From Galway to Graceland

I'll be posting to Uisge Baugh exclusively from March 30th through April 9th, arriving back here at Townblog sometime between April 10th and the apocolypse.

Meanwhile, here's a list of when stuff expires and the WTMJ-TV logo from the late seventies:

Off to the Emerald Aisles of Aer Lingus. Cheers, mates...


Can You Catch Water in a Net?

Pierce Bush needs a COW.

Teddy Wayne's Parellels Between My Living Through Two Years of Middle School and the Two Terms of the Bush Presidency, at McSweeney's.

Caspar's a Ghost. Killed the Great Society under Nixon. Oversaw unprecedented peacetime military spending under Reagan. Stole change from old ladies' purses.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss. Fool me once ... ummm... won't get fooled again.


Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom

This is how Republicans work, as illustrated by a news article in the Houston Chronicle:

Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.

So Babs donates money to a charity overseen by her husband for which she'll surely want some tax relief, which allows her to make a for-profit investment that counts as charitable giving. This money goes through channels to the Houston Independent School District, with the stipulation that the money be spent on a product that financially benefits her own son. The educational software is a program called "Curriculum on Wheels" (or, um, COW), produced by Neil Bush's company Ignite Learning.

I know there are many Katrina-displaced families in Houston -- Babs, you may remember, found it "scary" that "these people" might want to stay there -- and that some of these families will have children at Houston public schools, and that there must be resources allocated for teaching an enlarged population of school kids. Still, "educational software" is not the first place I imagine my money going when I donate to flood relief.

Back to the Chronicle:

In February 2004, the Houston school board unanimously agreed to accept $115,000 in charitable donations from businesses and individuals who insisted the money be spent on Ignite. The money covered half the bill for the software, which cost $10,000 per school.

Of course, Neil Bush and company were instrumental in raising these donations, given to the Houston Independent School District, who then spent the money on Neil's product.

What do these COWs do? Pardon the Chronicle's bizarre syntax as they explain:

The free-standing instructional tools that are not dependent on the Internet. They include a built-in computer, projector and speakers and come pre-loaded with science and social studies courses.

You can tour the COW by going to Ignite's website, but it's essentially a purple plastic filmstrip projector. Imagine $230,000 worth of that crap -- half of it out of the Texas taxpayer's pockets -- on top of whatever they've raised through Katrina Relief donations by warm-hearted lizards like Babs. I would presume that you could give a Katrina-affected family an apartment for a year for the cost of one school's COWs.

(Above Left: Flood Relief)

Note that these COWS teach science and social studies, and we all know how much Texas Republicans can tell us about things like dinosaurs and civics! Just think of the amount of information that must just be positively stuffed into that 1' x 1' box of purpleness: sex education, indigenous Americans, making the world safe for capitalism. Why, probably all the things that will show up on your next No Child Left Behind (tm) Standardized Test! You may never spend money on teachers or books ever again!

I'm sorry, I'm sure it's a fine and effective program, but it's just that... I'm sorry, Chronicle, what were you saying?

Information about the effectiveness of the program, through district-generated reports, was not readily available Wednesday, according to an HISD spokeswoman.

Oh. So there's no data that these quater-mill spawn-of-Barney boxes work? Or if there is data, it's not available for the press? Let me ask this of Ignite Learning: in the little cartoon illustration that accompanies the slide dealing with Isaac Newton, how far does the apple fall from the tree?

Alternate posting title: Cronyism is Genetic.

Watch the Skies

I am so getting a DeNiro-in-Cape Fear-sized tattoo of this on my back.

Okay, so it won't be DeNiro-sized, and it won't even be a tattoo. But I will draw it on the back of my hand with a Sharpie over lunch.

For the official Snakes on a Plane logo, it seems an awful lot like a caduceus. Perhaps the snakes are trying to heal the plane. Or better, the snakes on a plane are trying to heal us.

Badgers, badgers, badgers....


Today's Journal-Sentinel reminds us that alien species remain a threat. I had to read through the article three times before I recognized that they are speaking of zebra mussels and not laser-toting martains. I suppose "foriegn species" is too live-wired?



According to the Journal-Sentinel, "Wisconsin is at the epicenter of a linguistic collision"*. According to the article, we're stuck between the oncoming waves of two linguisitc forces, such that there is:

a change coming at us from the Southeast, the so-called Northern Cities Shift in which "aa" and "eh" sounds are being reversed.

This change, however, is moving head-on toward another vowel change coming from the West, the so-called Low-Back Merger. In this second change, words such as "caught" are being pronounced increasingly like the word "cot."

I say to the Northern Cities Shift: "Bring it on!" We of the Low-Back Merger shall meet you on the field of battle, no quarter given! I've got my leather jacket and my switchblade, and I am fully prepared to breakdance/fight in defense of Low-Back turf. Once you're a Low-Back, you're a Low-Back all the way/ From your first glottal shift to your flat "A"-as-in-"weigh."

Want more linguistics? Chicago and Rochester share an accent, according to the New York Times. I don't buy it -- I hear Rochestertarians say "downtown" whereas Chicagoans say "dawntawn." The New York Times: wrong on regional accents, wrong for America.

A sidebar to the Times article reminds us that we say "bubbler" down here in 'Sconie, doncha know. Their glossary also lists:
KITTY-WAMPUS: Cater-corner in Wisconsin.

Huh? Not only do I know of no one who says -- or would dare say -- "Kitty-wampus," I don't know anyone who says "cater-corner." Maybe they mean "kitty corner"?

Bubbler, by the way, is like Dumpster and Kleenex, a registered trademark, as it is the name of a product developed by the Kohler company in 1888. Some people in Massachussets and Rhode Island also refer to "water fountains"as "bubblers, " as do people of New South Wales, Australia.

Finally: pop vs. soda. I'm a soda sayer. In Iowa, a grocer once asked me if I wanted my pop in a sack so I socked him in the kisser.

* I remain unsure whether it's accurate to say that a collision has an epicenter. Epicenters are focal points which involve, to my mind, a movement away from the center, as in earthquakes. Collisions involve the coming-toghether of forces, although the impact of collision could radiate outwards again. I'll get back to you on this...


Monday's Still The Weekend To Me

An article by CNN/Fortune suggests that I am freaking brilliant: "What scientists have only recently begun to realize is that people may do their best thinking when they are not concentrating on work at all." If anyone would like to hire me to not concentrate on work at all, I'm available starting at, say, $40,000 per annum plus bonuses. I offer a long history of not concentrating, both in my professional life and at home. Some examples:
  • While a temp at an insurance company in the early '90s, I had to be let go because I was mismatching applicants with their policies, mostly because I wasn't paying attention. Rather, I was doing my best thinking.
  • A former boss used to demand that I make eye contact with her when she made requests from me, because I had a history of answering her without remembering that we'd spoken. This is because I am such a great thinker.
  • I have a mental block on all marital requests involving laundry. Again, due to thinking well.
  • I forget -- or rather, don't pay attention to -- people's birthdays, anniversaries, religious holidays, major life events, and exisiting interpersonal communications technology because I am super busy with all the thinking.
References by request, or you might just find stuff on the internet. It would be great, too, if I could not concentrate on work at all from home. Or, perhaps, from the delightfully named "Google campus:"
Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is a famously laid-back place, replete with lap pools, massage rooms, pool tables, free haute cuisine, and loads of other stress-reducing amenities like onsite dry cleaners and hair stylists.

Now that sounds like the kind of place were a guy could really think...


A Pint of Beer and a New Tattoo

Happy First Anniversary, Batgirl.

I wonder why yesterday's local sports coverage focused on Marquette's loss rather than UW-Milwaukee's win. Is losing a better story than winning? Does Marquette deliver better demos?


SNAKES! On a plane! Snakes on a muthaf*ckin' plane!


Coming Monday: Gulf War II turns three!

The Bleeding Heart Show

I take it that Operation Swarmer will prevent the Civil War that Condi says isn't happening by assuring that there won't be anyone left to fight each other.

In order to save the village, we must destroy it.

And they say this is no Vietnam.

Also unjust: Katherine Harris has a $10 million fortune. And, apparently, a pink spandex shirt.


Holy Chicken Schwarma! Has anyone checked out the lineup for this year's Lollapalooza (Grant Park, Chicago, August 4-6)? One hundred and thirty bands, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Wilco, Death Cab For Cutie, The Flaming Lips, Ween, The Shins, Ryan Adams, Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, Nickel Creek, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, Iron & Wine, Poi Dog Pondering, Eels, Reverend Horton Heat, Andrew Bird, Calexico, etc. There's at least three bands I want to see on that list!


Idiot Wind, Blowing Every Time You Move Your Teeth...

On Today this morning -- hey, quitting takes time and planning -- they showed a Washington D.C. affiliate report about the First Lady's fitness plan, following one last week on Condaleeza. The report includes footage of Our President, who is called a "natural athlete" by his wife, working out on a weight machine. He finishes with the machine, gets up quickly and staggers backward in his cowboy way, casting a look at the machine that says: "I have conquered you." In this move, you see as clearly as ever the jackhole fratboy that lies not very deep within him.

Worth watching, particularly if you don't mind fitness advice from a closet smoker and shiny obect admirer.

Also: Just announced -- Russ Feingold action figure comes with kung fu censuring action!!!


Under the Blue Light of Live at Five

I am entertaining thoughts of another morning ban on the Today show and what passes for our local news . Every so often I do this, shunning Matt and Katie for NPR until the radio newsreaders' pretentious pronunciations and trumpet-voiced Pujoles send me back to TV-land. It's like cycle between elitism and populism, or between my inner Mom and my inner Dad.

Usually, it's Couric who sends me away, but this morning it was a promo for the WTMJ's ten o'clock "news" [sic]. As I was preparing for another productive day at the office, Mike Gousha leaned in to tell me: "Sex offenders choosing to live close to your kids. Why isn't there a law to stop it? The I-Team investigates. That's Tonight, Live at 10:00 on TODAY'S TMJ4."

The question of whether this qualifies as news or sensationalism or an act of cultural aggression is a good one, and one that has been answered well in a few places, but ultimately my only reasonable response as a local consumer (and, um, stockholder) is to not watch and I haven't made it all the way through a local news broadcast in quite some time. But, since I watch in the morning, I am not entirely free of fault.

Instead, let's look at the language. This will require me to "close read," or as my former students would call it, "overanalyze."

The first sentence ("Sex offenders choosing to live close to your kids") is not a sentence. It is trying so hard to be active that it has avoided the potentially passive but required "are" to link the nouns (sex offenders) to their action (choosing). But if it is not a sentence, what is it? It's descriptiveness but lack of activity works much like a caption, like those you find below pictures in newspapers (i.e., "Mourners leaving an Atlanta church"). It also sort-of does what a caption is supposed to do, in that it promises you (later, at ten, if you tune in) a picture to accompany it.

This first sentence -- or caption -- also presumes that I have kids. After all, Gousha says that these sex offenders choose by choice to live close to MY kids. Not Milwaukee's kids, or kids in general, but mine specifically. Except I don't have kids, so the only way I can make this sentence meaningful to me is to willfully extend that "your" to some larger "you" -- that is, not me but a group of people of whom I must be one. So Gousha has forced me to consider myself part of a community, one that doesn't actually exist, since it's created only by speech act rather than by, well, community. Gousha's language makes me feel like I am a part of something, even if I'm not, even if I pass by my neighbors without saying hello, even if I curse their damn, noisy kids.

Then there's the query "Why isn't there a law to stop it?" The "it" in this question has no clear referrent in the previous statement. "It" is probably meant to refer to the "the act of choosing to live close to your kids," but why doesn't Gousha say "stop them" (meaning the sex offenders) or "stop this" (more clearly refering to "the act of choosing to live close to your kids")? A "choosing" is not an "it," after all, but an action. Perhaps that "it" is meant to draw our attention away from the "choosing" part of the previous sentence and to the "living close to your kids" part. But if the law that doesn't stop this "it" refers to the living, than the "choosing" part of the previous sentence isn't needed and in fact muddies the issue. So the "choice" must be central to the question posed. The question, then, is presuming that this "choosing" should be stopped, and that a law could stop it.

By posing the question in the negative, Gousha frames the question in the negative; he does not ask why there is no law to stop this, which looks for logic and clarification, but asks why there "isn't" a law, which asks for justification and defensiveness. By asking this question in this way, Gousha again constructs me onto his side. He does not ask me to consider whether there ought to be such a law, but to consider why there isn't one yet (or at least why there isn't one that is working). Not to put too fine a point on it, but this constructs me out of a part of my own governance -- laws should be made for me, or should have been made for me before now, without my participation. The question assumes I am a consumer of governement but not a participant, that I believe government and laws exist to protect me from others, and that as a decent person I would want this choosing to be stopped.

As to what exactly a law could stop -- the choosing, the sex offenses, or the living close to my kids -- we'll have to tune in at ten. (The sex offenders would have saved us a lot of trouble if they'd only chosen to live away from all children, or at least far away from your kids.)

But here's my larger point: this is a sloppy use of language. And rightly so, because language is a fluid thing that is highly adaptable to speaker and message and the quality of thought. Where the purpose of language is to sensationalize, misdirect, outrage, and simplify, the language itself will be sensationalist, inaccurate, maddening, and stupid.

If we presume that this sort of thing would attract customers who would respond to it, we can probably begin to understand where all those suppositions of "trust" and "accuracy" come from.


The Laws Have Changed

A New York Times Sunday Magazine piece on Mark Warner ("The Fallback") is worth a look, not because of what it reveals about Warner (which isn't much), but because of what it suggests about Democratic strategy in the 2008 race. Apparently, Hillary's status as the presumed nominee is well-entrenched, such that she has a lot of the party infrastructure and a lot of the money locked up.
So formidable are the obstacles to challenging Clinton that even a lot of party operatives who don't think she's the best candidate are likely to work for her, just to be on the winning side. And this is precisely the strategy that her team has thus far cultivated. Just as Karl Rove set out to make George W. Bush's nomination seem inevitable in 2000, successfully freezing much of the money and talent that might have flowed to his competitors, so, too, do Clinton's advisers seem to be sending out signals that resistance is not only futile but also dangerous.

It seems to me that a Clinton II nomination would falter much like John Kerry's did -- since 51% of the country (based on polling) has already declared they would "definitely not" vote for her. Also, I'd like to have a non-legacy president follow Bush, even if a seasoned politician like Hillary might clean up the mess faster. Warner seems to be positioning himself (or, um, being positioned by handlers) as the candidate you go to when you realize Clinton won't work -- kind of like the Dean-Kerry progression last time around.

What I get from the profile of Warner is that, whatever he may have done for the state of Virginia, he's not the fighter we're going to need. He's a centrist and a friend to corporations, which fans of Clinton may like, but he doesn't have much foreign policy experience and seems kind of unenthusiastic about addressing the war issue. Worst of his faults, I think, is a reluctance to speak out against Bush and his neo-cons. Compromise and big-tent building is a selling point for governors, probably rightly so, but I don't think America really wants a compromiser in the White House. Bai also says that Warner is not exactly lighting any candles in the Netroots/Moveon blogosphere, which is where a lot of new heat and new money is coming from.

Plus, he looks like California's current governor. And Massachusetts'. I get confused.

If nothing else, Bai's article has made me excited again for John Edwards. I want someone who can turn outrage into enthusiasm, which Edwards or Obama (and, I hope to discover, Russ Feingold) can do. Here's Bai on the new Edwards:
[P]erhaps the most viable candidate who is making a strong bid to inherit Dean's activist base is John Edwards, who now directs an antipoverty center at the University of North Carolina. In the last year, Edwards's support among the Netroots appears to have surged as he has explored the world of blogging and podcasting, renounced his initial support for the Iraq war, campaigned for hotel workers in a union drive and railed against what he calls the "phony" culture of Washington. When I sat with him in a Chapel Hill cafe in January, Edwards, appearing more relaxed and confident than he did at any time during the 2004 campaign, told me that he now understood that specific policies weren't nearly as important in modern presidential politics as telegraphing a sense of conviction.

Edwards 2008. Make it happen.


Also, this weekend: Saw the New Pornographers and Belle and Sebastian at the Riverside. The Nupies were awesome, even minus Neko Case. They performed in a horizontal line at the front of the stage, as if presenting a unified front, and did most of my favorites: "The Laws Have Changed," "Only Divine Right," "Bleeding Heart Show," "Mass Romantic." My slow descent into alcoholism, it went something like these songs. Sometimes, I'd find myself pondering how six people could be doing eight separate things -- as if everyone was doing their own song that just happened to mesh at the downbeats and blend harmonically.

Belle and Sebastian? Capable. And lots of endurance, apparently.

I wish I could see Neko when she's here, but I'll be on a plane to Ireland...


The Milkman of Human Kindness

Braggbox arrived!

Billy Bragg's first five records, remastered, with an additional three discs of demos, b-sides, and such, as well as two DVDs of early video appearances and concert footage. Funny how protest songs from the early 1980's can seem like they were written about our current administration.

This morning in the shower, I listened to a bluegrass version of "There is Power in a Union" with the Pattersons, which is every bit as good as the instrumental version of the same song on the bonus disc that accompanies Talking With the Taxman About Poetry: The Difficult Third Album. That same disc also features covers of Gram Parson's "Sin City," Woody Guthrie's "Deportees," and Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears." If you were to only get one of the remastered records, this would be the one to get: best Bragg record and, at least on first listening, best Bragg bonuses.

The new version of The Internationale e.p. (which comes with a DVD -- haven't watched it yet -- of either a concert in Russia or the film he did about the Russian tour) contains the above-mentioned work with the Pattersons, a British re-writing of "This Land is Your Land," and the American version of his own "Days Like These":

Days Like These (D.C. Remix)

It’s morning in America and you can be your best
If you have a valid credit card and can pass a urine test
It’s midnight in El Salvador, they’re spending dollars in your name
And it’s no bloody consolation that Reagan can not run again

They’ll trade with the Ayatollah if they can’t convince Congress
The only type of patriot is an anti-communist
And I shake my head and wonder what would Joe McCarthy say
If he could walk through downtown Washington DC today

The CIA on campus are taking down some names
Inviting folks to join them in their coke and dagger games
And does it ever prick your conscience, as "We are the world" you sing
When you know today we’re so far away from the dreams of Martin Luther King

The Brotherhood of the Elephant and the Party of the Ass
Are desperate for contestants to take part in the farce
And selling democracy down the tubes with the ad man’s expertise
The majority by their silence will pay for days like these

Peace, bread, work and freedom are the best we can achieve
And wearing badges is not enough in days like these.

Of course, you can't hear the cockney accent in the written lyric, but the rhyming of "ass" and "farce" offers a hint.

Then there's lines "Help Save the Youth of America":

They're already shipping the body bags down below the Rio Grande
But you can fight for democracy at home and not in some foriegn land

And the cities of Europe have burned before, and they may yet burn again
And if they do I hope you understand that Washington will burn with them
Omaha will burn with them
Los Alamos will burn them
You could contemporize the first couplet there by altering the rhyme from "Rio Grande" to "Iran," I suppose. It was also a bit chilling to think that, in the time since that song was released (on Taxman, 1986), American cities have in fact been burned a litte. Still, it's good to feel a little fire in the belly again, or at least remembered when I was younger and wore T-shirts with socialist slogans on them...

Some tidbits on Absinthe at Uisge Baugh.


Lost in the Flood

I recently read -- and enjoyed -- The Preservationist by David Maine. It's a novel that recounts the Biblical tale of the arc and the flood from the perspective of Noah (or, as the book has it, Noe) and his family. Chapters switch viewpoints ala As I Lay Dying, with most of the family members' chapters in 1st person and Noe's chapters in a limited 3rd.

While I'm not well schooled in the Bible -- I know the Sunday School storybook versions (and the Unitarian Sunday School versions, at that) -- I have an affinity for almost every Contemporary Lit re-telling I've come accross. Like my favoritest "This American Life" episode ever, in which Jonathan Goldstein recounts the story of Cain and Abel, Maine's book takes something familiar and makes it new. There's a lot of room in old stories -- they are sketches or blueprints, really, so you can hang a lot on them.

At the same time, you're considering a time over two thousand years ago, which means these characters lived different lives, toiled at different tasks, and thought different things, which offers a lot of room for invention. Where Steven King can define a charater by his brand of cigarettes or Jay McInerney can define another by her purse, that's harder to do when everybody wears muslin and homemade sandals.

So ultimately, because of their familiarity and their foriegn-ness, Bible re-tellings (good ones) have qualities similar to Magical Realism. What's more magic than Christianity, anyway? (Garrison Keiller defined Unitarians as people who believe that there is, at most, one God.) But Maine's book brushes magic with logic, or vise versa: where do all these animals come from, two by two? How do they all fit on the boat? How do you keep the boars from eating the snakes, and the wrens from eating the dragonflies? And how can people look so different from each other if the flood killed everyone but Noe and family?

At the turn of the millenium (or whatever), there was an issue of Time that included a snippet of a gospel of Jesus by Reynolds Price. In one of the final sections, Judas is trying to hang himself from a banyan tree when the newly risen spirit of Christ comes upon him. They talk, and Jesus -- while forgiving Judas -- helps him to affix the noose. Cold, creepy, and somehow more real.

The Preservationist uses the term "rut" in place of "f*ck" in an interesting way. Animals rut each other, people are described as rutters, etc. Fun!

Also, please: ITMFA.


A Skull, A Suitcase, and a Long Red Bottle of Wine

The March Believer appeared in the mailbox yesterday, arriving unexpectedly as it always does. The essays I've read so far -- a weird and uncontrolled text collage by David Shields, an essay about fat literary characters by Rachel Aviv -- haven't done much for me, but Nick Hornby's column is funny and there is an interesting interview with Robyn Hitchcok and one with Harold Ramis, which you can read online.

The interview with Hitchcock shows that he's a bit less surreal in conversation than in his music and stage banter, though just about as fatalistic. He sees the Bush Administration as a kind of symptom of system collapse, in a way that echoes the concerns about technology in Neil Postman's Technopoly (which I used in my last semester of teaching English composition). Hitchcock says:
I'm not very optimistic about the next few hundred years, but I'd be very interested to see what has happened when all the mud of the immediate future has settled. It's a bit like 2001. I mean, basically what you've got is apes with power drills. We're still thinking like savages, but we're savages with technology, and we're not mature enough as a species to deal with the consequences of what we've discovered. If we've got things like nuclear technology and laser beams and the internal combustion engine, we need to be a damned sight more mature in order to use them, and the problem is, we're not.

Ramis, the Quiet Ghostbuster, is much more lucid and thoughtful than I would have supposed. He's clearly well-read, a samaritan, and interested in culture. He's got an unexpected attitude towards satire, however, which he calls "a luxury of literate middle-class people" and suggests that some people are interested in satire because they like "the feeling of being pissed off."

Maybe it's a useful kind of venting. But it's not productive. It has no ideology behind it. It's not really interested in social change. At the Lampoon, we liked to laugh at any injustice, or laugh at death. Nothing was sacred. That's different from saying that satire is inherently useful. Second City had a liberal idealism that one might associate with Chicago and progressive politics. They had a belief that "Gee, if we just all work hard enough and hope hard enough, we can make meaningful social change." There was more cynicism at the Lampoon. It was more along the lines of "We're all fucked." Usually, satire is intended for the people who agree with you.

The Rachel Aviv essay ("Fat Fiction") suggests that most fat characters in fiction are exaggerated or cartoonish,and that few realistic examinations exist. Aviv shows that fat characters are always either gluttons or dieting, either loving themselves despite the view of society or hating themselves for it, etc. Essentially, that characters like Falstaff or Ignatius Reilly or Judy Bloom's Blubber are defined entirely by -- and their fictive lives are centered on -- their fatness. Though Aviv doesn't expound* to the same degree, her argument is essentially the same as one made about the African American characters of Modern novels in Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark. I suppose this is part of the powerlessness of a minority state of being -- you are defined by your state, and so defined in opposition to a majority. (And I guess I include cultural norms in that majority status, because while there are probably more fat people in America than there are "regular"-sized people, I don't think we think of ourselves that way.) In literature, if not in life, fat folks are fat first.

* Sorry.


I Enjoy the Way You Lie

We've now watched two seasons of Deadwood. Oh, but I am a sucker for serialized drama. I'm also a sucker for the blurring of history and story, or truth and fiction, which Deadwood does in intriguing and complicated ways. For most of our viewing of the first season, I thought only Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane were based on real people, and it wasn't until watching the DVD featurettes that we learned that almost all of Deadwood's characters are adaptations of actual historical human entities.

In reading the biographies of the "real" Deadwood folks, you'll find some important differences between the "true" -- you just can't use certain terms without "problematizing" them with quotation marks -- and the fictional. For example, from Wikipedia:

(Contrary to the story in the TV series, Martha was not Bullock's brother's widow, but in fact had been Bullock's childhood sweetheart; the two had been married in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1874). They had one daughter, Margaret, at the time of Martha's arrival in Deadwood, and subsequently had another daughter, Florence, and a son, Stanley.

E. B. Farnum [of Massachusetts] was the owner of a general store. He is portrayed in the HBO television series Deadwood; however, his character is a Southern-accented hotel owner, which Farnum never was in real life.

Of course, the point of a TV show -- or this one, anyway -- is drama, which is always served better by lies than by the historical record. Of course, Deadwood does not present itself as non-fiction -- the way, say, Truman Capote or James Frey presented themselves as absolute truthtellers. But I don't know if we want Capote or Frey to be "truthful"; what we really want them to be is interesting, and (perhaps unfortunately) most of us feel "truth" makes something more interesting. As Ellsworth said in the first season: "Goddammit, Swearengen, I don't trust you as far as I could th'ow you, but I enjoy the way you lie."

Both the movies Fargo and I Love You To Death begin with a proclamation that they are "Based on a True Story." Fargo actually isn't, but I Love You To Death is. Fargo is a fantastic movie, the other -- despite a capable cast -- is not. (I shake my meaty fist at you, Lawrence Kasdan!)

During the first season, I was tuned into the Seth Bullock character, but in season two he's become a bit flat. Admittedly, Timothy Olyphant has achieved blackbelt acting mastery in "shy remorse" and "moralistic contempt," but only the height of his eyebrows marks the difference between the two. In fact, both looks are essentially D.Zoolander's Magnum.

Who combines seediness, depravity, and eloquence better than Larry?

E.B. Farnum: Some ancient Italian maxim fits our situation, whose particulars escape me.
Woolcot: Is the gist that I'm shit out of luck?
Farnum: Did they speak that way then?

Back during season one, or at its start, I had Ian MacShane's Al Swearengen pegged as an unremittant, inhuman jackhole. The kind of man who beats his horses and the dancers who work in his bar (as Camper sang of Jack Ruby). Meanwhile, I had initially pegged Powers Boothe's Cy Tolliver as a crafty but essentially decent businessman. By the end of the second season, it's clear that Swearengen has the humanity, and Tolliver the jackholiness. Similarly, it's interesting that while both are conniving, Swearengen is crafty where Tolliver is cagey. These words only seem like synonyms until you parse them out (preferably through human interaction), the way you might understand the difference between a snake and a rat by watching the first season of Survivor. Swearengen will lay out a trap for you to walk into, which is the way of the grifter and the con man. Tolliver -- who may be smart, but is neither farsighted nor a deep thinker -- will take advantage of whatever angles present themselves, which is the way of... well, our current Republican overlords, for one.

And Robin Weigert deserves some kind of gigantic acting award for her Calamity Jane. She pert' near makes up for Bullock's lack of facial expression.

Big props to my wife, who recognized a dessicated and puffy Major Simon Dad in the Season Two finale.

I now anticipate Season Three in June, although I suppose I will well have been distracted by that point by The Sopranos, Survivor: Exile Island, Lost, and the probably-not-with-a-bang ending of the West Wing.

Like Gatsby's Crack-Up, Only With More Coconut Milk...

March 3-5, 2006: Lost Weekend.

I thought Jon Stewart was hilarious, and Clooney just gets more and more awesome. I feel like he really learned something from Batman Whatever. As to the rest of the Oscars: feh.

I've now seen both Chumscrubber and Thumbsucker. I think they must have been filmed at the same time, and I think they must have accidentally exchanged script pages. Hopefully, once I've seen Junebug, I will be able to tell these movies apart. Actually, Chumsucker/Junescrubber/Thumbbug has interested me in reading a Walter Kirn novel -- though not the novel that became the movie. Since Mission to America won't be out in paperback for awhile, I guess that means Up in the Air.

I ordered my Braggbox!