Sunday, December 30, 2007

Apropos to the Iowa Caucuses

A politician's words reveal less about what he thinks about his subject than what he thinks about his audience.
George F. Will, political columnist

As I was adding piles of CDs that did not transfer to my new computer, I came across this song that is very apropos to the Iowa Caucuses:

In My Life

Do not fear death... only the unlived life.
You don't have to live forever;
You just have to live.”
Natalie Babbitt, author and illustrator of children's books

Every year when I see the entire list (this is from the LA Times) of those famously talented who have passed away, I’m always amazed at how much knowledge and talent disappears with them and from us. It seems the grim reaper took more than his share of writers (novelists, poets) and jazz musicians this year:

Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Tillie Olsen, Robert Anton Wilson, Art Buchwald, Peter Tompkins, Sidney Sheldon, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., David Halberstam, William Meredith, Mark Harris, John Graham, Grace Paley, and these are the famous ones. I am sure there are many other near famous who were not mentioned.

In the world of jazz, a number of talent people have left us:
Oscar Peterson, Frank Morgan, Art Davis, Tommy Newsom, Andrew Hill, Danny Barcelona, Joe Zawinul

In tribute a song written from a twenty-something musician who left us a while ago:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Legoland, Part 1

My lovely wife and I took our kids to Legoland this past week (hint: it's empty on Christmas) and had a great time. The best part? Probably the Fun Town store where you can individually select bricks from dozens of bins, organized by shape and color (and a few awesome bins of mixed Lego blocks that yielded quite a few great finds). In addition to the pound of Lego we hand-selected, I also purchased a Star Wars set and we bought the kids another bin of 200 pieces.

But that's not what I wanted to share with you all.

I snapped quite a few pix of stuff that I knew (hoped?) would find an audience out here in cyberspace -- the first is this mysterious Geppetto-like figure, one of the many Lego-built figures in the park.

Geppetto is wielding some sort of knife, perhaps considering ending his sad existence now that Pinocchio has run away (or maybe he's just rehearsing for his role in "Sweeney Todd 2: The Demon Toymaker of Fleet Street").

Legoland also has rides -- not very interesting from a blog perspective. But Miniland, which recreates famous cities completely in Lego... I am *definitely* going to be sharing some of that in the coming days...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Four Stages of Life
1) You believe in Santa Claus.
2) You don’t believe in Santa Claus.
3) You are Santa Claus.
4) You look like Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oscar Peterson RIP

Anyone can learn what Louis Armstrong knows about music in a few weeks. Nobody could learn to play like him in a thousand years.
Benny Green, jazz pianist

What the heck? We are losing jazz greats at a rapid pace here. Again, I have seen Oscar Peterson a couple of times, but the one I remember most was at the Hollywood Bowl and a relatively new comer was the opening act -- Diana Krall.

Here is what the NYTimes said:
...[Oscar] Peterson was one of the greatest virtuosos in jazz, with a technique that was always meticulous and ornate and sometimes overwhelming. But rather than expand the boundaries of jazz, he used his gifts in the service of moderation and reliability and in gratifying his devoted audiences, whether playing in a trio or solo. His technical accomplishments were always evident, almost transparently so. Even at his peak, there was very little tension in his playing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Frank Morgan RIP bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It's not. It's a feeling.
Bill Evans, (1929-1980) jazz pianist

I discovered the jazz of Frank Morgan at sometime in the 1980s and finally saw him live a year or two ago with On The Mark. The show at Catalina's Bar and Grill was good, but Morgan was old and tired, so it didn't match up to my expectations. I attempted to find a video to post here today, but there were none. If you like jazz you'll love Frank Morgan who captured the spirit and style of Charlie "Bird" Parker.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Toner Mishap
Favorite Books of '07

I always begin at the left with the opening word of the sentence and read toward the right and I recommend this method.
James Thurber (1894–1961), humorist

You will see that my compatriots are avid readers. B2 is a truly a voracious reader. I have mentioned that he and I work together, so I will share this tidbit with you; always around his desk are a stack of books, for him and his family. If I walk into the kitchen at lunch there is a good chance B2 is there reading. If I happen to be outside, the odds are good B2 will be walking to the Library while reading a book.

On The Mark reads in the quiet of the evening. I read more often than not five pages before going to sleep, which I hate. I really get into the book if I can read 50 plus pages in one sitting.

Without further ado just a few of the favorite books the writers at Toner Mishap have read this year.

On The Mark’s list
The Creators, by Paul Johnson
Blackwater, by Jeremy Scahill
Covering Islam, by Edward Said (published 1981)
Dispatches from the Edge, by Anderson Cooper

Three Soldiers, by John Dos Passos (published 1921, first edition)
Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
Exit Ghost, by Philip Roth
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
Falling Man, by Don DeLillo
Tin Roof Blowdown, by James Lee Burke

Note: I plan on tackling the new translation of War & Peace next summer, so “quantity” will be sacrificed for “quality” next year.

B2's List
Asked how many books he read in a year B2 responded: I’d have to guess about 100, figuring that there are weeks when I read just one and weeks when I read three or four. And possibly more, depending on how you count graphic novels (which can take the same time to get through as a short novel). Of course, I also read at night with each of my kids, so you’d have to add in long stuff like Harry Potter, Inkheart, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as well as the shorter stuff like The Puppy in the Playground and the Junie B. Jones series and princess stories...

Here are 10 memorable ones from the year... but I go through too many to be able to remember back all the way to January with any real recall – I tried my best. In no particular order:

Matisse and Picasso by Jack Flam
What is the What by Dave Eggers
Modigliani by Jeffrey Meyers

Mauve by Simon Garfield

Ant Farm by Simon Rich
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket
Geek Mafia by Rick Dakan (self-published fiction)
Overclocked by Cory Doctorow
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
I had to eliminate a bunch more... so this is a whittled-down list, for sure. I must stop thinking about it, or I’ll have even more on the list.

The Misanthrope's List
Exile in Hell: A Season with the Rolling Stones

House of Meetings by Martin Amis
Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
Exit Ghost by Philip Roth
Ghost by Alan Lightman
The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Fuiz Zafón

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

There is Still More to Come

He ate and drank the precious Words,
His Spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust.

Emily Dickinson (1830–86), poet “A Book”

I apologize for the lack of posts. I will post the 10 favorite books that B2, On The Mark and I have read during the year. However, I had been very busy and now I am just tired, but my energy is returning. I thought the list was rather interesting, I suspect you will too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Political Promises

One promises much, to avoid giving little.
Luc Vauvenargues Marquis de (1715–47), French moralist

From Mother Misanthrope

Friday, December 14, 2007

This Ol' House

Almost everybody in the neighborhood had “troubles,” frankly localized and specified; but only the chosen had “complications.” To have them was in itself a distinction, though it was also, in most cases, a death warrant. People struggled on for years with “troubles,” but they almost always succumbed to “complications.”
Edith Wharton (1862–1937), author

Here is a momentary conundrum, because once you think about it, it’s really a no brainer. You hire a contractor to remodel your house, who also happens to be an old high school classmate. As he is tearing down a bathroom wall he finds $182,000 in cash that is wrapped in newspapers dating from 1938 and 1939.

As the Wall Street Journal reported:

...the money was carefully wrapped in Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper pages dating from 1938 and 1939 and tucked inside boxes contractor Bob Kitts found while working on a client's bathroom. He found one box, containing $25,200 in what the Plain Dealer called "pristine bills," behind the medicine cabinet. Another metal box, which was attached by a wire to a stud, held more than $100,000 in bills. The words "P. Dunne" were written on the bundles of dough, and the ownership of the house during the Depression was traced to a businessman by the name of Peter Dunne. "Dunne apparently died unmarried and childless, leaving behind a mystery [and a lot of cash].

I believe without a doubt that the money belongs to the owner not the contractor. However, the owner should be generous and give the contractor a nice bonus, if he finishes the job on time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Suspicious-looking Nutcracker

I was at Disneyland this past Monday and Tuesday with the wife and kids, and was a little taken aback by this very suspicious-looking nutcracker on the holiday version of the "Small World" ride.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Relief from Department Store Music

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'
Dave Barry, writer

Jethro Tull's "A Christmas Song"

"Father Christmas" by The Kinks (the quality is a bit lacking)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On The Mark Does Magic iPod

On the Mark says: OK. Here are mine:

If Someone Says this Is OK, You Say:
I Am A Child - Neil Young

What Would Best Describe Your Personality:
The Down Low - Nellie McKay

What Do You Like in a Girl/Guy:
The Fall of Troy - Tom Waits

How Do You Feel Today:
Indiana - Sonny Stiff

What Is Your Life's Purpose:
I Should Care - Frank Morgan

What Is Your Motto:
I Me Mine - The Beatles

What Do Your Friends Think of You:
O Grande Amor - Stan Getz

What Do You Think of Your Parents:
Long, Hot Summer Night - Jimi Hendrix

What Do You Think about Very Often:
Thank You For the Music - ABBA (doesn't really count since this is for my wife)

What is 2+2:
Four - Keith Jarrett Trio (I'm not kidding; that's pretty funny)

What Do You Think of Your Best Friend:
I Fall In Love Too Easily - Shirley Horn

What Do You Think of the Person You Like:
Not My Friend - Norah Jones

What Is Your Life Story:
Fanfare & Introduction - The Rat Pack

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up:
All You Need Is Love - The Beatles

What Do You Think When You See the Person You Like:
When Your Love Has Gone -- Louis Armstrong

What Do Your Parents Think of You:
I've Grown Accustomed to His Face - Tierney Sutton

What Will You Dance to at Your Wedding:
On The Way Home - Neil Young

What Will They Play at Your Funeral:
Help! - The Beatles

What Is Your Hobby/Interest:
A Time to Love - Stevie Wonder

What Is Your Biggest Secret:
East of the Sun, West of the Moon - Louis Armstrong

What Do You Think of Your Friends:
Imagine - John Lennon

Led Zeppelin Returned

Rock & roll doesn’t necessarily mean a band. It doesn’t mean a singer, and it doesn’t mean a lyric, really. … It’s that question of trying to be immortal.
Malcolm McLaren, British rock impresario

This is rather impressive that a Led Zeppelin performance can make the front page of the New York Times, at least the online version.

I have no real interest in seeing them in person, but I’d like to watch an HBO or Showtime special. You can read the review in the link above.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Better than Magic 8 Ball

In short, luck’s always to blame.
Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95), French poet

I read this on Judgemental Mel's site and thought it was rather fun. I'd love to read whatever you come up with, if do it let me know.

The Rules: Put your iPod on Shuffle For each question, press the next button to get your answer You MUST write that song name down no matter what!

“Bruised But Not Broken” -- Joss Stone

“A Day in the Life” -- The Beatles

“The Lemon Song” -- Led Zeppelin

“Million Miles” -- Bob Dylan

“Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” -- Elvis Costello

“My Baby Just Cares for Me” -- Sophie Milman

“Sugar Baby” -- Bob Dylan

“Dance Tonight” -- Paul McCartney

“See Your Sunshine” -- Paul McCartney

10) WHAT IS 2+2?
“I Shall Be Released” -- Bob Dylan

“Glad to be Unhappy” -- The Tierney Sutton Band

“Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” -- Ray Charles and Elton John

“Got it Made” -- Crosby, Stills & Nash

“Pony St” -- Elvis Costello

“Jump on Top of Me” -- Rolling Stones

“Butterflyz” -- Alicia Keys

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” -- The Tonight Show Band

“Natural Thing” -- John Fogerty

“A Man and a Woman” -- U2

“I’ve Got a Crush on You” -- Frank Sinatra

“The Seventh Son” -- Mose Allison

I think tomorrow, I will personally select the songs that should answer the questions.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Watching the Wheels

Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. … I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends … and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.
John Lennon (1940–80), musician

It was 27 years ago that John Lennon was murdered.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Los Angeles Times is an Embarrassment

That’s where *[The Los Angeles Times] lives … way out there on the puzzled, masturbating edge, peering through the keyhole and selling what they see to the big wide world of chamber of commerce voyeurs who support the public prints.
Hunter S. Thompson (1939-2005), journalist

This is from Slate’s “Today’s Papers". This is how far the Los Angeles Times news coverage has fallen:

The New York Times leads with more details on the case of the C.I.A.'s destroyed videotapes, including disclosures that several officials from the White House, the Justice Department and Congress advised the agency to keep the tapes. The Washington Post leads with, and the other papers front, demands from Democratic members of Congress that the Justice Department and congressional committees investigate the tapes' destruction. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a similar story, which also speculates that future terrorism trials could be compromised because the episode might raise doubts about government evidence. The Los Angeles Times leads with a breakdown in talks between Hollywood writers and studios.

The quote: the original quote from Hunter Thompson was about Time Magazine, but it applies to either one as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Santa Called You a What?

The thing has been blown up out of all proportion. PC language is not enjoined on one and all—there are a lot more places where you can say “spic” and “bitch” with impunity than places where you can smoke a cigarette.
Katharine Whitehorn, journalist

This is political correctness gone amok. A department store Santa in the Australian town of Cairns claims he was fired from Santa duties for providing a jolly, "ho ho ho."

Apparently his employer had asked the St. Nicks it sends to stores to say "ha ha ha" instead, suggesting that the usage of "ho" -- in some American circles (even though they are down under) is shorthand for whore and might offend women. The Santa in question, John Oakes, a 70-year-old retired entertainer, said he was told that the three syllable phrase was the reason his services were no longer needed.

Calling Bill “Blowhard” O’Reilly
"They're trying to kill the spirit of Christmas," said Oakes, according to the report. According to the employer it was a poor attitude that got Santa sacked. Oakes is looking for a new Santa gig. Might we suggest “Pimp My Sleigh.”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holy Sh*t

Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956), writer

Why does Mitt Romney have to give a speech about his religion? Consider this from Lapham’s quarterly:

The number of people in the United States at the moment who believe in the literal truth of the "Book of Revelation" exceeds the number of people who lived in all of medieval Christendom.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

News Flash
Michael Bloomberg Third-Party Candidate

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956), writer

The following is all true.

Last night as I was settling in to watch “Life” on the digital recorder, I received a phone call from a polling service (we don't have caller ID). The woman didn’t know who hired them and I believed her, so I agreed to answer some questions.

However as the questions went on, it became obvious that it was commissioned by Michael Bloomberg. By obvious I mean long statements about Bloomberg that I had to interrupt. Here is the announcement: Bloomberg is going to run as an independent candidate for president, if Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are their respective party nominees.

This would be the worse selection of candidates in my adult life, if this scenario comes to pass.

Happy Chanukah

It is the best of all trades, to make songs, and the second best to sing them.
Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953), author

Happy Chanukah. I remember watching this live, well at least three hours from being live. It seems so long ago that Adam Sandler was a regular on SNL.

Borrowed from Jack's with permission even (but no else like adam sandler or SNL), but who cares Jack said it was okay.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Person of the Year

The product of the artist has become less important than the fact of the artist. We wish to absorb this person. We wish to devour someone who has experienced the tragic. In our society this person is much more important than anything he might create.
David Mamet, playwright

Time magazine is gearing up to announce its Person of the Year pseudo-news edition, so they have been asking prominent individuals whom they would choose for the honor. Stephen King’s choice is right on the money.

He selected the following: Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan symbolize the media’s growing obsession with issues of personality over substance. People care more about the details of Spears’ child custody case than they do about where the billions the U.S. government has poured into Iraq have gone. It’s time for a discussion about whether the news media have chucked their responsibilities and run off to Tabloid Disneyland

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs?
John Le Carré, novelist

This is for On The Mark. This series inspired him to karate chop his way into the principal's office and to return all the milk money he stole from kids.

I was reading the Los Angeles Times' Calendar section letters to the editor about the TV series, so I went to YouTube ...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Evil Knievel RIP

Come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–63), writer

From AP
Immortalized in the Washington's Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones (a clip of the jump is posted below) before he retired in 1980.

Though Knievel dropped off the pop culture radar in the '80s, the image of the high-flying motorcyclist clad in patriotic, star-studded colors was never erased from public consciousness. He always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

Another icon from my youth gone
We spent days riding our bicycles jumping over things. We actually stopped traffic with our bicycle jumps. We used a sawhorse and a heavy piece of plywood. We used a heavy piece of plywood as a ramp leaned against a 3-or 4-foot-high sawhorse positioned right at the front of my friend’s front yard grass. We started two houses back and pedaled our little hearts out and went flying through the air (without helmets). There were a number of cars watching us and not a single parent stopped us. I can’t even imagine what we were thinking. No one got hurt, my bike wasn’t as fortunate. The front forks were not made for such trauma, they eventually bent outward. Somehow my dad fixed it.

Eventually, we got real motorcycles. I was in the 7th grade. I had a brand new, green Suzuki 120cc motorcycle. I stripped it down as best I could into a dirt bike in order to become a motocross racer. Every now and again, we would find a field that had a natural hill that served as a ramp to make us airborne. We never jumped as high on the motorcycles as we did on the bicycles, but other little kids enjoyed watching us get our front tire up in the air.

Another signpost of my youth gone.