Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, November 19, 2004

Short Remark 

I believe we've entered another Era of Idiotic Shoes. These long pointy toes the girls seem to like strike me as every bit as dopey as stacked platforms.

Pretty World 

My left eye is full of drops (sulphuric acid by the feel of it) and my right eye is covered with a patch custom decorated by Grace so I can't really see what I'm typing. but it all went very well and in another day the world will be revealed in all its glory. What is this thing you call . . . color?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Restoration Comedy 

I love Restoration Comedy and have done most of the major ones. What appeals to me is the unique blend of structure and anarchy. The characters are stock, the plots are well worn and the language is generally formal. These elements are put in service of needs, fears and goals that are as extravagant and monomaniacal as Wile E. Coyote's.

I like that because we're all like that. At least I am. I usually don't act on these emotions and if I do I certainly don't express them as well, but what makes these emotionally volatile characters so charming, so recognizable and, occasionally so heartbreaking is that they seem to live at the points in life we merely vist. When they love they Love. That's all they are. When they hate they Hate. Sure, you want a new digital camera for Christmas, but can you remember when you wanted something so badly that it blotted out the rest of life? Probably hasn't happened since you were ten or, if you're like me, since ten minutes ago.

I once played Faulkland in The Rivals. He's jealous. Or, rather, Jealous. To the point where his patently faithful and adoring girlfriend makes him writhe and burn with every innocuous remark. I did very well with this role, probably because I am nearly as insecure as Faulkland. The comedy is in the wit of the writing and the inability of the characters to release from their obsessions. It's wonderful to watch those painful little fireballs we generally stifle, ignore or sublimate escape into the world and rule the lives of the characters. Especially since, for the innocent hearts, it all turns out well in the end.

Be Seeing You 

They're doing the right eye tomorrow so I'll probably be off the airways for a day or two. I'm hoping this goes as well as the first one and I'm sure it will.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Selecting the Intelligence 

I saw Chuck Hagel on Paula Zahn last night, worrying about the changes at the CIA. He hopes this isn't a political purge.

This is like Fox hauling in Zell Miller when they want a Democrat to bash his brethren.

Hagel is good at worrying. Seems to me that, as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he might spare a moment to worry about what could charitably be called the underperformance of the Agency. There are two things going on, of course and one of them, I guess, could be called a political purge. That is, a purge of elements in the agency that, for political and bureaucratic reasons, have systematically thwarted, undermined and defied the president and his agenda. The other thing is the long overdue process of tapping the snoozers on the shoulder and showing them the door.

All this hand-wringing about the resignation of some senior bureaucrats misses the point that the Agency is in dire straits and needs a major shake-up. If Bush brings in people who will only tell him what he wants to hear he will have to answer for that. What we have now is an agency that only tells him what it wants to hear. And one that is wrong more often than not.


Monday, November 15, 2004

U.S. Grant 

Oh, boy. Two new books on U.S. Grant. I love reading about the Civil War so anyone without similar tastes should moveon.

The story of Grant, is so comprehensively American that it can't be overtold. You know that, at the start of the war, having failed at everything he had turned his hand to, he was working as a clerk in his father's leather goods shop in Nowhere, Illinois. Essentially, he was wearing a red vest at Target. Within a couple months of the outbreak of hostilities he was a brigadier. Within a little more than six months he was the hero of Fort Donaldson, a major general and well on his way to saving the Union.

Why was he so successful when so many Union leaders were so disastrous? Not all of them were fools.

This is the part of his story I love. He had a small, odd skill set that was useless to him as a civilian and vital to his military success.

He loved horses and was a superb horseman. From childhood the thing he loved the most was to get on a horse and ride. All day, every day he would ride over the countryside. I've read that this habit may have contributed to one of his greatest skills. He could read a map better than anyone else. He could look at a map, take a quick look around and he could see the ground in his head. And he could carry it around in his head. If he needed a brigade at a certain place at a certain time he knew better than any of his contemporaries which brigade could plausibly be there and which ones could not. He could tell realistically how many men he could get through a gap in a set amount of time to be where he needed them. He didn't need to waste time thinking about it -- he knew.

The other thing that set him apart was his perfectly lucid prose style. Anyone who's read his autobiography knows what I'm talking about. It's not unembellished. There is humor, irony and modesty. There is also bitterness, envy and guilt. None of it gets in the way of perfect comprehension. His narrative is simple and spare. No one who got an order from Grant ever had the smallest doubt about what he was supposed to do, where he was supposed to go and when it was supposed to happen. Compare this with Burnside, whose ambiguous orders to General Franklin may well have doomed the Union at Fredericksburg.

That last point relates to another quality of Grant's. Moral courage. So much of the bloodletting in that horrible war was the result of the general staff's reluctance to fully engage the enemy. The result was the war dragged on and on and more and more young men were fed into the shredder. Grant had the reputation of being bloodthirsty, but he was not. He was not the only one who saw what needed to be done. He was the only one willing to take on the responsibility to do it. He was less willing to kid himself than anyone other than Lincoln.

Here's a link to information about Grant.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

On Your Marks . . . 

If anyone still doubts Jon Corzine will quit the senate and run for New Jersey governor, I just heard from the guy himself. More or less.

Normally I like political surveys, especially local or state ones. It's a chance to spout off with no chance of anyone throwing a lamp at me. This one was a little odd, being so soon after the general election. It took about ten minutes for it to penetrate my thick skull that the only one who was being compared to all the others was Corzine. Okay. So I spent 25 minutes helping him shape his message.

He's trying to choose between "Corzine! He's so stinking rich he can't be bought", and "Corzine! He crushed them at Goldman Sachs, he'll crush corruption in New Jersey." I discouraged him from going too far with the "I'm rich, I'm rich, I'm rich" campaign slogan, but the truth is, being a squillionaire hurt Kerry far less than I would have thought. I heard that he's the richest man ever to run for president. Can that be true? He's really richer than Rocky?

Anyway, they were testing various campaign themes against, in turn, Christie, Schundler and Forrester.

It's November 14th. They're off and running.
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