Hot diggity. Dog!

I have passed into a strange new phase of adulthood. I now own a dog.

A one-year-old black German shepherd, to be precise. His name is Nike, which was not my decision, but I am starting to like it. It is high time someone retrieved that name from the ashcan of commercialization and returned it to the world. My four-legged slice of midnight will be a dandy vehicle for this transformation. And, no doubt, for much else. He already knows how to sit, stay, fetch, etc. He only pulls a little on the leash. And, good heavens, when I speak to him, he listens.

Granted, he wears a pinch collar. So my communications may have a certain urgency. But actually, the collar hardly seems necessary. He is the first conscious being I have met who actually seems to enjoy my telling him what to do.

I could get used to this.

He looked at me earlier as if to say: Sit, stay fetch. How boring. Surely there is more to doggy life than this?

Nike, I said, you're my man.

Wag, wag, wag.

This here is the coffee pot, I said. And this here is the button that makes it go.

Wag, wag.

If he makes me coffee before our morning hike tomorrow, I don't know what I'll do.


Usability Notes from Grandpa

Media-savvy Grandpa has a new blog. This note arrived in my inbox yesterday:

My Dearest Children,

If you think it's worth spreading the bullshit, please do.
If you think of small changes, please share.
If you think of big changes, don't waste your time.
You know I'll listen politely.

Then do whatever I want anyway.

With all my love,



November is damn cold. Spent a bit of today looking for webcams of Caribbean beaches. Sigh.


The Music of What Happens

Once, as they rested on a chase, a debate arose among the Fianna-Finn as to what was the finest music in the world.
"Tell us that," said Fionn, turning to Oisin.
"The cuckoo calling from the tree that is highest in the hedge," cried his merry son.
"A good sound," said Fionn. "And you, Oscar," he said, “what is to your mind the finest of music?"
"The top of music is the ring of the spear on the shield," cried the stout lad.
"It is a good sound," said Fionn.
And the other champions told their delight: the belling of a stag across the water, the baying of a tuneful pack heard in the distance. The song of the lark, the laugh of a gleeful girl, or the whisper of a moved one.
"They are good sounds, all," said Fionn.
"Tell us, chief," one ventured, "what do you think?"
"The music of what happens," said great Fionn, "that is the finest music in the world."

-from a book of Irish Fairy Tales



"Revolution is one function of the romance." -- Gillian Beer

Catalogue from Darwin

List of plates accompanying The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872):

Diagram of the muscles of the face, from Sir C. Bell; small dog watching a cat on a table; dog approaching another dog with hostile intentions; dog in a humble and affectionate frame of mind; half-bred shepherd dog; dog caressing his master; cat, savage, and prepared to fight; cat in an affectionate frame of mind; sound-producing quills from the tail of the Porcupine; hen driving away a dog from her chickens; swan driving away an intruder; head of snarling dog; cat terrified at a dog; Cynopithecus niger, in a placid condition; the same, when pleased by being caressed; chimpanzee, disappointed and sulky; photograph of an insane woman; terror; horror and agony.


Just A Name

"No poet is obsessed with craft per se; craft is just a name for the mechanics of immortality." -- Dan Chiasson



I've lately become so translatlantic that I've been tapped to write for Metrotwin, a website for travelers in New York and London.

The "twin" aspect of this project excites me very much. The site operationalizes the metaphor by letting you correlate sites between cities, so a favorite boutique hotel in Clerkenwell can be matched to, say, the Soho Grand. Sure, it's not a perfect match. The mirror is always a little cracked, a little warped -- but this is the point, is it not? To see what is produced by such ambiguity.

I'll be concentrating on NYC hotspots, at least at first. That's the city I know best, after all. Still, I like to mix things up. My latest list features things to do, see and eat when you're in NYC but would rather be in London: For Anglophiles and Homesick Brits.


Bechdel's Rule

If a movie doesn't have at least two women in it, who talk to each other, about something other than a man, it's not worth seeing. Apparently this rule is thirty years old. I have managed to miss it entirely. This may explain, however, my general and longstanding antipathy to the available fare in mainstream movie theaters.

As usual, Bitch Phd has a good post about why the dialogue part matters. In a nutshell: Dialogue is where the narrative heavy-lifting happens. When characters are talking, they are explaining motivations, broadly construed -- the principles that order and produce meaning inside the universe of the film. As BPhD says, "They are illuminating the world they live in by describing it." What isn't discussed remains outside the order of the film because doesn't make sense within the film's universe. Having women talk to each other onscreen about something other than a man -- how refreshing! So many novel narrative possibilities open up.

(Discovered this material while surfing the internet, longing to find the wherewithal to do some actual work. I am unconfident these days, the person at the end of the diving board who keeps pacing back and forth, who can't summon the nerve to make the leap into the water. Do I owe you email? I will get back to you tomorrow. Today I'm working on getting into the swim, as they say.)


Yes, We Can!

This passion has so many voices.

Generational Change

One of my teachers once told me, your first political memory marks the most forward point of your greatest historical amnesia. Everything in the years just before that will always be a little mysterious.

My first political memory: the fall of Saigon.

Jane's first political memory: Barack Obama becomes the 44th President of the US.

Times change. Sometimes, even for the better. It is more than a little consolation that Jane will remember nothing of Bush 43.



"A writer needs his poisons. The antidote to his poisons is often a book." -- Philip Roth


Not Bad for a So-Called Nervous Flier

In the last 14 days, I've flown 12,000 air miles, through 10 time zones, on 9 airplanes, of which 5 were regional jets. This experience included: 3 unannounced episodes of "rough air," 1 airport cab that did not show up, 1 electronic device that was not stowed for takeoff, 1 unattended bag, 1 single-wheel landing and 1 firearm in someone's luggage.

Number of Ativan taken: 0.

I am Queen Serene.

[If you care about such things as much as I apparently do: This post has been substantially rewritten for no good reason; it seems my anxiety problem has been secretly replaced by Folger's Crystals, no, I mean OCD. Can you tell the difference?]