Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Special Dispatch from Little Diamond Island, Maine

Frequent Betty & Bimbo commentator and all-around wonder woman Moo filed the following report this morning:

Gabriela and I set the alarm for 5:30am but at 5am
Pocho started racing all around the house...so he and
I went out to daddy's point and the whole bay was
dark. I called the Z's and, Zerner pretended I had
woken him up, Libby said she had a view form Cityview
avenue, so Pocho and I got Yittle Hun up and then got
Lib and went to the dock. We were the only ones

It was beautiful and amazing, the sun behind us was
like a Turner painting and the lunar eclipse over
Portland was eerie and mysterious, then we had a "rosy
fingered dawn" and walked home very pleased

ah nature.....

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Life Lists

There is an interesting story about the phenomenon of the life list in this Sunday's New York Times Styles section. Betty is often disappointed by the lack of rigor she observes in this section, but here the writer has really hit a nerve. It's a trend piece for the ages.

Betty has never made a life list, nor can she think what she might put on one. Have you ever made a life list? Should we all give it a try, and share the results?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Co-love and Betty recommmmmend: Hairspray

Betty and Co-love just finished watching the 1988 version of Hairspray after having seen the 2007 version on the big screen. We enjoyed the more outrageous antics and hair of the original, as well as the vintage music. However, we still appreciate the wonderful and more profesional performances of the new one, including John Travolta, Zac Efron, and Michelle Pfeiffer who updated 3 roles that were originally played by non-actors. Both versions are worth seeing to compare. If you like wacky and silly, we recommend the first. But, if you like slick and Disney-ful, the second one is better.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bimbo's Favorite Video in the World

Bimbo found this video (and more!) of Charlie the Karate Chimp on YouTube and can't stop watching it in awe and inspiration. By the way, he found it by looking for "Pac Man", which gave him a video of "chimp playing pac man" (also inspirational) which led to the wonder you now behold. How can anybody watch this and still say we aren't related to monkeys? Somebody needs to get YouTube into the Kansas State House, on the double.

By the way, Betty and Bimbo highly recommend the seed that started all this YouTubing, a wonderful and intense documentary called "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters". Check it out for some extremely raw psychological portraiture and totally rad vintage arcade games.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Trip to Build a Dream On

Betty, Bimbo, and Cocoa have touched down in New York, glowing from their week in Maine, which is still the Way Life Should Be.

They got to hang with lots of Bloggers while they were there: Betty savored nachos, music, summer ocean views, all kinds of ice cream, and campaign work with Koko the Clown and Obamarama, and theatrical parlor games galore with Little Hun, Speed McQueen, and Nancy D., Girl Detective.

With Obamarama, Betty visited Red's Dairy Freeze in South Portland three times. Sadly, no doubt remains: the quality of our favorite "ice cream" has definitely gone downhill, and requires increasing volumes of candy and whipped topping to neutralize its metallic chemical charge. But some things associated with Red's never change: Scary Jesus is still Scary Jesus.

Here are Cocoa and her Papi on the high seas!

We love Maine very much. And we'll be back soon. Michael Brennan's exciting campaign for progressive change in Betty's home state is heating up -- just like those peerless nachos at the Great Lost Bear down the block.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer Syllabi

On the eve of her first real vacation in two years [Ed. Note: What is wrong with Ed.???], Betty is remembering great summer reading experiences. She reads so much less fiction these days, and connects this loss to the loss of her long, boring, beautiful summers. Maybe she needs to make every season into a summer in her mind. Starting this fall!

Surprisingly, though, Betty experienced many of her most memorable summer reads vicariously: Nancy D. devoting an hour a day to Gone with the Wind, Papi shifting into "summer fiction mode" on themes like British or Irish or Latin American or Arab world literature, Gaby getting into The Grapes of Wrath, Mami requesting White Teeth, and finishing it overnight (so it seemed).

Betty's own summer reads tended to be a little less classic, but no less fun. She remembers well the visceral snake-like prose of Joyce Carol Oates' Blonde, Barry Williams' oft-thumbed autobiography, Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg, and Julio Cortazar's pocket-sized novella about Charlie Parker, El Perseguidor (The Pursuer), a treasured gift from one Venus Infers.

What are your favorite summer reading memories? What are you reading this summer?

The Cutest Trotters

[Ed. Note: Photos are only visible using Firefox. And they're worth it!]

There are so many sweet animals ready to devote their soulful stare, attentive ears, furry bellies and generous hearts to a human friend who will be worthy of such loyalty and steadfast love. Betty had the great luck to spend time with two of them today.

Out of the really painful howls and terrified eyes of the pound, Munchie and Sessin emerged. Both were found as strays in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. When no one claimed them after three days, Waggytail Rescue came in to take them to a more agreeable foster home, and clear up cages in the pound.

Despite having just met each other, they got along beautifully, snuggling up on the long subway ride (including transfers) from East Harlem to the Lower East Side, and trotting together like little reindeer when we got back on the pavement. Dogs are quick to seize the good in life, and go for it. These flexible, laid-back little muffins even spent the afternoon in a neighborhood bar! They are so sweet, giving, and good-tempered, Betty sees no way that they won't be adopted soon.

In other news, the new ad campaign from New York City Animal Care and Control is very powerful. It drives home the point that animals in city shelters are effectively in prison (and when overcrowding happens, on death row) by no fault of their own. Please consider giving of your time or your money to local animal shelter. Overcrowding has been a major problem in the New York City shelters this summer, to the point where even dogs like Munchie and Sessin are euthanized everyday.

Back in action...

Due to an internship on a political campaign that I was lucky enough to be involved with this summer, I experienced a rather lengthy absence from the blog (this was due in large part to the rules of the campaign.) Anyway, now that I'm back, I'd like to comment on what has become known as the "Michael Vick Scandal."

Now I don't condone dog fighting, in fact, the idea of pinning two dogs in a ring and making them attack each other strikes me as rather bizarre. Yet I wonder if the whole to-do around the Vick case isn't a little bit of an over reaction (or at least a misappropriation of our time as concerned citizens and sports fans.)

I am pleasantly surprised when I come across an article that points out the hypocrisy in condemning Vick when so many athletes commit far worse crimes against their own family members and simply get a "slap on the wrist" as their punishment. As my good friend Mike Bianchi from the Orlando Sentinel noted, "If only Michael Vick had been arrested for abusing women instead of dogs. He'd still be on the football field today. He'd still have the love and adoration of his fans. And, yes, he'd still have his Nike deal." Bianchi backs up his point rather well, pointing out that on the Tampa Bay Bucs alone, there are two players who have been arrested on domestic violence charges (one player, Michael Pittman, has been arrested four times on such charges, and his wife insisted many of his abusive streaks went unrecognized by the law.) So what was Pittman's punishment? Surely if Vick is told to stay away from training camp (and rumors now say that he will be suspended for the year) for allegedly dog fighting, Pittman must be banned for life, right? Wrong. Pittman served a three game suspension from the league for his latest arrest. Well, okay, so he couldn't have done something as bad as Vick, right? Wrong again. Pittman intentionally slammed his Hummer into a car carrying his wife and toddler. Good guy.

The astounding part about the whole incident with Vick is this: he hasn't been convicted of anything! Now he will probably agree to a plea deal today, and yes, he is probably guilty. But for the NFL to get on its moral high horse about Vick when they have for so long looked the other way when their players commit far worse crimes is ridiculous.

Of course the NFL has to look out for its best interests, so when a player commits a crime that hurts its shiny image, I don't blame them for covering their behinds. I only wish that spousal abuse by a "role model" was something that hurt the league's image.

Let's review, dog fighting=bad, spousal abuse=worse.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Point/Counterpoint: The Bourne Ultimatum

Bimbo: It's a perfect action film. It really is all about the action. It's all action, and it's never boring. It has a lot of emotional textures to it, within the action - it plays with fear, suspense, loyalty and identity. It's also an allegory about America. It's about trying to be a good American, struggling to get out of a culture that is inevitably violent. And you feel the action. You feel the impact of the movie's messages and textures through the action itself. The sequence in Tangiers - the best part of the movie - reminded me of "The Battle of Algiers". The moment of silence before Matt Damon crashes through the window; perfection!

Betty: I can't even evaluate this movie because I didn't understand this movie at all. Action is not a language. Guns are not a substitute for dialogue. Rather, they are a shortcut when you have nothing to say. This movie had barely any women in it, which is why it was so boring. Oh, and no humor. No one even smiled. And the flashback scenes were so cheesy - I think they were ripping off the Harry Potter movie.

Bimbo: Cut the snark, Betty. This isn't Gawker. I do not care to address any of your points. Why argue with someone not well versed in the idiom of action? This was the best action film since "Miami Vice".

Betty: "The idiom of action"?! Here we go again. You can't just call something an idiom to lend it legitimacy when in fact it fails to convey, confuses and butchers, all meaning.

Bimbo: OK, fine. I won't use fake film scholar language. But can I at least say the movie "sutures itself into your soul"? Where my film scholahs at?

Betty and Bimbo welcome your comments, and would like to offer a prize to anyone who can explain why this film is titled "The Bourne Ultimatum." There is no ultimatum in this film.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Giuliani Time Again?

Betty just finished watching Giuliani Time, which is not a particularly great movie. But given that Rudy is the Republican presidential front runner, perhaps you should see it!
The film raised a few issues that Betty wasn't aware of before. Here she will summarize them for you:

* New York's famous crime drop under Giuliani actually began during the final three years of the Dinkins mayoralty.
* The drop also coincided with drops in crime in cities all over the United States during the same period.
*Ditto for the city's economic boom under Giuliani.
* Giuliani is politically smart to take credit for both the crime drop and the economic boom, of course.
* The "broken windows theory" - which claims that aesthetic order is causally related to civic order - was explicitly the driving ideology behind both Guiliani terms.
* This theory was handed to Giuliani by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank funded by trustees of Philip Morris USA and Fortune Magazine, among others.
* Giuliani did away with the city's approximately 75 "squeegee guys", by making it a crime to wash peoples' car windows and solicit small tips for the service.
* Both times he was elected mayor, Giuliani garnered under 30% of the vote. [And he's leading the GOP Presidential pack with 29% now.]
* When he was elected for a second term, it was with under 20% of the African-American vote, the lowest percentage that a modern mayor has ever earned in New York City's history.
* By the end of his second term, the city's homelessness rate had increased to its highest numbers since 1989. They just weren't in midtown anymore.
* Thousands of pieces of art were lost in Giuliani's police crackdown on street artists in the city, a practice that was later found by the Supreme Court to be illegal and in violation of the artists' First Amendment rights.
* The "cleaning up" of Times Square was easily achieved by offering property with massive tax breaks attached to huge corporations like Disney.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meg Himmelstein, 1994-2007

My dear dog Meg died on Thursday, at the ripe age of 13. Though she slowed down in her later years, Meg is best remembered as a vivacious, if not hyperactive, pet. She often overwhelmed visitors with her energetic greetings that at times knocked them off their feet. She loved to eat and had the unfortunately ability to digest almost anything; she had a special fondness for paper products, but also gulped down sticks of butter, apple cores, blocks of cheese still in their wrappings, paychecks, and really anything she could get her jaws on. She was so fond of apples that she would sit and watch my mother with an unblinking stare when she made apple pie, a puddle of drool collecting at her feet. She had a special relationship with our backyard pool; all day long, she would patrol its border, and when its filter turned on every afternoon, she would run around it, frantically barking, her tail wagging like mad. Yet this dog never swam a stroke in her life. (One day, her bottom half fell in the pool but she pulled herself out with a surge of adrenaline).

Meg was above all a loyal pet. She was an excellent guard dog, and her home was her castle. She was never more happy than when someone she loved walked through the door. She had a unique way of showing affection I have never observed in any other dog: she would run up to you and rub the top of her head hard against your legs. Of course, she appreciated if this was accompanied by a nice ear scratch. She was friendly and loving and always enthusiastic. Meg, we will miss you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Thoughts on the Bean Ball

Those of you who weren't busy watching Barry Bonds go and get his wonderful fake record last night may have caught an overheated Yankees-Blue Jays game in which A-Rod was hit by a pitch, the benches cleared twice, and Clemens retaliated by throwing at Alex Rios' butt and then got his and Joe Torre's butts thrown out of the game.

Following the melee-ridden vengefest, Jorge Posada told reporters that the Jays' pitcher was "definitely" throwing at A-Rod to get back at him for a curious yelling incident earlier in the season. He wouldn't comment on Roger "Rocket Relaunch" Clemens' curiously misguided pitch at Rios, but said what needed to get done was done. "Rocket Relaunch" himself was similarly crypto-obvious.

Betty appreciates the subtle politics of the bean ball. She likes it that big overpaid serious players like Rocket Relaunch must be enlisted in the cause of avenging injustice against a teammate but that no one can actually talk about it or Bud Selig's army of scowls and fines will fume. In Betty's view, the kind of double-talk and on-field acting bean ball back-and-forths engender is priceless and unique in baseball. When else are these guys asked to play it ambiguous?

The only confusing thing about last night's shady violence involving a tightly wound little white ball was its first target. What exactly are you going to prove by hitting Alex Rodriguez? Whoever you are, and no matter how many times you hit him with a pitch, he will always be a much, much better baseball player than you are.

Apocalypse Now

In the serial novel that is Betty's life, today marked a particularly suspenseful chapter: would she get to work on time? Or at all? following last night's nonstop arena rock noisy deluge and three tornado sightings in the New York City area!?!? To make a long night short: Roofs are off houses in Brooklyn.

And this much is clear: when the subways stop, New York City devolves into civilized madness. I say civilized because, beyond the real pain and inconvenience the storm has already caused, it also brings out a friendly chaos and neighborliness that is very special about New York. Complete strangers ask each other in passing if the trains are running both ways, and strangers answer back. People go out of their way to nudge and point to make sure the stranger sitting beside them knows that the F train is actually and A express train making all E as in Edward train stops locally.
And people shuffle and silently, patiently make room for each other on overcrowded, overheated cars.

Still, it's a surreal day following a sleepless night of cold sweats when the trees roared. The humidity is starting to settle in. The Office of Emergency Management has set up cooling centers around the city and the bad dream we're all in together continues.

[Check out the Kensington, Brooklyn Blog for dramatic photos of the storm's wake.]

p.s. By the way, does anybody understand why the dedicated Christian families in Jesus Camp didn't want their kids to believe in global warming? Isn't global warming the ultimate Garden of Eden parallel?

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32....

The talk about Harry Potter some time ago got me thinking about how much I like serialized novels. It is so satisfying to come back to characters you enjoy, and even better to know when you're reading a book that your investment in the story will pay off because there's more to come! This format seems to be more prevalent in children's literature, and in fact the books I adored from childhood were all series (Anne of Green Gables, Narnia, Wrinkle in Time, Little Women, Babysitters' Club). Even my nom d'blog is derived from a serialized children's novel harking back to my mother's childhood obsession. But unless I'm missing something, the trend is not as common in adult literature, especially when you venture beyond genre novels. The last series of adult books I really loved was Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, a fantastic set of books about World War I. There's Paul Auster's New York trilogy, but I must admit that while I loved the first, I fizzled out after the second and haven't gotten to the third. I suppose some of Philip Roth's books could be considered series, but I haven't read enough featuring the same character to be sure. Speed McQueen sped like a demon through all five books of John Updike's Rabbit series last summer, so maybe I should try those. What am I missing? Have any of you read serialized novels you've loved?

Monday, August 06, 2007

A union take on the bridge disaster

Steve Share of the Minneapolis Labor Review has this take on last week's bridge collapse tragedy in Minneapolis. Like Katrina, the disaster was in part a result of political decisions:

In statements today, government officials (and union leaders) expressed sympathy for everyone whose loved ones happened to be on the bridge at just exactly the wrong moment.

A common refrain: let’s know the results of the NTSB investigation before casting blame.

Few public figures, however, are stating what most Minnesotans know: in each of the past two legislative sessions, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed a transportation bill that would have provided funding for road and bridge repair and construction as well as funding for mass transit. Pawlenty vetoed the bills, in part, because he would not support an increase in the state’s gas tax to fund state transportation needs — even though the tax hasn’t been raised in almost 20 years.

(Pawlenty, by the way, also has cut Local Government Aid to the state’s counties and cities, resulting in cuts to police, fire, public works and transit — all now the agencies responding to yesterday’s disaster).

Even if the NTSB investigation holds the Pawlenty administration faultless for the collapse of the I-35W bridge, Pawlenty surely must be held accountable for the state’s lack of investment in transportation. That lack of investment now impacts the region’s ability to cope with the loss of the I-35W bridge.

We’ve been warned for years that our state’s — and our nation’s — infrastructure is in dire need of investment. Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, in Minneapolis today acknowledged that 70,000 bridges nationwide fall into the same safety category as the bridge that fell in Minneapolis.

President Bush today urged prayers for the victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but then, moving on to remarks about the federal budget, went on to say he opposes new federal spending and tax increases.

If the I-35W bridge had been attacked by terrorists, we would be condemning a small group of individuals, driven by ideology, for their act of violence and destruction.

What do we say when elected officials, driven by ideology, oppose investment in public infrastructure and the taxes to pay for those investments?

Iraq is not the only place where Americans are dying so that the right-wing agenda might live.