Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Moving Pictures

Betty is moving this week, and boy is it stressful! Why the stuff that comes with us everywhere we go? Let's just face it - books are security blankets that weigh considerably more than animal shapes or your name stitched in dirty soft cotton when you're hauling them all around.


Her new digs (pictured) feature quite a beautiful bedroom window brushed with tall tree branches and the wind. And there's nothing stressful about that.

Monday, October 30, 2006


I have never actually read a book by Armistead Maupin, but I have no doubt that his work was based on my apartment building. Meet my neighbors--I'll call them Perry and Stu. An older couple with matching white beards, Stu favors pajama pants and flowing skirts as his principal attire, while Perry likes to flit around the building in a thigh-length bathrobe. They are friendly with an unlikely assortment of neighborhood characters, one of whom stole my friend's bike out of the lobby a few weeks ago. Perry and Stu were most apologetic and have cut off communication with the man. They were also quite insistent that their names not be released to the police. They love to chat, and just this afternoon they took Aaron and I through a scene-by-scene analysis of "Suddenly, Last Summer," the Tennessee Williams/Katherine Hepburn/Elizabeth Taylor/Montgomery Clift classic. Now, I'm a fan of this movie myself, but I'm afraid to say that my generalized recollections of certain memorable scenes paled in comparison to their finely detailed reading of its many, many, many, many layers of filmic meaning.

They have a collection of 2,000 films on tape and have invited us over for a viewing. Most of them were taped off of television since Stu prefers the abridged versions. Our relationship is only just starting to flower, so I'll keep you posted.

Addendum to the Previous Post


Friday, October 27, 2006

Under Pressure

Betty LOVES Halloween... as a seasonally uncertain, slightly hallucinogenic, and sweetly eerie night in the streets for kids. In fact, she thinks trick or treating is suburbia's one night of glory, when children can roam wild and all doors are open to them. New York halloweens are also refreshing, when whole apartment buildings become a child's sugary playhouse.

Betty resists the Hannukah-ization (read: universalization of a children's holiday) of Halloween for many reasons, and now even more that she and Bimbo find themselves under pressure to come up with a costume for three or more parties over the weekend. Betty thinks we should all just get together and wait for the kids with the itchy face paint and itchier sweaters and plastic pumpkin buckets and sticky fingers to show up, but no. We grown-ups have to hog and interfere in the action, and with no small trace of irony and exhibitionism. Why don't we all just act like children all the time??

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The News from Iberia

The Encyclopedia of Spanish in the World, published each year by the Instituto Cervantes, has some surprising news for Hispanophiles this year. According to Madrid's El Pais of Oct. 19, 2006, the newest edition of the Encyclopedia reveals that Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez have surpassed Miguel de Cervantes in Internet searches for Spanish-language writers.

The breakdown, for those of you keeping score at home:

Neruda 34%
GGM 15%
Cervantes 14%
Borges 8%

In visual arts, Picasso and Dalí run away with it:

Bald head 45%
Funny moustache 29%
Goya 7%
Miró 7%

As far as overall "Spanish icons" go, that is, "cultural icons who represent Spain in the realm of the arts", the results are more, ahem, "diverse":

Picasso- more that 150,000 hits
Dalí - more than 100,000 hits
Julio Iglesias- 52,000 hits
Antonio Banderas - 45,000 hits

Does the fact that Latin American writers have surpassed the author of "El Quijote" tell us more about the end of Empire than we already knew? Does this survey confirm, more than anything, that the Internet IS the Encyclopedia of the 21st century? All Betty has to add is: "Pedro and Penélope were robbed!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bimbo Recommends: The Monkey Wrench Gang

Bimbo has not been so excited about a book in a long time! This pulpy yarn of youth and eco-terrorism's got him hooked, even as it devolves, or evolves, into a no-frills action thriller in the last 50 pages. He can't put it down, even when the World Series should be calling, even when it doesn't fit in his jacket pocket on nippy days. Bimbo believes a new movie treatment is long overdue, but where is it? He might have to write it himself.

Cleveland, Milwaukee, Chicago, oh my!

Thanks to all our contributors this week! Your posts are stimulating and really put "contribute" back in the word.

Betty is now in D.C. with her floppy dog. This trip was excellent, truly philosophically challenging, inspiring and beautiful because Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago are all BEAUTIFUL cities. She'd like to give a special shout-out to Milwaukee for defying all her expectations:

You are great, Milwaukee.

There is so much to tell about and digest. In Milwaukee, she saw beautiful old houses with unemployed people living in them. She saw the lake shore and vacant sites where factories once sat, as big as towns. She saw many people with no jobs, the abandoned Pabst factory and its abandoned gift shop, people struggling and living. People are trying to make it work again - will the green energy industry become the new economic engine? This is the trip where Betty realized a service economy is not sustainable, or is only sustainable in a climate where extreme exploitation goes unchecked. The U.S. has to make things, too, and pay people as it prospers from unique, indispensible products.

In Chicago, she and Bimbo loved the Art Institute and "The Bean" at Millenium Park. They ate Swedish pancakes in Andersonville, and then Betty and a friend saw old graves in Rosehill Cemetary and gay softball teams laughing and watching football at a friendly bar. Chicago is welcoming and laid back and the home of one of Betty's favorite people - for our purposes, let's just call him Marvin the Martian- and the two of them had adventures that included a trip to the Chicago Police Station at 18th and State, and a colorful bus ride on the way!

And the best detail (or the second best, after the red circus train in Cleveland that wound through town when Betty opened her first window): Depending on the winds, several streets in downtown Chicago smell like deep dark CHOCOLATE, thanks to a factory not far away. Why isn't this smell as famous as the winds that spread it around, deliciously?

Nancy D. Recommends: The Frisco Kid

Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford co-star in this H&H (hilarious and heartwarming) comedy about a Polish rabbi and an outlaw bankrobber trekking across the Wild West on a journey to San Francisco in 1850, where Wilder has been sent to start a congregation. My favorite part is when they are spending an evening with an Indian tribe and the chief asks the rabbi why his god won't send rain if he is powerful enough to do so. The answer: "It's not his department!"

As true a distillation of Judaism as I've ever heard.

More sports predictions: Giants-Colts Super Bowl

According to another of my sports sources, Little Dollface, it appears that the Manning bros will be facing off in the Super Bowl.

Or it could be that he's just high off of last night's Monday Night Football victory. Me, I think it's just not the same without Hank Williams Jr.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It rhymes!

I am back with some more engineering poetry. This one has more potential to annoy people with its silliness. Let's see what happens. The topic: a little Boston infrastructure. It's a relic, but one of my favorites.

O! Silver Line

In real life you may never be built
But you occupy our days with your bedrock and silt.
The yuppies downtown make a scene with their fusses,
So we toil away on new routes for your busses.
Your noble purpose, to eliminate
The red-green-blue transfer to Logan, is great -
But alas, the governing forces won't pay
For rails to keep Roxbury protests at bay.
So we press on, hour after hour.
We won't quit until every basement is scoured
And we've drafted profile revisions by the pound...
Maybe then we'll at last see this tunnel break ground.

-September 2004
(But I believe the spirit of the
poem rings true to this day.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This Land is Cleveland!

Betty had a fun day in Cleveland today - maybe TOO much fun, as all she did was visit the Rock n' Roll hall of fame (a sweet but random, cluttered, and overwhelming relic of the nineties, much too worried about pleasing everybody) (while paradoxically overexposing two-hit blah bands like the Jefferson Airplane and the Mamas and the Papas) (and offering zero musicological or social analysis) (but I used to be way more into outfits and iconography, it's still fun) and eat at a delicious Italian restaurant overlooking three or more beautiful old bridges. This is a handsome city, with tons of leafy trees, industrial beauty, unobtrusive flat geology yielding a giant dome of sky, and barely any people.

Cleveland has the infrastructure of a city three times its size, publicly owned utilities, great public art and music and libraries and transportation, and pretty bi-racial neighborhoods.

Still, the population - especially the white population - continues to shrink, with no immigrant population stepping in with new energy and politics. "Detroit is bombed-out; Cleveland is in decline. It's a small but significant difference," Betty was told by someone who's lived here 38 years.

People in Cleveland are exceptionally loyal to their non-corporate stadiums (including "Cleveland Browns Stadium" and Jacobs Field) and the teams that still fill them. Who will come and make this city bustle more? Not long ago, Cleveland was the sixth biggest city in the U.S.A. And did you know that large parts of Southern Ohio are true Appalachia?

The people Betty did see were a wonderful, veteren interracial couple who organize for social movements and a progressive political voice in the Ohio state senate. They met while peacefully desegregating the Ohio public schools in 1978! Sometimes Betty believes she really has the best job in the world. It's also a job that makes other peoples' jobs seem like the best jobs in the world.

Tomorrow she is an an American, Chicago (and Bimbo) bound...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Civic Duty

With the election coming up, does anyone else feel torn about the things they think they should be voting for? Take Proposition 1D, out here in California, a $43 billion bond measure to improve public school facilities. I'm all for fixing up the schools. But I'm not for funding everything with bonds just because Californians can't stomach raising taxes. What sense does it make to borrow everything and pay it back many times over for the next several decades?

I don't want to shock my East Coast friends, but the governor's race is even tougher. Phil Angelides seems like a nice guy and all, and he says he'll raise taxes on the wealthy and support labor, but he's not looking that impressive in comparison to anti-global warming crusader Schwarzenegger. The man had the Democratic assembly speaker crying tears of joy when he signed the historic legislation last month. Sure, during the debate he taunted Angelides by saying he gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about raising taxes, but would limp old Phil have been able to stand up to business interests that threaten to mire the state in lawsuits for the next 20 years? I just don't know, friends, I just don't know.

Voting is about as fun as eating overcooked brussel sprouts.

P.S. Angelides also isn't looking very impressive because, well, the polls suggest he is sure to lose. Maybe I've developed an alpha-male complex?

NYM = Nervous Young Men

Come on, Mets! I'm talking to YOU, David Wright! Or should I say "Da-Rod"?! Just kidding!

But Look Alive, Wright Stuff: you're cute, classy and cutthroat, so in the name of Mookie Wilson bring it on!

Let's go, team! You're young, you're quick, you hit and you push out runs from all the slots in a spirited line-up. You've got twinkle-toes on those basepaths, fools! And two Carloses! So what the hell's the problem???

Maybe you need to just forget it's the postseason, and play (and the Mets really play baseball, not like the grizzled Yankees) like it's the 2006 party you invited the whole world to six months ago! So somebody hand me a f*$@%ing drink!


Sox to trade Manny? Heard it here first

I just got this email from my friend Swame Baba, who is a renowned amateur baseball strategist and Fantasy Baseball King. He's also a Sox fan, which I try not to hold against him.

In any event, I give his predictions some weight, so I thought I'd air this one here:
Prediction: We're going to trade Manny to Philly and get Burrel and some others in exchange.

Rational: Manny and Charlie Manuel are best friends from Cleveland and Burrel has a great OBP (despite a low batting average) and the BoSox want to give Magadan someone to work with who has 40 HR power.

I think it goes something like this:

Manny and the willingness to eat some of his contract for Burrel and Wolf or maybe Hamels?

That then gives us money to play with to get some more pitching. It almost makes too much sense.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Betty Recommends: Sports Radio

Betty and Bimbo have traded their NPR on workday mornings for the somehow louder sounds of ESPN Radio. Since neither of us follow any pro sport beyond baseball, this may seem a curious choice, but it's proved rewarding. Like blogs, sports radio shows demonstrate how infinite conversation fodder may be squeezed from the most finite of topics, and how we looove to judge things we can't control.

From sports radio shows, you get all your information in the form of an opinion. Every host and caller is obsessed with identifying what's "classy" and "sportsmanlike" versus what's "politically incorrect", "offensive", or "not in the spirit of the game" and whether or not one can "see where [insert outspoken athlete/coach/sportswriter/broadcaster's name here] is coming from." Refreshingly, women callers are treated the same as men, as long as they stick to this formula. And it's amazing to hear how far callers all over the country can go with these few thoughts. These shows last for hours, and because of the infinite variations callers bring to these orgies of soft moralizing, they are really fun to listen to, almost like meeting lots of brazen new friends (and then getting to judge them!). The downside is there are too many ads.

This morning's highlight: On EPSN's "Mike and Mike" show, a caller was debating the host about whether or not it was ok for college football players to trample with their cleats on fallen, injured opponents. The host's take? Such behavior - "albeit in a brawl" - is simply not in the spirit of the game.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lunch-hour Headphonics with Justin Timberlake

Before I tell you what's so loopy and great about this album, let's just make sure we all understand this is a JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE joint. If you don't go in for synthetic pop music with stretchy ryhmes, dreams of "toes in the sand", and singing that trades freely with squealing, you will not like this album.

HOWEVER, this album is awesome. What Timbaland does with controls and sounds is exactly what the springtime does with the earth: he makes something attractive, whips it into a frenzy, then lays it out to dry. And what other male singer but JT would allow himself to be so completely sonically manhandled, and then leave such a unique touch of songwriting and sensibility? His childish words ("Girl, you amaze me!") contrast refreshingly with Timbaland's rougher vocal cameos, and his simple melodies draw from the best tradition of recent pop: **the Bach counterpoint/robot bridge***. See the bridges of "Toxic" (where Britney sings high and you can't understand what she's saying) and "Cry Me a River" ("You. Don't. Have. To. Say./What. You. Did!...) for further proof of the brilliance of this musical tactic.

At first, I HATED the title, "FutureSex/LoveSounds", which sounds like contrived Prince mush. But then I heard the first track, "FutureSex/LoveSound" and changed my mind. First of all, the song is totally brilliant, and could have been conceived by Radiohead. Therefore, the first few times you hear this song you will have NO IDEA what the hell is going on. And guess what! This turns out to be true for most of the album, which has so many layers of loops (some of which sound like little battery-operated forest creatures) and other insanity-filtered sounds that it's hard to believe the whole thing is about the connection between romantic love and sex.

This connection is, for most people, of an importance, vitality, and centrality to their lives that is hard to understate, but think of how little it gets articulated in pop these days. I'm not saying pop songwriters are at a loss for new conceits, just that they've strayed away from this, the most basic and best of conceits: more often than not, falling in love IS falling in lust, and vice versa. Oh, there are songs of compulsion and lust like Toxic and lame songs of love like My Heart Will Go On but what about songs that blend both sentiments equally and gracefully? I haven't heard one since I Want to Hold Your Hand. "And when I touch you I feel happy inside/It's such a feeling that my love I CAN'T HIDE!!!". I think we all know what's going on here.

But I digress - this album is just crazy and you should hear it. JT's singing is often high-pitched, his lyrics are usually cheezy or just weird (but this can be a plus, for example "I'm bringing sexy back," which makes a lost-in-translation kind of anti-sense, the way Britney did when she sang "I cry watching the days")(and there's a song called "Chop Me Up") (and a song called "Losing My Way" where Justin sings from the perspective of a crackhead - seriously.), but it's my favorite album ever today.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Different Genre

Well, if you have ever wanted to read poems about soil and construction projects, this is now the place. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that poetry of this type has been posted on the internet. I've always thought engineers needed more creativity and whimsy in their daily lives, which is why I started writing poems about dirt, but perhaps this way I can also gently enrich the lives of creative people by throwing a little engineering their way...

The problem with these poems is that sometimes you might not know what they are talking about, but I don't want to go through too much explanation because then the language doesn't speak for itself anymore. I'll try to find a good balance, and include pictures where applicable.

I'll start with a couple basic haikus about construction equipment.

Impact Hammer

Massive crimson beast
Steel pile frozen in terror
Up, up, up, ka-CHUNK


Ruthless wheel of steel
Loose fill becomes solid ground
No air void survives

Friday, October 13, 2006


Post your topical thoughts to Betty and Bimbo's blog today! Look, it's easy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Betty Recommends: The "Up" Series

Betty LOVES these movies, and feels corny about them, but they are not corny. You learn so much about yourself from watching them.

For beginners: the "Up" series follows a group of British people from different social classes and upbringings through their entire lives, checking in with them every seven years in a film. Betty has the whole series on DVD, but was shocked at how shocked she could still be by such a quiet, restrained study after she saw the latest installment - "49 Up" last night. This is why she lives in New York City.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Reflections on a "Nice Little Season"

Betty is hiding out in D.C. this weekend, nursing the end of a baseball season.

Though she's attracted to the fierce youth of Detroit and the joy of Willie Randolph, Carlos & Carlos, and David Wright's Mets, she's still bitter about the Yankees.

The New York Times really laid it on thick today, which Betty appreciates. The Yankees don't go out to have a "nice little season" or to offer a "humanitarian" lift to downtrodden Detroit. "Now begins their season of blame," announced Tyler Kepner.

Bimbo recommends the Yanks conduct a "spiritual analysis" of themselves before lifting a finger. It seems little intellectual energy is being devoted to spreading funds around and investing in players with character and the ability to fit into a greater vision than themselves. This year's postseason line-up may have been feared at first, but in the end it delivered little more satisfaction than a disconnected greatest-hits album.

Betty has some suggestions below, but let's heed Bimbo's point and recall that this team should have been able to at least HIT, and instead they choked. Something beyond strategy is at play here, and only sedating or surpassing that something can turn this team around.

That said, the Bombers would be wise to remember that their greatest talent is always homegrown, not imported: Jeter, Cano, Bernie, Matsui, Melky, Mariano, Posada (not to mention Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle). And some of their greatest postseason heroes have been pretty pedestrian, everyday guys, not celebatters and throwers: think Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, and Tino Martinez.

Betty enjoys the high standards to which the Yankees hold themselves, so why not unload A-Rod and play a little Moneyball, skipping the discarded fallen stars and going straight for the unknown young talent? The Mets, A's and Tigers got it right. Let's catch up this winter, in time for next fall.

THAT said, congratulations Yankees (especially Jeter, Cano, and Wang), for winning your division, and for bringing so much happiness, for a time, to all your fans.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Poem from the Spanish Renasissance

On my flowering bosom,
meant only for him, kept for him alone,
he rested his head to sleep,
and I with love caressed him,
and the swaying cedars sent a breeze for him.

The wind from the battlements
when I loosed his hair and smoothed it, unbound,
with serene and tranquil hand,
struck my neck, pierced and wounded it,
dimming and suspending my senses.

I stayed there, self forgotten,
lowered my face, leaning over my lover,
all things ceased, self abandoned,
abandoning all my care
that lies, forgotten, there among the lilies.

- From Song II: The Dark Night, San Juan de La Cruz (1542-1591), new translation by Edith Grossman (c) 2006. More.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

David Corn, Anti-Gay McCarthyist?

I am deeply upset to see people like the Nation's David Corn whipping up curiosity about the notion of "The List" - a supposed list of closeted gay aides to major Republican members of Congress. This is happening, sadly, in the aftermath of the Mark Foley affair, a serious and terrible incident that should provoke us not to discuss anyone's sexuality but only their propensity (or lack theirof) for child abuse.

Corn even quotes an unnamed source as writing the following to him:

The fact that some of the GOP gay guys are worried about a right-wing backlash against them is very telling. Their existence in all of these Hill offices would certainly explain (to the right-wingers) the total lack of legislative progress on most of the Christian/social conservative issues. I'd be pissed if I had a social conservative agenda that hadn't been addressed and suddenly it became clear, like now, who might have been subtly blocking it.

And then adds his own two cents:
That's another dimension that had not occurred to me--and another reason to wonder how messy this might get.

I'm sorry, but it is not secret gay congressional aides who are stopping the Republican Congress from winning victories in the culture war - and to suggest so or even muse approvingly of the suggestion does smack of an odd-twist on McCarthyism - ie, "I have here a list of secret gays in the Government who are exerting their power behind the scenes!"

I don't care if the agenda is to allow a supposedly pro-gay Democratic Party (most of whose members of congress are entirely unwilling to stand up and be counted as supporting full equality for LGBT people) to win back the House and/or Senate - Corn is making the Foley affair about homosexuality, as much as he insists the contrary. The ends definitely do not justify the means.

And if anyone wants a more plausible explanation to why the GOP doesn't produce that often for the religious right (aside from the clear achievements of a partial birth abortion ban, the Defense of Marriage Act signed by Bill Clinton, and Justices Alito and Roberts), they might look to Thomas Frank, who theorizes in What's the Matter with Kansas that, if the culture war is won too thoroughly, the Religious Right won't have a reason to keep voting.

If the Democrats and their allies on the blogosphere keep the focus on Hastert's coverup, and the Republicans right-wing agenda more broadly, and forget talking about anyone's sexuality, than maybe they will come out of this awful debacle without any shame.

"Landmark to Be Imploded in Coming Weeks"

When you enter New Haven from the North, the first images greeting you are thick white outlines: a figure skater with her head cocked back in mid-spin, a guitar god with a mullet, a monster truck, a charging yet friendly hockey player. These are the blank, comical, but still alluring "faces" of the New Haven Veteren's Memorial Coliseum.

Christopher Schuck, 34, a New Haven native, described these expressive silhouettes as the most exotic visuals going his (beloved) town. This view is arguable (What about the old-school Town Green? And those weird Gothic dorms?), but Betty understands the possibility of transcendence they promise.

(Who do you think designed these urban reference points, and when?)

Koko and Betty have been following the Coliseum's potential demise for years now. Betty even oversaw the design of magazine cover depicting the hockey player, skater, monster truck, et. al. bidding farewell to New Haven back in 2002!

Last year, about half of the Coliseum was knocked down, leaving it like a ruin. Koko recalls Mayor John DeStefano's unceremonious wrecking ball accident of 2005: he lost control of his machine, then swiped off a chunk of the Knights of Columbus building across the street.

Does this month really mean the end? Betty won't believe it till she can't see it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mawwage is what brings us together

Koko has a new article in the Providence Phoenix about the Massachusetts Trial Court decision on Friday that enabled lesbian and gay couples from Rhode Island to go and marry in the Bay State.

The ruling came after Gov. Mitt Romney, who is working hard to get the Jerry-Falwell-foaming-at-the-mouth vote in the Republican primaries for President in 2008, used a 1913 law originally passed to stop interracial out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts, in an attempt to keep out-of-state LGBT couples out now.

So, as Mitt mourned his loss, LGBT activists in Rhode Island cut the cake and raised their glasses of sparkling cider.

And the culture wars roll on.

He's Jeter Than the Rest

DJ went 5 for 5 (!!!) last night with a curtain-call home run. He is just the greatest. His fielding was also terrific - he ended the game on a tricky fast double play - AND he got covered in dirt and slid into second headfirst at least once.

Despite his dorky suits off the field, he is still the best spokesman the team has, tied with Torre. And even getting tagged out in a pickle/rundown, he moves like liquid or light!

Betty's Pick: Yankees over Tigers in 4 (if Randy can keep it together).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chien-Ming Wang Day!

It's Chien-Ming Wang Day, as the Yankees take on the Tigers, a team less raw and scary than the Twins. Betty (Cano) and Bimbo (Matsui) will watch this game from Wang's first pitch in their souvenir t-shirts.

The Yankees finished the season 97-65 (that's a heartstopping .599 winning percentage) atop the AL East. This is old news; still, it didn't look good in July.

But hey, it's now party time! Jeter and Cano came in second and third in the AL batting title race, which is cool because the guy who won is a catcher. But best of all, Matsui and Sheffield returned at full strength and glory, and Torre unintentionally mocked the inadequacy of other teams' line-ups by plopping Sheffy at first. Oh, and Chien-Ming Wang won 19 games. He'll start the Yankees post-season tonight.

Betty and Bimbo harbor fantasies that Wang returns at night to an impossibly high studio apartment where soft dust hovers in the light from a single window. He has a cot, a pile of books, a lamp, a rice cooker and some pots, two free weights and birds that perch and coo on the sill. All he thinks about is pitching. This vision is false, but it's how he throws.

See you tonight, C-Dub.