Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from September 2008

Bush on the bank crisis: “Can’t get fooled again”

September 22nd, 2008 · Comments Off on Bush on the bank crisis: “Can’t get fooled again”

Dave Winer has an excellent suggestion for the current bank crisis:

So let’s see the Republicans do a little of that famous Country First stuff.

Bush and Cheney must resign immediately. No immunity, no pardons. Nancy Pelosi will become President, promising not to run for re-election on November 4. Her term will be one of the shortest in US history, just long enough to enact the provisions of the bill being proposed by the Republican administration. If it really is the best thing for the country and not a trick, then the Republicans, being impressed by the seriousness of it, would have to insist that Bush step aside and let the Democrats execute the plan. The entire Bush cabinet stays in office through January 20, but reports, of course to Pelosi. And that includes Paulson.

It’s pretty simple. If they won’t do it, we know they’re bluffing.

I don’t think they’re bluffing, but I don’t think their plan for “solving” the current crisis is to save homes and jobs and retirement for small-town America. There are a lot of big smart guys who know Bush much better than we do who have very big hands out to snitch any government hand out.

Tags: Editorial · politics · Wide wonderful world

In case of danger, give Bush a big blank check?

September 22nd, 2008 · Comments Off on In case of danger, give Bush a big blank check?

Warning signs

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Danger, danger, danger! Our country is in trouble, so let’s give George W Bush a big blank check — no strings, no accountability — so that he can make everything right again.

Blank check? America gave Bush a blank check after 9/11. So we ended up with government-sponsored torture and invasion of privacy on a massive scale. What we didn’t end up with was catching Osama Bin Laden.

Blank check? Congress gave Bush a blank check to go into Iraq if all else failed. Wow that was fast. How many of his cronies are multi-billionaires now on the fat profits they are making there on his watch? What we didn’t end up with was finding weapon of mass destruction.

Somebody is going to have to help clean up the mess that the unregulated excesses of Wall Street have made. But if we give Bush a blank check on that, who is to say that he’ll spend the money wisely? Who’s to say the next president won’t have to ask for another huge amount of money to get things fixed up?

Even Bush should agree, based on the old Texas saying, “Fool me, can’t get fooled again.” Any big bailout needs to have big strings attached.

Tags: Editorial · politics · Wide wonderful world

Henry James on book tour: “My profane lucubration”

September 18th, 2008 · Comments Off on Henry James on book tour: “My profane lucubration”

Henry James

Originally uploaded by jadc01

I’ve been spending some time in the NYPL, reading old letters written to my godmother and namesake, author/editor/suffragist/ball-of-fire Elizabeth Garver Jordan.

Quite a few of these are from Henry James (1848 – 1913), whose books could not have been more different from her cheerful fictions. I transcribed for you, dear readers, one typed example (his penmanship is appalling) from Box 3, folder 14, labeled “James, Henry 1904 – 1905.”

I break it up here to give your eye some blessed white space, but his actual letter is one long breathless paragraph. James was on a lecture tour, and she had straightened out for him some problem about his reading at a convent school. I do not know the identity of Miss E. L. Cary, though an earlier letter from James thanks Elizabeth Jordan for introducing them. And “the whilom Parker”? Your guess is as good as mine.

95 Irving St., Cambridge, Mass., March 2, 1905

Dear Miss Jordan,

Forgive my again flying to you, in gratitude, on the wings of the great Remington. [Remington is a brand of typewriter.]

Your kind activity of yesterday, culminating in your second telegram, has given me the peace that passeth understanding. Tuesday fourteenth will beautifully do; by this I shall solemnly abide, and I am now writing to Sister M. Rita to this comfortable effect. I might have wired her directly yesterday — that came over me, to my confusion, ten minutes after I had wired you; but I lost, in my anguish and shame, all presence of mind, and just instinctively clutched at you. May the peace I just spoke of have been now completely brought to you! — with my renewed liveliest thanks.

Your letter is luminosity itself, and everything, I am sure, will go merrily forward. I don’t quite imagine what all those sequestered young souls will make of my profane lucubration; but that is their own affair, and I am fortunately not afraid of their being, as who should say, shocked or scandalized.

It interests me much to hear of your pleasant impression of the whilom Parker — so pathetic a figure as he had, these last months, appeared to the mind’s eye. If I had known you were to meet him, I would have asked you to kindly mention that I would have voted for him could I have voted for anyone — instead of being, through long absence, a poor practically disfranchised creature. But even that crumb of comfort I gather he doesn’t affect you as missing.

You must show me Mrs. Spencer Trask* on the first opportunity — for my curiosity is insatiable. Let me add, for your reassurance, that I have edged away from the “Pen and Brush” quite as gracefully, I think, as I have, with a fine discrimination, sunk into the arms (as it were) of Miss E. L. Cary — for a performance in Brooklyn, on the basis of the proper equivalent, on May tenth p.m.; so you see into what excellent “form” you have got me.
Yours most truly, Henry James.

*Footnote: Katrina Trask, author and wife of “millionaire banker” Spencer Trask. They created (much later) the artist colony Yaddo. Her writing is said to fit “easily with that of other society people with high literary talent.”

Tags: funny · Travel · Wide wonderful world · writing

In NYC with Henry James, Jack London, Mark Twain, and Frank Wilczek

September 18th, 2008 · Comments Off on In NYC with Henry James, Jack London, Mark Twain, and Frank Wilczek

Elizabeth Jordan (1865 – 1947)

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Frank is on book tour for The Lightness of Being, but oh boy — he is much better off than poor Jack London!

How do I know? I’ve been reading Elizabeth Jordan’s boxes of letters, mostly from the years she was editor of Harper’s Bazaar (1900 – 1913). One of these came from Jack London, who was sadly following his Call of the Wild on a three-month lecture tour around the US, most recently landing him in a commercial hotel in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

In her own day, people speculated that she had a romance going with Henry James*:

The story runs that when Henry James proposed marriage to Elizabeth Jordan, he wrote a letter couched in so involved and complicated a style that she could not possibly understand it. She answered it in a note so illegible that he could not possibly read it.

Not bloody likely, says Ms. Jordan’s goddaughter (me) — not least because her penmanship was much better than Henry James’s. His 30-plus letters to her over twenty-some years are breathless and surprisingly flirty, when I can read them. I did transcribe one long one, blessedly typewritten.

I wish I had transcribed a long very sad letter from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) on black-bordered stationery about how much he missed his wife, who had recently died. But I ordered a photocopy, which the NYPL says they will send me about one month from now. I’ll share it with you then.

* How times change — recent speculation is that she had a romance with Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of Little Lord Fauntleroy!

Tags: Travel · Wide wonderful world · writing

The Shire is upside down? Somebody text Gandalf!

September 8th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Lay of the land

Originally uploaded by Elmazz

Funny but sad, banks are now foreclosing on “The Shire,” a housing development inspired by visions of hobbits who want to buy quirky thatched houses with modern conveniences. Dang, I would have liked to spend time in one of those houses (though maybe not if it meant moving my family out to Bend, Oregon.)

For example, the 3,200-square-foot Butterfly Cottage (says the Bend Bulletin) ,

overlooks an amphitheater, has 26-foot-high ceilings and interior finishes that include bamboo flooring, a Japanese soaking tub and granite countertops. The house has a “hobbit hole” in the backyard for storing garden supplies.

If Gandalf’s not liquid, maybe the Googles could buy this? It would make one heckuva great mega-yurt for group meetings!

Where credit is due: I read about this in the latest edition of Dave Langford’s scifi fanzine Ansible. Bonus quote therefrom, from his long-ongoing saga of fun bits from bad writing:

Tripodal Stability Dept. ‘She crouched on a three-legged stool as if warming herself before the fire, but Will knew her chill would take more melting than that. He knelt down before her. The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands, the one leg shorter than the other that his father hadn’t mended in fifteen years gone past.’ (Elizabeth Bear, Ink and Steel, 2008)

Tags: funny · geeky · Wide wonderful world

Old Mac user (me): “What is that funny hole?”

September 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

MacPaint (and other) nostalgia: 1

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

‘So what is that funny hole?” I asked my kind young Mac trainer, pointing at the front of a big Mac Pro tower. Natalya, an anthropology major and certified Macintosh genius, speaks fluent customer-ese, and explained that the “hole” was a FireWire 800 port, something I’d seen before but left strictly alone.

To my chagrin (although also to my satisfaction, since I know it now) the FireWire 800 would have been almost twice as fast a way to synch my old Mac laptop* to my new Mac tower, a task that took more than 10 hours with FireWire 400. Which just goes to show that having loved Macintosh computers since 1984 is no guarantee that you can’t learn a lot more about them from somebody who was most likely born after 1984.

Here are some other things I learned in my first hour of Apple’s new One to One store training:

  • What’s the top story right now on CNN? Has anything changed on my Wikipedia watchlist? You can make WebClip widgets from bits of webpages you like, then flash them up onto your desktop using the Dashboard.
  • Want to move from a desktop full of writing projects to a desktop full of scrapbooking projects to a desktop covered with email resources? Leopard has a system preference called Spaces that lets you arrow-key around several different monitor screens, even if you have just one monitor.
  • On a laptop, you can set preferences to “Left Click” by tapping your mousepad with two fingers.
  • A new app called “QuickLook” lets you peek at graphics, Word, Excel files (etc. etc.) without having to open the big clunky program that edits them.

They say you are not old until you stop learning. Lucky for me that I still have so darn much to learn — and that Apple Store genii in Cambridgeside Galleria have so much to teach me.

* I dropped my Mac laptop last week. It still runs, but the funny noise of its fan and the very big ding in its casing suggest that it may not be running for very long into the future.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · geeky · Useful