A link from Tony Pierce…

… is the Internet’s way of telling you that it’s noticed you’re not blogging over the weekend. The primary reason is it’s been a quiet one. We slept quite a lot from Friday afternoon through early Saturday evening—probably about 14 hours—then hung out with Arvind and Kim, their golden lab puppy Sumi, and their friends Lucy and Russ from Hollywood. We had a great time, though it was late by the time we got back. Today we got in our fall/winter vegetables (not from seed, obviously), went swimming in the lake…you know, the usual stuff.

I haven’t gotten to Bumbershoot yet. But tomorrow is the day. New Pornographers, Wilco, and REM… I’ll have phonecam coverage and lots of words after tomorrow.

Thanks for the link, Tony. I’ll try not to take too many more lame days on the blog going forward.

Al Franken talks with God about Google

Excerpted in Salon (membership or day pass required), the introduction to Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look At The Right. Good parody even in the intro about writing nonfiction in the Internet age:

“Look, God, I’m flattered, but I think you got the wrong guy. The kind of book you’re talking about would require months of research.”


Study: Drink more red wine

Via Scott Rosenberg and the New York Times, “Red wine ingredient makes yeast live longer” (registration required, or try the usual). Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine, extends the lifespan of yeast cells by as much as 70% by boosting levels of the Sir2 enzyme, which is thought to stabilize DNA and thus extend life. The full abstract, with citations, is here. But I already have all the information I need. Cameriere, un’altra bottiglia di Barolo, per favore!

Lenny Bruce, martyr

Salon: Lenny Bruce died for our sins (membership or day pass required). Fascinating look back at Lenny Bruce’s legal fights and the history of obscenity law, with a nod toward Singin’ John Ashcroft’s recent porn film busts. Quote from Supreme Court Justice William Brennan:

At the end of his career, in an extraordinary interview, Brennan admitted that his Herculean attempts to come up with a workable obscenity formula — he penned seven obscenity decisions — had failed. Speaking to journalist Nat Hentoff, a staunch Bruce defender and free-speech advocate, Brennan said, “I put 16 years into that damn obscenity thing. I tried and tried, and I waffled back and forth, and finally I gave up.” The key point, for Brennan: “If you can’t define it, you can’t prosecute people for it. And that’s why … I finally abandoned the whole effort.”

The article posits that, absent strong legal standards, only social mores are left, and that if society is confused about how to deal with the problem, the most powerful voice wins. It suggests that in this light, Ashcroft’s actions are best read as a power play.

Our attorney general in a power play? Say it ain’t so.

Poser (Pay No Mind)

I didn’t write a lot about our Portland trip, and my Current Reading link is partly dishonest. What’s the connection between those two statements? Powell’s Books.

We got into Portland late on Friday, went out for a quick dinner with Shel and Vik, and crashed. Saturday we visited Ponzi Vineyards for a quick tasting, went into downtown for lunch at the Tao of Tea, and then Vik and I wandered over to Powell’s. I came away with a rare slipcased edition of Watership Down, which I had re-read in Pennsylvania and fallen in love with again, and a hardcover first edition, with dust jacket, of Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.

I spent almost a whole year trying to read Stars in the mid-eighties when it came out, renewing it month after month from the library, and ultimately gave up. After finishing Dhalgren, I’m ready to approach it again. The only catch, and my small dishonesty, is that I haven’t read more than a few pages because I promised Lisa I’d try reading some of her books first, starting with the Belgariad. I have to say, so far I’m unimpressed with Eddings’ craft, but the plot is OK (as it had better be for a book that sprawls across two trilogies) and at least it’s a quick read. For now, though, Stars is sitting in my Current Reading slot until I finish it. Is that elitist of me? Probably. I guess I’m a poser, baby. Soy un hipócrita, so why don’t you kill me?

Au revoir, Julie/Julia

In the “Say It Ain’t So” department: the Julie/Julia Project has finished its year-long romp through the recipes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with a meal of kidneys and beef marrow (Rognons de Veau a la Bordelaise), sautéed potatoes with mayonnaise collée, and Reine de Saba for dessert. As I have already written, Julie has been one of the best, most original voices I’ve read yet on a weblog, and the scope and audacity of her project should shake all of us. I look forward to her next move.

Congrats to Russ and Caroline

From Russ and Caroline Swindell, a birth announcement for the newest member of their family, their first child, Catherine Jane, born Saturday. My heartfelt congrats to the new parents and a moment’s regret that I’m on the other side of the country… but all the more reason to go to my ten year reunion next summer.

William Gibson on community

William Gibson comments about his own blog’s message board: “…while I’ve sometimes been tempted to comment on more threads more directly, I continue to think that that would turn into exactly the sort of tar-baby timesink that keeps books unwritten, so I don’t. It’s really all about *you*, a conglommerate of mediated selves in your own right. Is it a Relevant Experiment? You decide.“

Gibson captures in a nutshell why communities around an Entity—whether an author, a cartoonist, or a software company—are only as strong as (a) their participants and heavy posters, and (b) their subjects’ capability for staying out of the way.

Now Esta will have tech support

MacNN: Apple to open Richmond, VA store on Sept 4. This is really good news for my favorite sister, not least of which because she now has my old Pismo. The 500 MHz G3 PowerBook with 512 MB RAM and a 30 GB hard drive survived two years of business school, and is now poised for four years of hard work banging out sermons and theological papers as Esta works through her grad school program at Union. I think that’s a good retirement for the machine—serving the cause of good, instead of business as usual.

Mothman in New Hampshire: freezing

Jim writes from North Woodstock, New Hampshire, coming closer to the end of his through-hike of the Appalachian Trail: “It was a fortuitous time to receive my winter gear! Two nights ago, in a shelter, the temperature seems to have dipped below 40 (F), and it promises to get colder as we get higher. Mount Washington, the third highest peak on the east coast and the last time we’ll be above 6,000 feet above sea level, had recorded the highest wind speed on earth (231 mph) until two years ago, when Antarctica topped that.”

Fair and balanced update: Franken beats Fox

Salon: federal judge Denny Chin threw out Fox’s attempted injunction against Al Franken’s new book, which uses “fair and balanced” (a phrase trademarked by Fox) in its subtitle. The judge appears to have had a field day slamming Fox, suggesting that they could be in danger of losing the trademark if they pursued the suit further, and getting in some fabulous zingers:

…the judge pointed out that one of O’Reilly’s own books is titled “The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life.” “Is that not a play on ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly?’” Chin asked, noting that the movie title is also trademarked.

“I don’t know,” replied [Fox lawyer] Hanswirth.

“You don’t know?” asked the judge…

Hanswirth went on to argue that Franken has diluted Fox’s trademark by using it “to ridicule Fox’s No. 1 talent, Mr. O’Reilly.” She then suggested that, because Coulter is on the cover, “somebody looking at this could determine Ms. Coulter has some kind of official relationship with Fox.”

“The President and Vice President are also on the cover, are they not?” asked Chin. “Are consumers likely to believe they are associated with Fox News?”

God bless the judicial branch, which appears to be the only part of our government that has retained any common sense.

Another weekend, another trip…

We’re heading to Portland this weekend to visit Shel and Vik. That I have been focused on work and inlaws too long this week is evidenced by the fact that the only thing going through my head right now is Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” with these words:

We’re going to Portland, Portland,
Portland, Oregon,
We’re going to Portland.
For reasons I cannot explain
I’m driving four to eight hours south
To Portland
And I may be seeing fender bending
Every mile from Tacoma
Or maybe there’s no construction there now
But I have reason to believe
It’ll take until late eve
To get to Portland