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November 1st, 2011

Florida Loves Polluters, Girl Crushes of 2010, and Madonna vs. Lady Gaga: The Live Wire, Dec. 13, 2010

December 14th, 2010

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Come See Me at FlaglerLive

April 10th, 2010


I haven’t gone anywhere. I’ve only built a new house. FlaglerLive is everything you were used to at the Notebooks–and a lot more. Come by. Have a look. Let’s get re-aquainted.


Readables: Nov. 20

November 20th, 2009

“On Monday, Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Palin will sit down and they’re going to talk for an entire hour. And I was thinking, too bad John McCain didn’t do that with her before he chose her as his running mate.” -David Letterman

First Reads: Oct. 14

October 14th, 2009

Isn’t That Special

October 12th, 2009

Nine-year-old boys who go fishing would be proud enough to pose with a foot-long catch of one scale or another. Not this boy. The Anchorage Daily News is featuring Paul Patkotak, the youngest boy in memory “credited with a kill”–of a whale. He “delivered the killing blow to a 32-foot bowhead whale in Barrow recently,” the paper writes, “a singular, hands-on hunting lesson from the boy’s Inupiat uncles.” I guess because the hunters were natives we’re supposed to be less offended that another whale was slaughtered, though that sort of argument sounds too similar to justifications of genital mutilation under the banner of “local customs.” The shot of a 9-year-old boy posing before the whale he killed conjures up something more pornographic than prideful, however “traditional.”

First Reads: Oct. 8

October 8th, 2009


First Reads: Oct. 7

October 7th, 2009

Letterman’s Leachy Critics

October 3rd, 2009

Anthony Bruce Gilpin, A former colleague of mine, took the words out of my keyboard:

1003-gilpin1I just read a magazine blogger who rhetorically asked whether David Letterman can still be funny as a comic and genial as a talk show host, now that he has revealed his history of having had a number of sexual relationships with women on his staff.

I think the blogger answered her own question. Letterman will no longer be entertaining – to her. Her knowledge of “Letterman the lecher” will forever color her perception of Letterman as an entertainer.

And whose fault is that?

I recall similar speculations when actress Anne Heche conducted a highly publicized same-sex affair with comedian Ellen DeGeneres. “Can Heche be convincing as an actress, playing heterosexual characters?” people mused. DeGeneres herself lost some fans after she and her sitcom character came out of the closet. “Why does the ‘TV Ellen’ have to be gay?” I remember some viewers asking.

The wonderful thing about film and video is that it allows us to test these questions. Find some footage of a performance you enjoyed in the past, and see whether you still appreciate it. If David Letterman comes off as “creepy” or “lecherous” in a way you didn’t notice before, it isn’t Letterman who changed. It’s you.

A unspoken social contract exists between a performer and the audience; the performer agrees to do his best to entertain, and the audience agrees to give him a chance. If you can’t get past your negative opinion of a performer as a person, then it’s unfair to judge his art.

Whether David Letterman can be funny in the future depends in part on how funny you think he ever was, and your willingness to check your baggage at the door and let him perform.

Remembering Norman Borlaug

September 19th, 2009

From New Perspective Quarterly: Norman Borlaug, who died Saturday, was known as the father of the Green Revolution. His work with high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties is credited with saving as many as a billion people from starvation worldwide. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply. He is one of only five people to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize. The others are Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Elie Wiesel. Borlaug was a distinguished professor at Texas A&M University. He spoke with Nobel Laureates editor Nathan Gardels this past spring. Read the interview…

Middle School Policing

September 4th, 2009

I just caught a couple of minutes of footage on one of those road-disaster shows that make porn of wrecks. One of the items was the Illinois semi trucker who was dumb enough to risk crossing against an oncoming train during rush hour. He misjudged the space he had. Train plowed his semi, sent it crashing against a dozen other cars that ended up piled up one against the other. No one died, but the cars and the semi were totaled, and there were quite a few injuries. The truckers’ punishment? Two years’ probation. I mention this only to contrast it with a story in today’s paper about an 11-year-old middle school student locally who got slapped with a felony–a felony–for threatening a classmate to blow him up. Instead of giving him a good talk and a lesson about dumb judgment, he got a felony charge. So here we have a child at the age of dumb (and dud) judgments getting a lifetime record, as opposed to an adult, a trained driver, an alleged professional, getting what amounts to a slap on a likely oversize rear end that long ago became benumbed to anything after demolishing a dozen vehicles and putting two dozen people’s lives knowingly at risk. You call this justice? I call it Southern law, where cons are the lawmakers.

Town Hall Asylums

September 3rd, 2009

A terrific piece of video reporting by the Newark Star-Ledger’s Brian Donohue (who’d have been a better choice than Diane Sawyer as a replacement for ABC’s previous has-been at the anchor desk.)

Can there be any room for a centrist at a health care reform town hall meeting?

Unhealthy Addiction

August 13th, 2009

0813-chessSeriously now. This addiction to chess is getting ridiculous. I don’t know if it’s the recession at large or my impending unemployment. Chess beckons daily like an alternate universe where absolute order prevails, even though I make a mess of it every time. I can’t win for shit, which makes me the definition of insanity, since I keep, like Oliver, going back for more. “Those linked central pawns of his,” Martin Amis once wrote of the time he played the world’s Number 3 (Nigel Short), “oh, what they could do to me. They weren’t pawns in the normal sense; they had grown, fattened; they were more like bishops, or rooks. No, they were like queens, I thought, as they worked their way into the very crux of my defence.” I don’t have to play the world’s Number 3 to feel that way. Just my brother on the other side of the world (you can see our latest game, my latest humiliation, here. The guy is merciless. Just like when we were young tykes angling for sibling supremacy. Never had a chance then, still don’t now. Still, may I have some more?

Chess Sucks

August 4th, 2009

My exact sentiments. This from a now-defunct blog, but still dead-on:

I’ve been trying to learn chess. Now, I’ve always considered myself a relatively smart man, but there’s just something about chess that, just, oh, I don’t know makes me feel like a total dumbass. I thought computers made me feel dumb, but chess has really got them beat. Chess makes me feel inadequate, yet every night I keep playing. I keep choosing easier and easier opponents and I keep losing and losing. A game shouldn’t be this hard. It’s a board game for crying out loud. Everyday I tell myself I’m not going to play again. I come home and sit down in my chair, trying to ignore my computer’s siren song. “Come play chess,” it sings sweetly, “you can win this time,” and like the sailors of old I heed the song, I amble over to the computer full well knowing I’m going to shipwreck on the rocks. (That was all metaphorical. I don’t really need a ship to get to my computer. I use a rowboat.) So after this next game, I’m done. I’m going to quit. I can do it. I don’t need it. I mean, what’s one more time going to hurt?

Incidentally, if anyone wants to kick my ass I play at as ptristam.

Shatner’s Sarah Palin

July 31st, 2009

Conan is a bore. Shatner isn’t.

Clementi, Crack and Cronkite

July 18th, 2009

0718-clementiA little Muzio Clementi never hurt anybody. The guy may have been reviled by piano students (he was the Paganini of the keyboard) and under-appreciated by DJs (Parisian radio stations rarely played his stuff in the 18th century except for a brief and inexplicable stretch during the Terror). But his music has a spirited quality that pingpongs between Mozart, Haydn and Wilie Coyote. If he was to go on tour these days he’d be sponsored by an arthritis medicine. Or crack, if pharmaceuticals weren’t calling it something else. He had his mellow moments. This adagio from a sonatina in G would play nicely at Walter Cronkite’s wake, especially since Cronkite (?-2009) and Clementi (1752-1832) were almost contemporaries. When CBS releases the long-lost interview tapes, there’s sure to be the one of Cronkite interviewing Clementi in 1781, year of Muzio’s Michael Jackson-like concert tour through Europe. Here’s the sonatina. Enjoy. And Cronkite, rest, if Muzio will let you, in peace.

Jackson’s Minarets

June 28th, 2009

They’ll be mourning in every time zone, Bahrain and every Middle Eastern square mile included. I don’t doubt that more than a few muezzins in minarets across the Islamic world will also be humming their Jackson tunes between salat, their five required daily prayers. At least those muezzins worth their moonwalks. They didn’t call them the Jackson Fives for nothing.

Skull-Crushing Readables: June 20

June 20th, 2009

Netanyahmadinejad Readables: June 15

June 15th, 2009