A Fool in the Forest

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and yet a motley fool.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7

L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Les Fleurs du Mal, “Correspondances”

Saturday, October 04, 2003
Gray Davis Courting Hybrid Constituency?

Speaking as a Toyota Prius owner -- reconcile that if you can with some of the views expressed elsewhere on this site -- this policy proposal from Gray Davis to allow single-occupant hybrids to use carpool lanes is almost enough to redeem him in my eyes. (Here is a link to the Governor's own Press Release on the subject.)

Too bad my source for that story says it will never happen.
Google Is Our Friend

If you search via Google to answer the musical question "Who is Declan McManus?"* you won't be led here. On the other hand, thanks to having at least once cited "WH" Auden, this site is the Number 1 Answer to the Google search: "wh is Declan McManus?"

It is always our pleasure to be of service.

*[Answer: He's Elvis Costello to you and me.]
Friday, October 03, 2003
Ernie The Attorney: Apologist for Evil? I Think Not!

We attorneys are frequently a bit on the bellicose and argumentative side, advocates looking for the main chance to strike with a pointed argument. The more praiseworthy in the profession, however, recognize and take opportunities to display the virtues of reason and, above all, balance, as Ernie the Attorney does in his take on the Arnold Schwarzenegger führer furor.

Update 10/4: In light of an e-mail received from a good friend concerning this post, I wanted to clarify my point a bit. My purpose here was not to make any remotely approving noises toward Adolf Hitler. It wasn't even to defend Arnold Schwarzenegger's original remarks. Rather, it was to praise the mode of thinking -- systematic, reasoned, not purely reflex-driven and, for those reasons, likely to lead to more reliable assessments of people and arguments -- that I think is displayed in Ernest Svenson's original post.

I am not sure whether this was meant to be part of Ernie's point, but it seems to me there is an argument to be made that automatic revulsion to any mention of Hitler may actually reduce our perception of the depths of Hitler's ghastliness. He comes off as a far worse specimen of humanity when we look directly at the fact that he, and those around him, rose to power and implemented policies of such horror despite their possessing qualities that in anyone else would have been deserving of praise. The willful abandonment or misuse of their own virtues in a hellish cause only compounds their crimes. (Mel Brooks actually gets a pretty good joke out of this in The Producers, when Franz Liebkind endorses the führer as a really good dancer.)

As for Arnold Schwarzenegger's particular remarks, the fullest version I have seen is in New York Times' initial report, which strikes me as largely even-handed. Assuming he did say such things, they seem to be of a piece with Schwarzenegger's general oafishness in his youthful bodybuilding days, and not to suggest that he holds any current views even remotely in line with the policies of German National Socialism. (Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center apparently gives Schwarzenegger a clean bill of health on this.)

And now, gentle readers, I re-consign Hitler and company to the outer darkness, where they so thoroughly belong.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Things I'd Like to Share With You, If I Only Had the Time

[Sounds like the title of a country song, and not a very good one. -- Ed. Thank you, Edgar; we'll take that to the Board.]

Mightily busy, so most online effort has gone to the other site these past few days. Still, here are some items spotted in passing that will fill an idle few minutes for you. (You have a few idle minutes, do you not, else why would you be here?)

♣ On musical matters, there seems to be a rash of justifiable fondness for the very early '70s going around. F'rinstance, engineer and Ken Layne collaborator Pieter K. is waxing all admiring-like toward Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin. And The Ambler is reminded of the particular virtues, and scary cover art, of the first album from Robert Fripp and King Crimson.

♣ I haven't managed to cobble another poetry post together, because it keeps wandering about in draft and new material pops up at such a furious pace that one feels passé before one even gets started. But . . .art is long and life is short, so while that next piece continues to percolate and stew, I'll note that Mike Snider has finally begun to write about The Enchanted Loom -- which you should read if only to disagree with it and which I previously noted here. Meanwhile, poet Ron Silliman (who has his share of quarrels with Snider, and vice versa) has spent a good deal of time and HTML color-coding a poem by Charles Bernstein that strikes this reader as something of a one-note joke that wasn't really worth his effort. On the other hand, in his continuing poem by poem cage-match between consecutive editions of The Year's Best Poetry, Jonathan Mayhew quotes one of Ron Silliman's poems printed in the 2002 edition, and it's intriguing enough to make me want to track down the whole thing. [What's striking me recently is how much poets argue among themselves and how little most people know or care about it. I really need to get my next purely amateur post on the subject finished, so I can join in the fun.]

♣ The first trailer for The Return Of The King is now available online. What impresses me on first viewing is the confidence of the filmmaking on display, perhaps best evidenced by the relatively leisurely pace -- compared to most action trailers, a la Michael Bay or the jerry Bruckheimer school -- of the editing. Cutting has become a thicker and faster phenomenon in mainstream movies, but this trailer seems positively stately. A good thing, that.

♣ And in conclusion, a question: Should the very term "blog" be abandoned as cliquish and self-importantly hip? David Giacalone serves up his thoughts; Denise Howell returns the volley.

More anon, whenever that may be.
Monday, September 29, 2003
Proposed for Inclusion in DSM-V

Aaron Haspel provides practical time-saving advice on "What Not to Read". Among his suggestions: Avoid the blogs of women who write about their children.
Mother bloggers inevitably start writing about how the school bully is picking on little Eustace or how little Tiffany has been punished for posting nastiness in someone else's comments section and it was really her who wrote it, not me, no matter what you think, and how dare you call social services on me, and you must be deranged to imagine that I would do something like that. Follow the links if you must. The point is, you need not.
[The proprietor of this blog has omitted the links from the preceding excerpt, lest you should be tempted to follow them from here. The link in the following paragraph has been preserved, however, as it bears on the subject of this post. Mr. Haspel continues:]
The biggest spread on Wall Street is reputed to be between your current job and your next one. The biggest spread in the universe, mothers, is between your own and everyone else's interest in the doings of your precious darling. As for the Father of all Mother Bloggers, am I the only one who skips the Gnat parts?"
No, sir, you are not. I, too, have taken regularly to skipping those portions, although I confess Mr. Lileks' establishment remains a daily stop on my reading rounds.

May I propose we define a new syndrome, akin to Blogorrhea (alternative definition here) or Hitnosis? Perhaps it can be called Hyper-Expressive Familial Fondness Syndrome (Internet variant) or, for brevity's sake, Lilexia.
Separated At Birth -- Fictional Character Edition

Triggered by a photo posted at American Digest*: How are we to explain the apparent resemblance between Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, of the original Grateful Dead, and Our Working Boy, the grandiosely fictional Ignatius J. Reilly?

Elsewhere, by a handy coincidence, Brian Micklethwaite is suggesting similar connections between Michelangelo's David and young Frodo Baggins.

[* The photo of Pigpen seems now to have vanished from the American Digest site -- replaced by a nice shot of the Wright Brothers -- so I've linked to its original source.]

UPDATE: Oh ho! The Pigpen picture is back at American Digest, right here.

A Vintage Advantage, or, Draining the Wine Dark Sea

The business section of the Los Angeles Times actually does a pretty good job of covering the state's wine industry, as evidenced by that Two-Buck Chuck piece cited in the preceding post. In today's edition, the Times reports a move by the industries trade group, Wine Institute, to propose a loosening in the federal regulations governing vintage dating of wines. The Times summarizes the proposal:
Today, a wine label that says it's a 2002 vintage may contain as much as 5% of wine made from grapes picked during another year's harvest.

Next month, a committee of the Wine Institute, the state industry's top trade and lobbying group, will discuss whether to petition the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau about increasing to as much as 15% the amount of the non-vintage wine allowed.

The rule change would apply only to wine labeled by political boundaries, such as Napa County or California. Wine labeled by appellation — a legal definition of a wine region, such as Napa Valley or Carneros — still would have to follow current regulations requiring that 95% of the contents come from the same vintage.
The rationale behind the proposal seems to be to increase winemakers' flexibility in using the large amounts of excess wine now working their way through the industry. If that wine can be used over more than one vintage, so the logic goes, its drag on the wine industry's economy can be reduced. Opponents argue that this advantage is exactly the reason the proposal is a bad one.
Critics of the proposal contend that wineries just want to use supplies amassed during a three-year grape glut and reduce the amount of fruit they buy from grape suppliers.

Premium grape grower Andy Beckstoffer called the proposal, 'a long-term solution' to the glut, which he said was 'a short-term problem.' What's at stake, he said, is California's position as a premier wine producer.

'I think there will be a perception by consumers that we are reducing quality,' said Beckstoffer, whose 3,000 acres in Napa and the North Coast make him the largest independent grower of top-quality grapes. 'The credibility and image of California wine is at risk here.'
[Neither the proponents (principally winemakers) nor the opposition (principally growers such as Beckstoffer) to this proposal are exactly disinterested parties, are they? How unusual.]

A large part of the reason these rules are even necessary is the inflated significance currently attached to the concept of "vintage". While some wines vary in quality and character from year to year principally because of the climatic conditions of the particular vintage, some of the world's best wines -- French Champagne, for example -- are not vintage-dated and derive much of their quality from the winemaker's ability to mix and match wines harvested in different years. As a consumer, this Fool is something of a Wine Libertarian: make the rules as flexible as possible in order to permit production of the best tasting wine.