile. Anyway, they're both great.] This is one of a dozen or so songs I sometimes sing to myself. "And I know, I will go wherever love takes me-- whatever love makes me, I will be." Tautology? Could be used to justify all sorts of irresponsible anti-social behavior? No doubt, but terrific stuff.

"Danny Boy", one of those songs whose beauty is muffled by an ambiance of cliche, but which triumphs nonetheless, for some reason seems to me particularly splendid when sung by Welsh people-- Tom Jones has a moving, typically syncopated soul version and Charlotte Church's is one of the better traditional versions. But probably-not-Welsh Judy Garland's (as with "Almost Like Being in Love" or "You Go To my Head") is the definitive.

Another song (like Joe Dassin's "Petit pain," mentioned before) which demonstrates the ability of the French to juggle sentiment, whimsy, humor and a catchy tune is Michel Legrand's "Reve secret d'un prince et une princesse" from Jacques Demy's film Peau d'Ane (The Donkey Skin), which I first heard in a 90s film about young French students: first they listen and laugh as two girls euphorically sing along to the record at a party, with just a hint of irony; then it plays over the credits with a thick undertaste of sadness and disillusionment. But both sadness and euphoria are present. There can be no condescending dismissal of this song.

"The Party's Over," particularly in Eileen Farrell's version, could be good to get rid of guests with. Or to keep them on the edge of their seats. Set phasers on "stun."

"Start" by The Jam has been called a rip-off of George Harrison's "Taxman," but it's a much more interesting song, about a life-altering moment in a relationship between two people, not just resentment (of the super-rich) toward having to pay taxes. And it's a good song to start your party.

More Food of Love

An alternate five:

"Forbidden Fruit" by the Blow Monkeys, a song of tragicomic, debonair delirium, saw me through my most passionate crush, in eighth grade, on a Swedish girl named Livia Millhagen. The great line "I have never seen a girl as beautiful as you... well that's not exactly true-- only yesterday" demonstrates the truth of Grigorii Kruzhkov's observation that "The greatest Romantics are also the greatest Anti-Romantics."

"If I Were a Bell" by Frank Loesser is another delirium, sung by a Salvation Army officer to an incorrigible gambler in Guys and Dolls after he gets her drunk in Havana. Corroborates my theory that love between human beings allows us to see the true lovableness of "inanimate" objects, whether through metaphors or in themselves.

"Hey Bulldog" by the Beatles-- soundtrack to another eighth-grade crush.

"Das geht doch keinen etwas an" by Suzanne Doucet-- 1960s West German bubblegum, with a certain undertone of sadness. Don't know what the title or most of the words mean, but I gather it's a lovesong. Must have listened to it about 50 times on a Lufthansa flight back from Europe with my grandfather in 1994-- along with another song, "Auch der schonste Tag geht mal zu Ende," it was the only song on the German Oldies channel that sounded like it could be used on the soundtrack to a movie of a book by Patricia Highsmith. Haven't heard either since, but I still remember the melodies of both songs and particularly the shy, Stoic sound of Doucet's voice.

"The Death of Tybalt" by Serge Prokofiev. I've often said that Wagner and Tchaikovsky were the greatest rock composers of all time, but Prokofiev is rock and emo and grunge and jazz and pop all put together. This song begins with something out of a Gene Kelly musical and then builds to a climax with the only fight music that has the intensity of one of those long fight scenes without music in a movie-- just recently saw such a scene on TV, at the end of some old Janet Leigh movie about King Arthur. The movie's not great, but the scene was. There are other songs in the ballet that are more beautiful-- the love music, the lovers' funeral march-- but this is the most intense.