June 29, 2013


When I was a child, the adult women in our extended family were all “famous for” some dish they
were each adept at making. My mother was “famous for her spaghetti sauce”. My aunt Helen her baked
goods. Another aunt for her chicken noodle soup. Of course this fame didn’t extend beyond the
immediate family. And maybe to a couple of neighbors. It wasn’t as if, when my mother made spaghetti
sauce, someone said “Joe, call the television station. Your mother is making spaghetti sauce today.”
But I can imagine that phone call.

Joe: Is this the evening news?

News desk: Yes, may I help you?

Joe: My mom is making spaghetti sauce today!

News desk: The spaghetti sauce she’s famous for?

Joe: Yes. She’s making it today!

News desk: Holy tomato! I’ll rush this right over to Dan Rather. (Hand covering the phone): Joe’s
mother is making her spaghetti sauce. Yep, the one she’s famous for. We’ll have to dump the story
about the satellite launch. (Back to me): Thanks for letting us know, kid! 

Joe: You’re welcome. (Hangs up.) Dad, I called the TV.

Dad: Good work, son. Your brother is on his way to the newspaper on his bike. I’ll run over to the
Hendersons and let them know. You’d better tell the McAfees.

Joe: I’m on it dad...

Dad: (hugging mom as he passes through the kitchen) You’re famous for your spaghetti sauce, honey!

Mom beams as she stirs the sauce.

June 26, 2013

June 23, 2013

June 20, 2013

June 17, 2013


The human mind’s capacity for accommodating nonsense, quite comfortably, and complete with supporting moonshine, is an awesome thing. Take the adage “The exception that proves the rule.” What? How can an exception to a rule prove it? Ask your average friend or relative that question and the response you’re likely to get is a bemused look. “Well, because the exception would, you know... prove the rule. Don’t you see? It's the exception that proves the rule.” Or the equally lame "Every rule has an exception" as if that proves something, were it true, which it isn't.

If an axiom as plainly suspect as this gets a pass, is it any wonder that more complex cognitive muddles and scams stalk the land?

I mentioned this to my friend Bob Bush once, many years ago. (Bob was chairman of the psychology department at Columbia.) He told me that the phrase had always bothered him too. So much so that he'd looked into it. Turns out “proves” in the saying is an old English usage that meant “tests.” So, in its original form and intent, the exception, instead of validating the rule, calls it into question. That’s better.

Now I’m careful to say “It’s the exception that tests the rule.”

“...that proves the rule,” the person correcting me invariably retorts.

Yeah, that too.

June 14, 2013

June 10, 2013

June 7, 2013

June 3, 2013

Correspondence / 13

Thanks, I think. Do my other photographs look like cell phone shots?

Just raggin' on ya, homey. I have nine cameras, so, yeah. Some of those that I thought at the time I Had To Have, I didn't, even for commercial hires. My regular companion is a point-and-shoot super zoom. Ever wish you could have back, just once, all the money you've wasted? Though what, existentially speaking, is wasted, really? An old sage and Sinophile I once knew said that Chinese men believe that each of us have a fixed number of orgasms in life, so it's best to save a few. Wait... what? A Zen moment.

No, peace in the Middle East doesn't look likely in the foreseeable future. A fellow passenger on a freighter that I took to Europe years ago remarked that the one thing he regretted was the discovery of oil on the Arabian peninsula. I didn't know what he was talking about then, this was decades ago, but it was a prescient observation. The sooner the West can develop alternative energy, and pull its money and presence out of there, the better, though I probably won't see it in my lifetime. I read somewhere that when you calculate such things as the military resources needed to secure and protect Middle East oil, the true cost of gasoline at the pump is close to $45 dollars a gallon. Addictions are costly on so many levels. The London slaying was shocking. Prime minister David Cameron said that the attackers had “betrayed Islam.” George Bush said the same thing. “This is not Islam.”  I do wish that western non-Muslim leaders would stop pandering and trying to pre-empt the Muslim world by presuming to define Islam for everyone. If terrorists acts like these are a departure from Islam, shut up and let Muslims leaders tell us that.

You know what's even more perplexing than envy? People's dedication to inspiring it in others. What is that about?

Funny Agatha Christie trivia, that. I had a first edition of Nabokov’s “King, Queen, Knave,” but it fell off the cart somewhere in my disorganized youth.

I’d never read Raymond Chandler. After reading a musing on detective fiction in the New Yorker that rhapsodized about him, I picked up an Everyman’s Library edition with three of his classics in one volume. I read the first few pages of The Big Sleep last night and I’m already immersed in the atmosphere and attitude and cadence that he made famous. I once wrote of Debussy that it doesn’t matter how much an original voice has been hacked, spun off, or sent up. There’s always a freshness, an indelible stamp. The original “anticipates its exploitation and rises above it.”

My laelia, fifty six flowers this year, started blooming yesterday. I awoke to a rain-cooled morning, everything washed, bright, and fragrant.