Thursday, December 29, 2005


It was on this day in 1916 that James Joyce (books by this author)
published his first novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It
started out as a long autobiographical novel called Stephen Hero. He
estimated that the book would have fifty chapters and be about 1,000
pages long. He had written about 900 pages of Stephen Hero before he
decided that it was too conventional, too Victorian. In a fit of
disgust he destroyed most of the manuscript. Only a short fragment was
ever found. He started over again and in the new version of the novel
he concentrated less on the events of the main character's life and
more on his developing consciousness. When he finally published it the
book established his reputation as a writer.

It's the birthday of novelist William Gaddis, (books by this author),
born in New York (1922). He wrote The Recognitions (1955), J.R.
(1975), and A Frolic of His Own (1994). But even though he's been
called one of the most important writers of the 20th century his books
have never sold very well. He once received a royalty check for four
dollars and thirty-five cents.

He died in 1998. His last novel Agape Agape was published after his
death in 2002.

William Gaddis said, "There have never in history been so many
opportunities to do so many things that aren't worth doing."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Two links: this one for a round-up of movies to add to your Netflix queue, and this one's got the source material for the film Tony Takitani.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Leftover egg nog. (Silk.)

Here's a post-holidays time-wasting very short survey circulating on the web.  Please feel free to contribute in comments; I love to know what people are reading.  Incidentally, I finished "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" yesterday in the pre-dawn hours.  Outstanding book; a lot to digest.  I had read elsewhere on the web about some people feeling like the narrative gets a bit out of Murakami's hands toward the end and that he seems to be throwing punches in the dark, hoping to hit something, but I thought that it ended reasonably enough, considering the many different directions of the story.  I would be very interested to read the non-abridged, three volume Japanese version - much longer than the English one-volume, supposedly ( i.e., not just longer because it's in a different language) - but I cannot read Japanese.  Maybe I will ask HC to translate it for me, as he traveled to Japan in high school and is pleased to report that beer is to be had from vending machines that do not ask for ID in that ancient land.
When Elephants Weep
The Book of Guys
Number 9 Dream
2 year subscription to The Sun
Little Black Book of Stories
Will Shortz Sudoku, vol. 2


From Maud:

The Oakland Tribune is collecting copies of 1984 to send to lawmakers in protest of warrantless spying on American citizens.

The president believes he has the legal authority to spy on American citizens without a warrant, and he plans to continue to reauthorize the program "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens." But when the enemy is poorly defined, who determines when the threat is over? In this case, the same government that secretly taps our phones.

Turns out the truth is no stranger than fiction. We think it's time for Congress to heed the warning of George Orwell. To that end, we're asking for your help: Mail us or drop off your tattered copies of "1984." When we get 537 of them, we'll send them to every member of the House of Representatives and Senate and to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Feel free to inscribe the book with a note.

Mail or hand-deliver your used copies of 1984 to the Oakland Tribune, 401 13th St., Oakland, CA 94612, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Via Boing Boing.)

Friday, December 16, 2005


And I feel so much depends on the weather.

Yes, Virginia, I am at work today.

Holiday fun.

We here at the ACT Team are laughing. Season's greetings.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


This "best of the year" list actually held a surprise for me, on a couple of different levels: both that the book "Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction" A) exists B) is on the list.  I had no idea this was happening:
Townsend uses the weight of her 23-year-old literary project to create an expert entertainment that's also a cogent, furious foreign-policy critique. Hypnotized by credit card offers, thirtysomething Adrian sinks hundreds of thousands of pounds into debt; the final calculation is both absurd and chilling, a potent metaphor for the cost of the war effort. His support for Tony Blair crumbles as it becomes clear that his infantryman son faces real danger. "Happy people don't keep a diary," Adrian concludes. Can greedy readers be forgiven for wishing him just a little more misfortune?
I read one of the earlier books in the series - maybe the first, since I don't recall seeing anything on the book about a sequel, or a prequel - a long time ago.  During my time in France, I think.  If memory serves, I bought it on impulse in England and read it on the flight home, and then re-read it.  I wish I could remember which one it was, because it was a great read, no doubt a precursor to the whole Bridget Jones deal.  Not overly literary, just a diary of a kid.  It fed into my own later obsessive journal keeping. 
Now the kid is an adult, a kid of his own, and it's still rolling.  Pretty good.

Auster Wang.

Horrible subject, to be sure, but part of the Wang interview (...) is excerpted here

Creative writings laughs.

Christmas Story.

The new Zoetrope: All Story announced the contents of their winter issue a while back, listing Auster as one of the contributors.  The good news is that the issue is now out, designed by Tom Waits and also including an interview with Wayne Wang that looks to have Auster and their film work as its focus.  The bad news is that the Auster contribution is "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story", which is not new, is already available in bookstores, and can be enjoyed by thrifty, penny-pinching you right here.


You may have seen some of the news reports of tanker trucks full of forged ballots driving into Iraq - one truck was apprehended, and the other three (or more) made it in and went missing.

Nice job. Another quality step forward for democracy. Another day, another blunder. Watch BushCo try to tell us - again - how well the democracy is "flowering" in Iraq.

Here's the truck that was seized.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Starbucks and Fair Trade.

Starbucks factsheet for fair trade activists

Posted by greenLAgirl in coffee, fairtrade, starbucks challenge (December 9, 2005 at 11:00 pm)

Since we have a lot of new people joining in the Starbucks Challenge, I've put together a factsheet of sorts about Starbucks' current fair trade policies to help de-confuse new activists. This'll be updated as more news develops and/or I remember more stuff that should be included.

Starbucks factsheet for fair trade activists

Starbucks sells one, and only one, fair trade certified coffee blend in stores. That blend's called Cafe Estima , and it debuted Summer 2005. The old fair trade certified blend, creatively named "Fair Trade Blend," has been phased out — although Starbucks still hasn't taken the blend off its website.

Starbucks' policy states that any of their company-owned stores will French-press a cup of fair trade coffee for anyone who asks for a cup of fair trade. This promise, however, isn't being carried out in many stores, especially in the US. Thus, the Starbucks Challenge. Got a specific question about the Starbucks Challenge? Read the Challenge FAQ.

Starbucks no longer brews fair trade coffee on the 20th of each month, at least according to headquarters. This program was phased out earlier this year, long before the Starbucks Challenge began. The reason: Starbucks used to do "Coffee of the Day, but they switched over to " Coffee of the Week." Thus, instead of brewing fair trade coffee on the 20th of each month –

Starbucks brews fair trade coffee as the "Coffee of the Week" at least 4 times a year. Technically, fair trade will be brewed more days (7 days x 4 weeks = 28 days, vs. 12 days in the previous program), which is a nice bonus. The downside is that if activists wanted to patronize Starbucks ONLY when the mermaid had fair trade coffee on brew to send a message to the company, it's a lot more difficult to figure out when that would be. Before, you could just drop in on the 20th. Now, you have to keep tabs on the " Coffee of the Week" page on Starbucks' website to get a heads-up on what's brewing. Or you can just add green LA girl to your bookmarks or fave blog reader, and I'll let you know ;)

According to Starbucks, 1.6% of its coffee is fair trade certified. Compare that to the 5% recommendation of TransFair USA, the company that certifies fair trade products in the US. That 1.6%, however, is still about a quarter of all the fair trade certified coffee coming into the US. That gives you a sense of how huge Starbucks is, like it or not.

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School food.

From Commercial Alert, something for you to do instead of trolling through the Hot Or Not pictures.  Or after.
Check out this amazing picture of piles of junk food in a school store. It's disgusting.

I just asked my members of Congress to support legislation to help stop the sale of junk food to schoolchildren. Please take a minute to visit the link below to see the picture and send messages to your members of Congress.

Take action now at

Friday, December 09, 2005

Hemingway weighs in.

Download it and print it.

The flacid press.

Journalists, pay attention:

The past few months have witnessed a striking change in the fortunes of two well-known journalists: Anderson Cooper and Judith Miller. CNN's Cooper, the one-time host of the entertainment show The Mole, who was known mostly for his pin-up good looks, hip outfits, and showy sentimentality, suddenly emerged during Hurricane Katrina as a tribune for the dispossessed and a scourge of do-nothing officials. He sought out poor blacks who were stranded in New Orleans, expressed anger over bodies rotting in the street, and rudely interrupted Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu when she began thanking federal officials for their efforts. When people "listen to politicians thanking one another and complimenting each other," he told her, "you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated." After receiving much praise, Cooper in early November was named to replace Aaron Brown as the host of CNN's NewsNight.

By then, Judith Miller was trying to salvage her reputation. After eighty-five days in jail for refusing to testify to the grand jury in the Valerie Plame leak case, she was greeted not with widespread appreciation for her sacrifice in protecting her source but with angry questions about her relations with Lewis Libby and her dealings with her editors, one of whom, Bill Keller, said he regretted he "had not sat her down for a thorough debriefing" after she was subpoenaed as a witness. The controversy revived the simmering resentment among her fellow reporters, and many Times readers, over her reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In the Times's account, published on October 16, Miller acknowledged for the first time that "WMD—I got it totally wrong." Bill Keller said that after becoming the paper's executive editor in 2003, he had told Miller that she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons issues, but that "she kept drifting on her own back into the national security realm." For her part, Miller insisted that she had "cooperated with editorial decisions" and expressed regret that she was not allowed to do follow-up reporting on why the intelligence on WMD had been so wrong; on November 8, she agreed to leave the Times after twenty-eight years at the paper.[1]

These contrasting tales suggest something about the changing state of American journalism. For many reporters, the bold coverage of the effects of the hurricane, and of the administration's glaring failure to respond effectively, has helped to begin making up for their timid reporting on the existence of WMD. Among some journalists I've spoken with, shame has given way to pride, and there is much talk about the need to get back to the basic responsibility of reporters, to expose wrongdoing and the failures of the political system. In recent weeks, journalists have been asking more pointed questions at press conferences, attempting to investigate cronyism and corruption in the White House and Congress, and doing more to document the plight of people without jobs or a place to live.

Will such changes prove lasting? In a previous article, I described many of the external pressures besetting journalists today, including a hostile White House, aggressive conservative critics, and greedy corporate owners. [2] Here, I will concentrate on the press's internal problems—not on its many ethical and professional lapses, which have been extensively discussed elsewhere, but rather on the structural problems that keep the press from fulfilling its responsibilities to serve as a witness to injustice and a watchdog over the powerful. To some extent, these problems consist of professional practices and proclivities that inhibit reporting —a reliance on "access," an excessive striving for "balance," an uncritical fascination with celebrities. Equally important is the increasing isolation of much of the profession from disadvantaged Americans and the difficulties they face. Finally, and most significantly, there's the political climate in which journalists work. Today's political pressures too often breed in journalists a tendency toward self-censorship, toward shying away from the pursuit of truths that might prove unpopular, whether with official authorities or the public.


Read the rest here.

Brokeback Mountain.

Read the story before you see the movie, and before The New Yorker realizes that someone else is trying to sell the story packaged alone and takes it down from their site.  You've also got a new story by T. Boyle, T.C. Boyle, and T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE to read.  Good luck with that one.

Winter, etc.

First off, I'd like to state my continued holiday album of choice continues to be Chris Isaak Christmas.  It combines just the right amounts of sentiment, schmaltz, and jingle bell backgrounds.  As other reviews have noted, there's a pretty good number of songs on this disc written by Mr. Isaak himself, and they blend in very nicely, with the exception of "Hey Santa!".  This exception isn't a bad thing; the song is just considerably more uptempo, with a little "Ring of Fire" feeling to it.  If you don't like Chris Isaak, this disc is unlikely to change your mind, but it's worth a listen.  It makes me glad to think of my daughter growing up hearing these great songs every year, to the point where hearing them brings back all those childhood Christmas days.  We also enjoy the Time Life Treasury of Christmas - it really is as good as it looks on all those commercials, as long as you make sure to get Volume One.  Volume Two, also two discs, has about three listenable songs.  Elvis Christmas, Nat King Cole Christmas, Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas (if you don't have this one, seriously, what are you doing?  essential Christmas background music), John Denver & the Muppets Christmas round out the listening.
The office is near abandoned today - between the storm "raging" outside and having the entire afternoon open with the cancelation of our holiday party, people are fleeing.  I'm here with paperwork and e-mail.
Am back reading "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" after finishing his "after the quake " short stories and after slogging through Millet and I'm pleased to say it gets better and better.  Where did I read that his writing can often be very "Twin Peaks"?  This one has that feel - the waking dream of everybody, laid bare.  The review found at the link above is certainly not inaccurate, but this is one of those books that is hard to summarize, and the more you say about it, the less you're actually saying about it, if that makes sense.  This synopsis, for the UK edition, gets at it more and also really tells you nothing about what is happening:
Toru Okada is an apparently happy man - his domestic routine seems familiar and comfortable. Admittedly, he has recently quit his job, the cat has disappeared, and a strange woman has begun to bother him with explicit phone calls. Then one day his wife does not come home from work.
That's it - and yet, since that's not really it at all, that lack-of-being-it represents a lot of what the book itself is about, at least so far. 
Put down the eggnog!
Truly: if you must complain about the snow before March, move south.  It's not rocket science, the whole brake-pumping thing.  Why sully the enjoyment of snow that others look forward to with your whining and your bad driving and your complete paralyzation by one inch of snow? 
"Nice weather," she grumbles.
It sure is!

I do not get kickbacks.

Stop being a Microstooge and join Team G!
What's new on Gmail?
Just Launched!

Feed me
View your favorite RSS feeds right in Gmail as "Clips" along the top of your Gmail screen. Display clips from blogs, news sites and other online sources. Pick from the latest headlines, random popular feeds, or add any RSS/Atom feed you want. Learn more

See it now
Don't want to wait for an attachment to download? Now when you get Microsoft Office, OpenOffice or .pdf attachments, you can view them as a web page in HTML by clicking the "View as HTML" link right next to it. For when you're on a mobile device or you don't want to install some new software just to view a document. Or if you just want to see it faster. Learn more

Shortcuts on the right
Now Gmail automatically detects addresses and tracking numbers, and displays useful information for them alongside your messages. With a single click, you can get directions to that address your friend sent you, or find out when the new book you ordered will arrive. Pretty handy! Learn more

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Get an automatic check-up every time you open or send a message with an attachment. We even try our best to remove viruses so we can protect you against all the ones we find. You're on your own with the common cold (try chicken soup). Learn more

Book on skin.

I haven't read this lengthy article yet, but it follows up on the project of printing a 2,000+ word story, one word at a time, on different people across the country.  It will only appear in this form. 

Saving money.

Bean counting and the 'latte factor'

By Linda Stern

Wed Dec 7,12:31 PM ET

If you've read it once, you've read it a dozen times: Cut out those daily lattes if you want to save enough for retirement.

The so-called "latte factor" is so widely used in this context that it's now in dictionaries, defined as "seemingly insignificant daily purchases that add up to a significant amount of money over time."

That is certainly true. But it's a little preachy, too, isn't it? Aren't you grown up enough to figure out how much you can and should spend on your morning cuppa?

You probably already know it's smart to brew your own and bank the savings. But sometimes (here comes the heresy) that caramel macchiato, enjoyed with friends, is worth more than $5 in the bank, isn't it?

What would really help are some big money savings: Tips for trimming your expenses in ways that you might not know about and that would save you far more than the price of a cup of coffee.

Here's a starter list:

-- Save on your health, car and home insurance. Raise your deductibles. As an example, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield charges $945 a month for a family health plan with a $100 deductible, and $357 a month for a $1,000 deductible. Do the math: In a worst-case scenario, the higher deductible could cost a family of four an additional $1,800 in a year, which is where it is capped. But they'll save $7,056 in premiums, and it's not likely that every year will be a worst-case year.

You can reap similar savings on car and home insurance by increasing your deductible. While you are reviewing your insurance, comparison shop for cheaper plans, too.

Several companies -- Geico (, Progressive (, Ameritas Direct ( offer home, car, and or life insurance that they claim is cheaper because it eliminates the agent. They aren't always cheaper, but it doesn't take long to get a quote.

-- Save on your car. Buy a car that's less expensive to operate. A 2006 Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic will cost about $8,000 a year to buy, insure and run, according to Runzheimer International ( A Lincoln Town Car, Lexis or Cadillac will be more than twice that. Before you buy a new car, check its fuel efficiency and call your insurance company to find out how much the various models you're considering would cost to insure for a year.

Want to save even more? Hold on to your old car a little bit longer. With typical car payments pushing $400 a month, one year of driving past your last loan payment will save you $4,800. Pay off your car and drive it for five years and you can save enough to buy your next car, all cash.

-- Save on your credit cards. This is probably one of your easiest opportunities for saving money. If you're carrying a balance, shop at or for the lowest-rate card you can find. Transfer your balance to that card and send every possible dollar there until the balance is burned.

Meanwhile, get two cash rebate spending cards. Citibank and Chase each offer cards that kick back 5 percent of everything you spend at the grocer. They, and almost every other issuer, will give you a 1 percent rebate on all other purchases. Use one card for the grocery, drugstore rebates. Spend a lower-than-average $100 a week at the grocer, and that's $260 a year in savings that you've given up nothing for. Put all your other expenses (including utility bills) on that other card and with $2,000 in charges every month (paid off with one check or money transfer from your checking account) and that's another $250 a year.

And, here's another tip: If you spend a lot at home improvement centers like Lowe's or Home Depot, buy gift cards at the grocer's with those 5 percent rebate credit cards and use them when you shop.

-- Save on your savings. Legitimate online banks are like those bricks-and-mortar banks around the corner from you. But if you're building an emergency fund that you rarely expect to tap, you don't need the location, you need the interest. The biggest banks are paying less than 1 percent on passbook savings; the big Internet banks like ING, (, Emigrant (, and Etrade (, are topping 4 percent.

-- Save on your investments. If you have several different brokerage accounts or mutual fund accounts, consider consolidating them to save fees. Comparison shop at to see how much less you would pay if you switched to lower-cost mutual funds than the ones you are holding. You'll give up $18,000 in 25 years by holding $10,000 in a fund that charges 2 percent a year in expenses instead of one that charges 0.5 percent a year, says Morningstar.

If you are buying funds and stocks through a broker whose fees are hidden in commissions, compare how much you would save if you paid for your investment advice by the hour (check The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, or Garrett Planning Network,, to find a planner who will devise a portfolio for you. Alternatively, you can get good mainstream investment advice from the big no-load fund companies, including T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Investments or Vanguard Investments.

-- Save on your house. Wait a few more weeks and then pony up for some insulation or tighter windows and doors. For the next two years, you can take a $600 credit off on your taxes, depending on how much you spend. The new products should cut your energy costs, too, at a time when the cost of heating oil and natural gas costs is higher than ever. Find out more details at, the Web site for TIAP, the Tax Incentives Assistance Project.

(Linda Stern is a freelance writer. Any opinions in the column are solely those of Ms. Stern. You can e-mail her at lindastern(at)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Global book club.

An interesting idea that will no doubt see lots of press in relevant litblogs when it launches:

"Readers of the world unite"
In the book club of her dreams, Iranian-born writer and English professor Azar Nafisi imagines making room for U.S. President George W. Bush, his predecessor Bill Clinton and even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of her native land who was rebuked by the United Nations in October for his remarks that Israel should be ''wiped off the map.'' 
"People think of activism in terms of going to the White House or becoming political every four years, but I think activism is also very actively and consciously supporting a culture of thought and imagination," says Nafisi.
Read the whole article here.


Is it happening again?

It seems so unlikely.  However, with some scuttlebutt about Season Two being released in 2006 - that could add fuel to the very small fire. 
At the same time, MacLachlan is starring in some sort of mid-season replacement show - "Blind Justice", or "Just Justice", or "Hard Justice", some sort of thing that may or may not appear in the first quarter of 2006.  So, who the hell knows.  I'd be happy with a Season Two DVD set. 
Twin Peaks To Return?
Follow up to movies planned...
 Email Article    Print Article

By: Jeff Ando on 12/4/2005

Cult movie and TV series Twin  Peaks is set to return, with Kyle MacLachlan said to be planning a comeback as Agent Dale Cooper.

Mark Frost, co-creator of the series has revealed that he has been in talks with the Canadian actor with regard to making a follow up to the 'Twin Peaks' movie and the sequel 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me'.

"We've talked a little and it's (the project) a possibility down the road," he told "I think it would be hard to re-create the world of 'Twin Peaks' at this point, but Kyle is still there and still a terrific actor, and that's a character we could possibly take other places."

British production company Phoenixmedia is believed to have sparked the planned Twin Peaks reunion, having been working on a new 'Twin Peaks' prequel, which will be titled 'With A Thousand Angels' .

They have however so far failed to get permission to go ahead from director and co-creator David Lynch.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Review up.

My review of "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart" appears in the winter issue of The Quarterly Conversation.