Saturday, April 29, 2006


I can't begin to understand the universe, and the deeds of men often cause despair.
But i can still get such simple delight from seeing the wind blow through the trees, and the waves at the beach give me such profound joy.
Today is one of those days.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I don't do memes but.....

....a dear friend tagged me so why not?

1. Never in my life: have I killed a man in cold blood.

3. High School was: an excercise in power sharing against a backdrop of agricultural machinery.

4. When I'm nervous: I get flaky skin.

5. My hair: is terribly blonde.

6. When I was 5: Zbigniew Brzezinski was advising President Carter.

7. Last Christmas: Me and the missus cooked everybody a gert lush dinner.

8. When I turn my head left, I see: Sunlight streaming through an open window.

9. I should be: working.

10. When I look down I see: President Carter (no, it's at a wierd angle)

12. If I were a character on Friends I'd be: The one who guns down the entire cast.

13. I have a hard time understanding: Serbo Croat.

14. Take my advice: be punctual and don't ask questions.

15. My ideal breakfast is: Bacon and eggs

16. If you visit the place I grew up: The chances are that you wouldn't understand a bloody word anybody said ever.

17. If you spend the night at my house: You will hear kids arguing in the street below.

18. I'd stop my wedding if: We ran out of booze.

19. The world could do without: fascism.

20. Most recent thing you've bought yourself: a wristwatch.

21. Most recent thing someone else bought for you: guitar lessons (thanks love)

Kind of dribbled off at the end. Sorry about that.

Book learning #9

Soldiers and Slaves by Roger Cohen.

Believe it or not, I haven't read many World War Two histories. About a year ago I read Max Hastings book 'Armageddon' which I thoroughly enjoyed. About two weeks ago I picked this up.

It tells the story of a few of the hundreds of GIs taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45. GIs who were denied the norms of POW treatment because they were Jewish, looked Jewish or had Jewish sounding surnames. There were also a few 'troublemakers' rounded up for good measure.
Such prisoners were sent to work in brutal conditions in mines inside Germany.
Cohen intertwines their story with the story of Hungarian Jews rounded up in the spring of 1944.

Cohen uses the different backgrounds of the prisoners (American and Hungarian) to highlight some bigger ideas, the idea of an old Europe clashing with a young, vibrant America, The soldiers of that America coming face to face with the unbelievable, the industrial destruction of European Jewry. At one point he relates the vision of America held by Hungarian Mordecai Hauer as a land of freedom and plenty, yet he is sharing a prison with the wasted, emaciated Americans sent to liberate Europe from it's own terror. At the end of the book Cohen brings up the irony of the emerging 'Weltpolitik' of the the Cold War, the fact that many former Nazis escaped justice because of their skills which would become useful in the dawn of the atomic age and that Soviets and Americans, in order to get on with the new conflict would rather paper over the awkward unpleasantness of the last.

Not an easy or pleasant read by any means but certainly a valid one. It's still deeply shocking to think that all this happened in my father's lifetime, in a Europe that I dare to think of as home.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Gert Lush"

The English language is, believe it or not, a thing of beauty.
Ever evolving, twisting and changing, it varies from town to town, family to family, region to region, etc etc, yadayadayadaa.
There are words that float in and out of one's everyday usage, expressions ebb, like a friendly tide of parlance through the roundabout of fashion.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to (re)introduce to you the quite marvellous expression "Gert Lush".

Gert Lush originates from the west of England, The WestCountry. That cluster of counties 100 miles due west of London's western boundaries, nestled below Wales.
Gert Lush, roughly translated, means 'great big' . It can also mean 'blooming marvellous' , 'bloody wonderful', or just about anything 'fantastic' and 'great' and 'right now thankyou very much!'
I think it's time that 'Gert Lush' made it's way across the Atlantic and became common parlance in Brooklyn and beyond.
Thankyou for listening.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Time to tidy my desk.

I just found out why my desk draw won't close. It's been jammed with cds. I know that my 'filing' system will give the likes of Listmaker and Unwellness nervous breakdowns but it's the way i like it. Nonetheless it's time to ship them back home. They've done their job.
On the home front we have had the apartment redecorated and should be getting cable/internet/phone service back this Saturday. Should be back to blogging more than once a month.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Book learning #8.

Assassination Vacation: Sarah Vowell.

Two books by the same author in succession?

In this case it's because I was at a wee bit of a loss following the end of "The Partly Cloudy Patriot".
I tried to read a couple of other things but failed miserably (you can read about the failures when I publish my 'books that failed me and I hate them for it' list at the end of the year.)

There I was in the large corporate bookstore in Union Square (Oh how I wish 'BookCourt' or the 'Community Bookstore' would satisfy all my literary needs!) when I glanced upon it, picked it up and was hooked.

Or was I?

This was a slow burner but in it's way quite the perfect read. It took me a while to get through it although much of that was due to circumstances (visitors from out of town, redecorating the apartment, losing the book under the bed for three days, less subway travel of late etc etc.)

If I may compare it to her previous work I will, This is meatier. She deals with three assasinations and she deals with them in varying degrees of depth. Lincoln gets the bulk of the deal and the others, Garfield and McKinley also get fairly substantial treatment. The nice thing about Vowell is that she comes at the subject from just, sort of, over there, kinda. She brings in contemporia such as the recent Broadway show 'Assassins' (Is that still running? Anyone wanna go?) and the War in Iraq as well as filling your head with a cool overview of post Civil War domestic politics. Even as a History buff I had little idea about the different factions in the Republican Party of the late nineteenth century. One of the key aspects of the book and the succession of the three assassinations (which occurred within 40 years of each other) is how the Republican Party of Lincoln changed into what was to become the Republican Party of Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes.

And all this happens in a neat little book that you can pick up for under $20 and read, circumsatnces permitting, in less than a week.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Visitors from the east.

My Sister and her family are in town, here are some of the latest pictures...

Jetlagged, tired and blasted by the early spring sunshine, Niece Ella and Brother in law Matt traverse the East River via the Roebling's masterpiece of engineering.

Lunch at 'Mars 2112'. Ella was delighted by the alien themed restaurant, Her brother Alex was less impressed, he recruited his mum and non alien waiting staff to instruct the aliens to stay the heck away from him!

Atop the Rockefeller Center.

Young Alex has a thing about aircraft. Here he is delivering a lecture to another kid on board the USS Intrepid.