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Articles on this Page
- 10/05/14--10:45: _Giants - Post-Seaso...
- 10/16/14--10:15: _Ebola Choices - Sta...
- 10/22/14--11:30: _Reversal of Fortune...
- 10/26/14--10:51: _Coke is Life!
- 10/30/14--11:32: _Joe Panik Birthday
- 11/20/14--10:58: _Social Criticism Ma...
- 11/25/14--08:26: _Good-bye Panda
- 11/30/14--11:42: _The Cemetery at Nig...
- 12/10/14--10:36: _Simic's The World D...
- 12/18/14--11:02: _About Town - The Ne...
- 12/30/14--07:00: _Thoughts on Mixology
- 01/03/15--10:55: _New Year 2015
- 01/15/15--07:50: _David Gitin's Woke ...
- 01/22/15--10:28: _The Mystery of the ...
- 01/28/15--09:43: _World Oil Production
- 02/16/15--08:00: _Going Postal in The...
- 03/03/15--10:25: _Malamud's A New Life
- 09/04/14--10:29: _We're the News Hour...
- 03/23/15--10:58: _Tom Selleck's Late ...
- 03/24/15--11:28: _The Limited
- 10/05/14--10:45: Giants - Post-Season Play-off Review
- 10/16/14--10:15: Ebola Choices - Stage II
- 10/26/14--10:51: Coke is Life!
- 10/30/14--11:32: Joe Panik Birthday
- 11/20/14--10:58: Social Criticism Masquerades as Poetic License, or Vice Versa
- 11/25/14--08:26: Good-bye Panda
- 11/30/14--11:42: The Cemetery at Night - Mark Strand dead at 80
- 12/10/14--10:36: Simic's The World Doesn't End
- 12/18/14--11:02: About Town - The New Yorker and the World it Made for Me
- 12/30/14--07:00: Thoughts on Mixology
- 01/03/15--10:55: New Year 2015
- 01/15/15--07:50: David Gitin's Woke Up This Morning
- 01/22/15--10:28: The Mystery of the Water - Fishing at Night
- 01/28/15--09:43: World Oil Production
- 02/16/15--08:00: Going Postal in The Friendly Skies - The Coming Drone Wars
- 03/03/15--10:25: Malamud's A New Life
- 09/04/14--10:29: We're the News Hour, and We Don't Approve This Message
- 03/23/15--10:58: Tom Selleck's Late Career Surprise
- 03/24/15--11:28: The Limited
When the season began, the starting line-up looked like this:
Second base was a problem all year, with Hicks, Adrianza, and Arias sharing part-time duties, until Joe Panik emerged as the rookie sensation of the year. Morse and Posey split duties at first base when Belt went down, and then the team acquired utility specialist Travis Ishikawa (his second tour with the team).
Meanwhile, Cain's season fell apart and he had arm surgery in a lost year. Lincecum, whose ups and downs are now becoming routine, suddenly, after throwing his second career no-hitter, couldn't get anyone out, and dropped out of the rotation in favor of Yusmeiro Petit, a journeyman middle reliever. Late in the season, they acquired Jake Peavey from Boston, who filled in for Cain, and he has been vitally important down the closing stretch. Vogelsang has been uneven too, but not unexpectedly, given his history. It's obvious that Bumgarner has become the ace of the staff, finishing the season at 18-10, which could easily have been 22-8 if the team had given him even ordinary support. In addition, he became a dangerous hitter in his own right, batting .258 with 4 homers and 15 RBI's, better than most part-time players on any team.
It's no surprise that the Dodgers rose to late season dominance, given their pitching (Kershaw, 21-3, Greinke, 17-8, Ryu, 14-7, and Jansen, 44 saves). The surprise is that they didn't break away faster, since the Giants were so riddled with injuries and unexpected slumps (Romo, Lincecum, Sandoval, Morse).
Last evening the Giants persevered in a record-setting 18 inning affair over the Washington Nationals, in which the Nats did not score for 15 innings, finally capitulating when Belt went yard in the top of the frame. Now up 2-0 in the best of 5 series, they look good to make it to the League playoffs, against either the Dodgers or the Cardinals (who are 1-1 in their series).
All in all, the Giants have fared well, securing one of two wild card spots, polishing off the Pirates (in their park), and jumping on the Nats, who were favored by everyone over San Francisco.
At this juncture, it appears the team may actually make it to the Series, and could even win it. A month ago, when the team was mired in a long slump, who would have predicted this? In a season of injuries and uneven performances, they appear to be peaking at just the right moment. With Belt back, and Peavey pitching his heart out, it just might come true.
The Giants won it all in 2010 and 2012. It's 2014, and we're back in the chase.
The big news the last 48 hours has been the new American victim of Ebola, nurse Amber Vinson, the second such "domestic" infection case recorded, since the arrival (and demise on Oct 8) of patient Thomas Eric Duncan. Nurse Vinson flew to Cleveland that same day, then flew back to Dallas, already (at that point) showing signs of illness.
Now, the Centers for Disease Control are trying to control the outbreak by reaching all the passengers who were on both flights, and all those she may have come into contact with. The planes used in both flights continued in service after she rode on them, so there is even some concern for the passengers and crews who used those planes afterwards.
Ebola is clearly a persistent and highly contagious disease. Even for those who follow routine procedures, infection is a considerable risk. Handling anyone who has an active infection, or even anything they may have touched, is very risky business. Looking at the people who deal with the disease, wearing their white "spaceman" (or beekeeper) suits with air masks, is reminiscent of the nuclear clean-up crews in Japan.
Diseases are opportunistic life forms. Given the right conditions, they can spread rapidly among species, and can become almost unstoppable if steps are not employed to cut the links to exposure. Ebola has a so-called 21 day "incubation" period, meaning that you may not even be aware that you've become infected for two weeks or more, days in which your movements and contacts, limited or extensive, may be impossible to accurately trace. In our highly mobile world, with people moving and interacting constantly with one another, using the same transit and appliance systems, infectious diseases have a distinct advantage, even if the method of transmission is limited to physical contact (not airborne).
I advocated strict quarantine procedures when I first heard about the crisis, suggesting that we should limit incoming traffic to Americans only, and placing them all on 21 day quarantine upon arrival. We heard the same circular arguments against this, that we'd become accustomed to with the immigration crisis. We were told that it was "impossible" and therefore could not be done, while being told (at the same time) that it was "unfair" and "a restriction upon freedom" and therefore "should not be done" on principle. Either we couldn't because we couldn't or we shouldn't because we shouldn't. Neither argument sounded intelligent to me.
There are difficulties involved in controlling a spreading disease. But with an incurable, deadly bug like Ebola, what other choices do we have? Whereas our initial choice included keeping infected individuals OUT of the country, now that we have the disease INSIDE our own borders, we've had to retreat from the airports to the cities and towns and travel corridors that the disease is now following.
I'd like someone to explain to me why this "unfortunate" but well-nigh inevitable progression would not better have been handled with greater emergency than it was. Had we taken steps to prevent the arrival of native Africans from the infected countries, and to see to it that whoever was let in was tracked strictly for three weeks, I doubt this new domestic health crisis would ever have happened.
It was another case of politically correct complacence in the face of a dire threat that we were simply too lazy and impractical to address. Yes it is true that we're only talking about three individuals here, but Bengazi was only a handful of people too. We're always ready to jump to conviction when the "enemy" is a man or a gang or an army. But when the enemy is a virus or a bacteria, the issue is the same. Before the disease arrived, we were comforted by the assumption that our hospitals could handle any unlikely case; but now we're hearing just how ill-prepared and vulnerable our health facilities are to deal with a disease like Ebola.
We deserve better from our government--and better from our health care system.
RESTRICT ALL TRAVEL BETWEEN THE INFECTED COUNTRIES AND THE U.S. IMMEDIATELY. Don't count on "screening" or "symptoms" identification. Limit the movement of humanity to the region where it's known to be active.
If we fail to control Ebola through movement, we'll end up having to fight it in our living rooms, school rooms, busses, trains, planes, restaurants, arenas, offices--in short, in every place where people congregate or live.
Last evening, Madison Bumgarner won the first game of the 2014 World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
The media has been fawning over the Royals--who havn't appeared in a World Series since 1985, the year I spent in Northern Japan, listening to Curt Gowdy (piped in on American Service radio) crow over the exploits of George Brett (who would eventually end up in the Hall of Fame), and Bret Saberhagen (20 game winner (and Cy Young winner) that year at only age 21).
After the Giants had silenced the true blue crowd at Kauffman Stadium in the first inning with three quick runs, Bumgarner went on the tame this obstreperous bunch of upstart rascals, holding them to four hits and one (home) run.
Just in case you haven't heard, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series of Major League Baseball last night in Kansas City. It was their third title in five years, a feat accomplished very rarely in league history, and precedent-setting as far as this franchise goes.
Central to each of these titles has been the Giants farm system production, in each year, acquiring the services of a young player who would be crucial to their success. In 2010 it was Buster Posey, the catcher who was that season's Rookie of the Year. In 2012, it was Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, both in their first full seasons, having been brought up in mid-year 2011.
This year it was Joe Panik (pronounced panic), who, brought up in June, managed to his .305 while playing brilliantly in the field. Giants fans will recall that the original plan had been to have veteran Marco Scutaro play 2nd. Following Scutaro's performance in the 2012 season and World Series, the team signed him to a three-year contract. But Scutaro's health got in the way of that, causing management to explore alternatives at that position. Brandon Hicks began the year there, but his hitting was so light (despite 8 home runs), that other options had to be tried. Ehire Adrianza was given a shot, even Dan Uggla, released by the Braves, got a look. Then Panik was called up, and suddenly we had a real 2nd baseman again.
Poetic license is defined as any departure from convention or from factual accuracy taken by a writer to achieve a desired effect. It's a colloquial term, used to denote a distortion or alteration of the conventions of grammar or language.
In the sense I'm using it here, it's also the freedom to--deliberately, and perhaps obviously--say things which may be harsh, critical, or exaggerated about a subject--things which we might ordinarily refrain from saying out of courtesy, or things which are simply (though perhaps, again, obviously or expediently) untrue.
Social criticism in literature refers to an appraisal of society, for any perceived flaw or condition which results in hardship, implying an alternative mode of social construction.
Putting these two principles together makes social satire in literature. Satire may take many forms: In drama, the representation of objects or subjects of ridicule; in poetry, a rhetoric of mockery or disdain or burlesque.
The early Modernist poets were adept at impersonating the mannerisms and conceits of the classes they despised or were amused by. As the 20th Century looked disdainfully back at the Victorian Age, it aped the platitudes of, and aimed literary arrows at, the decaying archetypes of presumption or mediocrity.
Young Edward Estlin Cummings took aim at the world of his parents' Harvard society, skewering their pretensions and meddlesome gossip in this deliberately eccentric sonnet.
The degree of sarcasm displayed here--as with so many of Cummings's poems--far exceeds the putative limits of sophisticated lampoonery, sounding clearly adolescent in spirit and intent. It's the kind of mockery that teen-agers delight in, but which a more mature mind sees as hyperbole; which explains why Cummings has always been, and will always be, popular with young readers, especially those with a rebellious streak.
Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt, A
And lived in a small house near a fashionable square B
Cared for by servants to the number of four. B
Now when she died there was silence in heaven C
And silence at her end of the street. D
The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet-- D
He was aware that this sort of thing had occurred before. B
The dogs were handsomely provided for, B
But shortly afterwards the parrot died too. E
The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece, F
And the footman sat upon the dining-table G
Holding the second housemaid on his knees-- H
Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived. I
The diction underscores the condescension I'm calling here poetic license: "servants to the number of four" and "aware that this sort of thing had occurred before" etc. The delightful turn from "his knees--Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived" in which the subject switches, underscoring the impropriety with a nice sarcastic twist.
Miss Nancy Ellicott Strode across the hills and broke them,
Rode across the hills and broke them--
The barren New England hills--
Riding to hounds
Over the cow-pasture.
Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
And danced all the modern dances;
And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
But they knew that it was modern.
Upon the glazen shelves kept watch
Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,
The army of unalterable law.
Matthew and Waldo, of course, are Matthew Arnold and Ralph Waldo Emerson, standard-bearers in the "army of unalterable law." Here we stand apart from the social phenomena of the younger generation as it blunders and flaunts its way towards a familiar disgrace, pleased (along with Eliot) to imagine ourselves immune from (or cheered by) the diversions of youth. Eliot characteristically can celebrate this mischief while taking a not very convincing moral tone. We're never altogether sure whether Eliot actually invests emotionally in these personified ironies, or whether he just enjoys the unbalanced pretense. I suppose that, as an artist, he could have it both ways.
The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.
When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, "Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript."
Francois de La Rochefoucault [1613-1680], it will be recalled, was the great French author of Maxims, witty one-liners which deconstruct human frailty and cupidity with panache. The fantasy image of seeing the French nobleman of three centuries earlier appearing as a figure in the little episode of Eliot's visit to his Cousin Harriet, sets up a tension between the sheepish complacency of the readers of the Boston Evening Transcript (a newspaper that went defunct in 1941), and the impish speaker of the poem. The whole tone of the lines is a kind of knowing weariness, supercilious, condescending, and sad.
Art (poetry) is first and foremost entertainment; any artistic criticism of society must be inspiring, or pleasing, or amusing, or it's nothing but hot air. Any writer who pretends not to be implicated in the problems he criticizes, risks being thought vain, or heartless, or both. As readers, we may join in on the fun, or feel offended by its daring ruthlessness. Art is a mirror we hold up to ourselves; or it is a window through which we view the world; or it is a wall on which are represented images of whatever design. Reflective, translucent, or illusionary--we inspect and judge each other according to our lights. Everyone does this, whether they admit it or not.
In J.D. Salinger's classic The Catcher in the Rye, the hero Holden Caulfield says at one point, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
I was only 9 years old when I first read that line from Catcher, but I understood then implicitly what it meant. Nostalgia can be a drug if taken too often, or in too large doses, but the remorse we feel about the irredeemable past is a familiar sensation, at least to me. Losing people along the way, through death or departure, is an inexorable fact of growing up, aging, moving on. Those with whom we shared time, or event, or space, may come eventually to haunt our consciousness, as Evelyn Waugh puts it, in Brideshead Revisited, "as ghosts are said to do."*
Yesterday, it was reported that Pablo Sandoval, the San Francisco Giants' redoubtable, eccentric, and oddly charming third baseman since coming to the majors in 2003 at age 22, had signed a five-year contract (worth a reported 95 million dollars) with the Boston Red Sox.
The free-agent signing wasn't unexpected. The Giants had failed to offer "The Panda" (as he had come to be affectionately known) a contract extension before the start of the 2014 season, and there was palpable suspicion on both sides--Pablo, and the Giants management--that the team's sense of his worth was less than might be deserved.
Statistically, Sandoval has always been an interesting case. As his career stats (below) show:
year age games at-bats R H 2b 3n HR RBI SB BB SO BA SLG
--he was consistently a very good but not consistently great hitter, with some power. In fact, inconsistency was a given with Pablo. Emotionally, he presented the case of an immature, impulsive, undisciplined athlete, given to swinging at bad balls, especially in clutch situations. His physical mannerisms, and presence, suggested boyish enthusiasm.
Also, as became routine each season, Pablo had a weight problem, which threatened to impede his balance, speed and efficiency, both at the plate, and in the field. For a man of his physical build, he seemed incredibly agile and quick, "like a cat," announcers would often remark. He could dive for screaming line drives on either side of him, leap to his feet, and make lightning throws to first base.
Opposing pitchers often despaired of facing him, since he was as likely to strike a ball well out of the strike-zone, for a hit, as he was to swing through a straight fast-ball down the middle. You could outsmart him, pitch around him, but he might still beat you, swatting a pitch a foot outside into left field for a double.
Though nominally a switch-hitter, his performance has increasingly been from the left side of the plate, his comparative advantage being as much as 100 points average difference. Given his height and weight, he was a slow runner. Playing at China Basin park, his home run totals, given the long right field dimensions, would never be impressive. Pablo was a "contact hitter," a "spray hitter"--unpredictable, frustrating, and perplexing.
His coach, Bruce Bochty, understood Pablo's character, and usually left him alone, realizing that his fragile emotional immaturity would be unlikely to respond to direct criticism or scolding. Pablo rewarded this patience with great performances in big games. Christened the "Kung Fu Panda" by x-Giants hurler Barry Zito, the nickname stuck, and before long, the stadium was full of "panda hats" and head-masks. Sandoval was a fan favorite, as much as for his roly-polly onfield presence as for his unlikely heroics. As a regular fan of the team, I probably heard or saw him play at least 500 times, and he became an accustomed persona in my world.
Pablo didn't speak good English, and tended to seem a little exotic in person. You wondered what he thought about things, and how he might seem off the field. A native Venezuelan, he must certainly have felt strange in 21st Century America.
Playing for the Boston Red Sox, Pablo will certainly have big expectations to fulfill. Bosox fans will undoubtedly become impatient with him, and one suspects that, unless he exceeds the usual demands of a big-time free-agent star, he isn't likely to command the same respect and appreciation he did in San Francisco.
Just before the beginning of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, in Kansas City, the television cameras panned into the Giants dug-out, where Pablo could be seen going down the bench, whispering into the ear of each Giants player. It seemed clear that he was probably making his heart-felt good-byes to each of his team-mates, the implication being that he already had decided, perhaps unconsciously, that this would be the last chance he would have to do that. Or so it seemed to me at the time.
As it turned out, the Giants apparently had ended up offering Pablo an equivalent amount of money for an equal number of years, as Boston had. But Pablo must have felt, in some sense, betrayed, and wished to go somewhere he was appreciated.
Professional baseball is a business, and the players are employees. Baseball is a game, with rules, but a great part of the appeal for the fans, perhaps the most important part, is the sentiment of joy and caring that go into their appreciation. Identifying with players, spending one's hopes and fears on the performance of a group of grown men striving to succeed at a "boy's game" is a kind of legitimate folly that is as much a part of the American experience as democratic politics, or outrageously avant garde art, or fighting in foreign wars.
It may be that we crave unlikely heroes, people who (like us) dream of being on the world's stage, striving to exceed our native abilities, and occasionally overcoming impossible odds to achieve feats of daring or skill. This certainly accounts for some of Sandoval's appeal. He was one of us, imperfect, unusual, and not always in complete control of his emotions.
The hole he leaves in the Giants' heart can't be filled. The Giants may sign a slugging outfielder, or a new young rookie third baseman may arrive on the scene. But the Panda is irreplaceable, a key component of three championship teams, and a quirky, funny boy-man who alternatively broke our hearts, and heartened us.
He will be missed.
*The full quotation is "I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, and that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of it, and search for it hopelessly, as ghosts are said to do, frequenting the spots where they buried material treasures without which they cannot pay their way to the nether world."
Despite its spare simplicity, his work wasn't like Oppen, or Williams, or Frost. Oddly, he seemed to have more in common with a poet like John Ashbery, or Charles Simic--with eccentric, surrealistic settings, and improbable narratives.
I heard him read three times over the years, once in Berkeley, once at Iowa a little later, and much later in the 1990's, in Chicago. Strand was an imposing figure, tall, gaunt, ruggedly handsome, and a natty dresser. He was sophisticated, if a bit amused with himself, but seldom really cheerful.
The mood of his poems varied between gravity and absurdity in ways that felt European. And in that way, and because of his physical presence, he seemed continental. His work is post-Modern in ways that set it apart from the post-War generation which preceded him (Lowell, Bishop, Shapiro, Jarrell, Wilbur, Nemerov, Stafford, Simpson, Logan), though formally his career fits neatly into the tradition they created. His tone is usually understaded, he's never given to rhetorical flights, and he never challenges accepted standards of subject matter or styles. In manner, he's close to the later work of Donald Justice, W.S. Merwin, or even Galway Kinnell.
I often read a kind of fatalistic quality in his poems, not unlike James Wright or Kinnell. It seemed to me that taking that position early in one's career was likely to become a straight-jacket later on, but Strand never wavered. He always took himself, and his work, seriously.
I'm not sure why his death seems somehow unexpected, or peculiar. He often wrote about his own death, and what it might mean to know about it, as it were, after the fact. But it does.
A piece like this reads as a kind of surreal child's story, abbreviated and altered to suit an adult mind.
I am the last Napoleonic soldier. It's almost two hundred years later and I am still retreating from Moscow. The road is lined with white birch trees and the mud comes up to my knees. The one-eyed woman wants to sell me a chicken, and I don't even have any clothes on.
The Germans are going one way; I am going the other. The Russians are going still another way and waving good-by. I have a ceremonial saber. I use it to cut my hair, which is four feet long.
All the pieces in the book are untitled, except for five (which are set out in lines, as poems). Simic's imagination runs to the macabre, the odd, the absurd. People and things simply appear, without explanation or context, and magical, improbable events and visions occur without warning or continuity. They might seem like Magritte compositions, with a tuba on fire, or a bird of stone floating above a cubic ocean. Simic's poetic world is one of continual surprises, constant upheaval and squirrelly intrusions. His is a language of images, constructed in the way dreams are, like journeys through slightly familiar--though often suddenly unfamiliar--surroundings.
One feels that these little stories--or whatever they are--are like half-remembered (or imperfectly recovered) mythic fairy-tales, conjured up during the dark ages of European pre-history by slavic ancestors living in tribes among dense forested regions. Religions tell us that the world is born and the world ends, but what if the world was never born, and what if the world doesn't end, but just goes on and on forever, the living begetting and getting and dying forever, without any reckoning? That has the ring of desperation or hopelessness about it.
The apple trees are in flower. He's making his way to the village tavern with everybody watching. There, he takes a seat at one of the tables and orders two beers, one for him and one for his head. My mother wipes her hands on her apron and serves him.
It's so quiet in the world. One can hear the old river, which in its confusion sometimes forgets and flows backwards.
If the violence and humor here seems crude, that may be the underlying message. Nature, and the primitive communal life of pre-civilized humanity, were indeed harsh, and unforgiving. We know that in pre-historic times, human life expectancy was less than 35 years, and without medicine or dentistry, pain and suffering and disability were nearly universal. Sex and reproduction began in the early 'teens, and conflict among groups was rife. Superstition and fear reigned supreme. Technology may have taken mankind "out of the woods" but perhaps may not have taken the "woods" out of mankind.
As we mature, do we outgrow the stories of our childhood? Are children's tales really innocent diversions, or do they serve as passage-ways out of innocence into the terrible nightmare of real life--its strangeness and mystery, its suffering and hopelessness and death? If the surrealists wanted to tap into the deeper levels of consciousness, where reality and unreality jostle uncertainly together, would they find there the evidence of our madness, or the keys to a brilliant paradise of possibility and ecstatic enlightenment?
Simic speaks in the same common language of post-surrealist surrealists, a poorly defined group which might include James Tate, Mark Strand, Philip Lamantia, Robert Bly, Richard Brautigan, Stephen Dobyns, Russell Edson, James Wright. A poetry straightforward in its syntax and rhetoric and locutions, but very free with narrative continuity, using fantastic or absurd imagery and event as ciphers in a language of intuitive apperception. Most effective when most convincingly profound in its probings of "secret" connections among objects, symbols, or impressions. Comic or serious elements co-existing in the same head, even in the same poem, with unpredictable results.
Simic's gift seems to have been to combine the primitivist's raw earthiness with the surrealist's dexterity in the use of improbable imagery--its drollery and bizarre humor. It often feels almost like a translation from another language, and like translation may sometimes seem alien or foreign in expression. And with Simic, it's always important to remember that he's essentially an emigré--a mind poised between different cultures--Serbo-Croatian and American--and different languages. His work doesn't feel American, and its alien quality seems deliberately cultivated, to charm and mystify his American audience. His is an American success story, the foreign immigrant who rose to the front rank of literary prominence, to attain the post of Poet Laureate of his adopted country.
Lately, I've begun thinking about using aperitifs as the "goods" for drink combinations, instead of relying on the traditional spirits--i.e., the "white goods" of gin, white rum, vodka, teqiula, or "brown goods" of whisky (scotch and bourbon), dark rum, brandy, and so forth.
There is the consideration of alcohol content, since aperitifs invariably have a lower alcohol content than spirits. They're lighter, carry less punch, and appeal more to the delicate sensibilities of the ladies.
In addition, by using spirits as additives to mixes, you can increase the number of distinctive, different kinds of flavors. After all, each different kind of alcoholic beverage relies on a specific flavor, which is the result of aboriginal ingredients of each kind of source product in nature, as well as the processes, and finally the flavorings that are added to make its distinct character. Variety, as always, is the spice of life. Even different traditional spirits, such as gin, differ from brand to brand, based on the subtly separate augmentations of spice. In scotch, the kinds of influence upon flavor include literally everything, including the distillery's proximity to sea air!
So here is a drink "built" upon a white, or dry vermouth (which Dubonnet is) aperitif. Chartreuse is of course a high alcohol fortified liqueur spirit. Most aperitifs or fortified spirits have more vivid flavors than straight spirits do, though most scotches and bourbons have plenty of flavor, some overpoweringly so. Which is why, come to think of it, more "generic" spirits are better for mixing, since their generic taste is a more reliable mixer than an unusually distinctive one. And, of course, one wouldn't "waste" a very fine or expensive scotch in a cocktail, since it's intended to be (and is best) appreciated on its own.
The following combination could be done by beginning with gin or vodka, as I have done in the past. The flavor wouldn't be much different, though its strength would be. The degree of alcohol content isn't, per se, something I think much about when mixing spirits. In appreciating wines or single malts, on the contrary, it's a crucial element. "Big reds" and "big scotches" tend to be stronger in alcohol--I'm not sure why, but it may have something to do with the intensity of the flavor, though potency in itself isn't a quality I would identify. Tea drinkers will claim that really intense flavors occur at the stronger end of the spectrum, and I don't disagree with them.
Cocktails aren't meant as a stimulant, but many people may regard them merely as a means to an end--becoming mildly inebriated. The effect alcohol has on the brain isn't something everyone enjoys, and I wouldn't pretend that everyone can enjoy it in the same measure. Unless you're a rich man, or are born into the wine-making or spirit-making business, you don't have any chance of being creative with wine or whisky. At least with cocktails, you can, with a little investment, create your own drinks, experimenting with different combinations that no one else has ever tried before--which is why I do it, partly as a pastime. So, herewith, another nameless masterpiece from the stainless steel counter.
4 parts Dubonnet Blanc
1 part yellow Chartreuse
3/4 part Genepi des Alpes
1/2 part lime juice
Shaken vigorously and served up in a frosted cocktail glass. A kinder and gentler concoction, perhaps, once again maybe for the ladies. New Year's approaches. What better time to indulge?
We begin this year on a couple of sour notes.
First, our beloved 49ers lost no time in parting company with their head coach Jim Harbaugh, following the last game of the current regular season.
To review Harbaugh's career, in brief, his tenure with the team lasted from 2011 to 2014. During that four year span, his combined record (the team's) was 44-19. For rookie coaches in the NFL, this is almost without precedent. Only one other head coach I can think of--x-49ers head coach George Seifert, who went 98-31, taking over Bill Walsh's team at the end of the 1980's, bears comparison, but with a very large caveat--particularly when you remember that Seifert took over a powerhouse, while Harbaugh came to a team mired in a decade of mediocrity.
A little history tells a pertinent story. When Eddie DeBartolo lost control of the 49ers, in 2000, the reigns were passed to his sister Marie Denise York. She and her husband, John York, a research pathologist, knew nothing about running a professional football team, and proceeded to mismanage the franchise into a 12-year slide, without a winning season. In 2008, the Yorks appointed their son, Jed, President of the team. Jed York, a finance and history major graduate of Notre Dame, had had no experience in sports, as a player, or a coach, or a sports teams manager. Nevertheless, he made a lucky choice in his new head coach in 2011, hiring Harbaugh away from the Stanford University Cardinal--and thus began the current four year run of winning.
However, not long after beginning of the 2014 season, there were "leaked" reports from 49ers management, that there were severe disagreements between the team's management (York, and his assistant General Manager Trent Baalke), and Harbaugh. These began when the team's early season record was still very positive. The year before, Jed had "tweeted" a public apology for the team's failure to advance beyond the NFC championship game to the Super Bowl, "This performance wasn't acceptable."
By mid-year 2014, a series of crippling injuries to some major stars on the team, as well as some poor offensive coaching schemes (an apparent wrong-headed attempt to turn scrambling quarterback Colin Kaepernick into a "pocket passer"), led to a series of losses, which in retrospect seem to have been, at least in part, a response to the very obvious mid-season attempts by York and Baalke to undermine Harbaugh's authority and reputation. The reported issue was Harbaugh's "abrasive" interpersonal style, a quality which would seem to have nothing whatever to do with the team's potential, or with the head coach's abilities as a field commander. In retrospect, it almost seems as if Harbaugh, and the team in general, had been deliberately "cut loose"--so that management would have a public "pretext" for replacing him, and turning over personnel at season's end.
The Yorks have shown themselves to be rank amateurs in their management of the 49ers organization. Abandoning San Francisco, for a new stadium in San Jose, 30 miles south of their namesake city center, they've showed contempt and selfishness in all their dealings with the city, the media, and their own players. Ignoring the success their new head coach had brought to the team, they summarily dismissed him, in effect in mid-season, just to strut their power and hide their own incompetence--as far as anyone can surmise, simply because Harbaugh wouldn't kiss up.
At this point, no one knows what the Yorks have in store. With Harbaugh now gone (to Michigan), it's expected that several high-profile veteran players will either be let go, or will themselves simply retire. After three trips to the penultimate play-off contest, and one unfortunate season, the 49ers are right back where they started under Jed York. It's a sad denouement to a relationship which had brought glory and gratitude to a team longing for respectability after a decade of shame. Jed York has proven, once and for all, that he's just a spoiled rich kid playing with lead soldiers in the converted nursery room.
I've written about David Gitin's work before, here, and here. As with his previous book, The Journey Home [Berkeley: Blue Wind Press, 2010], this is a selection of poems, subtitled "Selected Poems 1962-2014." I have then the feeling that Gitin is engaging his previous range of work as a fertile ground, revising and selecting and sifting from among its varied fruit, instances which speak to his changing sense of who he now is, and what it all meant, in retrospect. In that sense, it's a summing up, or a summary of the meaning of his whole writing life.
The emphasis, here, now, seems to be the ecstatic or hieratic--celebrating the infinite, the universal, the visionary--
The simplicity of this kind of notation belies its hidden, though firmly grounded, sense of the underlying forces which govern nature, the universe at large. There's a joyous surrender to the larger dynamism of the world, particularly its lyric manifestations, in microcosm.
The fact that the poems here are undated, and are apparently neither chronological nor thematic in arrangement, contributes to the apprehension of their numinous indeterminacy, which I see as integral to the overall intent. This isn't a personal history, not a journey, but a kind of continuous present that asks to be seen through a single, general lens.
None of this explains the exquisite charm of Gitin's verse, which is like an alembic of a wistfully nostalgic counter-culture reminiscence, of a time when our generation believed in the power of individual conscience, community cooperation, grass-roots initiative, and the delight of simple gifts.
they say I have my mother's
Though the initial effect of such deft little snapshots like this is joy and delight, it isn't easy to convey the accretive impression they leave, when read in quantity. Though their brevity and flitting elusiveness suggest haiku or minimalism, they clearly come from a more embracing and universal vision.
East West North South
East West North South
burning down the house
until water from the well
seasoned my lips
to words that mend
I see the face
of my ancestor
Despite the fleeting, transitory quality of these poems, there runs underneath all of them a deeper account, evanescent but confirming, of the poet's awareness of cosmic forces--
Muir Beach Rockfest
Such quick graphs of observation and notation, when gathered together in sequence, create a wave of intention which tends to overwhelm the initial event, drawing our attention up into a higher state of consciousness, of--for want of a better term--the sublime. The antecedents to this approach would certainly include Oppen, and Eigner, the ancient Chinese. Gitin appears to have moved beyond the packed particulars of his earlier work, to a more consuming ecstatic, but his work is always just saved from vagueness by its specificity and clear clinical eye. And there's a crucial restraint in his method.
moon frozen like some giant
watery cell of speech
The desire to see universals or deeper significances in ordinary phenomena is characteristic of a certain kind of romantic visionary writing. Usually, I tend to be suspicious of this tendency, but in Gitin's work, I'm never offended by it, perhaps because his assertions seldom rise to the level of direct conviction, are always hovering on the lip of belief--provisional, balanced.
Though this book feels conclusive, I prefer to see it as conditional, since there seems no end to its program. May he find in Florida--"veneral soil" (Wallace Stevens)--a rich context for his continued musings.
Every sport has its attractions, which may or may not be easily conveyed to those unfamiliar with it firsthand. Fly-fishing, which developed over centuries of practice, originally as a hunting and gathering skill, has become a highly sophisticated form of sport. Whereas it once was principally about the securing of sustenance, it has morphed into a refined procedure, with a tradition, and a set of formal methods and conventions, that have become almost ritualistic. With its paraphernalia--the rods and reels, lines and leaders, artificial flies, creels, vests, boots and so on--and its prime watering holes, with their shrine-like folklore-fame--it has acquired all the trappings of a faith, a devotion which may border on fanaticism at times.
It's important to remember that the reason people pursue any sport is the nurturing pleasure and excitement it affords, whether or not the rules are slavishly followed. A recreation may be considered a pastime, or something more. Whatever you love you do with a kind of rote allegiance--what may described as passion, even sanctity.
Flyfishing occurs in nature, along waterways, in streams or rivers, or on lakes. Water, and the life that inhabits it, and the country through which it flows, is the setting, and the interaction between the pursuer (the fisherman), and the pursued (the fish), may only be a pretext for an appreciation of the qualities and complexities of the natural world, which are experienced first-hand by fishermen. The rhythms of the seasons, the accompanying flora and aquatic ecology, the richness of streamside life, the sights and sounds and sensations associated with being near, or in, a flowing stream, all contribute to the experience of fishing. We may become so preoccupied with the motions and rituals of performance, that we forget the fun part.
For me, flyfishing has never been purely about the successful seduction of the fish, of hooking and landing it and glorying in the triumph, of winning a contest with other competitors or against the odds. It's never been about how skillful my cast is, or whether I use the "correct" fly, or any of the dogmatic prescriptions that govern the hierarchy of appreciation and duty of the sport. When I fish, I enter a special place, where civilization and its discontents are left behind, and I become in some degree a part of the forces of the natural world, in a way I never am, when getting and spending and being the responsible citizen in a busy world.
Time, like water, flows relentlessly forward. Nature is about change, and flowing water reminds us that our lives are slipping by, that as we step into a river, as the current pushes against our legs, we are being pushed forward, towards our end. We know this as surely as anything, though it may be pleasing to be caught up in the excitement of the hunt.
On a fishing day, we may enter the water in late afternoon, preparing for the evening hatch. Insect hatches are rhythmic, but not entirely predictable. Everything that lives in water has a time-table, but empirical observation can't tell you exactly when a hatch is going to occur, or how the fish are likely to respond. The tantalizing possibility awaits you on the water.
With dry-fly fishing, which is my preference, the lure floats on the surface of the current, meandering over the intersecting flows. The fish, always watchful, are "fishing" (or hunting) too, and hoping for a safe pursuit of the bugs. Usually, with their natural shyness and caution, they will also have some comprehension of what the fishermen are trying to do. It's a contest between their reluctance and shrewdness, and the fisherman's guile and ability. The tension of this interaction is what makes fishing fascinating. There are a dozen factors that influence how the fish will behave, and at least twice that many that fishermen must observe and employ in their pursuit.
The surface of the water is like a membrane between the two worlds--one wet, the other dry--a plane of division, which is sometimes referred to as the "surface film." This is where the game is played. Most of the time, you don't actually see the fish, so the moment of crisis (the rise or "strike" of the fish to the lure) can't be followed. Suddenly there is, from the mysterious under-side of this membrane, an attack, subtly gentle, or vicious. Fish are predators, and their actions are designed to succeed. But you can never really know if or when the fish will respond. You hope, and guess, and try to learn from failure. Why do certain approaches work, while others fail?
Towards evening, the fishing may be good, or it may be slow. As dusk turns to night, what you can see begins to fade. The water is turning black under you, and you can't see your feet. Perceiving your line as the sky darkens becomes more difficult. Your fly may become invisible on the water surface, though you have a good idea where it must be as it floats sideways across from you. You may have had a good day, or you might not have caught anything that day, but whatever the "luck" you don't want to reel in and go back. A little evening hatch may have started, and there are quiet dimples all around you, as the fish rise from the obscurity of their holding places below.
The moon rises, spreading an ethereal glow over the water. It's late, you should be knocking off, but you just keeping making one more cast, then another, and another. You're being stubborn.
This refusal to give up is something all fishermen feel. It may keep you out well past dinner time; your buddies or your friends may be standing on the bank, reminding you that it might be a good idea to let go. Finally, reluctantly, you reel in your line, turn carefully around in the current, and wade gingerly back to the bank.
This time, when the water is pitch black, and the silhouettes of the trees on the opposite bank are vivid against a darkening sky, seems magical to me. Almost dreamy. There have been times when I have hooked a good trout, just as the sky was turning dark, and the fish and I are locked in battle. At these times, you feel at a distinct disadvantage with the fish. You can feel where the fish is going, from the pull and throbbing action of the line through the rod, but it's mysterious, like anything that happens in the dark. Your attention intensifies, mind focused. I have often lost fish in these circumstances, but it doesn't feel like failure--since landing and releasing a fish in the dark is difficult.
I've come to see these times, with night drawing on, as very moving, with the murmur of the water, the beautiful shifting, undulating surface, and the certainty that there are only so many such moments accorded us in this life. Their fragility, transitoriness, and beauty. They are an end in themselves, not a means to another end. We are living in this life, the only one we'll ever have, and that fact makes everything that happens unique, and precious.
Recently, we've heard reports that the rapid decline in the price of gasoline, which is a reflection of the drop in crude oil prices, has brought about a sudden crisis in the petroleum production industry.
For decades, we've heard that world oil reserves of easily extracted petroleum would "peak" sometime in the current century, then begin to decline, while demand, which has been steadily increasing, continued to climb--leading to catastrophic increases in price.
At the same time, experts in oil reserve data have noted that as prices rose, the viability of less easily obtained petroleum sources, i.e., shale oil, would likely increase. As we've seen, these predictions have proven true.
The burgeoning shale oil extraction industry has increased American petroleum production, to the extent that we now produce annual totals which rival Saudi Arabia and the former Soviet Union.
The attractions of an increase in production are sold on the market competition which results in remarkable declines in prices at the pump. Any decrease in oil prices has a positive effect on the economy as a whole, which depends to such a large degree on the transportation network that runs off of petroleum use.
We were also told that were America to become "less dependent" upon foreign oil sources, our standing in the world economy, and in the foreign policy sphere, would improve. Any decline in our dependence upon Middle Eastern oil, would improve our bargaining position in price competition, and make us less "vulnerable" to political pressures occurring in that part of the world.
But as we have seen, protecting our interest in maintaining the flow of reasonably priced Mideast oil, was not the only priority. The flowering of Islamic terrorism has demonstrated that religious and political considerations may trump mere commercial interests. We may be able to get by for the time being, by coddling the Saudi royal family, but Islamic radicalism may eventually complicate our access to the oil fields throughout much of the Mideast.
Official estimates put America's shale oil reserves at a level which would make them viable for another two and a half decades--or roughly until the early '30's--at which point they would begin to decline. That's assuming, it should be noted, that exploitation proceeded at a smart clip, an assumption that might founder on regional resistance to fracking or other destructive extractive practices.
However, the sudden price drop we're presently experiencing has had the ironic effect of truncating the whole shale equation. Many companies are suddenly in the red, as the price of crude drops below their break-even point. The viability of fracking was posited on the high price of crude on the world market, but with the sudden surge in supply, brought about by the new methods, the price has dropped.
The delicate balance between supply and demand has meant that the transition from easy extraction to difficult will have contradictions that aren't easily overcome.
In the context of global warming, we're obliged to consider not just the long-term advisability of rapid over-exploitation of the earth's resources, but the more immediate problem of excess burning. We'd be advised to save a little, going forward, instead of finding excuses to forge ahead into an unknown in which both supply and price precipitate us over yawning scarcity, bringing about a world-wide economic decline.
In the overall picture of energy use and reserve, we need to see shale oil exploitation as a temporary phase, not as a long-term solution. It isn't going to measurably lengthen the time upon which mankind depends upon oil as a primary energy source. It might enable us, given current use levels, to keep using it generously for another century, at most. But then what?
As the market-patterns sail along, riding wave and trough in tandem, we may be seduced by each successive small condition, to think that a new paradigm is spreading out around us. But these "blips" are nothing more than minor variations.
As readers of this blog know, my priority has always been to suggest moderation in population growth, rather than promoting economic growth--with its attendant profligate confiscation of resource--as a way to slow the birth rate. Population is always used by apologists for exploitation, as the bottom line--more mouths to feed, more jobs to create, more cars to sell, more water, more food, more sewage, more pollution, more crowding, more conflict--for justifying expansion. But each iteration of supply leads inevitably to more demand, so that promoting one, without moderating the other, only makes the problem worse. We've been using that model for at least a hundred years, and look where it's brought us. The simplest way to slow demand is to reduce it. Period.
One aspect of the increasing sophistication of micro-technology has been the emergence of unmanned, or automated airborne devices, called drones.
For decades, really since the invention of flying machines, self-propelled model airplanes have been a common toy or hobbyists' pastime. If you've ever been to one of these model meets, with their whining gas-powered props controlled with hand-held radar sets, you know they aren't new gadgets.
But with the ramping up of micro-chip capacity, automated mechanical devices are quickly becoming practical. There are unmanned aircraft, unmanned boats, and unmanned small helicopters which are on the threshold of application, or already in use, for surveillance and reconnoitre, and also for possible parcel delivery. Anywhere an aerial view of something is needed, drones can be adapted to serve the purpose. There's a whole new industry starting up right now, conceived around the possible applications of the drone technology. Even farmers and ranchers are using them now. Amazon, the big online-retail company, thinks it's going to use drones to deliver parcels, leap-frogging over the whole commercial delivery industry.
Conventional propeller driven and jet-propelled aircraft have to follow corridors and flight paths, to recognize and respect "no-fly zones" in order to prevent collisions or interruptions of established routes. Different classes of craft are confined to certain areas in the sky, different altitudes. You have to have a license to fly an aircraft; flying isn't something you can just engage in at will.
We know that drones are now an important new sphere in weaponry. The U.S. is currently running drone bombing missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in the Middle East. The idea of using unmanned aircraft in warfare is a controversial development. Technologically advanced states, such as the U.S. have a distinct advantage over "conventional" military forces.
Like Seymour Levin, Malamud had come West in nearly the same scenario, though unlike Levin, Malamud was married with children (and would publish his first book, the improbable mythical baseball novel, The Natural [New York: Harcourt, Brace &; Company, 1952]), just a couple of years after arriving in Oregon. Though ostensibly the story of an outsider, a supple, subtle liberal Jew set down amidst the raw provinciality of a rural cow college, Levin is also Malamud's own imaginative alter-ego, experiencing the same emotional dislocations, amazements, seductions, and realizations his creator must have felt, coming to Oregon in 1951.
Upon his arrival, Levin is immediately thrown into the squabbles and entanglements common to any college English department. It isn't long before he embarks on an affair with the acting department head's wife, Pauline, which further complicates the political machinations involved in the election of the next department head. The man he has been hired to replace, one Leo Duffy, had been fired the year before, and had committed suicide not long afterwards. Levin, like Duffy before him, is regarded as a radical, bent on challenging the status quo, and (it turns out) Duffy had also had a brief affair with Pauline. Will Levin succeed in installing himself as the upstart new department head? How will his affair with Pauline play out?
Malamud may have equivocated about the meaning of the story. When confronted about the implications of his having portrayed real people in the department, he claimed that the story was a comic riff, but apparently there were enough obvious parallels to have inspired indignation among his colleagues. In the novel's conclusion, Levin's appointment is terminated, and he drives off into a very ambiguous sunset with Pauline and her two children, uncertain of his future, unemployed, chastened by his expulsion, and not really committed heart and soul to his new responsibilities. This may be a too-convenient exit from a comic complexity, since it would have been just a little too pat to have him win the laurels as well as the lady. I like to think of the story as a pastoral, neither comic nor tragic in its implications.
Malamud left Oregon in the Spring of 1962, just as the novel was being published. Like Levin, he was leaving just at the moment his connection to the college was coming to a close. Malamud would go off to Bennington, where he woud remain until retirement. In essence, A New Life was Malamud's ambivalent escape from the academic dilemma he had faced in his earlier years at the college, where his "instructor's" appointment had kept from from teaching literature, even as his published works were building him a national reputation as one of America's finest writers.
There were other interesting correspondences in the narrative to events in Malamud's career at Oregon. One involved the firing of another young English instructor, whom he helped to preserve his job, doubtless a source for the Leo Duffy character in the novel. What has always intrigued me is whether or not Malamud may indeed have had some kind of relationship--real or imagined--with one of the faculty wives. Just as Levin may be a fictionalized projection of Malamud's Brooklyn Jewish self, seeking "a new life" amid the rain forests and snow-capped mountain-ranges of the far west, the other characters in the story may stand for actual figures in the real author's life there. The writing feels so private, so intimate in its details, that one can hardly avoid making such connections. Does the crisis in the hero's saga, which is played out in a single academic year, symbolize the decade of Malamud's life in Corvallis? It's possible to see the book as a sort of summarization of his life there, and perhaps even as a judgment of sorts--first as a satire on the social life of the department, and secondarily upon his own semi-mature self, isolated and inexperienced, under-appreciated, relegated to teaching bone-head English to raw-boned Oregon teenagers. But by the time of his departure, he had won a National Book Award (for The Magic Barrel [New York: Farrar Straus Cudahy, 1958], and had published two widely respected novels.
Perhaps in several ways, A New Life, published at the moment of his departure from Oregon, and his return to the East Coast (and the fame that would be his), symbolizes a turning-point in his life, just as Levin's departure was for him. The story may seem like a half-serious comic rebuke to a world that he may have felt did not appreciate him, and not having to hang around for the inevitable curiosity and suspicions could certainly have been a liberating feeling.
Remembering the story from my earlier reading, the aspect that stands out for me, across time, is the rivalry between the department head, Gilley, and Levin, complicated by Levin's affair with the head's wife, the kind of sexual competition that is at the center of the plot. While Levin is committed to his teaching career, and to the ideals it represents to him of academic excellence and political honesty, he is drawn passionately to Pauline. He knows in his bones that he can't have it both ways, that if he chooses Pauline, he can kiss his future at the college good-bye. In Malamud's real life, he managed to extricate himself from a dead-end academic life through an act of will, single-mindedly producing works of high literary merit, while supporting his family on a modest instructor's salary. I wouldn't have known or cared about this reality behind the curtain of art as a boy, but now it offers a whole different dimension to my understanding of the relationship between life and art. I was once myself a college teacher, at the University of Iowa in the late 1960's and early '70's, trying to write while supporting my family. But my personal life was not nearly so remarkable as Malamud's.
In answer to the question "why do you believe they're coming to the United States and even Massachusetts," Hodgson replied:
"Well, I don’t think there’s any question why they’re coming. And it’s been verified by the EPIC report done by the El Paso Intelligence Center. It was leaked out several months ago.
And what they learned in this report was that, in 2012, when the president signed the DACA act (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), there’s an immediate correlation between that signing of the DACA and the sudden influx by the thousands of unaccompanied minors coming here.
And in that report, they interviewed 230 individuals who came here illegally. Of the 230, 219 said: The reason I came here was because I was told I could stay.
And we know that the homicides are down in all three of those countries, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. We also know that there was no sudden change in the culture or the atmosphere within those countries. So the surge was directly related to the president’s new policy."
And I think if you look at the surge in numbers, it’s pretty amazing that we have had 37,000 children placed in foster care [between] January 1 [and] July 31 of this year. That didn’t just suddenly have some change in those countries. They have had problems in those countries for a long time. So to suggest that suddenly we’re seeing 90,000 come across, now next year possibly 145,000, that this is some sudden, dramatic shift in the danger within those countries, it’s just not so."
There is right now . . . almost a 400,000-case backload for these unaccompanied children that are now being booked into dockets of 2017. So we need to get the law changed and have them treated the same as we do with the illegal Mexicans coming across.
The other thing we need to do is . . . do what law enforcement has been asking for — for two decades, secure the borders. Bring the Israelis in, talk to our people, build the sophisticated kinds of systems that they have in place . . . like law enforcement has been asking. We have our boots on the ground. We know what the problem is.
And, thirdly, if we’re going to deal with the administrative process, we need to send more administrative judges to the border. Don’t ship people who are going to have administrative hearings all over our country, at the expense of taxpayers. Keep them there. Get the judges down there and let them do these cases. If you have to do them around the clock, like they do in Pennsylvania for regular court cases, then do them around the clock. But we need to process these people and get them right back if they’re entitled to a hearing, until such time as the law is changed.
I don't want any swingers out there to get the wrong impression. Hunks and studs don't turn me on, but I thought this shot might get your attention. I assume it's not a constructed photo (placing the head on a body--a little trick you see now sometimes on the web), since Tom Selleck was one of Hollywood's most attractive and well-constructed male lead actors, known primarily for his Magnum P.I. television series. Female fans undoubtedly found him irresistible, but I'm sure he generated interest on both sides of the aisle.
Fair warning: I'm not a fan of Tom Selleck The Man. And this isn't a political piece. We can have disagreements about what people think about entertainers "in their real lives" but that doesn't, in my opinion, have any affect on what we may or should think about their artistic accomplishments.
Back in the day when Magnum P.I. was on television (the series ran from 1980-1988, and was Selleck's "breakthrough" role), I must admit to not have been impressed with his acting skills, or indeed the show itself, which I regarded as an exploitation production--exploiting the star's good looks, the character's laid-back life-style, exploiting the tropical scenic values of Hawaii, and generally providing the sort of low-grade pop entertainment typical of television shows of that time--one part surfer dude cruising the island beach scene, and one part dumb crime solving. Not a formula destined to achieve immortality.
Nonetheless, actors can occasionally "grow up"--not just in the sort of roles they are likely to play, but in the skills they hone over the length of a career. As an early middle-aged heart-throb playboy (Selleck was 35 when he began his Magnum run), his acting skills were pretty limited. He could smile, he could frown, he could show mild irony, and he could run athletically across the beach sand. But that was just about his full range.
Imagine my surprise, when, just a few years back, I saw the first installment of the Jesse Stone franchise, based on the novels of the late Robert Parker. Jesse Stone is a complicated man, unlike the earlier Magnum character. He carries a load of trouble from his past, and is a depressed loner with a private code of honor. He doesn't get close to people, and spends a lot of time alone. You might think that this sort of character would be beyond Selleck's range as an actor, but you'd be wrong. Something happened between the end of the Magnum period (1988) , and the first Jesse Stone TV movie in 2005: Tom Selleck the actor grew up.
You always figured that Selleck's career would go the way of similar kinds of TV actors. He'd do another private eye or "soldier of fortune" series or two, and age out gracefully in his early Sixties. He certainly didn't need the money. But Selleck wasn't done. He had more to do.
Most straight Hollywood heavies over the last 30 years have been smaller men, intense, quirky and unpredictable: actors like Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris. These actors could carry a heavy load in a movie, but they tended to turn straight acting tasks into complex, eccentric versions of themselves, often at the expense of the narrative thematic material they used. They were all good, but they weren't the classic "big jacket" types who could fill out a powerful character with subtlety and understated technique (like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, George C. Scott, Charlton Heston, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper).
Selleck might be compared to actors such as Sean Connery, Russell Crowe, or Clint Eastwood. Or even perhaps Tom Hanks. But we wouldn't be making this comparison, if Selleck hadn't upped the ante. Selleck's Jesse Stone is a brooding, thoughtful, emotionally subtle persona, with real depth. He's able to convey delicate shades of sensibility with small, economic gestures and movements and intonations of voice. Like Parker's deft dialogue scenes, he transmits irony and frustration and amusement with deft pacing and queues. Physically, Selleck is big, but fit, but there's no attempt to make him seem physically dominating.
It isn't easy to bring life to a character who speaks little, and thinks a lot. Private investigators in fiction tend to speculate and calculate--they're figuring out plots and uncovering secrets. But cinema is about action. The Jesse Stone franchise doesn't rely on action, or violence, or big slushy romantic entanglements. It's all about poise and negotiation and authenticity. Stone can wrestle and even kill when he has to, but he's a little like Richard Boone in Have Gun Will Travel, who would "prefer to avoid violence" but is fully prepared to engage in it, should the need be.
Sellect communicates this sense of fortitude and smoldering resentment barely held in check. Frustrated in not being able to make it to the big leagues as a pro ball player, betrayed by his x-wife, fired from his job as a police investigator, he's a refugee from fate, without self-pity, and without excuses, too crusty to admit weakness, but smart enough to know when he's wrong, and still committed to getting the bad guys, while not allowing himself to be seduced into bureaucratic corruption, no matter how petty.
Alone with his depression, sipping scotch and talking with Reggie, his Golden Retriever, isolated on a little islet house connected to land with a narrow-walkway, he perseveres in his campaign against his own hopelessness and the evil that threatens to eat away at the picturesque idyllic little seaside community he watches over.
Now, in the television series Blue Bloods [2010- ], in which he plays New York City Police Commissioner, he's expanded his new range with an even larger character, one not only with a difficult past, but with complex, public, and significant issue-driven tests. He's as good here, as he is in the Jesse Stone pictures, but perhaps a bit less attractive, since he's playing a high-profile urban executive, instead of a common man in a small place. It's no secret that some of Selleck's personal political points of view have found their way into these important dramatic productions. Self-reliance, shouldering tough burdens without giving up, and without compromising personal values--are clearly on the agenda. Selleck now produces the Jesse Stone series, so presumably it carries a fair load of his input.
Selleck is officially a political conservative, something of an anomaly in Hollywood. A case could certainly be made that Blue Bloods is about supporting your local police department. But the Jesse Stone franchise--currently on its ninth iteration--is just very good entertainment, with very good acting. It's quietly raised the standard for the generic noir whodunit. It's easy to get hooked on, so embark at your peril. You might fall in love with this guy.
What is a "traditional cocktail"? Of what would such a recipe consist?
Tradition is what we make it, the constantly unweaving or weaving (raveling or unraveling?), unfolding present, which is being in process, or becoming.
Traditional cocktails are always going to taste familiar because they are part of our immutable past. We can't change the past, so we can't change what traditional means, except by deliberately altering versions of past practice and formulae, through experiment and accident and testing. New combinations. Different approaches.
The spirits that have been invented by humankind are givens: They were developed over time, and we have inherited these prototypical substances through sheer passivity. They are what we've inherited. Whisky, tequila, gin, rum, brandy, vodka, aquavit--these are the classic "goods" from which all variations of mixture derive. They are the foundation upon which the taste pyramid--if you will--is built. The number of such variations isn't infinite, of course, but the numbers of possible permutations is vastly expandable, simply through minor variations in proportion.
Tradition is also popularity--the acknowledgment that one or another taste is very satisfying, or desirable. A Lemon Drop or a Rusty Nail aren't simply familiar because someone made them up and gave them a snappy logo, they're popular because they satisfy a universal quality of taste.
The following mixture uses ingredients whose basic flavors are wholly familiar, which is to say anyone who drinks recognizes them. The combination of bourbon and Drambuie (a proprietary orange flavored liqueur) is familiar as the Rusty Nail, mentioned above, but with the addition of these other flavors, it is only vaguely "reminiscent" of that familiar taste. Supposing no one had ever before tried combining bourbon and Drambuie; then what we know as the Rusty Nail would not exist.
It may be that most of the "easy" combinations have all been tried, at one time or another, and that the contemporary trend toward "flavored" bitters, spicing and so forth, is just an obvious symptom of the exhaustion of possible combinations of the usual spirit goods we know. The challenge, with cocktail mixes, as in life, is to find the novel or unique version that can capture attention and enter the permanent collection of desirable choices.
A great cocktail is like a poem. Its ingredients may be familiar, but the way it's constructed, its specific combinations make it unique. We can paraphrase its qualities, but the actual experience is always more compelling than the explanation, the alembic of its effect. If we could package poetry, the way we do liquor--bottle its essence, preserve it and market it in abbreviated form--we could make a bundle. But there are no shortcuts to healthy experience. Sex and eating and swimming, and drinking a perfect cocktail at 5 PM can't be captured and made more convenient, can't be duplicated or saved or prolonged through some device or potion.
So let's live and appreciate what there is, because our time is limited. Let's call this one, then, The Limited, since it reminds us of the fragility and ephemerality of life, passing us by. Like the little trays passing before us on the sushi conveyer track, decked out with clever arrangements of fish and rice and vegetable concoctions, we have to select. And so we shall.
3 parts Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 part madeira
1 part amaro
1 part 151 rum
1 part fresh lemon juice
1/2 part Drambuie
All ingredients (by proportion) shaken and served up into chilled cocktail glasses.