flickr the ancient past

I love Michigan in the summer.

Flickr photo

10 things about Gabe & Yoshi's wedding:

  • The bride and groom. Our gold­en cou­ple. The whole week­end was a per­fect reflec­tion of what we all love about them. 
  • Kala­ma­zoo. Charm­ing and fun. Shady trees, greasy spoons, a sur­pris­ing­ly fan­cy art museum. 
  • The wind­ing, tree-lined streets of Kala­ma­zoo. Grid-less! Baf­fling! Lon­don, Boston — those cities have noth­ing on the com­plex­i­ty of Kala­ma­zoo. If some kids on skate­boards hadn't point­ed the way, we would have missed the begin­ning of the wed­ding. Thanks, kids!
  • Fire­flies and Christ­mas lights. The bride's sister's boyfriend (Andrew) host­ed a love­ly after-par­ty on the night of the rehearsal din­ner. Usu­al­ly these par­ties are ill-planned and bar-ori­ent­ed, but this one was well-exe­cut­ed out­side on a beau­ti­ful back porch lit by Christ­mas lights and fireflies. 
  • The Kal-Haven Trail. Near­ly a death-by-humid­i­ty experience. 
  • Suite 702. Post-wed­ding sing-alongs, beer-scroung­ing and hotel-room-jacuzzi-ing at the Radis­son. Classy.
  • The excel­lent, eclec­tic food. Not that there's any­thing wrong with the salmon filet/side salad/baked pota­to thing, but it was pleas­ant­ly sur­pris­ing to get a nour­ish­ing, unique meal at a wed­ding recep­tion. I actu­al­ly ate this food, and liked it. Nice work, wed­ding plan­ners and caterers.
  • Friends & fam­i­ly rep­re­sent­ing. While I didn't do such a great job of cir­cu­lat­ing among those I hadn't known for 15 years, I couldn't help but notice the col­lec­tive high spir­its and fes­tive attire of all in atten­dance. Plaid pants, flow­ered dress­es, smiles, laugh­ter — all good. 
  • Louise's toast. I, for one, did not know that the groom's moth­er met the bride's father dur­ing fresh­man week at Car­leton. Amaz­ing. The stars had been spelling it out since day 1, really.
  • It must be said: Maggie's boobs.
law & order the ancient past

Deep Throat / Not so deep after all

So as it turns out, Bob Wood­ward met Deep Throat in a White House wait­ing room. Of all the juke joints in all the world! Wood­ward was a lieu­tenant in the Navy and often deliv­ered doc­u­ments to the White House. Felt was there on FBI busi­ness, undoubt­ed­ly look­ing out for the best inter­ests of the nation. Woodward's account is amaz­ing. All these years, I thought Deep Throat was some kind of all-know­ing genius. Turns out he was a petu­lant admin­is­tra­tor who was bit­ter about being passed over at pro­mo­tion time. One must ask: Why the *hell* did his fam­i­ly think that this was a good idea?Woodward offers a glimpse at the kind of thing we'll prob­a­bly read once Felt pub­lish­es his own account. Too bad the cloak-and-dag­ger "pre­arrange­ments" sound so corny:

Take the alley. Don't use your own car. Take a taxi to sev­er­al blocks from a hotel where there are cabs after mid­night, get dropped off and then walk to get a sec­ond cab to Ross­lyn. Don't get dropped off direct­ly at the park­ing garage. Walk the last sev­er­al blocks. If you are being fol­lowed, don't go down to the garage. I'll under­stand if you don't show. All this was like a lec­ture. The key was tak­ing the nec­es­sary time — one to two hours to get there. Be patient, serene. Trust the prearrangements.

Wood­ward also revis­its some All the President's Men ter­ri­to­ry in describ­ing the ear­ly days of his Water­gate report­ing. Before Felt got involved, he and Bern­stein did some ele­men­tary leg­work that result­ed in a some­what hilar­i­ous rev­e­la­tion about the (ahem) depth of the scandal:

I was ten­ta­tive­ly assigned to write the next day's Water­gate bug­ging sto­ry, but I was not sure I had any­thing. Carl had the day off. I picked up the phone and dialed 456‑1414 — the White House — and asked for Howard Hunt. There was no answer, but the oper­a­tor help­ful­ly said he might be in the office of Charles W. Col­son, Nixon's spe­cial coun­sel. Colson's sec­re­tary said Hunt was not there this moment but might be at a pub­lic rela­tions firm where he worked as a writer. I called and reached Hunt and asked why his name was in the address book of two of the Water­gate burglars."Good God!" Hunt shout­ed before slam­ming down the phone. I called the pres­i­dent of the pub­lic rela­tions firm, Robert F. Ben­nett, who is now a Repub­li­can U.S. sen­a­tor from Utah. "I guess it's no secret that Howard was with the CIA," Ben­nett said blandly.

The most endur­ing lega­cy of Water­gate seems to be that polit­i­cal crimes are much bet­ter orches­trat­ed nowa­days. And, when sto­ries about them break, they tend to dis­ap­pear, cf. Karl Rove's smear cam­paign of John McCain, dis­cussed in the Atlantic Month­ly in the fall of 2004.

lit reviews the ancient past

Reflections on my Pynchon obsession

Book­fo­rum recent­ly pub­lished a trib­ute to Thomas Pyn­chon called "Pyn­chon from A to V," writ­ten by crit­ic and Pyn­chon mani­ac Ger­ald Howard. Most Pyn­chon fans dis­cov­er that their love dare not speak its name because when it does, it instant­ly labels one as a lit­er­ary snob and smar­ty­pants. Like expe­ri­ence in armed com­bat, love of Pyn­chon and Gravity's Rain­bow is best deliv­ered in the for­mat of mem­oir, and Howard's affec­tion­ate tale of his own Pyn­chon obses­sion inspired me to recon­sid­er mine.Let's first get the unavoid­able and unfor­tu­nate real­i­ties out the way: Gravity's Rain­bow is dense and unfriend­ly. Pynchon's char­ac­ters appear from nowhere, have biz­zare names, and dis­ap­pear with­out a trace. Poof! Gone. Most vex­ing of all, read­ing Pyn­chon in gen­er­al, and GR in par­tic­u­lar, requires wran­gling zil­lions of intri­cate con­spir­a­cies with­in con­spir­a­cies, many of which seem to have no bear­ing on the Point of the Book, what­ev­er the heck that may be.Howard's GR expe­ri­ence was sim­i­lar to mine, a kill-or-be-killed, fin­ish-or-die-try­ing affair. I read GR when I was 23. It was a time of con­fu­sion, blus­ter, dis­trust, cut with con­fi­dence that my recent­ly-acquired BA in Eng­lish had giv­en me unique insight into the world; in oth­er words, I was GR's ide­al read­er. It could be argued that few read­ers who aren't young, male lit majors would sub­ject them­selves to a 760 pages of pun­ish­ment thin­ly masked as intrigue. Who else would have the faith, or time, to read and re-read page after page, mem­o­riz­ing seem­ing­ly point­less details because any detail may sud­den­ly become some­how rel­e­vant? At the time I read GR, I had just moved to a big city that seemed pop­u­lat­ed by the very peo­ple who pop­u­lat­ed Pynchon's pages — shad­owy peo­ple with sin­is­ter secret lives. Per­haps their shad­owy, sin­is­ter appear­ance was a result of the fact that I didn't know any­one, had a ter­ri­ble job, no girl­friend, no band and very lit­tle mon­ey. More­over, I didn't know what I want­ed to be doing, who I want­ed to be. Like the pro­tag­o­nist Tyrone Slothrop, I was filled with unease and con­cern. And yet at the same time I was hav­ing TONS of fun. Doing absolute­ly noth­ing except mar­veling at the mys­ter­ies of every­thing around me. I loved it, but I want­ed it all to end, and I want­ed to fig­ure it out — all at the same time. And the book! The book pro­vid­ed a very faint hope of actu­al­ly under­stand­ing some­thing, any­thing. Immersed in the world of GR, all of life was a puz­zle to solve, a knot to unrav­el, a refined and glam­or­ized ver­sion of my own world. Slothrop was me: a con­fused mix of unease, hope, and good times. Of course, vast sec­tions of the book near­ly crushed me. I often com­plete­ly for­got what had hap­pened on the pre­vi­ous page, or who a char­ac­ter was. I must have re-read enough pages to read the book twice.But I was pro­pelled by the illu­mi­nat­ing, invig­o­rat­ing pas­sages that laid bare the ele­ments that so many recent bach­e­lors of arts seek to under­stand — the imper­son­al forces at the heart of civ­i­liza­tion, the greedy cor­po­ra­tions gov­ern­ing our dai­ly lives, the evil truth behind the hap­py facade. Pyn­chon brings these things to life in pas­sages of over­whelm­ing, all-encom­pass­ing knowl­edge (nowa­days imi­tat­ed by the likes of JFranz, DFW, etc), and with­in them exists a char­ac­ter quite famil­iar to my younger self — a hope­ful, curi­ous guy who wants to know the answers but can do no more than uncov­er mys­ter­ies of greater magnitude.Readers rebuffed by its com­plex­i­ty might argue that GR's great­ness is a col­lec­tive delu­sion of the few read­ers will­ing to endure the pun­ish­ment, the end­less parade of biz­zare­ly-named char­ac­ters, the nar­ra­tive digres­sions lead­ing to fur­ther digres­sions that ulti­mate­ly become the nar­ra­tive, the prob­lem of the pro­tag­o­nist dis­ap­pear­ing some­where around page 500 — the list goes on. To them I say this: You real­ly need to make it to the end to under­stand. Bet­ter yet, don't expect to real­ly under­stand any­thing. Then you'll be ready to start. 

  • Book­fo­rum: "Pyn­chon from A to V."