Friday, January 26, 2007


For similar reasons, I shied away from M. T. Anderson’s “Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation,” even though it won last year’s National Book Award for young people’s literature. Just because the author himself uses the term “astonishing” to describe his subject doesn’t automatically make the book astonishing; it could be merely stellar, sensational, breathtaking or un-put-downable. For somewhat different reasons, I avoided Kate Atkinson’s “One Good Turn,” because even though it was described as an “astonishing thriller” in an ad in The New Yorker, this assessment came from one Linda Grana of the Lafayette Bookstore in Lafayette, Calif. Linda Grana may be a critic of the first water, on the same level as Samuel Johnson and Dale Peck, but if the word “astonishing” does not appear as part of a review by a designated cognoscente in a mainstream publication, I do not buy the putatively astonishing product. I can’t be buying books just because somebody in a bookstore somewhere said they were astonishing. I’d go broke.

Joe Queenan, in his hilarious 21 Jan NYT essay, Astonish Me.

Generally regarded as such; supposed. See Synonyms at supposed.


[Middle English, from Old French putatif, from Late Latin puttvus, from Latin putre, to prune, think; see pau-2 in Indo-European roots.]


puta·tive·ly adv.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


These are vertiginous, thrilling times for music fans. Where once my only options were CDs and radio, I can now deploy a battery of devices, platforms, and formats to enjoy the music I already own and to find more. Most of us are only now starting to unlock the potential of our iPods, but the pace of change in the digital-music sphere is such that even the pleasures of spinning the wheels on our nanos will soon seem old hat. As I’m writing this, I’m playing a Flash-based MP3 blog extractor called Hype Machine. It’s a simple Web-based application that sucks songs mentioned in music blogs into an Internet radio stream...

- Michael Hirschorn, in The Digital-Music Mosh Pit, from the Jan/Feb Atlantic.


Etymology: Latin vertiginosus, from vertigin-, vertigo
1 a : characterized by or suffering from vertigo or dizziness b : inclined to frequent and often pointless change : INCONSTANT
2 : causing or tending to cause dizziness
3 : marked by turning : ROTARY
- ver·tig·i·nous·ly adverb


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Nellie McKay's first album, 2004's Get Away From Me, had the logorrheic charm of someone trying to get every idea out of her system at once, lest she never get another chance. And she seemed intent on precisely that, publicly squabbling with her then-label and temporarily retreating to Broadway in the recent revival of The Threepenny Opera.

As a result, it's easy to focus on McKay's lunatic-fireball appeal, but the hymn-like "Gladd," from her long-delayed Pretty Little Head, offers a reminder that she's also capable of jaw-droppingly beautiful songs.

- from Nellie McKay Gets Sweet And Serious, on

Logorrhoea or logorrhea (Greek λογορροια, logorrhoia, “word-flux”) is defined as an “excessive flow of words” and, when used medically, refers to incoherent talkativeness that occurs in certain kinds of mental illness, such as mania. The spoken form of logorrhoea (in the non-medical sense) is a kind of verbosity that uses superfluous or fancy words to disguise a useless or simple message as useful or intellectual, and is commonly known as “verbal diarrhea.”...

- Wiki

Monday, January 22, 2007


As incongruent as it seems for Harper—with his baggy jeans, oversize T-shirt, white-gold Jesus pieces, and braids—to have a chance to become the face of skateboarding, consider how unlikely it was for him to get this far in the first place. He grew up in Southeast [D.C.]. Both of his parents had drug problems, and his father was in and out of jail throughout his childhood. While skaters in Rockville and Arlington were hitting up their fathers for gas money, Harper shoplifted groceries so his family could eat. Just a few years ago, Harper was what would generously be described as at-risk. He ran wild in the streets, selling drugs, fighting, stealing. He carried a gun when he answered the door. “Everything those rappers rap about, I lived,” he says.

- from Chairman Of The Board, in the 19 Jan Washington City Paper.


ADJECTIVE: 1. In sharp opposition: discrepant, incompatible, incongruous, inconsistent. Logic : repugnant. See AGREE. 2. Made up of parts or qualities that are disparate or otherwise markedly lacking in consistency: discordant, discrepant, dissonant, incompatible, incongruous, inconsistent. See AGREE.

-from Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995, on

Friday, January 19, 2007


A package of concessions offered to the US by Iran in 2003 was very close to what the US is now asking from Tehran. The BBC reports that Iran offered, among other things, to end support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and to help stabilize Iraq following the US-led invasion. But a former US senior official told BBC's Newsnight program that the package was rejected by Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

One of the then Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aides told the BBC the state department was keen on the plan – but was over-ruled.

"We thought it was a very propitious moment to do that," Lawrence Wilkerson told Newsnight. "But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."

-from Report: Cheney rejected Iran's offer of concessions in 2003 in today's Christian Science Monitor.


Main Entry: pro·pi·tious

Etymology: Middle English propycyous, from Anglo-French propicius, from Latin propitius, probably from pro- for + petere to seek -- more at PRO-, FEATHER
1 : favorably disposed : BENEVOLENT
2 : being a good omen : AUSPICIOUS
3 : tending to favor : ADVANTAGEOUS
synonym see FAVORABLE
- pro·pi·tious·ly adverb
- pro·pi·tious·ness noun


Thursday, January 18, 2007


His [Max Boot's] real worry is that the Pentagon's continued exploitation of the information revolution will be "hindered by a sluggish, bloated bureaucracy that has resisted countless reform efforts." Boot never fully explains why this bureaucracy, which has been sluggish and bloated for many years, did not hinder the U.S. military from moving so far and so fast in the first stage of the information revolution. But he suggests one reason: the bureaucracies of U.S. adversaries were even more sclerotic. On the other hand, "nimble, networked groups like al Qaeda may be better positioned than the United States to pursue today's brand of transformation into its next phase."

- from The Real Meaning of Military Transformation: Rethinking the Revolution, in the Jan/Feb 2007 Foreign Affairs.


1. anatomy.
In vertebrates: the white fibrous outer layer of the eyeball, which is modified at the front of the eye to form the transparent cornea. Also called sclera.

1. Hard or firm.
2. Relating to or affected with sclerosis.

Etymology: 16c: from Latin scleroticus, from Greek skleros hard.

-definition from

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

cyberinfrastructure (CI)

We are entering a second revolution in information technology, one that may well usher in a new technological age that dwarfs, in sheer transformational scope and power, anything we have yet experienced.

We are already intimately familiar with the first revolution, now well underway. Information, computer, and communications technologies have transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, creating entirely new opportunities and challenges, and trailing some “inevitable surprises” in their wake.

In the science and engineering community, these revolutionary technologies have helped us scan the research frontier at velocities that are orders of magnitude faster than ever before. These tools are not simply faster—they are also fundamentally superior. They have raised the level of complexity we can understand and harness. That capability is growing at a breathtaking pace.

Just consider two revolutionary innovations in our tool kit: computer simulation and modeling. Combine these with new visualization and observational tools—such as sensor nets, satellites, and distributed observatories—and you have a flood of data that threatens to swamp our capacity to preserve, analyze, and apply. With these new capabilities comes the challenge to use them to cross new frontiers of discovery.

The engine of change for the next revolution is cyberinfrastructure (CI), a comprehensive phenomenon that involves the creation, dissemination, preservation, and application of knowledge. It adds new dimensions that greatly increase transformational potential.

Like other infrastructure—the electric power grid, the national highways—CI combines complex elements to create a dynamic system. It eclipses its many hardware and software components to enable people and their interactions with technology to become the central focus.

from, 11 Jan 07.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

psychotronic weapons

Until recently, people who believe the government is beaming voices into their heads would have added social isolation to their catalogue of woes. But now, many have discovered hundreds, possibly thousands, of others just like them all over the world. Web sites dedicated to electronic harassment and gang stalking have popped up in India, China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Russia and elsewhere. Victims have begun to host support meetings in major cities, including Washington. Favorite topics at the meetings include lessons on how to build shields (the proverbial tinfoil hats), media and PR training, and possible legal strategies for outlawing mind control.

The biggest hurdle for TIs is getting people to take their concerns seriously. A proposal made in 2001 by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to ban "psychotronic weapons" (another common term for mind-control technology) was hailed by TIs as a great step forward. But the bill was widely derided by bloggers and columnists and quickly dropped.

GIRARD'S STORY, HOWEVER STRANGE, reflects what TIs around the world report: a chance encounter with a government agency or official, followed by surveillance and gang stalking, and then, in many cases, voices, and pain similar to electric shocks. Some in the community have taken it upon themselves to document as many cases as possible. One TI from California conducted about 50 interviews, narrowing the symptoms down to several major areas: "ringing in the ears," "manipulation of body parts," "hearing voices," "piercing sensation on skin," "sinus problems" and "sexual attacks." In fact, the TI continued, "many report the sensation of having their genitalia manipulated."

Both male and female TIs report a variety of "attacks" to their sexual organs. "My testicles became so sore I could barely walk," Girard says of his early experiences. Others, however, report the attacks in the form of sexual stimulation, including one TI who claims he dropped out of the seminary after constant sexual stimulation by directed-energy weapons. Susan Sayler, a TI in San Diego, says many women among the TIs suffer from attacks to their sexual organs but are often embarrassed to talk about it with outsiders.

"It's sporadic, you just never know when it will happen," she says. "A lot of the women say it's as soon as you lay down in bed -- that's when you would get hit the worst. It happened to me as I was driving, at odd times."

What made her think it was an electronic attack and not just in her head? "There was no sexual attraction to a man when it would happen. That's what was wrong. It did not feel like a muscle spasm or whatever," she says. "It's so . . . electronic."

- from Mind Games, in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine.

psychotronic weapons - "devices that are 'directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of ... mood management, or mind control.'"

- from Secrecy News, 10 Jan 2002.

Monday, January 15, 2007


What do you think about Philip Roth? He seems like the one guy everyone loves.
Roth is very respected today, but that's for a reason. He's very talented, don't get me wrong. But he satisfies something right now in the group of people I call the acumenarians. These are people who do not believe in God or the devil. They are children of the enlightenment, and they pride themselves on their acumen. They like to be right on things. They distrust the fanciful, the mystical, and the unanchored. Roth's not messy. And he writes wonderful books. So they love him and they adore him. Now whether he's a major novelist or not, I can't begin to tell you, because as I told you, I just don't read the good ones anymore.


Is this the worst time to be alive?
No, no, it's not. There's one good thing about old age that people don't recognize. Which is that if you have a reasonable old age, as I do, in that you're not in pain, and you're not in terrible trouble emotionally with your children, or your mate, then what happens is you cool. And you finally are cool in a way that you never were before. And you realize that you won and you lost, and that's just what happens to everyone else. They win and they lose also. And what you didn't succeed in doing, you didn't succeed in doing, so f--- it.

- From Norman, Still Stormin', the 19 Jan 07 Entertainment Weekly's interview with Norman Mailer.

(italics mine)

Friday, January 12, 2007


So I in point of fact desire of literature, just as you guessed, precisely those things of which I most poignantly and most constantly feel the lack in my own life. And it is that which romance affords her postulants. The philtres of romance are brewed to free us from this unsatisfying life that is calendared by fiscal years, and to contrive a less disastrous elusion of our own personalities than many seek dispersedly in drink and drugs and lust and fanaticism, and sometimes in death. For, beset by his own rationality, the normal man is goaded to evade the strictures of his normal life, upon the incontestable ground that it is a stupid and unlovely routine; and to escape likewise from his own personality, which bores him quite as much as it does his associates. So he hurtles into these very various roads from reality, precisely as a goaded sheep flees without notice of what lies ahead.

And romance tricks him, but not to his harm. For, be it remembered that man alone of animals plays the ape to his dreams. Romance it is undoubtedly who whispers to every man that life is not a blind and aimless business, not all a hopeless waste and confusion; and that his existence is a pageant (appreciatively observed by divine spectators), and that he is strong and excellent and wise: and to romance he listens, willing and thrice willing to be cheated by the honeyed fiction...

- from Beyond Life, an essay by James Branch Cabell, taken from Modern Essays (1921).

1. A person submitting a request or application; a petitioner.
2. A candidate for admission into a religious order.
[French, from Old French, from Latin postulns, postulant-, present participle of postulre, to request; see postulate.]
postu·lan·cy, postu·lant·ship n.

- from The Free Dictionary.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

recrudescence, sanguinary

Last night there was a recrudescence of the sanguinary disorders that seemed to have abated for a time. In different parts of Germany there were clashes between Nazis, Communists, and men of the Iron Front.

Here in Berlin two men of the Iron Front were killed by Nazis. At Fulda a Nazi killed a Communist without any obvious provocation. At Konigsberg a Nazi was killed by an unknown person. The total number of killed and wounded is not certain as yet, but it would seem to have been bigger than any since the Altona disorders...

- From Recrudescence of Disorders, from the Guardian, Monday 11 July 1932.

intr.v. re·cru·desced, re·cru·desc·ing, re·cru·desc·es
To break out anew or come into renewed activity, as after a period of quiescence.


[Latin recrdscere, to grow raw again : re-, re- + crdscere, to get worse (from crdus, raw; see kreu- in Indo-European roots).]


recru·descence n.
recru·descent adj.

- from The Free Dictionary.

san·gui·nar·y )
1. Accompanied by bloodshed.
2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.
3. Consisting of blood.


[Latin sanguinrius, from sanguis, sanguin-, blood.]


sangui·nari·ly (-nâr-l) adv.

- Also from The Free Dictionary.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Back in England, Paine’s trial for “Rights of Man” went on without him; he was found guilty, and outlawed. “If the French kill their King, it will be a signal for my departure,” Paine had pledged before he left for France, but now he had no choice: not only could he not return to England; he couldn’t venture an Atlantic crossing to the United States, for fear of being captured by a British warship. Instead, he stayed in his rooms in Paris, and waited for the worst. As the Reign of Terror unfolded, he drafted the first part of “The Age of Reason.” In December, 1793, when the police knocked at his door, he handed a stash of papers to his friend the American poet and statesman Joel Barlow. Barlow carried the manuscript to the printers; the police carried Paine to an eight-by-ten cell on the ground floor of a prison that had once been a palace. There he would write most of the second part of “The Age of Reason” as he watched other inmates go daily to their deaths. (In six weeks in the summer of 1794, more than thirteen hundred people were executed.)

When the United States government failed to secure his release, Paine at first despaired. Then he raged, writing to the American Ambassador, James Monroe, “I should be tempted to curse the day I knew America. By contributing to her liberty I have lost my own.” Finally, after ten months, he was freed. But he left prison an invalid. Ravaged by typhus, gout, recurring fevers, and a suppurating wound on his belly, he never fully recovered.

- Jill Lepore, in her book review The Sharpened Quill, in the October 16, 2006 New Yorker.

Definitions of suppurating on the Web:

forming pus

forming and/or discharging pus

-definition from the Google search define: suppurating

Friday, January 5, 2007


In the five years my family has lived in a quiet corner of northwest Washington, our neighbors have included the secretary of homeland security, the executive editor of The Washington Post, the junior senator from Texas, a former White House chief of staff, the ambassador to the United Nations, and the general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. But, as far as I know, only one of them has ever carried our newspapers up the 34 steps from the driveway to our front porch when we were away on vacation and forgot to stop delivery. His name is Karl Rove. And I know that he did so only because he made it his business to tell me.

"You have the second-most-expensive house on the block after Don Riegle," he said in an adenoidal bellow when he called me once about a story I was reporting, "and you can't pick up your own papers?" I have no idea whether this claim is true, or whether Rove came to his view by consulting tax records, real-estate listings, or simply his gut. But, in a single sentence, he marked me as a limousine liberal, associated me with a former senator caught up in an influence-peddling scandal, and suggested that I was a sloppy householder. It was friendly. Funny. But the unmistakable effect was to assert control: of the conversation, the situation, and me.

- Todd S. Purdum, in the December 2006 Vanity Fair article, Karl Rove's Split Personality

adenoidal (adj) - pinched, nasal (sounding as if the nose were pinched) "a whining nasal voice"

definition from Princeton's WordNet.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


...The phrase personality interviewer is grossly devalued these days: look at Mike Wallace’s cringe-making oleaginous encounter with today’s Iranian must-get, President Ahmadinejad. Indeed, Wallace seems to have found Ahmadinejad even more attractive (“very smart, savvy, self-assured, good-looking in a strange way”) than Fallaci found Khomeini. She was “the greatest political interviewer of modern times” (Rolling Stone), and yet, unlike so many of the bland big shots jetting from foreign ministry to presidential palace, she gravitated to power mainly for the opportunities it afforded to knee it in the crotch...

- Mark Steyn, in The Atlantic's December Post Mortem tribute to Oriana Fallaci, She Said What She Thought.

Definitions of oleaginous on the Web:

buttery: unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech; "buttery praise"; "gave him a fulsome introduction"; "an oily sycophantic press agent"; "oleaginous hypocrisy"; "smarmy self-importance"; "the unctuous Uriah Heep"; "soapy compliments"

greasy: containing an unusual amount of grease or oil; "greasy hamburgers"; "oily fried potatoes"; "oleaginous seeds"

- definitions from the Google search define: oleaginous.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007



The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren't much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .

- Joseph Rago, in The Blog Mob: Written By Fools To Be Read By Imbeciles, in WSJ's OpinionJournal.

Definitions of remora on the Web:

a animal that sucks on a shark and rides along with the shark

marine fishes with a flattened elongated body and a sucking disk on the head for attaching to large fish or moving objects

- from the Google search: define: remora