Of Pugs and Proust

Gratuitous puppy pictureFor years I resisted the idea of pugs, thinking them fat and smelly. When I was finally shamed into relenting I found myself unexpectedly charmed by a delightful puppy who was nothing like what I’d been expecting. Just as when I was in San Francisco the ringing of the cables under the streets came as a complete surprise, so did the pug puppy’s companionable stream of snuffles, wheezes, and chunterings.

The other day I came across an interview, translated from the French, with Stephen Breyer, ex-Supreme. I don’t know about you but to me he was only ever a function. So the interview charmed me in the same way as did the pug’s unexpected snores. He describes reading À la recherche as a young man living in Paris and teaching himself to read and speak French in the process. One infers from it a period of loneliness – he read the damn thing twice – and a warm and ardent approach to literature that public figures seldom admit to these days, at least in print. Well worth a read. He exemplifies the ideal of a liberal arts education, the aristocracy of a republic earned by reading, and how literature opens windows on the world.

Full disclosure: one is not a fan of the endless recycling around characters who smack one in the face with their endlessly hateful lives. I feel about it as if Perez Hilton wrote a multi-volume novel about the Kardashians and their world.  I understand – and apologize in advance – for the extreme ignorance of this POV. Does it help that I found a gaping hole in the plot when Elstir appeared? Perhaps if I read French I’d understand the need for quite so many subordinate clauses in a sentence but you know what? I read Tolstoy and his people come miraculously alive. True of Nabokov. Etc. But… I’m touched by the ex-jurist and hope he found a gay bartabac.

Comedy Tonight.


Remember newspapers?

Let me rephrase that: Remember when we read newspapers? Back then there was a publication known as The New York Times. Among the less important trivia that littered its pages like news about foreigners living in places that weren’t the U.S., they published vital stuff like theatre reviews. Real New Yorkers would drag in the Sunday edition from outside their apartment door, put cream cheese and lox from Zabar’s on the bagel they got from that place on the U.W.S. which is the ONLY PLACE IN THE CITY THAT KNOWS HOW TO MAKE THEM, tune to QXR, exhume the Arts and Anxiety supplement from where it was buried under the Real Estate and Sport sections, and try to find all the Ninas in that week’s Hirshfield.

You don’t know what I’m talking about, do you.

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A Force of Nature

By now you all know that Mickey Rooney is dead. I direct your attention to this fine obit in the N. Y. Times.

In the early 70s I saw him in a production of the English farce See How they Run at the Westport Country Playhouse. He was in his 50s, playing a young English flyer. If the casting wasn’t ideal, Mr Rooney fixed that problem by ignoring the play. He clearly didn’t know the lines or blocking; the rest of the cast, huddled on the opposite side of the stage, just as clearly hated him; but I remember it as being one of the funniest evenings I’ve ever spent in a theatre. By the end he was soaked in sweat, the buttons had popped on his shirt, his pants had split and the audience had laughed itself silly. I saw him again in Sugar Babies, three times, and if the show was past its first flush of youth and there were some episodes of planned corpseing, he was blissfully, outrageously low.

A giant talent seen in his youth when the world was young in this clip from Words and Music. He’s playing — ahem — Larry Hart. Tom Drake is Richard Rogers. Janet Leigh as Dorothy Rogers seems to be entirely shot from behind. They look like children playing at being grown-ups. And if we haven’t seen National Velvet I recommend it.

Where Will You Be In 2050?

February. Outside my study window.

Goldfinch in winter plumage outside my study window.

You know how it is when you think something and then you come across the same idea in print and you think: Finally! Someone gets it right?

This happened to me recently. The Global Warming thing. See? You’re rolling your eyes. I know. But why do we do this? We have it on reliable authority that our grandchildren are in deep shit – why collectively do we not seem to care?

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Why Is Mike Lee Such An Asshole?

I Have No Idea What This Is Supposed To MeanIt’s a question I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves at some point but I think it bears repeating: why is he such an asshole?

Was his brain starved of oxygen at some critical juncture? Is it all an elaborate joke and he’s really Abby Hoffman? I once spent six weeks in Salt Lake City so I’m something of an expert on all things Utahan and I see no rational explanation for him. If he’d been born in, say, Oregon then you might be able to point to some geographical factor like the misalignment of electromagnetic poles at work. Or a childhood spent too close to high-voltage power lines. But in my time at SLC I didn’t actually witness anyone out on the streets howling at the moon. Mind you, they did remove all the mail boxes from city streets after the Trade Center attack and in 2003 they still hadn’t been replaced. So there was that.

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MSNBC-in’ ya.

Doorman (2)

Snapped on the wall of a restaurant in the theatre district (ha!).

A man who loves men.

Just not in that way.

But who numbers hairdressers and cocksucking fags among his friends.

Don’t we all?


You can't come in.Jacob Adler, the great tragedian, performed in many European capitals. Of them all he declared the slums of London to be the worst he had ever seen. Worse than Russia or Paris, and worse than anything he would encounter in New York.

Dickens’s friend and colleague Henry Mayhew invented the oral history when he walked the streets of London asking its poor what work they did and how they managed to survive. He talked to children as young as four who lived off the farthings earned by scraping together small nosegays from the broken flowers dropped from the trays of older flower sellers, perhaps nine or eleven, in Covent Garden. In its uncut form his masterwork chronicles in infinite detail the lives of those considered not worth the reckoning. As Pax Britannica made a small coterie unimaginably wealthy their fellow citizens died in the street. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps the idea of of Empire that has infected certain societies at certain times demands the sacrifice of many so that some can believe themselves to be great. Ignoring the poor isn’t enough. They must be kicked aside. They must pay the price. The young must die in war.

Which brings me to This American Life.

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