Friday, February 29, 2008

RIP's: 1.) William F. Buckley, Jr.; 2.) PBS' (television) relevance

Slumped to the right, no doubt, of his home working desk for a cook to discover, William F. Buckley shuffled off his mortal coil this past Tuesday. There was - almost immediately - a very nice appreciation of his life's works by Sam Tanenhaus in "The New York Times". Tanenhaus is a Book Review editor there and, quite fortuitously for readers, is working on a biography of Mr. National Review (plus a reknown harpsichordist) presently.

Striking is that the NYT had run just a couple of days previously an article questioning the ongoing relevance of PBS in television broadcast form. The thrust was that much of the previous path-breaking format had been lifted by the networks and, in turn, PBS had taken on some of their schtick so the point of differentiation was quite pallid. As Billy B. ruled a considerable public television roost for 33 years, it was oddly synchronistic for both to have been covered so closely together in the American Empire's holy journal.

True there is no set alternative to 'Firing Line' yet (sad this is), but the argument is resolved and Mr. Buckley's death serves as an inadvertent bookend to such. Back in the day, PBS had such doyennes as Buckley, Louis Ruckeyser's long-running 'Wall Street Week' show and a half-dozen other regularly scheduled egg-head extravaganzas to keep the East Coast Triple A intelligentsia set suitably girded for light dinner conversation. These shows were unique. Look at the Ruckeyser model, for example, and how it has spawned to several daily competing networks devoted to arb gossip and endless earning statement tea leaf ponderings. Back when David Brinkley was still trading nasty private asides with Chet H., you didn't have on the air a bunch of pusillanimous newspaper people lobbing rhetorical hand grenades from left-to-right, and vice versa, except for PBS' 'Washington Week In Review'. Only was there the set Sunday interview formats of dodgy government stalwarts such as 'Beat (sic) The Press' and 'Mace (sic) The Nation'. Both of them about as lively on a routine basis as looking at radiation test results. Now the Lord's Day is littered with pontificating pundits of at least several political hues, all on the prowl for a clean jail yard shanking to settle a score or position themselves as the new leader of the columnists' Crips.

Besides the obvious contribution of creating "National Review" almost single-handedly and beating the Rockefeller wing of his own party into witness protection program status, Buckley was part of something quite wonderful in its day that has enlivened commercial television through surreptitious infestation of its better elements. My chief regret is that probably never again will I spy a new imitation of Buckley's extreme mannerisms (the Robin Williams' 'Saturday Night Live' mock 'Firing Line' skit variation being a favorite) as he will be forgotten by pop culture.

Bravo Bill! May Murray Kempton continue to be your rhetorical walking partner on the other side and Lucifer - without home court advantage - be your next rhetorical sparring partner.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Allure of the zaftig + a reminder of ole Jeb Davis assuming the mantle

Prediction that this post will be amongst the puniest in prose because I can add little else to the images attached and, purient interest aside, how could even the most gifted scribe [Thank you, thank you very much] supplement? I realized today that the blog description includes reference to admiration for women who are not of the present preferred mode and like the somewhat preachy initial post, I offer this effort almost in the vein of self-divulgement that, yes, the original preference indicated is, indeed, a passion, albeit one usually pursued privately due to the bounds of good taste and the self-imposed dictates (to which I subscribe) of a gentleman.

That said, I firmly believe plus would argue at great length that the lovely ladies to the right and left best epitomize an ideal as to form. Certainly in my fiction - and with the allowance of a smart, but tasteful, randiness it licenses - such are fetching representations of textual inspiration, so to speak. Enough of this pictorial deliciousness & libidinal stirring. If you must have a modicum of substance, reminder that this date, besides being President's Day, is the anniversary in 1861 of former U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis being sworn-in as the first (and last) President of the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.).

For an interesting, mildly controversial but thoughtful biography on Davis by the way, a good bet is Willam J. Cooper, Jr.'s somewhat recent work entitled Jefferson Davis, American. As an individual, one comes away admiring Davis - and not just in comparison to his compatriots. There is a parallel here to the pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold in that both men were supremely competent in discharging their responsibilities, very likeable and, oddly enough, quite trustworthy. Of particular interest is the endearing portrait painted of Senator Davis' support for his friends, the Pierces, after they so sadly lost their son and the general interaction of Davis with his army's supremely talented general staff. My hope is that a comparison of military leadership styles - Lincoln vs. Davis - will be written for the layman in the near future.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

R. Nader's 2008 "Self-inflicted damage tour" docking at a port near you soon!

Nearly eight years after leaving the scene of the crime without even the hint of a mea culpa and Ralphy-boy - I'm sorry, Mr. Nader - takes now to the high seas, per today's New York Times, to get pummelled by a few former fellow-travellers re R.N.'s hubris letting G.W. Bush win and, in the process, fuel the current Iraq war. Such delightful reportage has not been available since the collective closing statements from the Gang of Four's trial during Mr. Deng Xiaoping's 2nd resurrection, but I needlessly digress ...

The hypothesis is rock solid and there is no delight - across most of the current political sprectrum, sadly enough - in proving such in detail. However for the best current exegesis of why Mr. Nader should be blamed for the Iraqi debacle, see an article written by Professor Peter Dreier of Occidental College last September addressing the then nascent prospect of Mr. Nader going it alone again in 2008 should Senator Clinton have won the Democratic nomination. Prof. Dreier speaks eloquently about Mr. Nader's former triumphs in light of winding-up the primary historical pawn for an outcome that surely displeases even this stubborn-minded participant.

Of course there are other historical 'What If' games which, at least, have a board tinged with some grey, but it's clear that a circa 2000 Nader voter would have gone to Gore and his spread was more than enough to be the difference several critical ways. This is not an 'If Joe Kennedy Jr. doesn't go down on his last WWII Bomber assignment run, do we ever see Camelot?' scenario.

What the article today mentions as almost an aside in the larger piece about a think-tank leitmotif nautical cruise one can take with like-thinking liberals under the sponsorship of The Nation magazine [Who didn't condemn Stalin until when was that?], is that there are still a whole bunch of hacked-off ex-McGovernites prowling the Lido Deck in their bamboo fibre socked birkenstocks for sight of 'Mr. Not Safe At Any Speed' just so they can pull rip-tide on a small avalanche of bileous stones for R.N. not dropping-out in 2000. The focus, in fact, of this effort from the holy paper's 'Travel' section is on the myriad amenities, diversions & edible offerings the well-heeled (fellow) traveller can enjoy on this progessive trek. More importantly to this entry, however, is the detail that Mr. Nader, an invited speaker, can't even elude one of his interrogators by hitting the head as a gent follows Ralph inside with rhetoric, I'm sure, akimbo.

Whether intended or not, I'm thinking now of taking the cruise just based on the verbal fireworks chronicled incidentally. Rather than bear-up to the failure to create a viable 3rd party in American politics, Mr. Nader, during one of the Q&A break-out sessions, is jocularly quoted as apologizing for his lack of omnipotence in doing such (just the kind of jalapeno manna that the pre-Yuppy Volvo set, I'm sure, wanted to hear). In fairness it should be noted that the Mr. Jeeves of this particular Brahmin caste, Christopher Hitchens (facializing at left), allegedly had already took the gold for verbal PC + pleasing the crowd on a previous cruise. It is reported that Hitchens came to a morning seminar only to break the ice by, first, depositing an opened bottle of Scotch on the seminar table, and, then, bramble-off into an off-color joke concerning Princess Di. The distaff faction of the group bolted like civil rights protestors at the '68 convention and formed their own roundtable in response. So much leftist political fun around food has not been had since the City College cafeteria of the 1930's, I'm sure, and has to be a value at twice the price.

So if you'd like to take a pot-shot at one of your left wing demi-Gods alongside some tasty Lin Biao spring rolls, you might want to investigate booking passage for the next sailing of this cultural & culinary neo-Potemkin. My only recommendation for improvement is that the ship appears sufficiently robust in size to accomodate a corollary Human Events or National Review gathering. I think it might be the bees knees if both groups - possibly quarantined stem & stern, respectively - conducted their own affairs for most of the day, but gathered for joint dinners and intramural shuffleboard tourneys off the poop deck. Just be careful of those quasi-jousting poles used for the on-deck game as some, I'm sure, might get sharpened to a finer point than a prize San Quentin shank after the right-wingers take credit for winning the cold war despite Joan Baez, Phil Donahue, Vladimir Posner & most of the Ivy League graduating classes of 1965 thru 1975.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The beauty of Bandon

Slavish devotion to alliteration probably stems from having my synapses particularly well-oiled one fateful 9th grade day, but I can't resist the opportunity whenever it presents its verbiaged head. Sorry.

Bandon is a Pacific coastal town in Oregon with a golf resort by the same name. It is near nothing that one might also be visiting, except, of course, a possible relative whom I'm sure appreciates living in such bucolic delight or a marooned sailor on the lam from the I.N.S. My point is that one must want to go to Bandon in order to find oneself there and it does take effort. More than four hours drive from Portland, I had, instead, the relatively benign trek from Medford in mid-October of 2007 which shaved an hour off.

Only as a point of reference and not to boast, but I've had the pleasure/good fortune to have played/stayed at golf resorts which hosted two U.S. Opens, a Ryder Cup and several PGA events. All were wonderful, but none is on the same level as the Bandon Dunes complex of the namesake course, Pacific Dunes & the recently new Bandon Trails. A fourth course, again by Tom Doak (the original Pacific Dunes architect), is being built presently from what I gleened while taking lunch at the resort.

Playing out to the Pacific from a clubhouse not more than a mile away, Bandon is golf at its purest. There are no homes or other visual distractions on the links-style layout. Even the guest cabins are neatly tucked in back of the two ocean courses - Bandon & Pacific Dunes. In design and execution it is as pristine an effort as imaginable while deriving the optimal natural beauty of this truly glorious setting. The photos to the right don't do half justice to being there, I assure.

The day I had the privilege of teeing-up on Bandon Dunes was particularly propitious should you delight in the prospect of playing one of the great Scottish links fully bearing its teeth. The wind gusts, as measured at the clubhouse and not on the coastline, were +50 M.P.H. at tee time.

My group was the last let out for the morning due to the weather and we had to weedle the Starter a bit in order to get the green light. From a purist's perspective, the conditions could not have been more ideal. "When it's breezy, swing easy" is the maxim, but how about gale force gusts Mr. Hogan? Playing to an ocean-backing 153 yard Par Three, I flushed a full-blooded three metal that intentionally started-out more than fifty yards to the left and ended-up a few feet short of the green on the right side of the apron. Intense, baby!

As is traditional with a links course, you play out from the clubhouse and return back. Unlike many tracks across the pond, the 9th green/10th tee is not the furthest point on the course. Like most American efforts instead, the front nine ends back near the clubhouse.

What is the most striking - besides the Pacific Ocean lapping either directly beneath you or nearby on at least a third of the course - has to be the complete visibility of the place. Standing on any small hill, the entire complex is there for inspection and other foursomes appear like toy soldiers trudging, on this overcast day, around a wonderful backyard battlefield. Despite the inclemency surrounding, I encountered nary a sour puss amongst staff nor guests during my stay. My Caddie - the immensely talented 'Papa Cup' - told many a harrowing tale of equally severe rounds played; a loop, for example, just after Thanksgiving seemed to win the human endurance prize by second-hand recitation. A word to the wise, please avail yourself of one of the resort's Caddies. A player is allowed to carry their own bag, but the experience is diminished, I would have to imagine, and the green reading majesty of these gents alone is worth their rather modest fee.

To round-off this rave, be assured that Bandon has all the other amenities to be expected for this type of resort. The services + accomodations were quite reasonable for the value received. The grill room, shown to the right, is particularly pleasant for lunch and looks out directly on the practice putting green to one side while a cooing fire crackles discretely over one's other shoulder. Enjoying the local cream-based seafood stew alongside an admittedly sacrilegious glass of red, the round could only have been capped better by sitting on the patio afterwards with my day's compatriots and a Macanudo to regale our exploits. Regrettably the weather didn't allow for this last pleasure.

Be advised that you need not stay at Bandon to play this incredible conglomeration of tracks. There is a very decent Best Western not more than fifteen minutes away. It boasts a fine restaurant with quite splendid Crab Cakes, a house specialitie, paired to several Oregon whites available by the glass. The dining establishment is under the same roof as the hotel, which has, also, its own funky little golf course literally in the backyard. Of interest, too, is the Pacific look-out point not far from the small center of town. The inlets around the harbor are quite picturesque.

Lastly be firmly advised that dressing in layers is never more important to contend successfully with the ever-vacillating weather of this tempermental locale. On the other hand, patronizing the nicely appointed Bandon pro shops (there are several) is a wonderful rationalization to compensate for this planned inadequacy. In my case, it was necessity as I was thoroughly (but joyfully) soaked after holing out on 18 and desperately required, as I later explained to the cashier, a new longsleeve polo plus wind sweater - all with appropriate logos - in order to successfully stave-off a serious threat of ill health.

... and pulling my other finger plays Jingle Bells!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Extract from "The Shift Manager"

More mirth, reversing Ramses more than a tad: "So it has been promised, so shall it be written."

Below is opening from my yet unpublished opus. What's with the hardware pictured on right? "Good writing is more pruning than inspiration or alliteration", I heard a longtime ago from a very talented man who used such insights to somehow not become anything more notable than preeminent poster-child for the New York Tri-State's 'Squandering One's Own Potential' squad.

Chapter One
Welcome to the Land of Enchantment

Mercifully descending at last on his Buddy Holly connecting flight, Jimmy’s first image of the place was not good. Endless rows of partially decapitated jumbo jets, their essential parts jettisoned long ago, lined the landing strip like an aviation leper squadron turned out for final review. This premature intimation of decay was buttressed, moments later, when the high altitude New Mexico air in the cabin vanished upon approach to the gas station-size control tower. Jimmy didn’t know if they were going to de-plane so much as fill-up and grab a bag of chips instead.

Hitting the sunburnt white tarmac – "It’s a dry heat", he told himself almost reflexively – Jimmy’s bubbling angst was not sufficiently allayed until he caught sight of the luggage handler’s supervisor. Some generic mook, of course, did the actual hefting of the bags, but the Mexican lass at the helm of the souped-up golf cart - to transport cargo the good forty feet from where the plane nearly backed into the terminal - was a poster child for the possibility that awaited him in this - per the license plates - Land of Enchantment.

As ample and round from the back as the smooth curve of a Freightliner’s hood on the highway’s horizon, she embodied the arc that Jimmy hugged to every chance he got. No mainlining of motion sickness blandishments could have remedied his condition so thoroughly as the sight of those cotton/polyester blend britches bunching up so deliciously between her womanhood’s two main traffic intersections. Seeing in his mind’s eye nothing but green lights ahead, Jimmy now was suitably adjusted to suffer the experience of obtaining his rental car.

This particular psychological gauntlet was, from his experience, one of the true stations of the cross that hung around any traveler’s neck. Only the dregs of the intelligent quotient in the employment barrel, after all, would succumb to working the odd hours at the dimly lit counter of sycophancy that is the auto loaning business’ combination check-in plus confessional.

Jimmy’s particular specimen, that early evening, was relatively benign in the same sort of way that Mormonism can be compared to mainstream Christianity. Devoid of any overt personality ticks, this mid-fifties house frau carried out her duties in as short order as possible, but which still allowed her ample time to hone her FBI field agent-in-training skills to ascertain definitively Jimmy’s planned movements for the next several days in the greater Las Cruces environs. Meeting sufficient muster that Jimmy was not planning to firebomb the local Tasty Freeze, Madame Counter Agent let down her guard enough to emphatically assure him that above all else this town was somewhere good to raise a family. Seeing that Jimmy knew a day would come when his primary ambition was to hide and/or scatter the remnants of the various seeds he had sown already, these words were not exactly the soothing balm that the key master to Jimmy’s mid-size sedan probably hoped they would be. Not that Jimmy intimated any such reaction to the lady wearing the industrial mustard yellow blazer. To her Jimmy nodded rhythmically, much like the Pope listening to a foreign children’s choir praising the purity of the Mother Church in a tongue several trunks away from the Indo-European branch upon which the Vulgate squats so proudly.

Guess that Betty Friedan, Bishop Sheen and/or Brigham Young writer-in-residence grant(s) might not be such a sure shot after all? Damn.

Continuing our tradition from the original (and only other) post, below is offered as a sunny blandishment on this dreary February afternoon and an aspiration, wrought by my own talents (such as they are) , to something that flies at least in the same radar vector as beauty or grace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Whose Blakey (and which grace)?

Blakey is Art, jazz bandleader of note and nurturer of talent, such as Wynton Marsalis amongst a raft of others. Listen to his Moan'in, no matter your current musical preference, and you'll have the best chance of appreciating his style.

Grace, per Webster's, is "beauty or charm of form", but, also, is denoted as "a sense of what is right and wrong". Actually the word is one of the longest definitions in the tome. Can one name another entry which so thoroughly combines aesthetic and moral import? From the beatified to the merely beautiful, it is a word of modifying significance.

Why not another fine fellow (or woman)? No good answer, I must confess, but let me duck by giving some alternatives of genius:

Samuel Mockbee

Irwin Miller

Sam Simon

(Young) T. Roosevelt

Bob Moses

Robert Caro

How much water-cooler banter do any of above folks receive? By the way, why are they all men (and what's wrong with women)?


Doesn't any man, such as I, have to have one (or more)? What do they represent? Courage without bravado, intelligence without pomposity, style without fashion & beauty with grace?

Are you lost on this prospect already? No doubt. Not much sizzle. Weighty tomes, after all, litter libraries collecting dust for a reason.

How about - besides the lofty precepts - idle clatter re golf, environmentally sustainable products & more than liberal doses of sarcastic prose? Sound a bit more palatable? Promise that next entry will be so directed, but the initial effort was compelled to be explanatory as to title.

Lets start a tradition of ending with something aspiring to beauty from my own hands.