Thursday, September 30, 2004

Martini Party

So this evening I attended a "function" - the 6th Anniversary of one of my company's vendors, a most excellent design operation in Fremont, right on the canal. These people have been doing good work for my company on some online activities for the Hasbro website, though they are a tad (well, a great deal) tardy on their latest, a very ambitious project (which I will mention when it goes live). My boss Rich was unable to attend, so I went in the role of "the client". It was kinda trendy - Martinis at the open bar, Ahi and satay at the buffet, soft ambient techno platters spun in the background.

And I had a very nice time, even though martinis are not my cup of tea, if I may mix the metaphor. The vodka martini made me break out in a sweat. The lemon drop caused me to retreat to more stable terrain (pale ale) for the remainder of the evening . The buffet spread was extremely nice, and I got to talk to and listen to a wide variety of people, the overwhelming majority of which were much younger than I was. I thought I would stay an hour, but ended up stumbling out over three hours later. Over the course of the evening I:
- Congratulated the members of the team working on the current project, and expressed concern over the ever-slipping deadline (thereby dispatching suitably my role as "client")
-Discovered I had driven my project manager on the project back into the thrall of nicotine ("I picked a helluva time to give up cigarettes!")
- Completely failed to recognize the graphic designer of the team, who was dressed to the nines.
- Talked to a lot of people who played D&D when they were kids, including a couple from Bainbridge Island who were big, BIG fans of a particular Dark Elf I know of.
- Listened to the perils of a seven-person sailing crew.
- Listened to the similar perils of surfing in the Pacific Northwest (worst problem? Tan lines from the wet suit)
- Watched the staff hook up the X-Box to their widescreen plasma screen in the conference room (I got the feeling they had done this before) and played HALO.
- Listened to people who were speaking English, in that all the words were English, but speaking in a jargon so involuted that I felt I needed a second audio channel.
- And realized, halfway through, that I had a message on the cel from Kate, who is in Kansas City at a conference with H&R Block. I called her back, and stood at the base of the Fremont Bridge, watching the rowing sculls move up and down the canal in the gathering dark, as we talked about her computer-tax program and the fact that I may have to fly to Rhode Island later in the month. And as we talked, I thought about the sheer strangeness of the conversation, and the distance, and how we were having it, and where we were at this point.
- And I decided I was pretty happy with the entire course of things in this 21st Century, even without the flying cars. And that's when I had the lemon drop and things started getting fuzzy . . .

More later,

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Electoral Storm - The Air War

I was planning on writing about volcanoes, for the obvious reasons, but I'll push that back for the moment for the current status of the local political scene. It has gotten nasty on the airwaves of late, and looks like it will only get nastier.

I think people think that, just because you're a Democrat, you're under some requirement to play nice. These guys know hardball, particularly in this state. I saw it in the eyes of the Kerry supporters at the caucus and I'm seeing it in the strategy of the Democratic candidates adverts. They are hitting hard and hitting early, and the GOP is in that odd position of having to hustle up to hit back. And, I think, making a fatal mistake.

The most easy-going of the conflicts is Rossi (R) versus Gregoire (D). Rossi has tried to cast Gregoire as a "career bureaucrat" and therefore "part of the problem", while Rossi had spent time in the business sector (which, of course, has no problems at all). Gregoire hit back hard, pointing to the decade that Rossi spent in Olympia in government. Indeed, during the primary season, Rossi was pushing himself as a voice of reason and compromise in state government. Rossi's recent ads have shown a change of direction, casting himself as "Mr. Outsider" and undercutting his original message. The Gregoire camp isn't letting that pass, and in showing that Rossi is shading the truth a bit, is effectively defining him. The Dems have also been trying to tie him to more obviously conservative GOPs, which has been less successful to date, but this may change as a result of the most recent Senatorial follies (see below).

Then there is the race in the 8th, Ross (D) versus Reichert (R). Ross is going after Reichert as being "too right-wing", pushing the abortion issue in his latest wave of ads ("Rechert - Wrong on Choice, Wrong for Washington"). Pretty standard stuff in modern campaigns, but it ignores part of the primary. Reichert more to the left on the issue than his conservative rivals and got hammered for it, Ross in his primary was coming under heavy shelling for the fact that HE was slightly more conservative in his views than HIS Democratic rivals. Making it an issue now counts on the fact no one was paying attention earlier (in this fashion Ross is similar to Rossi).

But the amazing development is in the Senatorial race, Murray (D) versus Nethercutt (R). Murray unleashed a furious assault on the Republican early, with comercials pointing out that Nethercutt bailed on his term-limit promise, and ditched constiuents in Spokane, moving to Bellevue to strengthen his power base for the Senate run. They did a horribly efficient job painting Nethercutt as a "Say-Anything-Republican". It was pretty harsh and pretty effective. It made me wince.

And Nethercutt went nuclear in reaction. He went to the Quote - the one that Murray made a few years ago when someone asked her why people in the outside world liked Osama Bin Laden. Where she went on at length about how people liked Bin Laden because his construction company built infrastructure in poor nations (The correct answer was "No one likes him! He is the infidel! I spit on him! Hoch-pui!"). So the new attack ad commercial opened on Bin Laden's picture, scanned the wreckage of Ground Zero, then played the Quote, and ended with "Murray and Bin Laden, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G". And then Nethercutt, looking a little frayed around the edges, endorsing the ad.

This is amazing, and not because it is the first time a GOP politician has refered to Bin Laden by name in over a year. Nor is it amazing that the commercial cuts out the question which frames her answer, even though Nethercutt has his own Quote, which he bitterly complained about being taken out of context. (We talked about it here).

It is amazing because he went for it so soon. He's putting all his chips on this one, giving the Murray campaign the chance to hit back over the next few weeks (which they have shown no reluctance to do so far). Because now he'll have time to savor HIS dumb quote. Because he's reminded everyone that, no, we haven't caught OBL yet, with our Republican administration. Because he's decided to traffic in images of Sept 11. Because he's questioned the patriotism of a US Senator that has made port safety against terrorism a major issue of her past two years.

It is a very risky strategy, a Hail Mary of an attack ad. It better work for him, because if it doesn't, Nethercutt is not only going down, he's not going down alone. The people of Washington State got bent out of shape when the US Chamber of Commerce ran negative ads against Deborah Senn. The GOP in this state has gone out of its way to try to present (relatively) sane candidates, more moderate in appearance and mannerism than their predecessors. Nethercutt has now embodied these previous ruinous candidates, and the other candidates may have to distance them from him to save their own hides, weakening party unity. Nethercutt may even take Rossi with him.

As I said, its only going to get nastier.

More later,

Monday, September 27, 2004

No tea for you, Tillerman!

So what's been missing from the national campaign has been catchy theme music. Clinton had Fleetwood Mac and "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow". Reagan captured the 80's in a nutshell with Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy". But nothing so far that has really distilled the campaign message down to some good guitar hooks and a nice beat you can dance to.

Then, of course, we turned master criminal Cat Stevens away from our shores (Take THAT "Peace Train"), and the perfect song for the current administration leapt out, like Athena from the head of Zeus:
It's not time to make a change, just relax and take it easy
You're still young that's your fault,
there's so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down, if you want to, you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy
I was once like you are now, and I know that its not easy
to be calm, when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot, think of everything you've got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

Now tell me if that's not perfect? Even better, you can use it and what can he do? Come over here and sue us? Hah! He's not even allowed in! Throw swing-time beat behind it and you can just see folk bopping around to it at the Inaugeration

More later,

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Play: Tax Attack

Love and Taxes written and performed by Josh Kornbluth, INTIMAN theatre, through 2 October.

So up until yesterday, the only person I would listen to talk about taxes for two hours straight was my wife the tax preparer (the two-day-long Enrolled Agent examination went well, and we await the results). Now Kate is joined in that elite circle by the monologist Josh Kornbluth. And don't tell Kate, but Kornbluth is funnier on the subject.

Kornbluth does monologues, similar to Mike Daisey, who did 21 Dog Years, earlier reviewed in this space. Kornbluth has the similar monolog equipment - the table, the drink, the chair, and that wrinkle of the 21st century, the titanium powerbook. And he has his story, pulled from his own life.

An autobiographic monologist like Kornbluth, Daisey, or Spauling Grey has a problem - your first monolog is usually personal, about your life. It covers up to the point where you did that first monologue. OK, if that's successful, what do you do for an encore? Now doing the original monologue is a part of your life, so you have to address it in your future work. So your life affects your work which affects your life which, of course, affects your work. So there's a little recapping to do for those who were not there for his first monologue.

And the monologue is about Kornbluth, who because of his family background (Communist) and his working situation (temping for a corporate tax firm) hadn't paid his taxes for a number of years, existing around, underneath, and beside the System. Now he suddenly re-enters the tax-paying universe with the options picked up on his early plays by Hollywood, which in turn creates a huge tax bill which he then must pay off if wants to marry the young woman who he met because of his original monologues. In many ways this is a sequel, but you don't need to see the first real - he'll fill you in.

Now what's really cool about Kornbluth's storytelling is how everything pulls together. What seems like an off-hand observation in the first twenty minutes comes back again and again as a recurrent theme. Side-stories that just seem to be there for support of a major point become plot points themselves. Punchlines are setup in his life years in advance. It looks like he sprawls, but everying has its place in the entire story. This is well-written, well-thought-out, and well-honed, and is a delight.

Kornbluth's stage personality is definitely a shlub. Not a mensh or a schmuck (though there are tendencies of both), and he's not quite thin enough to be a nebbish. He's likeable, he's warm, he's flawed and very much aware of his flaws. He's trapped beneath a landslide of reality that he in part set off himself. and owning up to responsibility (or at least owning up to the fact that you have to own up) is a major theme of the play.

I enjoyed it, so much so, that I bought the collection of his previous monologues during the intermission (Note to Mr Kornbluth if he finds this entry - yeah, that was me). Kate, with her tax background, howled (Note to Mr. Kornbluth if his finds this entry - yeah, she was the one shrieking in laughter in the center section, about halfway up). Its a sweet, tender, real, funny show about love and about taxes. It runs for another week at the INTIMAN, and if you get a chance, go see it.

More later,

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

Electoral Storm - Polled

So I got an opinion poll call yesterday. The young woman said she was taking a brief poll, and would I tell her if I recognized the following names and had a positive or negative reaction to them.

"Jack Kah-rinz," she said.

I felt foolish for a moment, then admitted, "I'm afraid I don't know that name."

"Alright. Next. Pat Sullivan."

"Positive reaction," I said, "He's running for State Rep." Lightbulb goes off in my brain, "Against Jack Cairnes. Was that the person you referred to in the last question?"

"It's pronounced phonetically Kah-rinz here on my sheet," said the young woman.

This may be true, but anyone who has gotten a mailer from the man sees his name and pronounces it Cairnes, as in carnivore. Or a burial place of piled rock. Rhymes with Barns. Not Kah-rinz. I told the young woman as much (and that I had a negative response to him). And she thanked me and rang off.

Now, three things are possible here:

1) His name is pronounced Kah-rinz, in which case I've gotten it wrong, and Cairnes should show up in the news more often so we know how his name is pronounced.
2) The poll was sponsored by Pat Sullivan's team, and they will get a skewed result as most people don't know this "Jack Kar-inz".
3) The poll was sponsored by Jack Cairnes' team, in which case a truckload of antacid is being delivered to his campaign HQ even as we speak.

And if its #2 or #3, the campaigns involved should see if they can get their money back.

"I was shouting Boo-urns"

More later,

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Firing the Boss

This is an entry that has been gestating for a while, but this is as good a time as any. Frabjous Dave is the reason for it appearing right here and right now, mainly because he has put up a link to Juan Cole's most excellent journal. Cole, a professor of History at the University of Michigan has been keeping a close eye on what has been happening in our various wars, and has provided some very cogent analysis of the situation in terms most of us can understand. In the entry that Dave hooks up with, Cole calls the current Administration on its claim of the "President as the CEO of America" and looks at how well it has done as a business.

And he does a good job showing that the current CEO/President has been driving the entire operation into the ground, spending money it doesn't have on risky ventures and not giving the slightest indication that it has any clue that it might be hurting the business or its employees. Cole makes his points well, but then stumbles, saying something I cannot abide: "No corporation would keep on a CEO that took risks the way Bush has, if the gambles so often resulted in huge losses."

I must disagree. Not only would a corporation keep on such a reckless CEO, it would most likely reward him. In fact, that's part of the problem with the current Administration - it IS being run like a modern corporation.

See if this sounds familiar. A bad idea that is favored by the boss is played up. Evidence that it may be bad idea is discarded out of hand. Most of the upper levels agree with the boss. Dissent is ignored, or if too persistent, shouted down. The ground-level workers who are going to have to do the job brace themselves for the inevitable fallout. PR spins mightily to make reality match the projections. When reality fails to abide, scapegoats for the failure are found, often among the original naysayers and lower levels, and the upper management goes on to its next great disaster without learning a single thing. No one at the executive level takes the fall. If cuts are called for, the rank-and-file catches it in the teeth, not the decision-makers.

Now tell me, did I just describe Iraq or the last round of bureaucratic follies at YOUR place of business?

Its taken as a general rule that your boss is insane. And if he's not insane (and I have had a LOT of good bosses who are Not Insane - you probably have too), then HIS boss is insane. If not that, then HER boss. And after you work through five or so levels of management, you're in such a rarified atmosphere that you don't know WHAT they're thinking while they're making decisions. For those of you working in large corporations (and I would define that as anything over two levels of management between the bottom and top), here's the question - would you trust your CEO/CFO/President to plan a dinner party, much less a major invasion? Didn't think so.

And yet, we make claims that no company would tolerate this behavior from its CEO. Of course it would. Corporate behavior is tied only to its responsibility to its owners. Ownership of some companies is held its upper management. Other operations have huge blocks of stock owned by other faceless bureaucracies that operate under the same laws (with the same sort of insane people making the decisions). Still others count on the fact that the stakeholders are too disorganized to really get in the way of how the company is being run.

Here's an recent example of corporate insanity - the company that make Twinkies is going into bankruptcy. Twinkies. That's almost as good as printing money. You have to work at it to drive the company that makes TWINKIES into bankruptcy. But in the reports I have seen to date, even though they are talking reorganization, no one at the executive level has been dismissed.

And its not just this particular Political Administration that gets this wierd statement about Corporate Intolerance for foolishness. The previous Administration was raked over the coals for the personal behavior of its Chief Executive, again with the oddball mantra that no company would abide such behavior. I'm afraid I have a lot of personal stories to the contrary, available to those who wish to buy me several beers (OK, here's one from a few decades back - this Vice President and his secretary consumated their illicit relationship late one evening on her desk, then got into a heated argument over who was going to clean things up. The other employees arrived the next morning to find the office in erotic disarray. Nothing happened to either executive or secretary).

The good news is that our government system has a big advantage over a corporation. You're already vested. You're a stakeholder. You got a piece of the action, and more importantly, you are called upon every so often to give the OK to the guys in charge. Yes, for their term of office they may seem to be running without adult supervision, but you can hold them down and hold them accountable. Yes, they will try to avoid it. Yes, they will argue mightily. They will threaten, wheedle, plead, sugar-coat, and even lie to keep their phony-baloney jobs. But in the end you have the power to determine if you endorse what's going on. Its not a corporation that determines if their actions are tolerable. It's you.

Go ahead, fire the boss.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Big Bone

Bone: One Volume Edition; Jeff Smith; Cartoon Books, 2004

One of the problems of following ground-level comics (that is, comics which are not "underground" nor part of the big two publishing empires, usually black and white and creator-owned), is getting all the issues. Part of this is due to the oddities of the stocking system of your local comics shop, but is also due to the personal nature of these books - if the artist, writer, or artist/writer doesn't get the books done in the timely manner, there is no back-up plan - weeks and sometimes months can go between issues.

Such has been my relationship with Jeff Smith's Bone - I have always liked it when I read it, but I never got into the groove of buying it. I would pick up an issue, then not be able to find the issue before it or after it. I would buy an early collection, then couldn't find the second and then fell away. I've always been aware of it out there, like a great white whale in the ocean swells, but never sought to hunt it down. Fortunately, Smith has collected his Bone storyline in one humungeous (1300+ black and white pages) volume that I strongly recommend to everyone.

Bone is a fairy tale centering on three brothers; naive and honest Bone, his happy, off-the-wall brother Smiley Bone, and their greedy, power- and money- hungry brother Phoney Bone. Superego, Id, and Ego. Ed, Edd, and Eddie. The Bone brothers have been chased out of Boneville after one of Phoney's schemes went hideously and hilariously awry. They find themselves in an unknown rural valley, among a rural population threatened by human-sized rat-things and much darker things. Phoney sees the populace as a new pack of pigeons to fleece. Smiley finds a inn. Bone himself finds Rose, a young girl living with her grandmother, and falls in love.

And that's where it starts, as darker forces are moving that involve the Bones, Rose, and her Grandmother. The revelations all spin nicely one from the next, and move from a pastoral landscape to a high-epic fantasy (did I mention the dragon? There's a dragon. There's also a tough-guy bug. And some giant bees). I like how Smith moves expands out the scope bit by bit, while keeping Bone and Rose (and Phoney and Smiley) at the center of it. I also like his stacking of the villains - two very stupid, stupid rat-things are regularly outwitted, but they are backed up by hordes of much nastier rat-things, led by Kingdok the rat-thing ruler, who in turn serves the mysterious Hooded One who in turn serves the near-mystical and deadly Lord of the Locusts. Each foes is deal with in a different fashion (or fashions, as several must be bested a number of times), and the pacing builds as each appears in turn.

The art is deeply indebted not only to Pogo - Bone looks a bit like Walt Kelly's possum, while Smiley could sub for Albert the Alligator - but to Al Capp's L'il Abnber, particularly in the diversity of the villagers. The simple linework of the bones create a whitespace that they occupy, breaking from the more detailed other characters and backgrounds of the valley they have tumbled into. They are strangers in a strange land.

I'm not going too deeply into the plot - its one of those that should be allowed to unfold at its own pace (so no peeking). In its collected form it does have some weaknesses - characters often recap for what was originally a new set of issues, but for reading it straight-through halts the action. And some of the foreshadowing seems overlong (including Kingdok moving accross the landscape to his final battle). Yet on the whole it pulls together nicely, and is both delightful and deep. And yeah, its won a bagful of awards, so this is a good time to check it out in its entirety at a reasonable price ($40).

Go get it - you'll be glad you did. More later,

Monday, September 20, 2004


So Saturday I get a phone call from my Mom in Pittsburgh. "I just want you to know that we're all right," she said.

My question was immediately "Why wouldn't you be all right?"

"We were hit by the storm," she said, "I thought if you were watching the Weather Channel you'd worry, but I called Gayle and Scott and everyone is fine."

Now I don't watch the Weather Channel out here, since the weather tends to change with about 20 minutes warning (indeed, the Weather Channel is suspiciously close the Sci-Fi channel on local cable), but I quickly put together what was happening. Hurricane Ivan, after its balleyhooed impact at the buckle of the Bible Belt, the Alabama/Mississipi border, lost some of its punch but none of its rain, and barrelled up along the Appalachians, catching a large number of inland cities. Including Pittsburgh. Here's a shot of downtown:


(When this link goes away, it shows Point Park, at the confluence where the Allegheny and Mongagahela (The "Mon") rivers combine to form the Ohio. It is the site of the original Fort Duquense and Fort Pitt. One of the reasons that it is a park is that it has flooded regularly over the years, usually when the ice starts breaking up in the spring. It is not currently spring, and the flooding topped out at the 31 foot level) Those trees you see? The usual edge of the river is about twenty feet away from them. Those boats? Moored over a large fountain at the end of the point.)

So I'm glad that the family is fine (a tendency to live on hills runs in the family), but I was a little surprised to discover that I had no clue until my Mom call that Pittsburgh was in any particular danger. The news, even the weather news, swarmed around the big story (Ivan makes landfall) and missed out the part of the story I would be interested in (Ivan brings torrential rains to Western PA).

I keep the Post-Gazette as a regular link from work. Now it looks like I have to do so at home as well.

You have to keep your eyes and ears open - its not like people are going to just TELL you things.

More later,

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Jest Another Weekend

Two things this weekend, one bad, one good:

The bad thing is the leading edge of a nasty headcold, spawned out the recent rains and cool temperatures, has left me weak and sweating. I've been sleeping 12 hours at a time, drinking a lot of fluids, and walking around the house, making honking noises like Felix Unger (and irritating Kate, who is studying for her Big Test on Wed/Thursday). It feels like a bullfrog has crawled up each nostril into my sinuses, and then inflated to fill all available space (don't you just hate that?)

The good thing was Foolscap, a small, local SF convention held in Bellevue. GoH (Guest of Honor) was George R.R. Martin and Art GoH was Raven Mimura (go look at Raven's stuff - he's an excellent artist and comes out of the RPG side of the universe). It was a very pleasant get-together - a small art show and dealer's area, and well-stocked hospitality room, and a couple rooms running simultaneous programming (my only gripe was my "shared world" panel was up again the "magic realism" talk). But it was the other members of the con that really impressed me - relaxed, friendly and knowledgable. I felt a lot of the panels I attended were "inside the beltway" - more about contracts than content, though I have to confess I didn't attend as many as I would have if I had not had bullfrogs shoved up my nostrils.

It was a good local con, and next year, they're bringin in Harlan Ellison.

More (honk) later,

Friday, September 17, 2004

Electoral Storm - Eye of the Storm

The primary has come and gone in Washington State, and here are a few thoughts:

The Big Story in the primary is that the Big Story failed to materialize. Remember the horrible backlash against the new primary system that was reported here and in the local media? Widespread rejection? Angry voters? Pitchforks and torches? Didn't happen. About a million people, 30% of the registered voters, cast ballots this past Tuesday. Not great, but hardly a rebellion at the polls. Further, the threat that the extremes would capture the nominations proved pretty hollow as well - in general moderates triumphed over more extreme members of the party.

The voters were overwhelmingly Democrat, but then the Democrats had the more interesting races. When the GOP had a race going (like the 8th District, US House), their numbers were almost at Democrat levels.

The new ballots were very clear, though I would put the non-partisan races first in the ballot, then choose party and do the partisan stuff later on the ballot. Simple result - it worked. I still don't like the process, but have to admit it worked.

Governor: Will be Christine ("Call me Chris") Gregoire against Dean ("Who's scary? Not me!") Rossi. Gregroire triumphed against Ron Sims, who made the critical mistake of running a campaign of ideas ("That trick never works"). Gregoire is running a boilerplate Democrat campaign, while Rossi is trying to hide the more odious examples of the 21st Century conservative thought to reach out to a wider audience. Rossi has run very hard against minimal opposition in order to place himself as a friendly candidate, and I think he has been successful. Now pay attention to his message.

Senator: Patty Murray against George Nethercutt. Like Rossi, Murray started her campaign before the primary against nominal opposition, while Nethercutt spent most of his time treating his nomination as a done deal. Now Nethercutt is going to have to run hard against a self-inflicted image of a House Rep betraying his constituants, first bailing on a campaign promise to term limits, and then ditching them to set up shot in Bellevue and pretend he's from Western Washington.

8th District House: This was the one race where both sides had competition, but in the end it will be newly-minted crypto-Democrat Dave Ross against newly-minted crypto-Republican Dave Reichert. Ross is aided by support of his party's powers-that-be, which did not care for the heavily-endorsed Albens or the veteran Behrens-Benedict. Reichert on the other hand has a restive right wing that tends to hold grudges. Reichert is the most moderate of the GOP candidates, such that I have already seen a number of articles on how his views do not fit with the Rep mainstream. This will be the celebrity matchup, which should make for good entertainment (and maybe just) good government as well.

Attorney General: The oddball nature of the Democratic side continues even after the election. The media really expected the erudite Mark Sidhran to win, such that even though he trailed by 8% throughout the evening, no one wanted to call the election in Senn's favor. Senn beat Sidhran in all parts of the state that could not see the Space Needle, and did well enough in metropolitan Seattle to easily edge her opponent. But even then, the media attention was on Sidhran, who is lifely more than aware right now that help that he received from the US Chamber of Commerce was less than helpful.

On the GOP side, Rob McKenna will be Senn's opposition in the primary, and he intends to run hard - Against Christine Gregoire! Yep, the 18 million buck mistake in Gregoire's office will be used against her possible successor (regardless of who won), since both Senn and Sidhran support Gregiore. More wackiness with ensue.

Finally, the State Supreme Court, Position 1 bears mentioning, since Mary Kay Becker will now square off against Jim Johnson in the final. Johnson did mailers for the position, and it apparently paid off, since enough people recognized the name to mark in his name. Lesser known was the fact that the King County Bar Association rated him only "Aquequate" (sort of like getting a "Gentleman's C" ) or that Johnson is an ally of initiative maven Tim Eyeman. Of course, people have seven weeks now to find out.

More later,

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

On the Road Again: Political Discourse

Adventures in Typography: Is it me, but do the minimalistic W '04 bumper stickers I'm seeing read "WOE" on the first glance?

More later,

Old Ball Game

So the dust is still settling from the Primary, and while most of the results are known or pretty much guessed-at, I'm going to instead talk about baseball.

I finally got a chance to go to a Mariners game last night. I like to get to at least one ball game a year, usually early in the season when hope springs eternal, the horizons are unlimited, and there are hundreds if not thousands of games yet to play in the season. Due to upheavals in my life, I did not get a chance until this point, when the Monkey King announced he was going. So I got off my duff and availed myself of a ticket that Frabjous Dave had gotten from mutual friend Scott, but was not going to use.

And had a good time. The Mariners are so deeply in the cellar this season that they're going to start next season ten games back on opening day, but its the ballpark experience that's cool. Its that stepping out from the shadows of the gallery into the bright lights of the field. Its the collection of people attentive on the game. Its the smell of garlic fries.

First half of the game we had seats at the extreme right field boundary. Good seats, and I had Scott providing play-by-play throughout (the Mariners have gone over the course of the season from a team that is too old to one that is too young, in his considered opinion). Scott had discovered in his dedication to Safeco Field that not all seats were created equal, and we quickly moved down into the the wide-bottomed seats directly ahead of us. The location gave more of feel for the fielders as opposed to the hitters. After inning five we rejoined Monkey King and Jake, who were behind home plate.

One thing that did strike me as weird was the enforcement of seat location for the first three innings. During this time, security folk cruised the stands like old-fashioned conductors, demanding tickets to make sure people are in the right place (after the third inning, they not only abandon this practice, they tell people they are welcome to take seats closer to the rail that they had defended so vigorously). Apparently they always hit Scott, and he wondered why. I suggested that if the staff wasn't checking seats, they would have to watch the Mariners play. (ba-dump-bump). There was definitely a whiff of TSA-in-action as they cruised the seats, looking for malefactors.

The game itself was fun (Mariners won, so now they're only (let me see, now) 435 games back). More importantly, Ichiro got his 232th hit, a bouncing double that topped the right field wall (He is chasing the hitting crown, the one bright spot of the season). And there is some promise in new kids, in particular the pitcher, who they left in way too long until he finally faded at the top of the ninth.

A good time. If you still have time to take in a game where you are, do it. In Seattle, in particular, since there are a LOT of seats still available.

More later,

Monday, September 13, 2004

Recommendations - Eve of the Storm

I wasn’t planning on making a list of recommendations for tomorrow’s primary, in part because some of the readership here is non-local and this sort of thing may be a bit tedious to them. (Also, with the winds, power is an iffy thing in the South Puget Sound area right now, and this is a second draft after losing the first one). People seeking full recommendations should check out the PI, the Times, and the Weekly(a fave), but most of all the well-considered thoughts of Mrs. Monkey King, Shelly in Seattle.

In particular, I would recommend you check these guys out for the Judgeships that are coming up for State Supreme Court and Superior Court. These races do not get a lot of attention, and have lower vote totals as a result, but are key for the future of the state. A very good (but not exclusive) tool for this is the ratings from the King County Bar Association. Its a peer review. Note that if a candidate gets 50% or more in the race, he or she gets the position without having to go to the general election – otherwise the top two contenders face off in the general. If it sounds like something the political parties hate and swear would never work, well, it is something they hate and something that works pretty well.

A recommendation I will make, however, is for Deborah Senn for State’s Attorney General. If one is known by the quality of one’s enemies, then Ms. Senn has a whopper as an opponent. The mysterious Voters Education Committee, which has been running a vicious smear campaign against the former State Insurance Commissioner, has been forced to reveal its singular donor. And the mysterious force attacking Ms. Senn is . . .

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In the 60s movie, The President’s Analyst, Lee Marvin gets involved in a conspiracy by a secret, ruthless organization, TPC, who is revealed to be . . . The Phone Company. So I had a similar moment when confronted with the fact that the supposedly sedate, pro-business, Republican-but-not-scary-Republican chamber went after Senn so viciously, hoping to throttle her campaign in the cradle, out of apparent fear of a candidate that would not toe the economic bottom line from the start. For this reason if no other, I want to see her go on, and pass along this information and recommendation.

For the same reasons, I have cooled my jets slightly against Christine Gregoire. In her case, a buncha developers went after her, hoping to turn “Angry-at-the-New-Voting System” votes into “Angry-at-Gregoire”. Again, sleazy behavior from people who are supposed to be already powerful enough not to need it. Mind you, I still support and recommend Ron Sims (who I’ve seen in two debates, and has impressed me even though he reminds me of Drew Carey – both Gregoire and GOP candidate Dino “Not Scary! Really!” Ross have kept pretty much to the party boilerplate. Yet Gregoire has been similarly proven under fire, and I have to admire that.

OK, One more. For the 8th in Democrats, I’m going for Heidi Behrens-Benedict. I was impressed by her at the party caucuses, and I’m going with my heart here. She came close to unseating Dunn twice, and seems to have been abandoned by her party at a time when a good shot finally appeared.

No recommendations on the GOP side (what, like you’d take one, knowing who it came from?). I do believe if Reichert gets the nod for the 8th District, he will likely win, but if another candidate makes it, the GOP may lose the district. Dino Rossi continues to not look scary (until you, like, listen to what he's saying).

More later,

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Electoral Storm - Mailers and Robo-Calls

So I'm trying to not think about the great big mushroom-shaped explosion in North Korea for the moment (Administration view: "We have no proof this is a nuclear test"- My view: "Holy Flaming Crap!") and instead will work on the leadup to Tuesday's primary, in a review of the various flyers and automatic calls.

No doubt about it - this has been the biggest election since I've gotten out here, and easily the most heavily-funded. My mailbox has groaned under the weight of flyers, and the message machine usually has at least one pre-recorded message on it. A lot of cash has gone into this election.

On the flyer front, my personal pen-pal is apparently Dave Ross, running for the 8th District Democrat against Alex Albens and Heidi Behrens-Benedict. Ross has sent me no less than a half-dozen highly professional mailers. Here's one on common-sense governing. Here's one on promising a clean campaign. Here's one showing him in Baghdad last year. These are pro jobs with full color, multiple folds and cuts, and eye-catching designs. Coming from a print side, I also know these are EXPENSIVE promotions.

Following up on Dave Ross's heels in raw numbers is the Republican star candidate, Dave Reichert. The former King County Sherrif has been running on a "Green River Killer? Caught 'im!" platform, which has served him well (including a made-for-TV movie on A&E on the subject last week). In his mailers, he has added his WTO contribution in order to highlight his "law and order" stand. Now, WTO to me was a police riot in the old classic sense where the frustrated police force unleashed an onslaught on everyone who got in their way, teargassing folks in their homes, so I wouldn't make this a strong running point, but then I'm not fighting for the Republican side of the 8th.

And in the 8th district, Reichert has to shore up his conservative image, because all the other candidates are MUCH further to the right. Diane Tebelius, Luke Esser and Conrad Lee are all more conservative, and have really hammered the more moderate Reichert hard. Most of the robo-calls I've gotten have been from the conservative air corps (what list did I get on in order to get these calls? I mean, its fun, but they're wasting their resources). Diane Tebelius in particular has a wonderfully loathsome mailer that accuses Reichert (shown in a b/w photo, of course) of saying nice things about Democrats and, worse yet, listing Rom Sims as one of his political heroes! Oh, the humanity! (Tebelius, for her part, lists the more-respectable Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Dole as her political heroes).

There's more available than I can really put here - mailers from Pat Sullivan and Geoff Simpson, Democratic candidates for the two positions in the 47th (nothing from the Reps here). One for Terry Bergeson for Superintendent of Public Instruction. A couple judgeships, one of them is from Jim Johnson, who, though non-partisan, uses the code phrase "Judicial activism" to show that he's not going to be one of those judges who, you know, makes decisions or anything. You know, I think that's why I have a judge in the first place (and the King County Bar Association feels as well, since they give Mr. Johnson an "Adequate" rating.

OK, that's it for the moment. There will be more in the mailbox and on the answering machine tomorrow, but unless something particularly odious shows up, I'm done on this subject.

More later,

Saturday, September 11, 2004


Its been three years now.

Three years ago we were challenged as a nation and as a people. To say that our track record is mixed since then is an understatement. We started strong, but as often happens, we got distracted. Wandered down more than a few blind alleys, advanced more than a few dubious agendas, wrapped ourselves a little too tightly in the flag. Ignored warning signs, created our own Cassandras, and from our hurting, hurt a lot of other people.

And we still have a big job ahead of us. The guy taking the credit for this is still at large. His operation is still sending out press releases. We have to fill a lot of holes we've put in southwest Asian landscape. We still have to make ourselves safer on a number of fronts (shipping is a big one for me, but then, I live near a seaport). We have to support our first responders. We have to the repair self-inflicted damage to our Constitution. We have to live up to our rep.

Its a big task. We are up to it, but we have to stay focused, folks.

More later,

Friday, September 10, 2004

Electoral Storm - Democratic A.G.

When I started this series of entries on the statewide elections, I particularly singled out the race for attorney general on the Democrat side between Deborah Senn and Mark Sidran as being potentially acrimonious (and thereby entertaining). Its good to be right occasionally, though not precisely the way I thought it would be.

Senn has a reputation as being tough-as-nails in her former role as state insurance commisioner. Sidran for his part has a reputation as being tough-as-nails as former city attorney in the pursuit of Seattle "civility laws" of the last decade. Senn has come off as willing to play Chicago hardball, Sidran as being bit stiffer and more lawyerly.

So it was a bit of surprise when the first anti-Senn commercial came not from Sidran, but a mysterious group known as the Voters Education Committee, with a well-produced and terribly negative ad. It had the hallmarks of classic negative advertising - taking the worst picture ever of the opposing candidate, and as you make the picture darker and more sinister you extol a laundry lists of sins against the candidate - horrible decisions, actions which hurt the state, actions which hurt people, killing kittens, keeping flying monkeys in her castle. By the end of which you've painted a picture of the individual which even that individual would not vote for. But as I said, this was a professional hit backed up by major money.

So who is the Voters Education Committee? Not Sidran (his ads, as noted before, are a jaw-droppingly homespun with a Jeopardy parody where all the answers are "Mark Sidran!" (and which feature a wincing cameo by Governor Locke)), but rather a Republican operation. To be more clear, the VEC shares it lawyer, John White, with the state GOP, as well as sharing several director-level positions with United for Washington, a pro-business group. The VEC's director, Bruce Boram, in addition to being executive director of UfW, was also spokesman, strategists, and key fund-raisers for . . . Republican Candidate Dave Reichert. Reichert, if you will remember, is the "star candidate" for the GOP for the 8th district, who was going to bring a fresh breeze and a new broom to the race. Boram has stepped down from the Reichert campaign, unfortunately not the first departure from the organization under a cloud.

But who is funding these ads, spending more money than the Senn and Sidran campaigns combined? Unofficially, the assumption is insurance and business interests that Senn cheesed off when she was in power last time. Officially, the group has refused to reveal their donors, declaring the ads to be "issue ads" which "educate the voters" (The "issue" being Senn's abilities and the "education" being that Senn lusts after ruby slippers and is afraid of water). The VEC has refused to identify its donors, and the various stations have pulled them from circulation.

So who benefits from this this kerfuffle? Reichert's establishment opponents in the 8th - since his campaign gets spattered with mud from this most recent set-to. Sidran, of course, because he benefits from Senn getting attacked without having to do the attacking (Does the VEC think Sidran more pliable to their interests, or merely more beatable by the GOP candidate?). And lastly, I'll say Senn herself - not the most cuddly candidate in the world, she shows herself battle-tough, which is pretty much what you want in an AG.

More later,

Conventional Wisdom - Part 2

I write this entry with an uneasy feeling and under (mild) duress. When I wrote about the first convention in Boston, I did not realize that I would even more ignorant of the facts for the second (begin, yaknow, out of the country and all*). For me to be more out-of-the-loop I would have to get my own show on cable. But I promised to write up the Republican Convention in NYC, so here goes:

The purpose of this convention, like the last one, was to get in, do the infomercial, and get out without anything bad happening. The bar was set higher for the Republicans since they were going into a city where a huge number of people hate their guts. In addition to native New Yorkers (ba-dump-bump), there were an additional half-million or so protesters. Yet when I got back to the States, it was as if it all had never happened - nary a ripple. So from that standpoint, it was a howling success.

Part of it was that the last convention hid the crazy people, always a good tactic (I think they put them on all the platform commitee). In the wake of the Dem convention, the Reps accused their opponents of hiding their more radical members, and such warnings are always a good sign that they were up to the same thing. Indeed, the theme of the convention seems to have been "Be very afraid, but not of us." Its a good a message as any.

I got no "Great Quote" speeches like Obama's from this go-around. Indeed, from this convention the breakout star seems to be Zell Miller, who (and remember, I'm only working on second-hand information) dropped to all fours, barked like a dog, and then urinated on Chris Matthews. But again, I'm working with second-hand sources, here, so I'm not sure about the barking.

One odd thing that did show up in the wake of the reporting (showed up in the Business Section of the Seattle Times and quickly reinforced by talking heads on the tube) was the idea that a Democrat President would be bad for the stock market. The strange thing is that the stock market was healthier after the Dem convention than it was after the Rep by about 400 points. Again, reality fails to jive with the current media wisdom.

Other than that, most of what I could pick up from a rerun of The Daily Show, which basically reinforced standard news stereotypes: Protesters? Funky, Good-Natured, Smell Bad (hey, this is New York). Delegates? Rude, Nervous, Afraid of being Sodomized at any Moment (hey, this is New York).

So they came, they declared victory, and they got out of town. Would that our foriegn policy be that well organized.

More later,

*For some odd reason, the media I did see in our neighboring nation did not talk about the convention at all. It was much more involved with the WTO ruling on Canadian softwood exports. Big news. That did get covered down here, right?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

An American Hybrid In Queen Elizabeth's Court

Often on vacation I bring a notebook and take copious notes, with the eventual mental promise to transcribe them. This time, instead of heavy notes, I put down only mental reminders for what happened when and where in the adventure. I present these below without further comment - they tend to read like the chapter sub-headers for a Victorian Novel or an article in The Believer. Explanations of any of these are available upon request.

Chapter One: Final Deadlines – Emergency Rose-ectomy – Tai Chi – Nick DeLapp – Three Crabs – Dungeoness Spit – Harbor Seal – Last Ones on the Ark – Victoria – Canadian Customs – At the Windmill.

Chapter Two: A Quiet City – Governor’s House – Tea at the ‘Press – The Castle – Opium Art – In the Shadow of Emily Carr – Blackfish.

Chapter Three: An Alternate Universe: Spanish Civil War – Trans-Canadian Highway – Yellowjackets at the Falls – Tofino; A Village Out of Time – Duffin Cove – The Young, the Germans, and the Young Germans – Raincoast – Lightning in the Fog.

Chapter Four: Dreams of the Gold-Faced Man – Low Tide: Seastars & Muscle Clusters – Crab Traps – Rumors of a Bear – Steps in the Rain Forest – Hunger Meltdown – Schooner: Rocking to the Oldies – Reservations a Year Ahead – The Lone Cone – The Bear with Size Ten Feet.

Chapter Five: Late Neighbors – The Stone Beach – Eagles – Hippies – Cucumber & Salmon – The Pointe: Food as Art – Power Outage – Bears Can Swim.

Chapter Six: Last Breakfast – Cathedral Grove – Bear Blockade – Broadside – Nanaimo is its Name-o – Queens of Cowichan and Eskimalt – Ding – Ambrose – Overcast on the Sunshine Coast – To the Edge of the Earth and Five Klicks Beyond – Wilderness Retreat – Jedi the Dog - Door of the Laughing Dolphin.

Chapter Seven: Crickets Spawn Dreams of Cel Phones – Scooby, Jesus, and Container Ships – The Ebb Line – Battle of the Bands – Canadian Waitstaff – The Louisa – Ashnod Going Up, Tawnos Going Down- Malibu Rapid – Chatterbox – Young Life – Jazz – Food as Satire – A Mild Poisoning.

Chapter Eight: – Dreams of Crystal and Baggage Handlers – Jeff Fury and His Howling Romantics – Skookumchuk Falls – Old Folks on Ski Doos – Green Rosette Bakery – The Queen of Surrey – Bad Part of Vancouver: Hastings Street – Steinbeck Gone Cyberpunk – An Alternate Universe: Blinking Green Lights – Five Sails, Five Stars – Anti-Bush Windshield Ninjas.

Chapter Nine: – Good Part of Vancouver: Canadian Hong Kong – Sun-Yat Sen’s Garden – The Sermon of Julian Law – The Border – A Licensed Surprise – An Accident Makes One Somber – Home: The Juvenile Pheasant, Two Black Cats, and a Small White Dog.

(OK, the explanation for the article title - I did not realize that Honda did not sell any Insights in Canada, so I ended up explaining my car to people. At lot of People. Everywhere.)

More later,

Monday, September 06, 2004

How Can You Miss Me . . .

. . . when I won't go away?

I've just returned from 10 days in the wilds of Canada (Victoria, Tofino, Egmont, Vancouver) - completely out of touch with US media, cell phones or the Internet. It was a lot of fun. During this time my good friend and fellow simian Monkey King stepped forward and uploaded some entries that I wrote before leaving. So if you were wondering why I haven't commented on more recent events, like the Mark Sidran Jeopardy commerical, that's why (but Gods, that's one scary commercial). I went for pre-writing material because I didn't want to "go dead" for a week, nor did I want to tell the whole world I was out of town. If I had enough good material, I would have done a clip show. No, really.

A compacted Canadian report is coming, but in the mean time thanks to the Monkey King for keeping things alive here!

More later,

Electoral Storm: Primary Pamphlet

The “Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet” for the September 14th primary arrived in the mail last week, and it is a pretty miserable item. While previous pamphlets have tended to be somber affairs, this pamphlet has a cartoon pen on the cover to jolly you through the Brave New World we have to deal with. This is first election under the new primary system cobbled together in the wake of the political parties squashing the time-honored blanket primary system for this date (Old System – Go and Vote. New System – Go and Vote but only in One Party).

The voters pamphlet is the one moment where the campaigns are equal, where the little guys who don’t have the money or media or even ability get the same sized box next to the establishment candidates to make their views known. For some of these candidates, this is the their moment of glory, the apex of their campaign, since they don’t get a lot of attention as a “serious candidate” anywhere else. Here is where Christine Gregoire and Ron Simms make statements with candidates like Mike the Mover (“If I can’t move it, I won’t approve it!”). Here’s where Mohammad H Said (“As the last of the apricots fall off the tress around my clinic, I reflect on the fact that so many would rather use food stamps than gather the fruit so freely available”) takes on Senatorial incumbent Patty Murray (“Washington is a great place to live and raise a family, and we must preserve and build on the things that make us strong.”). Here’s where we hear from the Libertarians (soon to lose their major party status, but that’s another story).

But what this shows most of all is the dearth of options within the organized parties. Yes, within some of the sexier races, there are multiple candidates, and even multiple viable candidates (Democrats for Governor, US Rep District 8 and Attorney General; Republicans with in District 8 and … that’s about it – The Reps don’t even want to recognize there are candidates other than Nethercutt running for Senator), but for the most part it’s a wash – each party has one candidate in the field. The decision has been made, and your job, as a good citizen, is to ratify the choice (rejection is not an option).

I go through this and for the first time I am thinking of Voting to Damage. Previously, Democrat voters, in races without opponents, could cross over and vote in Republican races, In other words they would vote for the less-electable opposing candidate, in order to Damage the other side in the Main Event. This is what motivated the parties to overturn our blanket system in the first place. However, with the current solution in place, I can cross over and do some serious damage to the other side in EVERY RACE, voting for the less-electable opponent (where they exist), and because the voter turnout will be depressed (because of this foolishness), my vote will be MORE important than it would be previously.

Hmmm. So in trying to keep outsiders from screwing around with their system, the political parties have created a system where outsiders can be more effective screwing around with their system. Yep, that sounds about right to me. Good going, guys.

More later,

Saturday, September 04, 2004

This Land

Some time ago, I reported on the This Land parody online. Like many, I was amused by the animation. The lawyers at Ludlow Music Inc, which claims ownership of the original song by Woody Guthrie, were less than amused, and filed suit. They claimed that the "fair use" for parody was only valid if you were parodying the song itself, not for other purposes. This particular wrinkle in the law is a new one by me. I think Ludlow just got their undies in a bundle because they supported one of the candidates, and were offended by the Herman Munster or Slim Pickens riffs (depending on who they were supporting).

Note that Ludlow Music was the one doing this - not the heirs of Woody Guthrie. In fact, the heirs (Arlo "Alice's Resturant" Guthrie and the rest) thought the jibjab piece was pretty darned amusing and said so. And even Woody had a quote encouraging people to use it (which makes sense, given his folk roots), saying:
"This song is copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

So Jibjab in turn fought back, and engaged the services of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a group that I think well of since they arose out of the secret service raid on Steve Jackson Games. The EFF launched in, and strongly argued that it was fair use. Moreover, during the discovery phase, they came up with the fact that Woody Guthrie had the song copyrighted 11 years earlier than Ludlow claimed. Which means the timer has run out and the song is officially in the Public Domain (along with the Star Spangled Banner and Beethoven's Fifth, but not, alas, Happy Birthday).

So a settlement is reached, the suits are dropped, and Jibjab gets to keep using it (now they need to do a sequel - "This Mess is Your Mess"). Happy ending to the story, right?

However, the business-friendly AP reports something a little bit different, spinning the tale in the direction of the publisher . In this version of reality, Ludlow grants the right to use the material, if Jibjab donates 20% of any profits to the Woody Guthrie Foundation (which is a nice idea anyway - though the profits on a web-distributed flash animation are likely minimal). No mention is made of the fact that Ludlow may not own the song at all, and makes it sound like the company triumphed when in fact everything blew up in their legal faces, and their control over the song is now weaker than when they decided to freak out in the first place. However, in the meantime they can claim ownership in order to rattle their legal sabers at others, and hopefully grabbing a buck or two for granting rights they may not own.

However, it is clear that this song is your song. And I'm kinda enamored with the idea of making it our national anthem, now that it’s in the Public Domain.

More later,

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Novel: Shadow of the Waxwing Slain

Pale Fire by Vladamir Nabokov. 1962, Vintage International (Random House)

I came by this book in a strange path. At the 30th Anniversary Party for D&D, the head of our Book Department introduced me to the team’s new editor. During the course of the discussion, the head of the department revealed that they asked the question “What Book Would You Keep on Your Desk?” (My answer, by the way, was the Chicago Manual of Style). Her choice was Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov. Lolita is one of those famous books that everyone knows about but no one reads, so I asked why. She felt Nabokov’s style superceded his subject matter.

I mentioned this encounter in a phone conversation with friend in New York Publishing. I could almost hear him shaking his head over the phone. “Pale Fire,” he said. “Much better.” So the next time I was in the Half-Price books I picked up a copy.

And it’s a book worth hunting down. The volume is billed as a novel, but does not have a traditional novel or narrative form. It consists of a Foreword, a Poem (in four cantos), Commentary, and an Index. The poem is by John Francis Shade, and represents that character’s last work. The remainder is the work of Charles Kinbote, fellow professor, scholar, and neighbor to Shade.

The Foreword sets up that something is amiss. Kinbote comes off as having a small woodshed of academic axes to grind –disagreements with other professors, reviewers, and even the widow Shade. Kinbote sounds like a big of a crank and pendant, but his inadvertent honesty leaves the clues around that pulls you into the tale itself. Kinbote is clearly an unreliable narrator, and the reader is aware of him spinning the facts to his chosen conclusions.

Shade’s own last work is a Frostian epic poem of rhyming couplets, broken into four parts, which is primarily a meditation on mortality (the shadow of the waxwing slain) – an early seizure, the death of his daughter, a stroke later in life, and thoughts as to his own eventual death. It is interesting in that it holds up in and of itself.

It is in the Commentary section, the longest part of the book, Kinbote begins to dissect Shade’s work. In the process, it becomes clear that Kinbote isn’t talking about Shades’ poem, which we had just read, but rather the epic poem that Kinbote was encouraging his neighbor to write, an epic verse about the exiled King of Zembla, Kinbote’s home nation. Hints are dropped, allegations are made, and a tale is spun out through the commentary that is the bulk of the story. Our unreliable narrator descends by turns to deceptive narrator, and at last to a deranged narrator. By the end we don’t know exactly where to draw the line between reality and Kinbote’s deeply-held fantasies.

The Index provides a grace note to the commentary, one last peek into the now-obviously deluded mind of the author that we have followed through the bulk of the book. We see the tricks and traps of Kinbote’s mind (if he IS Kinbote) as he cannot be honest with himself (or his reader) even within the confines of an Index.

Stylistically this is brilliant, both attracting and repelling at the same time. But structurally it is also wonderful, a novel packed together in a non-novel form. There is no set pacing or plot, but rather an unspooling of events related second-hand, and Nabokov wonderfully drops the hints that reveals to the reader the madness of his speaker.

Recommended and worth reading more than once. Check it out.